Sausage & Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Acorn squash has to be my favorites. Sweet potatoes is a close second, but acorn squash is so creamy! I can have a whole one of these bad boys for lunch with just some butter and cinnamon and be perfectly satisfied and full! With this recipe I at least add in a protein dense pilaf that is missing from the squash to make it more balanced. What’s in it other than sausage that makes it protein dense?

Quinoa
  • Complete Plant Based Protein
  • 1 cup of Quinoa = 8 g of protein
  • High in Minerals
    • 1 cup Quinoa = 15% Iron
Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1/4 cup serving = 11 g protein
  • High in Minerals like Zinc and Magnesium
  • High in Tryptophan for a better nights sleep

This no doubt will keep you satisfied and full. With the pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries this makes a great dinner that is full of fall and winter flavors. There is always leftover of the sausage, quinoa, and pumpkin seed pilaf so don’t worry about packing it into the acorn squash. You can always add the Golden Gravy by Chloe Coscarelli or my Butter Bean Gravy on top. Enjoy!

Sausage & Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • Servings: 6 Servings, 1/2 acorn squash with 1 cup filling
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Italian ground Italian chicken sausage, or four Italian chicken sausage links, skin removed OR for plant based use your favorite Italian sausage and cut up finely. I use Field Roast
  • 3 medium acorn squash, halved, and seeds removed
  • olive oil for brushing
  • QUINOA PILAF
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion finely chopped
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 springs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Brush the insides of the prepared acorn squash with olive oil. On a cooking sheet with aluminum foil, place the acorn squash flesh side down, skin side up, and roast for 45-50 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare your sausage. MEAT BASED – (if using links, take sausage out of casing) Cook sausage in a small skillet until all of it is cook and crumbled. PLANT BASED – take the finely chopped sausage and cook until it’s crumbled and toasted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a sauce pan. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add quinoa, broth, water, rosemary, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and simmer until liquid is absorbed – about 15-20 minutes. Take any sprigs of herbs out after it’s cooked.
  5. Add pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries to the quinoa once the quinoa is cooked.
  6. Add sausage and mix together. Divide if making both meat based and plant based.
  7. Once the acorn squash is roasted and has cooled, about 5-10 minutes, stuff them with the quinoa pilaf.

Nutritional Information

Chicken Sausage

405 calories | 15.4 g fat | 3.3 g polyunsaturated fat | 7.7 g monounsaturated fat | 3.4 g saturated fat | 0 g trans fats | 81 mg cholesterol | 308 mg sodium | 48 g carbohydrates | 6.8 g fiber | 7 g sugar | 24 g protein | 41% Vitamin A | 36% Vitamin C | 20% Folate | 48% Magnesium | 20% Iron | 32% Potassium | 38% Zinc

Plant Based Seitan Sausage

457 calories | 20.8 g fat | 8.7 g polyunsaturated fat | 7.3 g monounsaturated fat | 3.2 g saturated fat | 0 g trans fats | 0 mg cholesterol | 923 mg sodium | 55 g carbohydrates | 9 g fiber | 7 g sugar | 20 g protein | 41% Vitamin A | 36% Vitamin C | 24% Folate | 50% Magnesium | 32% Iron | 25% Potassium | 34% Zinc

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Apple, Pear & Cranberry Cobbler

Fall and winter scream for baked desserts. Having some of my favorites like pumpkin pie, apple dumplings, cinnamon rolls, and so much more, are always on the list once the weather gets cooler, but you don’t always have to have a dessert that is all that bad for you. I was shocked, and so was the rest of my family, about how delicious and rich this was. After a serving of this we were all satisfied and full. Let’s first talk about the main ingredients in most desserts – sugar, flour, and fat – and see how this dessert, although still being calorie dense, is changed for the healthier.

The Sweetener

Sugar is sugar, is sugar is sugar. Juice, maple syrup, honey, agave, turbinado sugar, date sugar, refined sugar – it’s sugar. However, using unrefined sources for a sweetener like maple syrup, honey, and orange juice still adds sugar but is not from highly processed sources.

With that in mind, in this dessert some of the sugar is from the broken down apples and pears. They are full of natural sugar and by keeping the peels on, you also keep the fiber in the dessert. When cooking there will be a loss of nutrients, but fiber pretty much stays the same which is good when we are talking about a dessert with sugar. Fiber allows the sugar to be absorbed at a slower rate so having something sweet with fiber (like fruit naturally has) does help your body absorb sugar at a slower pace and has more time to use it for energy instead of immediately being dosed with it and storing right away because of the overload. Not to mention the blood sugar spike.

The Flour

This recipe doesn’t use any flour. I only uses oats to create a crunchy topping. So if you are gluten free, make sure to use gluten-free oats. Using oats you can keep it whole food and nothing has been processed and stripped of anything. Plus to fact that we still keep that fiber in there as well.

The Fat

As you may know there are the “good” fats and the “bad” fats. An easy rule of thumb to tell the difference is if the fat/oil is solid at room temperature.

  • For instance butter and shortening is soft, but is still solid at room temperature. This means it is saturated fat or “bad” fat. This is fat that is easily stored and is known to increase LDL cholesterol.
  • Unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature like olive oil, vegetable oil, and canola oil. These oils are known as the “good” fats. They are easily used in the body and can have some nutritional value because of Omega fatty acids. For instance, olive oil, has been known to decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol when replacing unsaturated fats.

In this recipe I use either canola or vegetable oil in the oat mixture to make sure it doesn’t burn and also creates a crunchy top. You’ll find that all in all, for a baked dessert, there is not a lot of oil added.

 

Apple Pear Cranberry Cobbler
  • Unprocessed source of sugar & is partly from the broken down cooked fruit
  • Oats only, no flour to keep it whole food
  • Unsaturated “good” fat, no “bad” fats

This is still a dessert and calorie dense, but it’s so worth it! Plus the added facts of it being a whole food dessert, easy, low-sodium, and the fat is good unsaturated fats. Enjoy!

Apple, Pear, & Cranberry Cobbler

  • Servings: 12 servings, about 1 cup each
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Ingredients

  • 3 apples, chopped, I use honey crisp apples
  • 2 pears, chopped
  • 12 oz. bag cranberries
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 cup Grade A maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 4 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • OAT CRISP
  • 2 1/2 cups old fashion oats *See note
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Chop your apples and pears and add to a 9×13 baking pan. No need to prepare the pan with oil or butter before adding anything, leave it dry. Whisk together the corn starch or arrowroot with the water in a small bowl until starch is dissolved. Add to the starch mixture the maple syrup, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Whisk together. Pour over fruit and gently mix to coat with the wet mixture.
  3. In a medium bowl add oats, honey, canola oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg and stir together. Once mixed together, pour lightly over top of the fruit and spread around to cover the top.
  4. Bake on 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes or until oats start to brown and the fruit is bubbling on the sides. Your house will smell wonderful!
  5. Let cool for about 5 minutes after taking it out of the oven and serve!

If you are gluten free, make sure to buy gluten free oats. I was not aware of this until a friend had told me about how oats can easily be cross-contaminated with other things that include gluten. Make sure to find gluten-free oats.

Nutritional Information

About 1 cup serving

405 calories | 11.9 g fat | 1.2 g saturated fat | 0 g trans fat | 0 mg cholesterol | 7.5 mg sodium | 70 g carbohydrates | 7 g fiber | 37 g sugar | 4.5 g protein

Macro Sources

69% Carbohydrates | 26% Fat | 5% Protein

Dietary Servings per Portion
  • 1.2 Fruit
  • 1.8 Grain

How to Keep Your Bloat Down in Colder Months

I don’t know about you, but I love how fall and winter food taste more than what it does to me. The starch and sugary heavy foods takes it’s toll not just outwardly but internally. Not only do I usually gain a little, but my skin gets worse, and my digestion just isn’t the same as it is in the spring and summer. More gas and bloating. I wanted to share with you a few things I like to keep in mind to help with the unwanted bloat and digestive upsets fall and winter can bring on.

Fun fact: Feeling sick to your stomach is also known as being “bilious”. I’ve also heard it in reference to gas whether belching or flatulence. As you can guess the word is related to bile. But the word bilious also means “bad tempered”. So anything that makes you bilious I like to think is causing your digestive system to become “bad tempered” and it’s having a fit. 

I like to refer to fall and winter eating and habits as my “hibernation mode”. You sleep more. The colder weather makes us eat more quantity and more calorie dense foods because your body is working harder and needing to add more “wood to the fire” to keep you warm. Those foods usually tend to be high in bad fat, processed sugar, and a lot of starch which turns into sugar. That combination is bad for your digestive system and your gut when in excess. So how can you keep your gut healthy and happy until spring?

Photo by Bárbara Montavon on Unsplash
Start Your Day with Apple Cider Vinegar (with Mother)

I started doing this first thing in the morning when I would have my water when I was getting ready. Add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar (ACV) with mother, to your glass of water and get going! I started this because my allergies are the worst in the fall and winter. (The benefits of ACV and allergies are found here on an earlier post.) Because of this, I started taking ACV in the morning. It helped with my allergies, but I also noticed it helped with the gas I would get after having a heavy starchy meal the night before. So I kept at it.

ACV helps your digestive system more than just adding some probiotics. It also increases stomach acid which can be decreased with excess starch, sugar, stress, and alcohol. Sounds like fall and winter to me! If you don’t have enough stomach acid the digestive enzyme pepsin is reduced because it can only thrive in an acid environment, then your food (specifically proteins) are incompletely digested from the beginning and the rest of your system can have a hard time breaking it down – which could be the cause of gas and bloating.

Photo by Ovidiu Creanga on Unsplash
Make Sure To Get Your Probiotics

Whether it’s yogurts, kombucha, or a pill, make sure to keep up with your probiotics. This adds good bacteria that breaks down your food in your small intestine and thus helps the whole process. It helps keep you regular as well as helping you digest things you have trouble digesting. James is lactose intolerant and by eating yogurt in the morning as part of his breakfast he can more easily digest milk.

Probiotics also create enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria increasing your immune system. Something that is definitely needed during the colder months. It’s been said that the majority of our immune defense is in our gut. Make sure to keep your gut healthy and functioning as best as you can!

 

Now onto some tips and tricks I’ve found to be helpful for me.

One of the biggest things I’ve come to realize is that most of my bloat comes from eating my starch/sugar with high amounts of fat. So although I can eat my weight in buttery mashed potatoes, I keep my portions appropriate and make sure it’s on the plate with vegetables, whether a salad or roasted carrots, to help.

  • Processed sugar kills the good bacteria in your gut.
  • Starches can cause gas when being broken down. Starches in excessive quantity, you can well imagine.
  • Fat slows down the digestion process and slows down the functioning of the intestines, and by default slows down any relief.

So if you are eating the trifecta – sugary foods, excessive starch, and it’s high in fat – you can be in for some discomfort and bloat. Keep in mind it is not just with one dish. It’s in combination of what you eat throughout the day.

Here are some ideas to cut down on the regular foods and drinks colder months bring to us.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
Fattening Hot Drinks

Nothing is better than getting something warm to sip on a cold rainy winter day. I love coffee. So warm lattes of all flavors call to me. And then there’s the classic hot cocoa on a below freezing night. Perfect! But like I said before, sugar and cream together can be just the combination to kick start my bloat and gas. Keeping the portions appropriate is also key. Although you CAN drink a 24 ounce pumpkin spice latte it’s better if, on the regular, you didn’t douse your system with fat and sugar in a liquid state. So instead of doing that, try some of these options.

  • Hot Teas
    • Herbal teas are always one of my options when I want something hot to keep me warm and to keep my hydration up. Some are naturally sweet like hibiscus that doesn’t have any sugar.
    • Try your favorite tea with a low-fat milk if you’re craving something creamy
  • Hot Apple Cider
    • Hot apple cider can be good in small portions. However, this can still give your system an overload of sugar so make sure to keep it to an 8 oz. serving. Adding cinnamon can help to keep your blood sugar regulated when you sip on it, and make sure not to drink it after a heavy meal since it is high in sugar.
  • Coffee
    • If you don’t like straight up black coffee, then I suggest having either cream OR a sweetener in it, but not both together
    • Chocolate lover? Try chocolate coffee. Add a scoop of ground cocoa to your coffee when brewing. You’ll have a mocha without the sugar or the added fat. And like with the other suggestion, you can add cream OR a sweetener but not both.
  • Lattes
    • Having a regular cafe’ latte without any added flavors or sugar and using low fat, almond, or soy milk is a better option
    • Chai tea lattes can be made at home with a low fat milk and using a small amount of honey or agave to add just enough sweet to compliment the spice.
Photo by Jase Ess on Unsplash
Trim Down Your Sides

Cold months usually come with some delicious side dishes, but most have a lot of butter and a lot of starch or sugar added to it. Here are some suggestions on what we make to lessen the blow to your gut. Most are roasted veggies. They are my favorite way to cook vegetables! I’m sure at some point I’ll be sharing my version of these recipes with you. *Bread stuffing I haven’t figured out yet… you’re on your own with that one for right now.

  • Green Bean Casserole made with Cream and Fried Onions
    • Roasted Green Beans with Sliced Almonds, Sprinkled with Parmesan
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Brown Sugar, Marshmallows, & Butter
    • Roasted Chopped Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and a Drizzle of Honey & Cinnamon
  • Mashed Potatoes made with Cream and Butter (oh man…)
    • 1/2 it with Mashed Cauliflower and use a Low-Fat Creamer
    • Roasted Rosemary Potatoes with a small amount of Olive Oil
  • Yeast Rolls
    • Whole Wheat Yeast Rolls without Excessive Butter or Olive Oil (One of the best moments of my life is when I saw these in the frozen department… whole wheat and I don’t have to make them!)
Some other healthy side ideas to keep in mind:
  • Roasted Carrots with Dill and Paprika
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Grapes
  • Apple & Fennel Salad
  • Roasted Beets
  • Sauteed Kale with Lemon Juice and Garlic
In Conclusion
  1. There is a time for everything including your starchy fattening dishes. Just not with every meal or every week.
  2. Balance is needed, so choose your starchy, sugary, fattening meals sparingly.
  3. Increase your stomach acid to help break down your food better with apple cider vinegar with mother.
  4. Increase your probiotics and keep a good routine of having them in your diet.
  5. Reduce the amount of fat and sugar eaten during the fall and winter, and try not to have them together.
  6. Turn your “bad tempered” gut into a happy gut!