I love fall. I mean love it. It’s the time I fire up the oven and dig into both harvest and comfort foods. And this main dish takes two of my favorite fall foods—apples and squash—and combines them into a brand-new taste sensation.
This recipe started out completely different from what you’ll see here. Ever taken a recipe out of a magazine (like this one) and start playing with it? I do it all the time. I can’t seem to help myself. When I found this recipe 20-plus years ago, it had sour cream and fatty pork sausage. This version is guilt-free. But it will look and taste like it came from a fancy restaurant. It’s a real crowd-pleaser, and the kids will like, too.
New York is the second-largest apple-producing state in the United States. And for good reason: Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva has blended root stems to create apples exclusive to our state—apples we have grown to adore. The Empire is a mixture of the McIntosh and the Red Delicious. The Jonagold is a blend of the very tart Jonathan and the super-sweet Golden Delicious.
While I would consider myself an apple connoisseur, I don’t keep bowls of them out on my kitchen table. Instead they are tucked in the fridge. Apples need to stay cold to keep from getting soft, and I love nothing more than an ice-cold, crisp apple.
The New York Apple Association has a fantastic chart on their website that shows which apples are best for eating, sauce and baking: http://www.nyapplecountry.com/appleusage.htm.
I prefer the Cortland or the Jonagold for this recipe. You can use your favorite variety. The Jonagold is a sweet but tart apple that holds up well to the spicy notes found in my turkey sausage. My cooking show and cookbook focus on low-glycemic index foods. And apples do have sugar. But they can be part of a low-carbohydrate diet. The reason? They are very high in fiber while still low in calories. The glycemic rating for most apples comes in between 28 to 44 (on average, a 38). They are high in vitamin C and have flavonoids, which help your body neutralize free radicals. Think of apples as the ultimate detox food.
And, since about a third of the fiber in apples is soluble, they help with weight management. Soluble fiber attracts water into our intestines. You see products like the “full bar” in weight-loss advertisements, but the apple is the original “full” food. The inside of the apple forms a gel-like substance in our tummy, slowing digestion and making us feel fuller. An apple before a meal really does act like a “full bar.”
But the reason I love apples is that they help to stabilize my blood sugar. Because of how our bodies digest the fruit, the connoisseurs like me lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. With an apple coming in at about 5 grams of dietary fiber, a single apple provides almost a third of our daily fiber recommendation.
And the fiber doesn’t stop there. I couple my apple with another fall favorite, the acorn squash. A half-cup serving of squash has three more grams of fiber for just 42 calories. The glycemic index for squash is averaged at 41 (55 or less is considered desirable). Plus, acorn squash also have beta-carotene and are a good source of vitamins B6, C and A; iron; magnesium; and thiamin.
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Squash take time to bake. And busy parents don’t always have that time. Cut this baking time down by 75 percent. Simply put your whole squash in the microwave for five minutes; it will soften and be much easier to cut.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and head back to the microwave. Pull out your squash and cut it in half (like you would a cantaloupe) and scoop out the seeds. Then you’ll fill the cavity with our stuffing mixture and bake for 20 minutes or until the egg is set.
And next time, change this recipe up. Add cranberries, nuts or whatever you’d like to make this recipe your own. This serves four and would go nicely with a small salad and a piece of crusty bread. To make it vegetarian, use tofu sausage.
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Chris Xaver, Ph.D., is a local TV and radio personality with three children and five grandchildren. Her healthy lifestyle show, The Sweet Life, is airing on public television stations nationwide.
Photo above: Chris Xaver Photo