Quinoa, Apple, & Chicken Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall is officially upon us and today’s weather was like jumping right into the deep end of it with the rain and the cold and the wind. So I decided to prep one of my favorite nutritious comfort foods for dinner tonight. This recipe combines a bunch of fall produce and flavors and leaves you feeling satisfied but not guilty.  It also features my favorite seasoning blend: Bell’s Turkey Seasoning. I will put this into almost any recipe and I am of the humble opinion that you can never have too much of it. It’s a New England classic!

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I created this recipe a couple years ago while just messing around in the kitchen with the random things we had in there. It ended up becoming a favorite and my partner requests it regularly in the fall and winter.

A couple notes before I get started on the recipe:

  1. You should alway sharpen your knives before you use them, like every time. If you don’t, I strongly encourage you do it this time because it can be a challenge to cut through the acorn squash.
  2.  You’ll see salt listed in the ingredients list below but not an amount. This is because I salt regularly while I cook to build different layers and complexity in the food, so I don’t actually know how much is in it. I find this particularly important when you’re cooking the quinoa as that can be a tough item to flavor. Just a dash of salt every cooking stage or two and you’ll be really happy with the flavors you evoke. That said, always taste regularly as you cook as well!

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash, halved the long way
  • 1 medium orange or yellow bell pepper, dicedIMG_20170922_190700
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium gala apple, diced (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup diced portobello mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (3/4 cup dry)
  • 3-4 chicken sausages cut out of the casing
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 1/4 tsp Bell’s turkey seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • cinnamon
  • coconut oil
  • sea salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the halved squash face-up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spread a very light layer of coconut oil of the cut surfaces and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place in the oven and bake until tender.
  2. While the squash is baking, prepare the quinoa according to the package and set aside.
  3. While the quinoa and squash are cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Warm extra virgin olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the pepper, onion, celery, and mushrooms and sauté until they begin to get tender. Add the chicken sausage until the outside begins to turn gray. Add the apple. Continue to cook until the apple softens and releases its juice but not to the point that it becomes mushy.
  4. Without draining the sauté pan, add the quinoa to the veggies and sausage mixture and mix well to combine. Add the Bell’s Turkey Seasoning and garlic powder and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix to distribute throughout.
  5. Once the squash is tender, remove it from the oven. Fill the middle space with quinoa mixture until heaping. You won’t be able to use all of it in the squash.
  6. Place the squash back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or so to combine the flavors.
  7. Cut the squash pieces in half and serve with additional filling.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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Butternut Noodles and Mushrooms

I don’t know how it happened, but fall is already right around the corner. I am actually sitting here with a blanket on my legs since the mornings are already getting cool here in MA, so I decided to post one of my favorite warming and satisfying fall recipes.

The mushrooms used in this recipe have a very meaty texture to them so it’s very satisfying without the meat. Depending on your model of spiralizer, making veggie noodles can be pretty labor intensive, so I recommend buying the packages of pre-cut squash to spare yourself the extra effort of cutting, spooning, and peeling a whole squash before spiralizing it.

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash, spiralized
  • 1 cup oyster mushrooms, chopped (not too small – you want pieces big enough that allow you to still get the texture)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (you may need a little more or less depending on how much noodles you end up with)
  • 2 tbsp fresh, finely chopped sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large frying pan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil until it begins to glisten (not smoke). Once it’s reached that temperature, add the oyster mushrooms and sage and sauté until the mushrooms are tender. As you are cooking it, the sage is infusing the olive oil with its flavor.
  2. Once the mushrooms are tender, add the butternut noodles to the pan and toss so that they are all coated with the oil and the mushrooms are distributed throughout. Cook 1-2 minutes to soften the noodles.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

If you want some even bigger fall flavor or are really into the taste of sage, like I am, you can also finish this dish by sprinkling it with a little Bell’s Turkey seasoning before serving it.

Baked Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa

This recipe is so quick and easy but packed full of zesty, refreshing flavor. It makes a great summer dinner and you could also cook the fish on the grill wrapped in foil instead of baking it.

If you’re not a huge fan of fish, I really recommend that you give this recipe a try. Cod is a very light-flavored fish and the combo of the spicy fish seasoning and the sweet, tangy salsa is really delightful. Plus, this is such a ridiculously easy recipe, you have nothing to lose!

As a certified health coach, I am constantly urging people to eat more fish or, at the very least, take a fish oil supplement. When we think of fish, we typically think of the Omega-3 fatty acids found in them. However, there are a number of other important health benefits to consuming fish.

Health Benefits of Cod

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and certain plant sources, are critical for a number of important health benefits, such as heart health, depression, and brain health to name just a few. Admittedly, cod is not the greatest source of Omega-3’s compared to other species of fish, like salmon. However, it does contain about 8% of your daily value of these critical fatty acids.

Beyond that, cod is very high in Vitamin B12 which is a key nutrient for cardiovascular health, DNA production, metabolism, and brain and nervous system health. B vitamins are a set of vitamins that need other vitamins present in order to be properly absorbed, so getting your B12 through a food source is the best way to ensure proper absorption. (Second best would be a B complex supplement rather than an isolated B vitamin supplement.)

Finally, cod is also a great source of lean protein in your diet.

Choosing Your Fish

When it comes to purchasing fish, the fresher the better, as is the case with pretty much all food. However, a large and increasing amount of fish on the market is farmed rather than wild caught. I strongly recommend that, as often as you possibly can, you buy wild caught fish.

Wild caught fish are more nutritious than farmed fish because they are able to consume more nutritious food sources, such as the phytoplankton that contains Omega-3s. You are also getting better quality meat from a fish that swam around in the vast ocean than a fish that was confined to a small pen and is, therefore, fattier. Farmed fish are often given antibiotics and treated with pesticides and have been found to have higher levels of toxic PCBs in their bodies. There are also many ethical considerations to be made when it comes to farmed fish.

Bottom line: wild caught > farmed.

OK that’s enough education. Let’s get to the recipe, shall we?

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Spicy Mango Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1/4 of a large red onion, finely diced
  • 1/8 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 jalapeño, deveined, deseeded, and diced
  • 2 cups mango, finely diced (I used frozen but fresh works as well as long as it’s ripe)
  • 1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 lb wild caught cod
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • Organic corn tortillas

For the Salsa

  • Combine the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, cilantro, and mango in a large bowl. Pour the lime juice over it and mix to ensure all the ingredients are combined and coated with the lime juice.
  • Cover and place the salsa in the refrigerator while you prepare the fish. The acid in the lime juice will macerate the ingredients and help combine the flavors.

For the Cod

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place the cod on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the Old Bay seasoning until it’s coated.
  • Bake about 20 minutes until the fish flakes with a fork.

Serve the cod on the corn tortillas topped with the salsa and garnished with sliced avocado and fresh lettuce.

Serves 2 people 2-3 tacos each.

That’s it! Ridiculously easy, right?

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Fish tacos with mango salsa

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

If you are one of the many parents who struggle to get their kids to eat their vegetables, you are going to love this recipe. If you are an adult who hates eating vegetables, you are going to love this recipe. If you love alfredo. you’re going to love this recipe. The sauce has the velvety texture and creamy flavor of alfredo, but contains just a tiny amount of cheese and is made of cauliflower. Instead of milk or heavy cream, you use the water you cooked the cauliflower in for a liquid so you’re still able to get some of those water-soluble nutrients from the cauliflower. You won’t even know you’re eating a vegetable! What’s even better is this is super quick and easy to make.

A quick note on the pasta. I always recommend whole wheat pastas over white pastas – it is far more nutritious than white and it’s also more filling. However, this sauce is made with water and whole wheat pasta tends to soak that up very quickly so you end up with a grainier textured sauce. I still don’t recommend white pasta. I would say go with a brown rice pasta or a whole wheat blend, like whole wheat and quinoa pasta. It will act less like a sponge while still not being an empty carb. I recommend using penne or ziti because it catches some of the sauce inside of it so you get even more flavor with each bite.

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup water (from the cauliflower)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 box whole grain pasta, cooked

Equipment

  • Blender

Directions

  1. Break up the cauliflower into florets. Place them in a large pot of water and boil until soft.
  2. While the cauliflower is cooking, saute the chopped garlic cloves in the extra virgin olive oil for about a minute – just long enough to bloom the flavor. Scrape the garlic and oil into the blender.
  3. Once the cauliflower is soft, add it to the blender with the salt, water from the pot, and parmesan. Blend until the sauce is smooth.
  4. Add the sauce to the cooked pasta. Optional: top with a little more grated parmesan and cracked black pepper and enjoy!

Using a small head of cauliflower, I had some extra sauce leftover using one box of pasta. So. if you buy a larger head, you may be able to make enough sauce for two boxes of pasta.

If you want to take this one step further, add some grilled chicken and broccoli to it!

Cauliflower Sauce
This sauce is so incredibly velvety and creamy!