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Wild Rice, Sausage and Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 4.

Note: Naturally sweet acorn squash is the perfect choice to stuff with a fall-inspired filling of nutty wild rice, sage-scented pork sausage and sweet-tart apples. Cook the wild rice in advance, or use a prepared option. From Meredith Deeds.

• 2 medium acorn squash (about 1 1/2 lb. each), halved down the middle, seeds removed

• 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided

• 3/4 tsp. salt, divided

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 12 oz. bulk pork sausage (sage-flavored or breakfast)

• 1 medium onion, chopped

• 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped

• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

• 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

• 3 c. tightly packed baby spinach leaves

• 1 c. cooked wild rice (see Note)

• 1 c. shredded Gruyère cheese

• 1/2 c. chopped toasted pecans

• 1/4 c. panko crumbs

• 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut a thin slice off round side of each squash half to create a stable base. Brush the insides of squash halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Place squash flesh side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil; bake until golden and tender, 25 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, for 3 minutes. Add the onion and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Add the apple; cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 more minutes, until the sausage is cooked through. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook for 30 seconds. Add spinach and cooked wild rice; cook, stirring, for another 2 to 3 minutes, until spinach is wilted. Stir in the Gruyère cheese and pecans. Remove from heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

In a small bowl, combine the panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Remove squash from oven; flip squash halves over. Divide the sausage filling among the squash halves. Sprinkle the panko crumb mixture over the top and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until heated through and golden brown.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 590 Fat 38 g Sodium 1,030 mg

Carbohydrates 46 g Saturated fat 11 g Added sugars 0 g

Protein 23 g Cholesterol 66 mg Dietary fiber 10 g

Exchanges per serving: ½ fruit, 2 ½ starch, 2 high-fat protein, 4 fat.