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Let the Southwestern aroma fill your home on a winter evening

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Squash are very available during the winter months, hence they are included in that selection of "winter vegetables" that we draw upon during the cold months. If you take advantage of the seed cavity that is in the middle of most of the larger squash varieties, you can create an unusual one-dish meal--in fact, you can eat the dish!

Acorn squash are identified easily by their ridged exterior of a green and yellow color. One of its close relatives is also known as the Table Queen squash, and they look the same but can be bigger. For this dish, I would buy the largest squash you can find, because you are going to provide half a squash per serving.

Cut each squash in half longitudinally, avoiding the hard stem end, and scoop out the seeds. I usually use a grapefruit spoon for this, a spoon that has small teeth on the end of the bowl. You can dig the seeds out neatly and perhaps dry them out and plant them in a couple of months, or even get some peat pots and create seedlings for the warm weather that is just around the corner in Southern Arizona.

The turkey sausage specified in this recipe can be substituted by something you like better, such as standard pork sausage. If you do this there will not be any noticeable difference in the final dish except the flavor of the sausage. Either one will go well with the Southwestern flavors provided by peppers and chili powder.

Another possible substitution for this recipe is Mexican shredded cheese instead of Swiss, which has a distinctive flavor. Feel free to use either.

This is as good a time as any to mention once again that in my vocabulary the word for peppers and powder is "chili" and the word "Chile" refers to a nation in South America. I don't use the term "chile peppers" and so forth because it seems easy to use two words the way they make the most sense.

SOUTHWESTERN STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

From AOL Health

Ingredients:

3 medium organic acorn squash, 3/4 to 1 pound each
5 ounce(s) organic bulk turkey sausage
1 small organic onion, chopped
1/2 medium organic red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove organic garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups organic cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 15-ounce can of organic black beans, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
5 dashes hot sauce, or to taste
1 cups organic Swiss cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut each squash in half horizontally. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Place the squash cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly coat a large skillet with cooking spray; place over medium heat. Add the turkey sausage and cook, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, salt and hot sauce, scraping up any browned bits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the tomatoes are broken down, 10 to 12 minutes.

When the squash are tender, reduce the oven temperature to 325°. Fill the squash halves with the turkey mixture. Top with the cheese. Place on the baking sheet and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted, 8 to 10 minutes.

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