I find breakfast to be the hardest meal to eat paleo — or perhaps just the most boring. Somehow I always seem to fall back on eggs and/or bacon. While I love to eat me some bacon, a woman can not live on bacon and eggs alone. Consequently, I have been looking for a good recipe I could use for breakfast that incorporated more veggies and isn’t egg based.
The concept of vegetables for breakfast is relatively new for me. When I was a kid the only vegetables I liked were broccoli, corn, and the occasional iceberg lettuce salad. Beans and carrots were yucky, and brussel sprouts were surely the work of the devil. In hind sight, part of the lack of appeal may have been that the only vegetables that were ever prepared at home were dumped from a can or boiled/steamed to the point of mushiness. My grandma may have been an excellent cook, but veggies were boring afterthoughts.
Not too surprisingly many of my vegetable prejudices carried into adulthood. It’s really only been in the last 5 or 6 years, as I’ve tried to eat healthier, that I’ve begun exploring the wide world of produce. Some things I liked right away. Other tastes took a while to grow on me. Squash has been one of the latter for me. Everyone seemed to like acorn squash— except me. If anyone tries to convince you that spaghetti squash works well in place of spaghetti, they are lying to you.
Then one day, a light shone down from heaven, angels sang, and I discovered the Sweet Dumpling squash. It’s super sweet and creamy flesh made it the perfect “gateway” squash for me. Although I must confess, it’s really not such a good gateway since I still usually tend to grab a Sweet Dumpling rather than other varieties.
Well, that was a bit of a long segue to get to today’s squash recipe. I found my current inspiration while flipping past the Food Network the other day. Guy Fieri, the spiky haired host of about 27 Food Network shows, was making a stuffed acorn squash that sounded totally yummy — and oddly breakfast appropriate. The squash, cabbage, onions, and bell peppers gave my breakfast a dose of veggies that I had been missing, and the turkey sausage gave it the necessary protein plus some zip and a little traditional breakfast appeal.
I substituted Sweet Dumplings for the acorn squash (of course). Your favorite squash would work also, however, if you’ve never tried these little gems, I strongly suggest you give them a go. This dish reheats well in the microwave, so, if you are like me, you could make a batch and enjoy them for several days. While I am making this as a breakfast entrée, you could clearly enjoy it for any other meal.
This dish takes a little bit of pre-planning because you need to make the sausage 8 to 24 hours ahead of time, but it’s worth it. The results were super! I’m not typically a fan of turkey used as anything other than plain old turkey, but this homemade sausage was totally tasty and is something I am going to incorporate in other recipes as well. For the time challenged, you could probably substitute your favorite pre-made paleo-friendly turkey, chicken, or pork sausage with good results.
One additional thought — Although I kept them in the recipe, the toasted squash seeds didn’t really add much for me (and tended to get stuck in my teeth) so I’ll probably omit them in the future unless I’m making them for guests and want them to look fancy-schmancy. They do taste good on their own though, so roast them up and enjoy! If you want a little extra crunch or nuttiness, some toasted pecans might be a good alternate. I plan to try that next time.
Below is my modified version of Guy Fieri’s recipe to make it more paleo friendly and incorporate a few personal changes. You can link to his original recipe above.
For the turkey sausage:
2 tsp. thyme leaves (dry)
2 tsp. rubbed sage (dry)
2 tsp. fennel seeds (This was my addition. I couldn’t imagine sausage without fennel. It tastes fabulous, but you could omit it if you aren’t a fennel fan.)
2 tsp. sea salt , plus more to taste
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 lb. lean ground turkey
For the squash and vegetables:
3 squash, cut in half (I used sweet dumpling, but acorn or your favorite squash would work too)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt, plus more for seasoning
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp. grass-fed butter (you could use coconut oil if you don’t eat butter)
2 c. 1-inch-sliced green cabbage
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in 1/4-inch-wide strips
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut in 1/4-inch-wide strips
1/2 large sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley (for garnish)
To make the turkey sausage, combine the thyme, sage, fennel, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a medium bowl. Add the turkey and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.
To prepare the squash , preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Trim the ends off the squash so that it will sit flat. Scrape the seeds and membranes from inside the squash halves (if you go through the end, don’t worry). Set the seeds aside. Place the squash halves cut side up on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of the salt and the pepper. Next time I’m also going to grate a little fresh nutmeg on them too.
Separate the seeds from the membranes and rinse well. Dry the seeds with a paper towel. Place the seeds on a separate baking sheet or prepare a separate foil sheet for them to roast on.
Place the squash in the oven. Roast the squash for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden around the edges and a knife can be inserted easily into the flesh. Remove from the oven but leave the squash on the baking sheet.
Place the seeds in the oven. Stir the seeds every 5 minutes and check them for doneness after 10 to 20 minutes (mine were done in 10 minutes); you want them to be crisp and golden brown. Be warned that seeds started popping everywhere in my oven. Never having roasted seeds before, I’m not sure how to combat that problem. Watch for flying seeds when you open the oven. Always remember, safety glasses are your friend! Oven mitts and a large spatula can be used for defense in a pinch. Now where was I? Oh yes — remove the seeds from the oven and sprinkle them with the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Turn the oven off, but leave the door closed to keep the heat in — if necessary, we’ll slide the squash back in to re-warm it later.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp. coconut oil. When hot, add the turkey, making sure to leave large chunks, about 1 inch across. Let the chunks brown, then turn and cook through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
(While everything is cooking in this next step, you may want to slip the pan of squash back into the still warm oven to warm them a smidge before stuffing. It’s not necessary to turn the oven back on if it’s still warm. Careful not to over cook the squash.)
In the same pan, melt the grass-fed butter over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage and cook until it starts to color and wilt, about 4 minutes. Add the peppers and onion and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onions are soft and the peppers are still a little al dente. Add the turkey sausage and the garlic. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes more to blend the flavors. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.
Divide the turkey mixture among the squash halves. Sprinkle with the roasted squash seeds, garnish with a bit of parsley, serve, and enjoy!
Makes 6 servings