This tasty dish "dresses up" the meal - serve it on the side or as a light vegetarian entrée.
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 1 hr
Yield: 6 x 1/2 squash servings
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Cut each squash in half crosswise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and strings. If necessary, trim the top and bottom so that the squash will sit level, and place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle each half with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste. Using 2 tablespoons of the butter, dot each half with some butter.
Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake the squash just until moist and tender, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the rice, chicken broth, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups of water, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, about 40 minutes. When the rice is done most of the water should be evaporated.
Spray a 10-inch sauté pan with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the pears and sauté 2 minutes longer. Cover the pan, adjust the heat to medium-low, and cook the vegetables until crisp-tender, 3 minutes longer. Add the sage, thyme, and parsley and sauté 1 more minute. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, sautéed vegetables and pears, walnuts (see below), and dried cranberries. Mound the rice mixture into the squash halves, dividing it evenly. Cut the remaining tablespoon of butter into small pieces. Dot each stuffed squash with butter. Cover with foil. Bake in preheated oven until heated through, about 20 minutes.
TOASTING WALNUTS: Toasting nuts brings out their full, rich flavor. Place the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350ºF oven until lightly browned, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Alternatively, the nuts can be browned in a microwave. Place the nuts in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave on high power for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Watch carefully that they dont burn.
For a richer dish, use 4 tablespoons of butter instead of 3; replace cooking spray with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
* VEGETARIAN VERSION: Substitute vegetable broth for chicken and, if desired, buttery spread for butter. Add additional vegetarian protein to the dish or meal.
For a vegetarian holiday meal, serve this dish along side of Tofurky or other vegetarian protein dish.
Serving suggestions are not included in the nutritional analysis.