4 small to medium winter squash (such as delicata or acorn)
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound bulk Italian or your favorite sausage (I use turkey or chicken sausage)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and finely chopped (optional)
1 Gala or your favorite apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1/3 cup cashew cream* or sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast (i love this stuff!)
Chopped fresh basil or parsley, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Carefully cut each squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and stringy pulp. Brush the cut sides of the squash lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Arrange the squash halves cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender (acorn squash takes a few minutes longer than delicata). Set the squash aside and leave the oven on.
While the squash is roasting, make the filling. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add enough olive oil to coat it with a thin layer. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a spatula, until browned in spots and halfway cooked, about 5 minutes. Stir in the onion and shiitake mushrooms (if using) and continue to cook, stirring often, until the sausage is fully cooked and the mushrooms and onions have softened a bit. Stir in the apples and cook for five more minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the cashew cream sour cream and nutritional yeast (if using). Taste the filling and add salt, pepper, and/or nutritional yeast to taste.
Turn the squash halves over so the cut sides are up. Spoon the filling into the squash halves and sprinkle a little cheese on top of each one, if using. Return the squash to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are browned in spots. Let cool for 10 minutes and then sprinkle with basil or parsley and serve hot
*To make the cashew cream, soak 1/2 cup of cashews in very hot water for at least 15 minutes. Drain and rinse, then add the cashews to a blender with 1/4 cup water, 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, and a large pinch of salt. Process in a blender until smooth.