Wednesday, November 30, 2011

101 Ways To Use Butternut Squash (or more like 15)

One thing we have in the Northeast in our gardens is Butternut Squash. Well any squash but in my case this year it was Butternut so I will stick with that. We ended up with about 30 huge giant squash this year from our accidental patch. So what can you do with a a kitchen full of squash? I will tell you.
1. Give away some to friends. This sounds simple but in this economy.... maybe your neighbor might be living on ramen.. a squash could help.

2. Puree. This will be the 1st step for a lot of recipes so this is good to prep ahead of time and freeze. Peel the squash, remove seeds and cut up into chunks. You can leave the seeds and pulp in some of your purees because in some recipes they are very good. Boil in water or bake in the oven until soft. Blend until smooth.
3. Squash Pie. Butternut Squash pie is delicious and simple. Simply replace the pumpkin is a standard pumpkin pie with the squash puree. Bake as normal. It is lighter and less sweet than a pumpkin pie. It often tastes more refreshing and airy than the dense pumpkin pies do.
4. Butternut Squash Soup. This recipe you can either use fresh squash or puree. I prefer fresh because they cook in the chicken broth. Cut up a whole butternut squash (peeled and remove seeds) and fill a large pot about halfway with chicken broth. add squash and a whole onion chopped up. Season how you would like and simmer until soupy. Blend it to get out any lumps and return it to the stove to simmer until is is a rich creamy texture.
5. Squash Bread. For this I take my favorite zucchini bread recipe.. or squash bread recipe if you can find one and replace all the oil, butter or squash in the recipe with squash puree. So if it says 1 cup squash and 1.2 cup oil put 1.5 cups of puree. It is that simple and it makes for a super healthy bread. This is one where seeds add to it and make it that much yummier.
6. Squash Muffins. Same as the bread.
7. Squash Cake. Again take a cake recipe and replace the oil or butter with puree.
8. Squash Ravioli. Roll out your pasta dough and cut into small squares. Mix some puree with whatever else you would like, cheese, sausage...etc. spoon a small amount on each square and cover with another square. Pinch sides to seal and boil to cook. Serve with whatever sauce you like.
9. Squash Pasta Sauce. This is one Hubby and I invented with leftover squash soup. Take the soup and mix in milk, cheese, and chicken broth. simmer until sauce thickness and pour over penne or whatever pasta you like.
10. Squash Jam. For this you take the puree and cook it with apple cider. Add a few tablespoons of brown sugar and cook down until it is the consistency or Apple Butter.  Spread on toast.
11. Squash Cookies. There are recipes online for these.
12. Squash Face Wash. Add 2 tbs puree with 2 tbs yogurt and 1 tbs honey. Leave on face for 10-15 mins and wash off.
13. Candle Holders. Dry out the squash. Remove innards and place a candle inside.
14. Canteen. This one I found online here.
15. Last but not least, the puree itself... when heated up with a little maple syrup and maybe some dun da dun... SQUASH! Like traditional Thanksgiving Squash.
So there you have it. 15 ways to use Butternut Squash!

Thanksgiving Recovery

So you are probably slowly recovering from Thanksgiving and wondering what to do with those leftovers. Well I have two recipes for you that are sure to wow. Both will use up a good majority of your leftovers.
The first is my mother's recipe. You take a pie dish and your leftover stuffing. I use my cranberry, pecan wildrice, cornbread stuffing... which I can give the recipe for that later if anyone is interested. Take the cold stuffing and mold it like you would a graham cracker crust for a pie. This is the shell of your leftover pie. Now take the gravy and turkey and mix pieces of chopped up turkey into the gravy. This is the filling. Now take your cold mashed potatoes and pile them on top... forming the top crust. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top and bake at 350 for about 30 mins. It is delicious!
The second recipe is one of my own making. Now if you are like me and you use wild rice in your stuffing you probably have some leftover (uncooked) if not egg noodles or what ever rice or pasta you would like to use is fine. Take whatever turkey is left on the carcass (after you make your pie of course) and throw the whole turkey carcass and leftover meat in a big pot of boiling water. Boil it for about an hour (or two) then drain the broth into a bowl making sure all meat and bones are in the colander, then pour broth back into pot. Return pot to stove and add, carrots, celery, onion, and anything else you may like in turkey soup. Then bring that to a soft simmer. Add the rice now but if using pasta add that right before you are ready to eat... like 10-15 mins before. Now pick all the cartilage, skin and bones out of the turkey in the colander and return the meat to the pot. You now have a delicious turkey and rice (noodle) soup.
So I hope this helps empty your fridge out a tad. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Broken System: The Cost of C-Sections

We were sitting down relaxing the TV was on and Anderson Cooper was on the screen. His topic of the evening was women addicted to prescription drugs. While the subject matter was valid I felt the particular case he brought to light was a much bigger subject than what he seemed to view it as. To Cooper (who I will state right here and now... I adore and respect) she was just a drug addicted mother and wife trying to hide her addiction and hurting those around her. Which that in itself is bad enough but that was not the whole story at least not to me... and not to thousands of other women around the country. I heard what she was addicted to OXYCODONE and immediately listened for one word one word that would explain so much...... C-SECTION.
The woman in question had been talked into a c-section by her doctors, told it was the ONLY option and then afterwards given an oxycodone drip that she had a push button to control her own meds. Not only that but then like all post op c-section Moms, she was sent home with a bottle full of pills. According to Cooper's statistics he said a surprising amount of women are addicted to prescription drugs. I will almost guarantee that at least half are post op c-section Moms addicted to oxycodone.
We live in a broke system. The business of being born in this country has become insane. According to an article ( there has been a giant rise in the amount of c-section births most of which were first time mothers and a plummet in the amount of VBACs (vaginal birth after c-section) done nation wide. They estimate c-section rates at nearly 35% of all births in this country as of 2009. The VBAC rate is only around 9% and the amount of c-sections done to first time mothers is at 20%. Astounding!
So why is this a broke system. 1. Doctors make more money off a c-section. 2. They can keep you in the hospital longer ensuring more money for the hospital as well. 3. Not performing VBACS takes the risk off their shoulders and 4. in getting a mother to make the decision herself or declaring it an emergency is easier than taking the blame if something goes wrong and lastly 5. the first sign of trouble and the doctors throw in the towel and grab a scalpel. The worst part is that is all just the issues that are in the c-section itself but the even bigger issue is what comes next. You are pumped literally pumped full of morphine, oxycodone, and prescription strength motrin. Often at higher doses than would be given a victim of a car accident or major ailment. You are given levels of these drugs designed almost to get you addicted.. and it doesn't take long. So why do I hate this system of being born? Why do I cry when I hear stories like what happened to this poor woman and the damage it caused her family. Yes she could have gotten help or stopped.. but sometimes you don't have the strength. I did but it wasn't easy. Here is what happened to me.
In 2009 we conceived our son. He was born late that year in the end of September. At 40 weeks he was estimated to be 11 lbs. My midwife until then had been supporting my wishes for an all natural childbirth which originally I had wanted a water birth but found out our hospital could no longer do those, so I had plans to carry out my labor in a tub and give birth in a squatting position in a birthing room. The day my last ultrasound showed a larger than normal baby I was told it was in my best interests as a first time Mom as well as my sons to choose a c-section. I talked it over with my husband but I knew the decision was out of my hands.. I knew if I chose to try and give birth naturally they would be itching to pull out the scalpel anyway. I knew he would most likely be born c-section anyway and this way it was my choice not theirs. They told me if I chose natural there was a large chance of dislocating his shoulders. I was terrified. This was not what I had wanted. I had until that day not had so much as a mole removed or stitches let alone major surgery. I had never had a cavity or a broken bone. My body was pristine... an unscarred uncarved blank slate. I was now being told for the sake of my son I should let a doctor for the first time ever slice into my flesh, open me up pull my major organs out, possibly let me bleed out on the table and pull my son out of me and hopefully put everything back inside me right and hope I don't die.
So I chose my son. I was lead to believe that no woman could deliver such a huge baby as a first child. I believed them and was put into the OR first thing the next morning and my son was born. I was then brougt upstairs where for the next 2 days I was given a morphine IV drip and 2 oxycodone every 4 hrs and 1 prescription motrin every 6 hours. After two days I was taken off the morphine but was kept on the rest. At the end of the week I was sent home with enough oxycodon to easily lead to a massive addiction. The only warning I was given was to ease myself off the pills. However I was breastfeeding and wanted to be rid of these drugs as quickly as possible since they were going into my son as well as me. So a mere 2-3 days after being sent home I cut myself off. For 2 days I was almost suicidally depressed. I thought I was going through postpartum depression. I was shaking, cold, hot, I threw up, I cried and cried. I felt like I had the flu. Finally on the second day I was at the worst of it. My husband came home to me sitting on the couch cradling the baby and rocking back and forth hair greasy and matted, sweat dripping from my face, sobbing into our nb son. I confessed I thought I had an infection from the c-section and was dying and that I also had postpartum depression and needed help. My husband thought it unlikely that I had both a massive infection and postpartum depression so he asked me to describe my symptoms. When I did he told me “You are going through withdrawal, hunny. For all intents and purposes you are going through what a heroin addict goes through but to a lesser degree”. I was shocked! How could my doctors have let this happen to me? I wondered, how many other women realize it's the drugs and stay on them to make that feeling go away? How many women, like that poor woman on Anderson cooper's show... need help or are hopelessly addicted because their doctors convinced them that their own bodies were incapable of something the were designed to do and then gave them dangerous drugs to ease the pain? Apparently the answer is 35%. It is a dangerous game these doctors are playing and I truly believe that until things change their will be a lot more stories like that one, and like mine. These stories must be told to help turn the tide and prevent this misuse of the health care system. People have wondered why the rise in home births. It is because being born shouldn't be ruled by commercialism and commerce. Being born should be wonderful and most of all safe... and most women do not feel that doctors today have their safety at heart.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gender Neutral Toys: Keeping Commercialism From Raising Your Children

I am going to step away from Green Life for a post to discuss something important to me. Gender Neutral Toys. With Christmas just a ways away I have decided to address this subject. We have always tried to avoid gender specific toys with our son and instead let him play with whatever he likes. He loves dinosaurs but he also loves his play kitchen. He loves swords but also loves his baby doll and shopping cart. He loves super heroes but also loves tea sets. He is a very happy kid. Yet whenever we go to find him Christmas or birthday gifts I am shocked when walking through the toy departments now that he is getting older because unlike baby toys which are mostly gender neutral to begin with toddler and children toys are not. Suddenly your child hits an age where he/she must choose between pink cooking and cleaning toys, pink musical instruments, and pink baby dolls and teddy bears or camo machine guns, violent looking action figures, swords, axes, or trains and cars in very blue packaging and clearly for boys only.
We were walking through Big Lots yesterday (but every store is the same.. Walmart, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Target.. etc) and the "girl' aisle had all the cooking, pretend play and mommies helper toys, for example kitchens, pots and pans, vacuums, tea sets, play food, and everything was pink or purple or had the words "Girl power" written on them. Even the art kits all had pictures of girls on them or were pink. The "Boy" aisle had toys machine guns, everything camo, dinosaurs but only ones with big scary teeth or fighting dinos, trains (which that's ok but girls can play with Trains too) swords, action figures, and basically just death, destruction and violence. Then there is an aisle of board games, science kits, and puzzles. Most toy departments are set up the same, always baby aisle, boy aisle girl aisle, puzzle aisle, but I was in shock at Big Lots because it was more overt than usual. The girl aisle was a sickening wash of pink (which by the way what if a girl doesn't like the color pink?) and the boy aisle was completely camo. Are we honestly still trying to teach little girls that they need to know how to cook and clean, and sending boys to war. Those toys had a purpose in the 30's and 40's to help set up a world where boys wanted to protect the country and go off to war and girl would be left behind to keep the home fires lit. We haven't been there for almost 100 yrs so why are toys still there?
We have had luck with keeping our son's toys gender neutral but to do so we have stuck to mostly educational toys, and shopping online where you have more options.We have had to order the majority of his gifts for the last few years on or simply make them ourselves. His playfood for example was crocheted by me.
So I have this to say to toy manufacturers.. Boys like to pretend play.. they like to cook, and clean and even yes play with baby dolls... and guess what girls like dinos, trains, and cars. Not every car toy needs to say something about being powerful or macho and not every play food set needs to be pink. STOP! This Christmas try and look at your child's gift list especially if they are still very young and maybe delete some of those very gender specific toys. If we as consumers stop buying these toys, the toy manufacturers will stop trying to brainwash our children.

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