Apple Stuffed Butternut Squash

Split a

Medium butternut squash

lengthwise.  Scoop out any seeds.  Brush skin and flesh lightly with

about 1 T peanut or canola oil. 

Place face-down on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375 F for 45-55 minutes or until flesh is soft and easily removed with a spoon.  While squash bakes, peel

2 large red apples (overripe is fine).

Chop into very fine dice, about 1/4 inch cubes.  Immediately toss cubes with

juice of one small lemon.  In a small bowl, combine

2t cinnamon
1t allspice
1/2t freshly ground nutmeg
1/4t pickling salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed

Toss seasonings with apples until well combined.  Set aside until squash is done baking (at least 20 minutes marination).  When squash is finished, remove from oven and turn broiler to medium.  Turn squash halves flesh-side up and carefully scoop out flesh with a large spoon.  Leave a 1/2 inch border of flesh so that the skin stays firm.  Gently fold squash into apple mixture; refill the squash skins with this filling.  Cut

3T unsalted butter

into pats.  Place pats evenly on top of the stuffed squash.  Broil squash for 2-4 minutes, or until butter is melted and stuffing begins to turn golden.

This side dish was invented based on looking around my kitchen at what was on hand.  Feel free to do spice substitutions such as ground cloves.  The type of apple should be a red or pink sweet; granny smith and other tart apples are too firm and too tart once the lemon juice is added.  The apples need to marinate in the sugar/juice so that the flavors meld- the broiler cooking time is to short for the cooking process to marry the flavors.  I’ve added 1/4 cup slivered almonds for additional crunch; don’t let them marinate with the apples or they’ll be mushy.  This recipe can also be done with two medium acorn squash instead of the butternut.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

Taste: [rate 4]
Ease: [rate 2.5]

…And Justice for All

Going the posted speed limit saves fuel.  I’ve also found that I am not as stressed while driving and that I don’t feel as temperamental toward other drivers.  However, it does mean I have to be much more cognizant of other drivers so I don’t annoy them.

So, as I travel on I-65 North in the slow lane, 465 West starts to merge.  Lots of cars are merging so I need to move to the middle lane.  I flip on my turn signal and increase my speed.  A Corvette zips by, but there’s room between the Vette and the pickup truck behind it.  I change to that lane.  The pickup truck, deciding I shouldn’t be in the middle lane (though the fast lane is still open), tailgates me, then whips around me and cuts me off, making gestures at me the whole way.

Little do the two in the truck know that one of the vehicles merging is a police car.  The officer pulls next to them and gestures at them, pointing his finger.  The truck’s passenger makes some attempt to explain.  The officer motions to the road’s shoulder and flips on his lights.

Yes folks, the jerks who cut me off and made me slam on my brakes were pulled over by a police officer.  There’s nothing like instant gratification, is there?

Gas Prices are High – Hooray!

No, I’m not to-ta-lly crazy. Just mostly.

And sure, the news in this article is difficult to bear for some. I am especially compassionate for the working poor, who see few choices but many obstacles to being able to pay bills. And for those whose industry makes them at the whim of fuel prices, such as taxi drivers.

But for those of us living happily in our urban sprawl, buying ever larger SUVs or even sedans with plain old bad fuel economy, the joke is on us. And it’s nice to hear people trying to economize (finally). And the last time the gas prices shot up- in about 2001 or so- it sparked many consumers to look at more efficient vehicles. The push for green has led to more alt fuel vehicles than ever, and even to traditional gasoline cars with more petite frames and more efficient engines.

Let’s just say that you think global warming is a big conspiracy. Fine. But what would it hurt to consume less? It means more money to donate to other causes…even if the “cause” is a new stereo for yourself.

No, I’m not riding my bike to work. But I am carpooling. No, my car isn’t the most efficient on the road. But I refused to buy a vehicle that wasn’t alt fuel.

Steps in the Right Direction

Jesus’ BaptismAs the Easter season is more than just one day, the bible readings have centered around the acts of the apostles directly following Jesus’ death. Even if you aren’t Christian, the Acts are a fascinating look into the early formations of the church. This was history being made, history that has shaped billions of lives. One of the interesting parts of the readings was the difficulties that early Christians had in coming to agreement on some of the finer points.

Of course, those “finer points” have led to much splintering of the faith. It is understandable how different cultures and even different facets of the same culture can feel the need for different interpretations.

At church Sunday, the priest joyfully mentioned the following article. I was happy for many reasons. I have always felt that humans have worked harder at arguing our differences than at appreciating our common goals and beliefs. Second, the catholic Church was one of the eleven churches: so often, catholics are reviled as being resistant to change. Third, I was hearing this information from a Midwestern priest- by no means is the Midwest known as a hotbed of advanced thinking.

So to the eleven churches who saw our common beliefs and believed in unity: thanks.

Gifts of Vegetables

I’ve extolled the numerous wonderful attributes of my parents before, and this is just one more opportunity to do so.

My dad and I have always gardened together.  I used to love to put on my scrungy clothes and dig in the dirt with him.  I was fascinated by earthworms and we would try to see who could find the biggest one.

Dad imbued in me a strong desire to grow my own fruit and vegetables.  I built by own raised bed vegetable garden at my first house; it was even big enough for a couple of rows of corn.  When I was married and moved into a different house, I bought big pots and had a container garden.  I started shopping for organic gardening items and trying to expand my produce selections.

Then I moved to Indianapolis.  My work schedule was crazy; my other hobbies took precedence.  My big containers weren’t draining well and the garden didn’t flourish.  The next year proved to be even more difficult.  My number of plants indoors and out shrank dramatically, reflecting the level of craziness in my life.  For the first time, I had no garden at all.  I neglectfully killed all but two cacti from my previously large collection of indoor plants.

One of my Amaryllis BloomsThen, this past year, my mother-in-law thoughtfully gave me three amaryllis, one of my favorite indoor plants.  The flowers are usually everyone’s favorite; as pretty as they are, I like the dark green straps of leaves that flourish through the year.  As they bloomed on the mantle, I realized how much I missed having plants.

Dad always talks fruits and vegetables in the spring.  He shared his love of gardening with my maternal grandfather, the king of the garden.  Dad reminds me how much my paternal grandmother loved to look at seed catalogues in February.  He chats about pros and cons of certain berries; what new fruit tree should he buy?  I was bitten by the gardening bug, but amid my burgeoning responsibilities, I decided not to garden this year.

Dad’s Thoughtful GiftHe knew me better.  During a discussion about various tomato types, he said “you can’t go without tomatoes.”  He took two of my vacant pots (I had about 20).  Without another word, I arrived home a few nights later to this sight (on the right).  He drove an hour to my house just to surprise me with these tomato plants (a yellow heirloom and a red cherry).

I decided that adding one pot with three or four herbs wouldn’t be much more trouble, right?  True.  But one brief trip to the store added up to filling most of my pots with vegetables and herbs.  I pulled out my water-saving drip line to water all of them with minimal effort; I potted them and used almost all of the compost in my 55 gallon compost bin, as well as several coconut bricks (peat alternative).  There’s an enormous pot of herbs- even planted spearmint just for Silo.  My new low-meat, high-vegetable diet will now include organic peppers, squashes, eggplant, and tomatoes.

Two weeks after the tomatoes arrived on my porch, I have a thriving mini-garden that will require minimal care and minimal cost (used only materials I already owned- no new pots or soil!).  One yellow pepper plant costs the same amount as one yellow pepper at the grocery.  I can’t wait for tomatoes, warm from the sun, with just a little salt for flavor.

Thanks, Dad.  I love you!

What Makes One Human?

If you say self-awareness, then maybe you will struggle with why it doesn’t include other animals. When I read this article, I realized that arcane laws are keeping people from doing the right thing. No, he’s not a person, but he should be able to receive donations from private citizens, for crying out loud. I think they’re trying to change the wrong law- change the donation law, not the human law.

Why do we need to make animals into humans in order to be restpectful?