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Native Cooking

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This was a good year for butternut and other winter squash, at least in my
area of the country. I have picked quite a bit, but left many on the vine
because they didn't look quite ready. The rest will be picked soon as a
frost is predicted.

Leave a few inches of stem on your squash when you pick it, makes for
easier handling, also, mold or rot cannot get into the vegetable. The most
delicious squash are those with high natural sugar content. Sunny days and
cooler nights with temperatures in the 50s are best for the sugars to
develop. When storing winter squash, keep them from touching in a cool, dry
(50 - 55 degree) place. In fact, storing squash increases the amount of
beta-carotene in it.

Check them from time to time and use any that appear to be softening as
soon as possible. The best thing to do with softening squash is to make it
into a puree for breads, cakes or other recipes. Some of the most common
varieties are butternut, Hubbard, spaghetti, acorn, buttercup and pattypan.
Winter squash also makes a nice mincemeat. Mincemeat is an oldtimey pie
filling and a condiment much like chutney. It is always mixed with apples
of some sort, sugar and raisins, plus spices.

One delicious and simple dinner is doable in the oven in one hour. Chicken
breasts basted with orange juice and sprinkled with herbs, baked potatoes
and small butternut squash, split and placed on a baking pan with the
potatoes in the oven together. Easy and good.

Winter Squash Mincemeat

4 cups winter squash, peeled and cubed

4 cups apples, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced

1 cup raisins

2 cups brown sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Steam the cubed squash until tender. Put the squash, apples and rest of
ingredients in a heavy saucepan and simmer, stirring often, until the
mixture is thick. Simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring frequently to
prevent scorching. Use for pie or a condiment. Top a pie with whipped cream
or a low-fat substitute.

Winter Squash Nut Bread

2 cups butternut puree (or any winter squash)

2 cups apples, peeled and chopped

1-1/4 cups vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

4 eggs

2 cups flour (or 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup white)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

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1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two nine-inch loaf pans.
Mix together the eggs, sugar and oil, then add the pureed squash. Blend
well. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together, the flour,
baking soda, spices and salt. Add this to the wet mix stirring until
smooth. Add the apples, walnuts and raisins.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 50 - 55 minutes. Out of
the oven, let the pans cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks.
Do not cut before loaves are cooled completely (makes them crumble). Wrap
tightly and keep in the fridge.

Stuffed Pumpkin

1 small pumpkin (2 - 3 lbs), cleaned and seeded, cut the top off as you
wood for a Jack-O-Lantern and set aside

1 medium onion, minced

1 lb ground buffalo

1/2 lb sweet sausage

2 cups cooked rice

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Saute the buffalo, onion and sausage until browned. Combine the meat,
onion, rice, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper and spoon into the pumpkin.
Replace the top and put the filled pumpkin in a baking pan with one inch of
water. Bake at 350 degrees for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until pumpkin is tender.
To serve, remove top and cut into wedges.

Notes & Tips

Pumpkin shells, large or small, and acorn squash, make great vessels for
side dishes like rice or mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, juice, etc ...
Kids like to help with this too, cleaning them out is fun, even "cool", so
they won't balk much when they have to eat what's inside.

If you haven't picked herbs for hang-drying, it may not be too late in some
locations. Sage, basil and mint are my favorites. I think you can gather
onions and braid them now before a heavy frost.

You can make your own seasoned salt. Mix 4 tablespoons of salt with 1
tablespoon each of sugar, ground celery seed, paprika, then 1 teaspoon each
of mace, curry powder, garlic and dry mustard.

Will Rogers was one smart Cherokee. Although he died too young in a 1935
plane crash, he was very quotable. Some of his treasures:

"There are two theories to arguing with a woman ... neither works."

"Always drink upstream from the herd."

"Letting 'the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it

"If you don't learn to laugh at trouble, you won't have anything to laugh
at when you're old."