Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dark Chocolate Flourless Crinkle Cookies
Vegan, Gluten Free And Made With Aquafaba

Make these dark chocolate crinkle cookies for your Valentine!

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Do you have a Gluten Free Valentine?
Are you looking for a special Valentine's day treat that is vegan and gluten free? Well, here's a popular chocolate crinkle cookie with a special twist. Besides being flourless, it's made with meringue produced from aquafaba instead of egg whites!

What's Aquafaba?
Aquafaba has been all the rage in the vegan community. It's basically bean juice. You know, the stuff that you usually throw out when you open a can of beans. It's a great egg white replacer and whips up to make a beautiful, white and fluffy meringue. The first time you make it, it will blow your mind!

When you drain a can of beans, save the juice! 

I have just started experimenting with this so you will be seeing more recipes as I continue my experimentation. But for today, I want to share this decadent cookie recipe in time for Valentine's day. Not my healthiest recipe, but it's a special treat for those of you who love chocolate, fudge-like cookies but avoid dairy, eggs, and gluten. 

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Dark Chocolate Flourless Crinkle Cookies
Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
[makes 2 dozen cookies]

Oil for greasing cookie sheets if not using silicon baking mats
1 1/2 cups dark vegan chocolate chips, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of garbanzo bean juice
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Lightly grease 2 large cookie sheets. Not necessary if using Silpat non-stick silicon baking mats.

Place 1 cup of chocolate chips in a small microwavable bowl (DO NOT ADD WATER). Microwave on the lowest setting for about 30 seconds. Stir and continue to microwave in increments of 10 to 15 seconds until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

You can also melt the chocolate in a double boiler which is a lot more trouble but it's a good alternative for those of you without microwave ovens. Make sure the chocolate does not come in contact with water or steam. 

After the chocolate has melted, set it aside to cool for about 12 to 15 minutes. If it's too hot when you stir it into your cookie mixture later on, it will melt the rest of the chocolate chips that you will be adding to the cookie dough.

Drain a 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans, reserving the juice (you should get enough to make this recipe) - measure out 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon. Add the garbanzo bean juice to a medium glass or metal bowl along with the cream of tartar. Beat on high speed until it forms peaks. Slowly beat in 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar until you have pretty firm peaks. 

Can you believe this is bean juice?

In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 cup of powdered sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. Using the electric beater on low speed, beat this mixture into the meringue. Once combined, beat in the lukewarm chocolate and then the chocolate chips. 

Once combined, the cookie dough should be stiff. If not, place it in the refrigerator for a bit.

The cookie dough should be stiff.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a cup or small bowl. Drop 1 tablespoon of  dough into the powdered sugar and roll it around until it forms a ball. Repeat until all the dough is used up. It should make about 24 balls.

Place each ball on your prepared cookie sheet. The cookies will spread so place them 2 1/2 inches apart.

I eventually put a dozen on each large baking sheet.

Bake until the cookies flatten and the tops crack, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to a cooling rack until completely cooled. 

Once cooled, enjoy them lovingly with your Valentine! 

They store well in an air-sealed container in the refrigerator.

Because of the fudge-like texture of the cookie, it's hard to judge when they are cooked. If you find that they are too soft after they have cooled, you can just pop them back in the oven for another 5 minutes. 

Nutritional Information
Per cookie: 79 calories, 2 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 1 g dietary fiber, and 29 mg sodium.

Learn more about aquafaba on the Aquafaba Website!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Vegan 5 Bean Chili - A Heathy And Inexpensive Meal For A Super Bowl Crowd

Feed a crowd with this delicious pot of chili.

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Feeding a Crowd
Whether you are having a party on Sunday to watch the Panthers play the Broncos, or just getting together with friends to watch the commercials or Lady Gaga sing the national anthem and watch Coldplay perform the halftime show, you may be preparing to feed a crowd. Here's a dish that doesn't hurt your wallet or your waistline. And, it's incredibly simple and quick to make.

After preparing a big pot of this 5-bean chili, you can stretch it even further by serving it on a bed of rice or quinoa. Being Italian, my favorite way is to stir it into a big bowl of fusilli pasta topped with Go Veg parmesan topping. Or make a bunch of baked potatoes and serve it over a split potato topped with vegan sour cream and grated cheddar or jack style cheese. But first, let's make the chili!

Canned Beans
I usually make my beans from scratch to avoid the BPA (bisphenol-A) linings in most canned beans. But today you can find lots of organic beans with non-BPA linings in your health food store or in Whole Foods Market. Besides, it's a lot easier to use cans when you are using 5 different types of beans.

Feel free to select different beans but always try to find ones with a BPA-free lining. BPA is an industrial chemical that is an endocrine disruptor and is linked to an increased risk of infertility, obesity, breast and other cancers. 

Corn Tortillas
I use corn tortillas to thicken the chili. It's easier than adding masa harina (corn flour.) If you buy organic corn tortillas, it will guarantee that they are GMO free!

Organic always means Non-GMO!

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5-Bean Chili
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
[makes 8 servings]

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or non-GMO canola oil 
1 large onion, diced (~2 cups)
1 (15 ounce) can organic black beans
1 (15 ounce) can organic garbanzo beans
1 (15 ounce) can organic pinto beans
1 (15 ounce) can organic red kidney beans
1 (15 ounce) can organic Great Northern beans
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons ground chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (28 ounce) can organic crushed tomatoes
1 (10 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes (optional for added "heat")
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies (mild)
2 1/2 to 3 cups vegetable broth
cayenne pepper or fresh jalapeño to taste
salt to taste
3 non-GMO corn tortillas, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Heat olive oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or large pot. Add the onion and sauté on medium-low heat until soft, stirring frequently, about 8 to 10 minutes. 

While the onion is cooking, drain and rinse all of the beans. Set aside.

After the onions have softened, stir in the cumin, oregano, chili powder, black pepper, and garlic powder and stir until the onions are well coated. 

Add the beans, crushed tomatoes, Rotel tomatoes (if using) diced green chilies, and the broth. If you use Rotel tomatoes, use 2 1/2 cups of broth. If not, use 3 cups of broth.

Taste for spice. The can of Rotel tomatoes will give it some kick already. But for more heat, add cayenne pepper to taste (start with 1/4 teaspoon and go from there). Or, add a finely diced jalapeño. You can also get a can of diced jalapeños and add it a teaspoon at a time until you get the right spice level. Not everyone will want it super spicy, so it's best to make it on the mild side and serve the chili with hot sauce or spicy salsa.

Salt to taste. I wait until now because when a dish is spicy, you may not need to add much salt. Also, depending on the beans and the broth you use, the chili may already have quite a bit of salt.

To thicken the chili, stir in the thinly sliced corn tortillas and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tortillas are practically dissolved and the chili is the proper consistency.

Stir in the fresh cilantro and it's ready to serve!

Serve as is with a few slices of fresh jalapeño.

Or with crunched up corn chips, jalapeños, and sour cream.

It's delicious stirred into pasta topped with vegan pam.


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Jill Nussinow's New Book Is Here!
Vegan Under Pressure - Vegan Tapioca

Vegan tapioca is delicious and easy to make!

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Can't Live without my Instant Pot
I honestly can say that the Instant Pot pressure cooker has changed the way my husband and I cook. We use it in the morning to make oatmeal. We use it to cook at least one dish at every meal. And now, we use it to make tapioca. But before I go into that, let me talk about Jill Nussinow (the Veggie Queen).

I met Jill about 5 years ago at a vegan potluck at the Sonoma Humane Society. She was giving a demonstration on how to use an electric pressure cooker. I had an old stovetop pressure cooker that had been gathering dust in the back of my closet for at least 10 years, so I wasn't convinced I'd ever use another one. It actually took me a few more years before I broke down and bought an Instant Pot but now I can hardly imagine my life without one.

Jill Nussinow, The Veggie Queen

The biggest challenge in using a pressure cooker, is to know how long to cook things. Without a good cookbook in hand you may be undercooking beans and turning your vegetables to mush. I was spared most of these horrible experiences because of Jill's other book, "The New Fast Food."

I've enjoyed that book so much that I couldn't wait for Jill's new one to come out. And now her book, Vegan Under Pressure, is available on The Veggie Queen Website  and on Amazon.

Besides the wonderful recipes (such as coconut pineapple rice and red lentil, sweet potato and hemp burgers, to name a few) the book has helpful tables that tell you how long to cook grains, every kind of rice, beans, and vegetables. You will literally wear out these pages, they are that useful! 

Jill was so kind as to let me share her Vegan Tapioca Berry Parfait recipe with you today. Tapioca is one of my absolute favorite desserts and being able to make it without dairy and in an Instant Pot makes it even more exciting. I've already made this recipe at least 8 times - I can't get enough of it. I've tried it with soy milk, oat milk, and almond milk and my girlfriend made it with regular dairy milk. I made it with myer lemon zest and orange zest which adds a lovely flavor to the tapioca. I've smothered it with different berries and with diced pears.  When in season, this recipe would be great with fresh manilla mangos or peaches too! I've also made it sugar free and used stevia to sweeten it. As you can see, it's a versatile recipe! 

Tapioca is not a starch and is made from the cassava root so it's naturally gluten free.

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Tapioca Berry Parfait
Recipe by Jill Nussinow from her book, Vegan Under Pressure

Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
[makes 4 servings]

1/2 cup small pearl (not instant) tapioca
2 cups almond or any nondairy milk
Pinch of salt, optional
1/4 cup organic sugar or blonde coconut palm sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups fresh berries
Fresh mint, for garnish (optional)

Place the tapioca pearls in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under running water for 30 seconds. (Don't skip this step or it will be too starchy).

Add the milk to the pressure cooker. Add the tapioca and salt, if using, and stir. Lock on the lid. Bring to high pressure and cook for 4 minutes. Let the pressure come down naturally. Quick release any remaining pressure after 20 minutes. Open the lid carefully, tilting it away from you.

Stir in the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. 

Spoon 2 tablespoons of berries into the bottom of 4 pretty bowls or parfait glasses. Add about 1/4 cup tapioca, then 3 tablespoons of berries. Add another 1/4 cup tapioca and top with berries. Garnish with mint.

Some additional comments and observations:
For me and my Instant Pot, the recipe comes out even better when I make a bigger batch - like using 3 cups of milk and 3/4 cups of tapioca, for example. I also find that cooking it for 3 minutes and releasing the pressure after 15 minutes is enough.

Nutritional Information
Per serving using unsweetened almond milk and sugar, this recipe has only 165 calories, 1 gram total fat and zero cholesterol and saturated fat. By substituting stevia for sugar, the number of calories is reduced to 120!  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Instant Pot Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Vegan And Gluten Free

Whipped sweet potatoes in 4 minutes!

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Reasons To Eat Sweet Potatoes
Besides being one of my favorites foods to eat, it is also one of the healthiest. Here are some reasons you should frequently include these in your diet.

#1 - Sweet potatoes are one of the best food sources of beta-carotene with the ability to raise our blood levels of vitamin A. Vitamin A is critical for healthy skin, mucus membranes, good vision, and a strong immune system. To boost the absorption of beta-carotene, always eat sweet potatoes with some fat.

#2 - They are rich in anthocyanin and other color-related phytonutrients. These compounds have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Animal studies demonstrate the reduction of inflammation in brain and nerve tissue after the consumption of sweet potatoes. 

#3 - In spite of their medium glycemic index and being a starchy food, sweet potatoes can potentially improve blood sugar regulation, even in people with type 2 diabetes. Their high fiber contributes to blood sugar regulation but beyond that, research has shown that sweet potato extracts can increase blood levels of adiponectin in persons with type 2 diabetes. This protein hormone is a key modifier of insulin metabolism.

#4 -  Besides beta-carotene (vitamin A), sweet potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. 

#5 - Sweet potatoes are a naturally fat free food. So they are perfect on any weight-loss program. But as I mentioned, adding a bit of fat increases the absorption of beta-carotene. 

This Recipe Retains Nutrients
When compared to roasting or baking, boiling and steaming retains more of the beta-carotene. And when you are cooking them in the pressure cooker in a small amount of water, cooking them for a very short period of time, and whipping them in the cooking water, you are retaining most of the water soluble nutrients. 

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Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
[makes 6 or more servings]

Requires an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker. Can also cook in steamer basket on stovetop.
An electric hand beater does a nice job, although not necessary.

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 to 1 tablespoon Earth Balance 
2 tablespoons 100% maple syrup

Directions (For Instant Pot)
Place the diced potatoes, 1/2 cup of water, and salt in the Instant Pot. Secure the lid and cook, on manual high pressure, for 4 minutes. Make sure the quick release valve is in the closed position. 

When it's done, hit the off button and do a quick release. Open the cover and tilt so that the steam comes out the back and away from your face. The sweet potatoes should be nice and soft and have just enough water for whipping. If you think there is too much water you can drain some but retain it all as you may whip it back in later. 

Add the Earth Balance and the maple syrup to the cooked potatoes and whip them until smooth. Test for salt and adjust if necessary. Serve while nice and warm.

Directions for Stovetop
Place the diced sweet potatoes in a steamer basket within a pot with water coming to the bottom of the basket. Cover and steam until the potatoes are soft.

Place the cooked potatoes in a bowl. Add the Earth Balance, maple syrup and salt. Whip until soft and creamy. If too dry, add some of the residual water from the pot.

Nutritional Information (using 1/2 tablespoon of Earth Balance)
Per serving: 150 calories, 1 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 2 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 4 g dietary fiber, and 188 mg sodium.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How To Make Your Own Cough Syrup
Avoid Dangerous Over-The-Counter Products

Over-the-counter cold remedies can be dangerous.
So try making your own!

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What's In Your Cough Syrup?
You can tell that it's cold and flu season by the melodious sound of hacking coughs in the supermarket, airplanes, schools, and in the office. A cough can disrupt your sleep and leave you exhausted. 

Most people think that over-the-counter medications are pretty safe and when faced with a never-ending cough, are desperate to try anything. But like many pharmaceutical drugs, the side effects can be more dangerous than the symptoms you are trying to suppress. Especially when you take too much. And when you can't stop coughing, sometimes it's easy to take a bigger slug that what is prescribed.

Many cough syrups contain DMX, or Dextromethorphan. Side effects of taking too much DMX can include:
* Blurred vision
* Confusion
* Drowsiness or dizziness
* nausea or severe vomiting
* difficulty in urination
* shakiness and unsteady walking
* slowed breathing
* unusual excitement, nervousness, restlessness, or severe irritability

In addition, some children do not have the enzyme to metabolize this drug so this becomes an extremely dangerous remedy. Many teens use and abuse cough medicine containing DMX to get high which can be fatal. If you have young children in the house, it's a good idea not to have these types of medicines in the house.

OTC cough medicines may also contain other ingredients such as acetaminophen. Around 80,000 people a year end up in an emergency room for acetaminophen toxicity which can lead to severe liver damage.

Make Your Own
Once again, mother nature comes to the rescue. With a few simple ingredients, you can make your own cough syrup with real health benefits and no dangerous side effects. This syrup has these healthful ingredients:

Onions are in the allium family. For centuries, they have been used as a medicine. Egyptian physicians recommended the onion for literally thousands of separate ailments.  Rich in the antioxidant quercetin (and other flavonoids), they stimulate the immune system, protect against oxidative stress, and act as a natural decongestant. 

Also in the allium family, garlic has been used throughout ancient history for its medicinal properties. Rich in the sulfur compound allicin, it bolsters the immune system and is a potent antibiotic. It has antibacterial, anti fungal, and antiviral properties as well.

My garlic harvest.

Although ginger is most notably used for nausea, it is a natural decongestant and antihistamine. It can warms the upper respiratory tract and is useful in treating symptoms of colds and flu.

Although many vegans avoid the use of honey in daily cuisine, it remains an important medicine due to its strong antimicrobial properties and wound healing abilities. These properties have been documented in the oldest medical literature. With respect to cough suppression, some believe it is as effective as dextromethorphan. It is also used to treat infections of the upper respiratory tract. 

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Here's a simple recipe for the relief of chess congestion and coughing. I make this in very small batches since it is best when fresh. Store in the refrigerator and make a new batch ever two or three days.Take as much as you need to control your cough. No one has ever OD'd on onions and garlic but I wouldn't advise going on a first date. 

Homemade Cough Syrup
[makes ~ 3 to 4 tablespoons]

Allow 8 to 24 hours for extraction. You can use an Instant Pot, yogurt maker, or just a warm spot in your kitchen.

1 organic onion
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated organic garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated organic ginger
1/4 cup raw honey

Peel the onion and cut in half vertically. Thinly slice the onion in half moons and place in a glass pint jar. 

Combine the garlic and ginger with the honey and pour over the onions. Mix well and push down so the honey is above the onion mixture.

Place the jar in your Instant Pot and hit the YOGURT setting. Cover with a regular lid and let sit until juice forms. If you don't have an Instant pot or yogurt maker, just cover the jar and place it in a warm spot in your kitchen. Either method will take 8 to 12 hours. If it doesn't get juicy enough, let it sit longer. 

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the mixture into a small jar. Cover and refrigerate until needed. It tastes better than you'd think, even with the garlic and onions! 

I hope this recipe brings you some relief.

I hated to waste the onion mixture, so I rinsed off the honey (not necessary) and tossed it in my Instant Pot with some beans. Pretty yummy.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cannellini Beans With Roasted Butternut Squash
Instant Pot And Stove Top Recipes

Roasted butternut squash adds a natural sweetness to this dish.

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Beans for Fiber, Protein and More
For those of you who have vowed to eat less meat this year, you will be happy to know that you can get lots of high quality protein from beans. Unlike with meat, this protein comes with critical dietary fiber, antioxidants, and complex carbohydrates that will stabilize your blood sugar and help lower your cholesterol. The best part about this protein source is that it doesn't come with saturated fat and cholesterol. So add some to your diet each day.

Winter Squash
I had a wonderful winter squash harvest this year so I'm looking for recipes to use them up. Last week, my friend Margarite brought over some cannellini beans with roasted butternut squash. The roasted squash gave the beans a beautiful sweet flavor. Here's my attempt to duplicate this lovely recipe. You can make the beans in an Instant Pot or just cook them on the stove, but always start with dry beans. I don't think canned beans would taste as good.

Some of my winter squash harvest.
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Cannellini Beans with Roasted Butternut Squash
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

Beans can be made in an Instant Pot or on the stovetop.

Allow time to soak beans overnight.

1 1/2 cups dry cannellini beans 
Water for soaking
4 cups rich vegetable stock
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 pound butternut squash
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or splash of vinegar (optional)

Pick through the cannellini beans for rocks and rinse well. Place in a pot, cover with 2 inches of water, and soak overnight.  If you forgot to soak the beans overnight you can place them in a pot with 2 inches of water, bring to a boil on medium heat, turn off the heat, and let the beans sit in the pot, covered, until the water cools down. One and a half cups of dry beans should plump up to about 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups of soaked beans.

Rinse the soaked beans well. If you are cooking them on the stovetop, place the beans in a large pot or 5-quart Dutch oven with the stock, onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Cook until tender. You may need to add more broth if it cooks down.

If you are using an Instant pot pressure cooker, place the soaked and rinsed beans in the pot along with the stock, onion, garlic and bay leaf. Hit the manual button and set for 6 minutes under high pressure. Make sure the quick release switch is in the closed position. 

When it's done, hit the off button and let the pressure come down naturally. When complete, open the cover and tilt so that the steam comes out the back and away from your face. Test for doneness. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the beans are cooking, clean the squash. Check out my post on An Easy Way to Cut a Butternut Squash. Dice the squash and place in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried rosemary. Toss until well coated and spread out on a non-stick shallow baking pan or one lined with a Silpat silicon mat. Roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring halfway through, until cooked and slightly golden brown.

You may notice that I have heavily seasoned the squash. Once cooked, the squash will be used to season the beans so don't skimp on the salt and other seasonings.

Before baking
After roasting

Remove the roasted squash from the oven and set aside.

After the beans are cooked (using either method), stir the cooked squash into the beans. Simmer the squash and beans together so that their flavors melt together. If on the cooktop, simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes. If in the instant pot, you can either hit saute for 10 minutes or slow cook for 30 minutes. 

Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Stir in lemon juice or vinegar, if desired. 

Serve immediately over rice, quinoa, or your favorite grain or pasta, or refrigerate. They will thicken and become even more flavorful the next day. This is a good dish to make on Sunday and serve a few times during the week.

Cannellini beans with roasted butternut squash
served over GABA sprouted brown rice.

Nutritional Information
Per Serving: 261 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 151 mg omega-3 and 769 mg omega-6 essential fatty acids, 10 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, 9 g dietary fiber, and 399 mg sodium.

Monday, January 11, 2016

An Easy Way To Cut A Butternut Squash
Without A Machete

Cutting a butternut squash can be really difficult.
Here's a quick tip.

Love to Eat Them but Hate to Cut Them?
I love butternut squash. But they can be really hard to cut. The outer skin can be so tough you feel like you need a machete to cut through it. I use to wait until Doug was around to do it so I didn't risk cutting my hand off, but now I use this little trick that makes it super easy. Check it out.

The key is to peel them first! Take a vegetable peeler and peel the entire squash.

Once it's completely peeled, lay the squash on its side on a cutting board and just slice off the top and the bottom. A good knife will go through it like butter. 

Now turn the squash up on its end and carefully cut straight down to the bottom.

Clean out the seeds and then slice or dice depending on the recipe you are making.

Wasn't that simple?

I'll be posting a delicious butternut squash recipe in later this week so stay tuned!