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Native Cooking

Hunkering in'' is such a nice phrase. Right about now I wish I were a bear ... but unfortunately, I'm not. I have to listen to the news, get up and pretend to function normally, and then cook some food; work; cook some more food; repeat. It can be fun, or monotonous. This bear is just sleeping.

I wonder if the strange warm weather we are experiencing here in the Northeast messes up the bear's hibernation? It's messing up mine. I want to use this time to catch up with paperwork, craftwork and general things I've put off all last year to ''do this winter.'' Well, one thing I can do is try out some of the recipes I've filed away to play with. So far, so good; I found a couple of really good one-pot dinners and some desserts that look promising.

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Winter Squash and Meat Chili

1 small to medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in cubes to equal about 3 cups

1 pound ground meat (buffalo, turkey, pork)

2 14.5-oz. cans Mexican-style stewed tomatoes

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 16-oz. can chili beans

1 cup beef broth

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 cup frozen corn kernels (optional)

Using a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven, brown the meat and then add the onion, garlic and bell pepper. Let them brown a bit, then add the tomatoes, squash, beans, broth, cumin and chili powder. Let this simmer for 20 - 25 minutes. Stir in corn and cook 15 minutes more or until squash is fork-tender and the chili thickens.

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A Good and Different Meatloaf

1 pound ground buffalo

1/2 pound ground turkey

1/2 pound bulk sausage

1 cup oatmeal, uncooked

1 medium onion, grated or chopped fine

1/2 cup carrot, shredded

1/2 cup fresh parsley

2 eggs

1 teaspoon pickle relish

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon each: salt and pepper

1 cup vegetable juice

3 slices bacon, uncooked

Combine all ingredients except bacon in a large bowl and mix well with a spoon or hands. Chill in fridge for at least an hour. Shape into a long, thin loaf on a baking sheet with sides. Put the bacon strips along the top and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes longer.

This is really good served immediately with mashed or baked potatoes, or very good cold for sandwiches the next day.

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Faux Caviar

1 16-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 small (2.25-oz.) can chopped black olives

1 small can chopped jalapenos

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 dash each salt and pepper

1 8-oz. package cream cheese (low-fat) at room temperature

Mash the beans in a medium bowl and add the olives, onion, lime juice, jalapenos, olive oil, garlic, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the bottom of a glass pie pan. Spread the bean mixture over the top. Garnish with a little fresh cilantro if desired and serve with the crackers for dipping.

This is a very good appetizer served with cracked-pepper water crackers.

Note: To turn this appetizer into a meal, use a half-pound of sliced turkey and spread it with the Faux Caviar mixture on crusty bread.

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Apricot Bars

Dough

1-1/2 cups flour

1-1/2 cups uncooked oatmeal

3/4 cup sugar (or substitute)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1-1/2 sticks butter, melted (or substitute)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Filling

1-1/2 cups apricot preserves

1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all dough ingredients in a large bowl until crumbly. Reserve about one cup for the topping and press the remaining dough into a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Spread the preserves to within 1/2-inch of the edge of the crumb base and then sprinkle with the reserved crumbs and coconut. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool thoroughly before cutting.

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Cornmeal Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup honey

2 eggs, room temperature

Zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups flour

1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter, sugar and honey together in a large bowl. Beat in eggs. Add lemon zest and vanilla and mix all. In another bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Stir dry mixture into the wet mixture until well combined. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease 2 baking sheets. Shape the dough into 1-1/2-inch balls and put on sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake 15 minutes. Cool on racks.

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Notes and Tips

* Cookies freeze well; defrost in a 300-degree oven for 3 to 4 minutes.