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Native Cooking

As I was thinking about what to write, it occurred to me that everyone these days seems to be going fast, fast and faster. There is this immediate gratification thing going on, and it's not good when it comes to your eating patterns or your health. Due to media attention, we are learning so much about the evils of fast food and trans fats, sugars and sodium gone berserk, so let's hold up a minute.

Today was a bit frantic for me, so I took a break and made a good corn chowder. It was restorative. The peeling and cutting of potatoes, celery and onions was actually fun: downright relaxing. I took my time and it took my mind off a lot of things I didn't want my mind on, anyway. Cooking slowed me down a peg or two, which really felt good.

I was using real ingredients, not powdered or dried or out of a box. Since I work at home, I realize that is a luxury of sorts. Then I began to think of all the people who work and have kids to cook for on top of work, and all the people who travel distances to and from work and get home too tired to even think about cooking. It has taken me years, but I've learned that the first thing I should think about when I get up in the morning is what I'm going to make for dinner. How will the day go - will I be out too late to do prepping, are there leftovers to deal with, are there things approaching their expiration dates in the fridge? Food is our fuel for both brain and body, so I take it seriously.


Nuevo Green Beans and Peas

1 pound frozen cut green beans

1 pound frozen petite peas

1 ounce sun-dried tomatoes, cut up

2 tablespoons butter or substitute

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup roasted, slivered almonds

Put the beans, peas, tomatoes, butter, salt and pepper in a large skillet with about 1/4 cup of water over medium heat and stir frequently. Put in a serving bowl and sprinkle with the almonds. If you like, a sprinkle of basil is also good.


Peppers/Pasta/Chicken Dinner

1 pound chicken tenders, cooked and cut up

1 pound penne pasta, cooked

1 large sweet onion, thin sliced

2 yellow peppers, sliced thin

1/2 cup fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon each: salt and pepper

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Cook chicken and pasta; set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and saute the onion, peppers, salt and pepper until golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir frequently then remove from heat. Now stir in the balsamic vinegar and basil plus 2 tablespoons of water. Toss well and serve.

Note: Pasta is not even remotely Native, but even the most traditional cooks know it can be OK once in a while as a ''filler'' item that feeds many. Just don't make it a habit; moderation is the key in all things.


Buffalo Don't Have Wings

Yes, everyone loves the little chicken wings with the hot sauce. I have made them many, many times with a variety of recipes. I think I found a clear, easy way to please everyone.

Chicken wings (any amount)


Equal parts bottled chili sauce (I like Frank's), brown sugar and soy sauce, mixed

Let the wings marinate in this mixture for a few hours or overnight. Then coat them, either in a shallow dish or plastic bag, and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. You can put them on a rack, or turn them on a foil-lined baking sheet when halfway done.


Sounds Fishy

Don't be fooled: Sometimes frozen fish is better then fresh because it is caught, processed and frozen (often on the boats) right at the peak of freshness. Other fish can sometimes take days to reach the market. And, believe it or not, frozen shrimp is usually a better buy than fresh. It is usually deveined, too - another plus.

Water-packed tuna, in a can, is also a good buy since it is usually canned within minutes right on the factory ship on which it's caught. Some of us got ''tuna-ed out'' as kids from having it too often. I know I did. Now it's a rare almost-treat. I season it with grated carrot and sweet pickle relish, a touch of mayo, salt and pepper.


Notes and Tips

-- Some of the new turkey and chicken sausages in various flavors are really good.

-- I'd love some feedback on what kind of contemporary reservation cooking is going on, and any information on Native restaurants and chefs. If you would like to share, please write to me at