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Native Cooking

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No matter where you live in Indian country, I bet you have a favorite type of bread, other than frybread, that is. Here in the East, we are very proud of our Jonny cakes. Batter (or quick) breads are good, easy and versatile, too. I'm thinking cranberry, blueberry and pumpkin. Midwest has bannock, and we all have cornbread. In the Southwest, they have tortillas of every type.

Yellow and white cornmeal is a staple in most Native kitchens. Wild rice flour makes a very good bread or pancake. Before white flour or even whole wheat became available, Native women were using grains of every kind that were, and are, far healthier than white flour, including amaranth, acorn, quinoa, cattail and chestnut, just to name a few.

The process from plant to flour is labor-intensive, yet I have been able to purchase some of these ancient grains in flour form at health food stores. So far, I have bought chestnut, quinoa, amaranth and wild rice flours. The differences are very subtle and the consistency of each is almost powder-like. It's hard to say which I like best since I'm still trying recipes out. Please send me some if you'd like to share. Meanwhile, I'd like to share some that I've tried. Hope you like them, most are easy-to-make batter breads.

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Nut Bread

1 cup whole milk

1 cup honey

1/2 cup sugar (or substitute)

1/4 cup softened butter

2 egg yolks

2-1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon each: baking soda and salt

1/2 cup crushed nuts (walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put honey and milk in a saucepan and bring almost to a boil (scald). Add sugar and stir until it dissolves. Cool. Beat in butter and egg yolks. Add dry ingredients and beat well. Add nuts. Put into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack.

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Corn and Sweet Potato Bread

2 cups self-rising cornmeal mix

1/2 cup honey or sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed

1-1/2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup melted butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk all ingredients together until moistened. Put into a greased cast-iron skillet or a greased baking pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

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Delicious Orange Bread

2 tablespoons orange zest

3/4 cup orange juice

1 egg

2 cups flour

1/2 cup each: sugar or honey and peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon each: baking soda and salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup each: butter and chopped peanuts or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan. Combine orange zest, juice and egg; set aside. In a larger bowl, combine flour, sugar or honey, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add peanut butter and butter and work it into the flour until it seems like coarse cornmeal. Add the liquid ingredients, stir to moisten and put into loaf pan. Sprinkle top with the chopped nuts. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Turn it out of the pan and let cool completely.

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Herb Bread with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 cup whole milk

1 large egg

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix milk, egg and olive oil together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, oregano, Parmesan and sun-dried tomatoes. Now add the wet mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon the batter into a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from pan onto a rack to cool.

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Green Squash Bread

2 heaping cups grated green squash (zucchini)

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons cinnamon

2 cups sugar or 1-1/2 cups honey

2 eggs

1 cup safflower oil or light oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 cup water (more if needed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel the squash if the skin is thick. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Use a large bowl to sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Add the sugar or honey, oil, vanilla and eggs to the flour mixture and beat until well blended. Now add the grated squash and enough water to make a batter that is thick but will pour well into the loaf pans.

Bake 1 hour and set on racks to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans onto the rack and let cool further. Wrap in foil or plastic to freeze or refrigerate.

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Notes and Tips

* Most batter breads freeze well. However, they are best eaten warm and rarely do you find enough left to freeze.