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Native Cooking

Vegetables, fruit, a little bit of meat and a little bit of fish. That seems to be the mantra that works. Not too much white anything, like sugar, flour or dairy. Buy local and eat fresh. The Abenaki call this month Demaskikos, the hay-cutting month; however, it is the Blueberry Maker Moon, which is called Zataikas. Whatever language you know, it is the month of eating well!

Traditionally, green beans make their appearance in July. The first little ones are the most tender and delicious cooked simply. Beans of all kinds are great to plant in the garden in successive plantings so you have them coming in through the fall. Most varieties of beans are adaptable to either cold or hot dishes, and they mingle well with other vegetables like corn and squash. Beans contain a lot of soluble fiber which helps balance your blood sugar levels with steady, slow-burning energy. Aside from containing a lot of vitamin B9 (folate), beans also provide healthy doses of calcium, potassium and magnesium.

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Pinto Bean Succotash

2 cups pinto beans (canned are OK, drained)

2 cups kernel corn

1 cup tomatoes, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 strip bacon

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

Using a heavy saucepan, put the beans, bacon, onion, salt and 1 cup of water on high heat. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 20 - 25 minutes. Now stir in corn and tomatoes, and simmer 10 minutes longer. Stir in butter, then season with salt and pepper.

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Green Bean Salad with Goat Cheese

2 pounds fresh green beans

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup black olives, sliced

2 large tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons vinegar (I use red wine vinegar)

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces crumbled goat cheese

Cook the beans in boiling water with a dash of salt for 5 to 7 minutes, drain and put into ice water immediately to stop the cooking process. Put beans in a shallow serving dish and set aside. Saute the garlic in hot olive oil for about 30 seconds, remove from heat and stir in olives, tomatoes, vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over beans and toss to coat. Chill about 3 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve.

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Luscious Veggie Layers

1 sweet potato, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

2 carrots, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1 red or green bell pepper,seeded, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 sweet onion, sliced in rings

2 green or yellow summer squash, sliced

2 large tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch slices

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons flavored bread crumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the sweet potato, bell pepper and carrots in a large bowl and toss with a little of the olive oil, salt and pepper to coat. Spread the vegetables in the bottom of a baking dish. Put the onion slices over them, then the slices of squash and sprinkle with some more olive oil. Now lay on the tomato slices.

In a small bowl, blend the cheese and bread crumbs together and sprinkle this over the tomato layer, adding a little more olive oil. Bake, uncovered, for about 40 minutes or until top is golden brown.

You can vary the vegetables in this recipe without changing the outcome. It makes a great midsummer dinner using fresh-grown produce.

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Cheese and Corn Muffins

1 cup flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

3 level tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons corn oil

2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease a 12-muffin-cup pan. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl, then add all the wet ingredients and stir until all is moistened. Spoon this batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake for 10 - 14 minutes. Turn out muffins onto a rack right away to cool. Serve warm.

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Notes and Tips

-- Tomatoes are low in calories, and packed with goodness like lycopene, vitamin C, carotene, lutein, fiber, potassium, chromium, biotin and several B vitamins. They are one of the most versatile fruits (yes, it's a fruit) you can eat.

-- When picking or buying green beans, if you can see the shape of the beans in the shape of the pod, this means the beans are overripe or overgrown. They go bad rather quickly, in 3 or 4 days, so buy or pick just before you plan to use them.