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Native Cooking

This part of spring begins to intensify everyone's activities. Planting
time, cleanup time, both inside and out, social events and the simple joy
of nature's renewal makes for busy days. The kids stay outside later to
play while it's light out. Mom and dad want to get as much done outside as
they can too, so dinner needs to be easy and light.

We find ourselves switching from heavy winter fare to small amounts of
meat, lots of vegetables and a small portion of "something." Usually you
choose a potato, a grain-like rice, or pasta. Once in awhile it won't hurt
to make a couple of one-dish meals to save time. Your slow cooker is great
for this.

Then there are light dinners you can make with flour or corn tortillas that
can be eaten as wraps, again quick and timesaving. Another way to go is
salads that become a whole meal with the addition of seafood, meat,
croutons, and/or cheese.

As the American diet changes, according to the media, the more it seems to
indicate healthy, simple, fresh foods are best-well, my goodness, sounds a
lot like Native American food to me. I am speaking of traditional foods and
preparation methods. Swilling soda and fatty burgers, fatty fries is not
what I mean. But, you say, it tastes soooo good. Yes, it does, but
remember, there are additives such as "flavor enhancers" that are soooo bad
for you.

Stand proud and eat only what you know is healthy. "French" fries are not
Native, but, potatoes are and they can be cooked without fat. Be aware of
what goes in because you really are what you eat.

Celery Root Salad

2 fat celery roots trimmed and cut in julienne strips (About 3 cups total)

1/4 cup good olive oil

1/4 cup white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1 teaspoon dried dillweed

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons fine chopped sweet onion

Dash pepper

Boil 3 cups of water then add the celery root and boil for 5 minutes.
Drain. Using a jar with a screw top, combine the oil, vinegar, dill, salt
and pepper. Cover and shake well. Chill and serve.

Zingy Bean Soup

2 cups dried beans, mix up sizes and shapes

1 quart of water

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, minced

1 carrot, peeled and minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Add any or a bit of all the following: Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke,
hot chili sauce, steak sauce, crumbled cooked bacon

Use a 4 quart saucepan and heat the beans in the 4 cups (1-quart) of water
and boil over high heat for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Let the beans sit
and soak in the pan for an hour. Drain and discard the bean water.

Add 6 cups of fresh water, salt, pepper, bay leaf, garlic and carrot. Cover
and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours,
stirring occasionally. Add your various seasonings and taste frequently to
adjust them. Keep adding seasonings to make it zesty. The longer the soup
simmers, the thicker it will be.

Celery Root aka Celeriac

This is not a vegetable that would be ready now if you grew it. It has a
long growing season, more than three months. Like many other vegetables
today, it is available in your supermarket. That's what made me think about
it, and celery, too. Celery root is not pretty, and it isn't sociable. That
means it does not like to be accompanied by other vegetables. A one pound
root will yield about 1/2 pound of flesh. You have to cut off the skin and
little roots and put it in some cold water that you have squeezed a bit of
lemon juice into so it doesn't turn dark while you get a pan ready to boil
it. Cover with water and cook until a fork goes into it semi-firm. Remove
from water and return to the lemon water to cool a bit. Cut it into
1/2-inch cubes and make a light dressing of vinegar and oil, plus a pinch
of sugar. Refrigerate overnight. It is good by itself as a side dish or
light salad.

If you cook it too long it will get soft. Then puree it and add to soup or
stew to thicken.