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Native Cooking: A New Year Means a Fresh Start

A new year means a fresh start. If you're looking for some healthy snack ideas for 2016, look no further.

A new year means a fresh start, if we make it so.

The weather the past few months has been so weird. Cold or not, January always makes me want to be in the Southwest, or if I can’t, I want to eat like I'm there.

A lot of people are worried about putting on pounds from overindulging at this time of year. Remember, a lot of people don’t have to worry about that because they are too worried about where their next meal is coming from, or their children’s. But we get along and plod forward with the hope that times will get better for everyone, not just Native Americans. Somehow it does get better, just takes a lot longer than it should.

That said, let’s talk about food, and ways we can eat healthier in the coming year. Native programs work with the National School Lunch Act and other agencies to provide healthier lunches and snacks for school age children. Native schools are realizing that gardening is as important as their language and history.

I stand in the store at the magazine display trying to spot trends. This year there seems to have been more focus on fresh produce and farmers markets, new ways to prepare old favorites and much less use of sugar.

Here are three easy appetizers to make while you are thinking about any resolutions you want to make for 2016.

Stuffed Dates

12 large whole pitted dates

1 cup softened goat or cream cheese

12 shelled walnuts

Stuff dates with cheese, then top with walnut. Pecans can also be used.

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Apples paired with cheese are an easy snack to create.

Granny Smith and Cheddar

Slice 2 Granny Smith apples fairly thin, then top with a piece of hard sharp cheddar cheese.

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Tortilla chips with melted cheese are an easy and tasty snack.

Queso Tortilla Chips

Place store-bought tortilla chips on plate and grate Monterey Jack cheese over them. Microwave long enough to melt cheese, about 15 seconds.

Serve with salsa.

Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking,” “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.” She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.