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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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New research has confirmed what I think a lot of us knew, high doses of fat and sugar in processed and fast foods can be addictive. Even as addictive as nicotine and hard drugs! One of the studies found that foods high in fat and sugar alters the brain's biochemistry. It makes people want more of that kind of food and makes it almost impossible to return to a healthy diet. This study also found that children who were exposed to fatty food early on tend to seek out a similar diet which increases their likelihood of obesity in later life.

Many nutritionists agree that the increasing obesity in this country should not be blamed entirely on fast food companies. Most of people's food comes from supermarkets and they also promote processed foods and snacks loaded with fat and sugar. I plan to read labels much more carefully and I'm going to stick with as much good fresh vegetables and fruit as I can. I have the time to do this, but I realize many people do not and that fast food has become part of their lives way too often out of necessity. If you have a garden and you toil away at it, please know that you are very lucky, indeed. Smile as you pull out those weeds.

Summer squash, green, yellow and some other varieties are just now appearing in gardens and road-side stands. These squash are best bought or picked at eight to 10 inches. Not only is squash one of "The Three Sisters" (corn, beans and squash), but it can be said that "it plays well with others." It can be combined with other vegetables in a medley, stuffed, broiled, grilled, baked, boiled, steamed and our favorite - saut?ed. You can put it in soups, stews and casseroles. You can eat it raw or cooked.

Skillet Saut?ed Squash

2 to 3 pounds of squash

2 tablespoons corn oil

1 small onion, sliced thin

1 minced clove of garlic

1/2 cup herbed seasoned stuffing

2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

Saut? the squash, onion and garlic in the corn oil when it is good and hot. I like to brown the squash but you may want to stop cooking it sooner. When cooked to your liking, turn off the heat and sprinkle with the seasoned stuffing and the basil. The stuffing will absorb any remaining corn oil. Serve hot.

Spud Scones

4 cups of cooked, mashed potatoes

1/2 pound of mushrooms, chopped fine

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon fresh chopped chive

3/4 cup flour

1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Salt and pepper

Saut? the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the butter until they are slightly dry. Stir them into the mashed potatoes, add the chive and the other 2 tablespoons of butter. Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl to blend, then stir into the potato mixture.

Roll this dough out on a floured board until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Cut in 3-inch circles. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray or more butter and cook the scones on both sides over moderate heat until light brown on both sides, about 8 - 10 minutes per side. Serve warm.

A variation on this recipe is to substitute minced green chilies and a little fresh cilantro in place of the mushrooms and the chive.

On the Fourth of July we went to a family reunion four hours away that was, as usual, a roaring success. The best reason for that is because we all actually like each other. Our host served this incredible dip with toasted bread rounds and corn chips.

Yummy Dippity Doo

For the bottom layer:

8 ounces of soft Feta (or goat) cheese

4 ounces sour cream

8 ounces of cream cheese, softened

Blend the three above ingredients together and spread in the bottom of a large round pie pan (or other shallow round serving plate)and chill.

For the topping:

1 heaping tablespoon of golden raisins

1 each roasted, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch bits,

green, red and yellow bell peppers, plus a tomato

1/2 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch bits

1 small can of sliced black olives, drained

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

3 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup bottled balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Combine the raisins, peppers, tomato, onion, olives, jalapeno, cilantro and garlic. Add the balsamic dressing and toss or stir to combine. Let this topping rest for 30 minutes at room temperature for the flavors to mingle. Take the cheese mixture out of the fridge and gently spoon topping on it. Serve with bread rounds and corn chips on the side.

Notes & Tips

*E-mail says these are important things: greatest joy - giving, greatest loss - self-respect, greatest force in life - love.

No matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on and it will be better tomorrow.

If you want to cheer yourself up - try cheering someone else up!