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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

There are traditions that we all hold dear to our hearts. Our family has a tradition that has evolved over the past 10 years, maybe more. Before we get too far into the new year, I want to tell you all about what we do.

On New Year's Day, we gather with our Native friends of many nations at the ocean near our home. We go to a special place there next to a wind-breaking jetty on the beach. A dear Lakota friend lights the smudge and begins by blessing the sea in his language.

Sometimes there are many friends present, sometimes not. Then in turn we each, in our own nation's language, say our personal invocation of prayers of good will. We also thank the old ones, our ancestors, for their spiritual guidance. Some years the temperature is very cold, like four degrees, and sometimes it is nice, like this year, it was sunny, about 40 degrees.

There are Native people of more than 12 nations residing in our state, so it is nice when we have many representatives speaking in their own tongue. After the prayers, we each put a pinch of tobacco into the sea. We listen in silence to the rhythm of the sea for awhile before feeding bread to the gathering throng of seagulls. Unless it is truly bitter cold, no one really wants to leave the beach, so we amble along and beach comb for awhile before heading home to a warm feast.

Buffalo Chili

This chili is fairly easy to put together early in a day. Here is when a crock pot comes in handy so you don't have to "be there" and you can enjoy your guests.

1 pound ground buffalo

1/2 pound chorizo (or sweet Italian, or smoked sausage)

1 large onion, chopped

1 pound can of each: light red kidney beans, dark red kidney beans, navy pea beans, baked pink pinto beans

1 tablespoon (more or less) chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the meats and onion. While the meat is browning, put the beans in a heavy pot or crock-pot. You can drain off any liquid in the beans, or, let it cook off. Add the meat, onion, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

Stir to blend in the meat and other seasonings. Simmer on low and check frequently if using stovetop to make sure there's no sticking on the bottom.

You can add more water, tomato sauce or beef broth if needed. If using a crock-pot, stir to blend ingredients and cook on high setting for one hour then reduce to low for three to four hours, more if you'd like.

Serve with a green salad and breads made ahead, like corn or fry bread.

I started thinking about other things that go well with chili, side dish kinds of things, and got a sudden craving for potato salad. So what if it's the middle of winter. This recipe is not just delicious, it's low-fat but not at all low-flavor.

New Potato and Corn Salad

2 pounds of any baby-sized potatoes

1 cup of corn kernels, fresh taste best, frozen works, and canned are OK if well drained

1/2 cup sour cream, reduced fat type

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon mustard, coarse grain type

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

6 scallions, sliced and include lots of green

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley or cilantro

Cook the potatoes until they are tender, drain and put in a bowl in the fridge to chill a bit. In another bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, mustard and garlic. Stir in the corn and scallions. Spoon this mixture over the potatoes right away and stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate until the salad is room temperature. Sprinkle parsley or cilantro over top for garnish.

In winter we often overlook nutrition and health issues because they are things we not only take for granted, but we think more about them when the weather is more pleasant. Maybe we should get a big jump on being healthy this year, not only because it will be a good year, but because it makes sense. One of the best friends in winter is fresh or canned fruit. I don't mention frozen fruit because it doesn't freeze very well and the choices are meager at best. Fresh fruit is available most places and can and does get pricey. Watch your sale flyers. There are so many ways to utilize fruit but many of those recipes call for sugar, flour and, often, whipped heavy cream. Plain yogurt mixed with a tad or so of honey is healthier. Another choice for dressing up fresh fruit is a blend of instant vanilla or coconut pudding using low-fat milk and low-fat cream cheese. Fool around with these mixtures. If you hit upon something really fabulous, share it with us at NativeCooking@aol.com. Please include your name so we can give you credit.

Notes & Tips

*Cranberries are one of the few fruits that freeze beautifully. They have many healing qualities, especially fresh. Use in relishes and drink the juice. The juice contains a day's supply of Vitamin C, but a day's supply of sugar as well, so be wary. Health stores may carry concentrated cranberry extract which can be used for hot teas or cold drinks.

*Make soup a day ahead. When you take it out of the fridge to heat, you can skim off the congealed fat on the top to be healthy.

*Apples can wake you up better than coffee!