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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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Change of seasons always brings celebrations of one sort or another to Indian country. As we move now from fall into bleakest winter we have Winter Solstice to celebrate. The time of storytelling begins and another generation learns of their traditions through these tales. Every day that passes now is one day closer to March and each day becomes a little longer.

The new year promises renewal of spirit and of hope. This we celebrate in joyful ways together. Intimate dinners, private buffets or lively socials, all become special ways to share with one another. Winter conjures memories of foods special to this time of year. I think about game meats, hearty breads, rich one-dish meals and cups of hot cocoa. If you have the time, time is the best ingredient. Many foods need long, slow preparation and cooking. Things move along so fast today, it's all hurry up and wait. I can't imagine what the big rush is to do nearly everything. People multi-task all day long with the cell phones, the driving, the computer, all rush, rush, rush! Winter presents an opportunity to slow down, to almost hibernate. For me, it's a chance to organize and finish projects, to read, to repair things with a hammer or a sewing machine, to write, and to try out new recipes. There is nothing new under the sun, declared Shakespeare, but, "a new combination of the old can be devastating!"

Prairie Oxtail Stew

4 pounds of oxtail, 2-inch lengths cut

4 tablespoons oil

2 quarts water

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups diced turnip

2 cups diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

2 cups diced potatoes

1 teaspoon dried thyme

3 whole peppercorns

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup pearl barley

1 half pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

Brown the oxtails in four tablespoons oil in a heavy skillet. Remove and place in a crock pot. Now saut? the onion, carrot, celery, turnip, potatoes and mushrooms in the same skillet with the oxtail residue. Put the vegetables, barley and seasonings in the crock-pot with two quarts of water and cook all for six to eight hours, or overnight on low. Adjust seasonings. You can either leave the meat on the bone or remove it and put in back in the pot. (Some people discard the bones, but I save them to dry and use for crafts.)

Comfort Stew

1 pound of chicken thighs

1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, chopped

2 onions, chopped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 can of chicken broth

3 cups of water

3/4 cup brown or white rice, uncooked

1 14-oz. can of diced tomatoes

Brown the meat in a bit of vegetable oil and put in a crock-pot with the rest of the ingredients. Let cook overnight on low or all day on higher setting. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Love Tacos

(Why are these called "Love Tacos"? Because if you eat them with someone you love, you will learn more about each other. Not only that, but they are fabulously popular pow wow fare, people LOVE them.)

8 warm pre-made fry breads, set aside

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1 pound of lean ground beef

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 large (15-oz) can of red kidney beans, drained

1 can (8-oz) tomato sauce

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

4 cups coarsely shredded iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup sliced scallions, including some tops

2 tomatoes, chopped small, not minced

2 cups of shredded cheddar, sharp or Monterey jack, or longhorn cheddar

Saut? the meat until brown, add onion until it's cooked a bit. Now stir in the beans, tomato sauce, chicken broth, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Simmer all for 15 minutes, stir frequently. Spoon onto rounds of fry bread and top with lettuce, onion, tomato and cheese.

Winter is root veggie time. There are carrots, potatoes, manioc, Jerusalem artichoke, yams, beets, kohlrabi, turnips and parsnips. Parsnips can be grown most of the year, but taste much better, sweeter actually, after a couple of frosts have enhanced their flavor. This makes them unique when fresh vegetables are scarce. They are good roasted, fried or pureed. Parsnips add a nice zip to soups and stews. If you're tired of potatoes, try ...

Baked Parsnips

1 pound of parsnips, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch slices

1 tablespoon of corn oil

1 tablespoon parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss the parsnip slices with the oil and a little seasoned salt. Place them in a shallow baking pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Halfway through the cooking, turn them over and sprinkle with the parsley. When done, they should be tender and golden.

Maple-Pumpkin Pudding

1 1-pound can of pumpkin

1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk

3/4 cup maple syrup

1 egg

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup mince/chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray or coat a 2-1/2 quart baking dish. In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, milk, maple syrup, egg, egg whites, flour, cinnamon, ginger and salt until smooth. Pour into baking dish and bake for one hour. Sprinkle with pecans and bake for 10-15 minutes longer. Cool on a wire rack, then cover and chill in fridge for a couple of hours.