Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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Every year it seems January is National "Get the Guilts" month. All there is on TV is one commercial after the other offering a diet or exercise product. We all know we indulged too much over the holidays, so why ram it down our throats? Dieting and proper nutrition is a personal thing. What works for one person may not be best for the next person.

First Man and First Woman were lucky. They didn't have these problems. They just went along every day, and their instincts told them what was right and what was wrong. They didn't have a lot of distractions and temptations to deal with as we do. I believe if we close our eyes and pretend we are First Man or First Woman, the decisions we make about our food choices, diets and exercise patterns will come easier. Our bodies, and more importantly, our genes, have been here a long, long time. Maybe its time to trust them more. Think of your ancestors' lives, their climate, their lifestyle and traditional foods. I don't think they had to decide which fast-food fatty fry burger to have today.

There are certain foods we can eat which are called "high satisfaction" foods. There are a variety of foods which keep us feeling satisfied while at the same time are not necessarily bad for us. In one test done by researchers in Australia, potatoes came up tops in helping us to feel full longer. Fish, oatmeal, fruits, certain meats, crackers, cheese, breads and grains, brown rice all scored high in this study. Just because potatoes topped the list, you must choose a baked potato over French fries to get the most benefit. The whole idea is to control your appetite for a few hours so you don't fill up with unwanted junk calories.

Potatoes are also good for people with diabetes because they are high in complex carbohydrates. This means that the sugars are broken down at different rates of speed, not pouring into the bloodstream all at once. Blood sugar levels need to be kept stable with diabetes, so this is a good thing.

Potato Soup

3-4 potatoes, peeled and cut up
1 large onion, chopped
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3 cups water
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup 1-percent milk

In a medium saucepan, place the potatoes, onion, salt, pepper, paprika and water. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 35 minutes. Push through a sieve or puree in a blender or food processor. Return to pan, gently stir in milk and stock. Cook on low-low for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley or watercress. Serves 4 at 65 calories per serving.

Baked potatoes are really a good thing to have on hand, the really big ones. Whenever I make them for dinner, I throw in two or three extras to have left over. Next day, my husband might like one for breakfast, or cut up and cooked as home fries with a chopped onion. If they aren't gone for that purpose, I scoop out the insides with a grapefruit knife and moisten them with a little milk and add some cheddar, put the insides back in the skins and rebake.

I know eggplant is not Native American food, but many of us like it so it can be called a "friend food." This recipe is very low in calories but you would never know it, it's so good, hot or cold.

Eggplant Caviar

1 medium eggplant
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

Peel and dice the eggplant. Heat the olive oil in a large saut? pan. Add the eggplant, peppers and onions, saut? for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper and mix all well. Cook for another 10 minutes on low heat. Remove from heat, add the lemon juice and chill. It is good plain as a side dish or an appetizer spread on pumpernickel. Makes 2-1/2 to 3 cups. 1 tablespoon is 15 calories.

Potato Dumplings (To go with meat stews, pork roast or alone)

4 medium potatoes, cooked, cooled, mashed and set aside
1 egg
Dash nutmeg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons melted butter

Beat the egg into the potatoes and add the next four ingredients. Mix thoroughly and shape into a roll about one-inch in diameter, cut that into one-inch lengths. Drop these pieces into boiling, salted water. Stir them gently for a minute so they do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Dumplings will rise to the top. Cook uncovered for eight to 10 minutes. Drain dumplings and brush with butter or olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Serves 4.

Notes & Tips

*Some 4,000 years ago in the Andes Mountains of Peru and Bolivia, the people there had a thousand names for the potato. They were grown in every color from black to white.

*A seven ounce potato contains more than twice the potassium of a banana.

*Fileworthy

A little love goes a long way, but a lot of love goes on forever.

When people act stupid or uncaring, give them the benefit of the doubt. You never know, they may have just come from seeing a loved one in the hospital, or something worse.

No matter how serious your life is, every now and then you need a friend you can be goofy with.