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Native cooking column: Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving. It comes around every year and must be dealt with fairly. For American Indians, giving thanks is a spiritual, ongoing part of life as much as hospitality and courtesy. Here is this double-edged sword, Thanksgiving. On the one hand, it is a good holiday, a time for families to gather from near or afar, renew relationships and count their blessings. For some of us, it is a day of sadness. A day to mourn and fast, this event which to some represents "the beginning of the end of a way of life." I feel this sadness too, but this divisive way is not good. But it can be mended. This day provides an excellent opportunity to teach, especially the children, about our ways of living, of sharing and preserving the environment. Fall, autumn or this time of year from late August to late November seem to be the only time of year we get noticed, so why not use it to advantage? One of the best ways to do so is through food. Naturally, I guess you knew I'd say that.

Turkey is good, wild or domestic. Commercially sold turkey is usually quite reasonable and on sale this time of year. If the sale is really good and you can afford to buy two, I highly recommend it. Then, sometime in January you will remember it's in there. This is especially pleasant when there is snow coming down and you thought you had to go out to the store. Turkey, or any poultry for that matter, is a great low-fat alternative to beef, pork or other fatty meats as long as you serve it without the skin. It is, however, perfectly all right to cook it in the skin because if you don't, it tends to dry out too much. As long as you remove the skin before serving, the fat content is nearly the same as if you removed it before cooking.

Lurky Turkey

2 tablespoons oil
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 cups water or chicken broth
1-1/2 cups UN-cooked rice
1 to 2 cups cooked turkey, cubed
1 to 2 cups cooked ham, cubed

Saut? the pepper, onion and garlic in the oil. Stir in seasonings and water OR broth, simmer for a few minutes, now mix in rice, turkey and ham. Cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until rice is done.

(Variation: add a small can of mushrooms, dried tomatoes or parsley, salt and pepper.)

Lurky -Turkey Salad

2 cups of cold cooked turkey, cubed or chunked
1/2 cup sour cream, regular or low-fat
1/2 cup mayonnaise, regular or low-fat
1/2 cup white grapes
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, cubed
1 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Mix all together lightly and chill. Serve on a bed of Boston lettuce.

Root Medley

5 pounds of potatoes, Yukon gold, red, or white, cut up
3 pounds of sweet potatoes, cut up
1 small yellow turnip, cubed
1 small parsnip, cubed

Peel and cook all until soft and mashable. Whip them all together to blend flavors. This will serve a lot of people, 8 to 10. If you don't care for parsnip, substitute a small, well-peeled and cubed celery root. This is delicious with butter, but it isn't necessary because the individual flavors like to sport around in your mouth.

Stewed Pumpkin

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8 cups of peeled, diced pumpkin
1/4 cup water*
2 tight-fleshed apples, cut up
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt to taste

Put two cups of pumpkin and the water in a large pot. Cook gently over a low heat until the pumpkin sinks a little, then gradually add the rest of the pumpkin and apples. Cook down until apples are stewed. Remove from heat and add the rest of ingredients. Stir gently and serve warm as a side dish.

*1/4 cup of water may not seem like enough, but it is.

Corn Pudding

2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 cups creamed corn
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 - 14-1/2 ounce can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and slowly beat in the flour, salt and pepper. Add the corn, butter and milk. Blend well and pour into a l-1/2 quart casserole baking dish. Put the baking dish in a larger baking pan with about one inch of water in the outer pan. Bake for 75 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Serve hot as a side dish. Serves 4 to 6.

Notes & Tips

oWooden toaster tongs are not just for toast. Use them to flip tortillas when quickly warming them in a fry pan.

oWith holiday guests on the horizon, stock some frozen phyllo dough, some flour tortillas and refrigerator crescent rolls. These items can make your life easier when people just stop by and you want to make something good and quick. My sons are men now, but they still love "pigs in a blanket", made with crescent rolls.

oFor a really quick appetizer plate, keep jars of roasted red pepper, olives, artichokes, mushrooms and anchovies. All these can be drained and put side by side on a platter, then sprinkled with a vinegar and oil dressing for a pretty, impromptu treat. Serve with crackers or thin sliced bread and cheeses.


Life is not a race. When you run fast to get somewhere, you miss half the fun of getting there.

Every path has a puddle. If you go too fast you might step in it.