Native cooking column by Dale Carson
When I was younger, I would have been well into my third nervous breakdown about now over Christmas preparations. Gifting, foods, guilt, all the shopping and details are enough to make your head spin. It all seems worth the effort when there are little children around. Then, they turn into big children, marry and come back with more little children. Our circles.
When I was a small child, we didn't celebrate Christmas, per se; it was "the holidays." Food reminds us of those times and that's why certain foods remind us of those good feelings. For example, I love frybread, but rarely make it at home because it reminds me of pow wows and I want to be there. My father craved my mother's penuche fudge and ribbon candy. It was all he needed to be happy at "the holidays."
Jalapeno Crab Triangles
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 6-ounce can white crabmeat, drained
2 ounces chopped jalapeno chilies
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 dash paprika
2 tablespoons chive or scallion, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped blanched almonds
12 slices of firm bread, white or wheat
Beat softened cheese until fluffy. Combine mustard with milk and add to cheese with salt, crabmeat, jalapenos, paprika, chive and almonds. Mix well and spread on trimmed bread. Cut into triangles. Put on an ungreased cooking tray and bake in a hot, 400-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until well browned.
In some parts of the country this might be old-hat news, but I just discovered green flour tortillas and red flour tortillas. I bought the green and made a pinwheel appetizer that took no time at all. It was a big hit.
6 spinach flour tortillas
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
1 jar of a spicy bean dip, any sort
1 or more (depending on your taste for hot) cans of chopped jalapenos
Let the cheese get to room temperature for easy spreading. Put a light coat of the cheese on all the tortillas. Now spread the spicy bean dip on top of the cheese and follow up with the jalapenos evenly distributed on top of the dip. Now roll the tortilla up and repeat until all the tortillas are used up. Wrap and chill for at least an hour, remove wrap and cut in 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices and arrange on serving plate.
1 jar of roasted peppers (7 ounces)
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon Frank's (or other liquid) hot sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup of fat-free cottage cheese
Put the first four ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Add cottage cheese and mix until smooth again. Chill at least one hour. Serve with toasted pita chips or tortilla corn chips and garnished with some basil. This dip is nearly fat free.
At Thanksgiving this year, a friend brought this very delicious cranberry mold made with Sassafras root. I love sassafras tea and jelly made with it, so this is another interesting way to fix it. When young, the roots of sassafras are shallow and easy to dig. The leaves often look like mittens, or a mittened hand with two thumbs. The best time for taking the roots is when the tree is dormant because they tend to be bitter when actively growing.
1 cubic inch (like the size of an ice cube) Sassafras root
1 quart of water, with a pinch of sugar in it
1 package of fresh cranberries
1 cup water
2 cups white sugar
2 packets of Knox unflavored gelatin
Boil, then simmer the sassafras root in a quart of water for 15 minutes. Set aside. In a separate pan, simmer the cranberries in one cup of water, then add the sugar and simmer a bit more and add 1 cup of the sassafras liquid.
Dissolve the Knox gelatin in cold water by package instructions, then add this to the sassafras and cranberries plus the juice of half a lemon. Pour into a mold, cover and refrigerate until set. Place in a pan of hot water to release mold.
Manly Spinach Spread
1 pound spinach, washed and saut?ed for 7 minutes, drained and chopped or 1 package frozen chopped spinach, drained and squeezed dry
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
4 dashes hot sauce
1 teaspoon horseradish
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender and mix until the spread shows flecks of green and white. Transfer to the bowl you will serve it from and chill, covered, for 4 to 5 hours. Serve with small chunks of bread, crackers or chips.
Notes & Tips
* This time of year it is very important to be safe with candles in the house. I used to whittle away at the bottom of a candle to get it to fit the holder. It was messy business and still wobbled. Better to put the end in very hot water for a few minutes to soften the wax. Then you can firmly press it into the holder.
* I guess I got a little dip-happy this week, but it is the holidays and people everywhere love them. It's kind of a 'happy' food. It's okay to indulge a little more than usual now, but keep in mind that you will reap what you sow.
* What's the difference between people who pray in church and those who pray in casinos? The ones in casinos are serious.
* A man went into a Native-owned bar in New York City. He ordered a Manhattan and had to pay $24 for it.