The Three Sisters

With Thanksgiving coming, some may wonder how the first Thanksgivings menu really was like. Here is a question from a Shape Up America! visitor about just that:

Hi Chef Joanna! I have started to follow your blog and I am very much interested in your Thanksgiving meal ideas. We always see the pictures of the first Thanksgiving meal. Do you have any ideas for me to serve some Native American Indian foods at our meal so I can talk to my kids about how their food was different but now we eat their foods and don’t know they came from these roots.
Yes, its hard to think of which fruits and vegetables are native to America because so much is available to us! While most of what with think of at our Thanksgiving like pumpkin, apples, cranberries, and turkey, were enjoyed by the Native Americans, the three staples of Native American cuisine were corn, beans, and squash. This trio is called the three sisters, the main agricultural crops of Native Americans. The reason they grouped these groups together were because they used a technique called companion cropping, growing all three crops in the same area. The corn would grow tall, the bean vines would climb up the corn stalks, and the squash would stay low and create the nutritious mulch to keep the whole system going. I am always amazed by Native Americans’ relationship with the earth.

So in response to your question, I decided to call the three sisters to the kitchen. But, with a modern twist of course. I made a simple vegan cornbread, and stuffed zucchini with red bean hummus. I’m sure the Native Americans ate cornbread of some type and cooked dried beans, but not hummus stuffed zucchini. Sometimes its fun to be playful. I hope you find a little more history in your Thanksgiving meal!

Red Bean Hummus (makes 1 cup)
  • 1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, rinsed thoroughly
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 medium sized garlic clove
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tahini
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 zucchini (optional)

1. Blend all ingredients, except zucchini together in blender or immersion blender.

2. You can serve this bean dip with zucchini or even stuff the zucchini with it!

3. To stuff the zucchini. Wash and trim the zucchini. Cut in half horizontally. Bring a medium pot to boil with 1 inch water and a steamer basket inside. Once the water reaches a boil, place the zucchini in and cover and steam for 4 minutes. Immediately take off heat and let cool.

4. Once cool to touch, apple-core the zucchini, saving the cores. Chop up the zucchini cores, pat lightly with paper towel to remove excess water. Then, mix into the humus.

5. Cut a dime-sized slit on a ziplock bag corner and fill with hummus. Pipe this mixture into the zucchini.

6. Slice the stuffed zucchini lightly and top with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice if desired.

Vegan Cornbread
  • 1 1/2 cup nonfat soy milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup cornmeal (sold as coarse cornmeal, cornmeal, or polenta)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup whole corn kernels, preferably fresh (optional)*
*Can use frozen, pour into batter, or defrost under cool water to separate kernels.

Preheat oven to 425 F

1. Grease a 9X9 inch baking dish, or line muffin pan with paper liners.

2. Combine the soy milk and vinegar in a small bowl.

3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Make a well in the center.

4. Pour the soy milk-vinegar mixture, and the oil into the well. Don’t whisk, just stir until all is moistened. Stir in the corn.

5. Pour into baking dish, or muffin pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean and golden brown.

Vegan Cornbread recipe adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy baking, vegan or not! Try the carrot cake and oatmeal cookies!

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What’s in the Fridge? by Chef Joanna is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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A little history lesson for you! Do you know the Three Sisters? This is ancient wisdom from Native Americans and indigenous tribes of the Americas. (i.e. big in Latin cuisine too in form of maíz) They found these plant based crops grow together and provide a nutritious meal without needing animal protein. Remembering this little story, I always smile when I make my Southwestern dishes like cornbread and chilli. Hope you enjoy and look at your food differently. This was the Pocahontas moment I always wanted. 🍂🌾🐿 . #generalcooking #cornbread #chili #onlinecookingclasses #pocahontas #pocahontasdisney #threesisters #corn #maize #beans #squash #bluezoneskitchen #bluezones #nativeamerican #foodhistory #plantbased #glutenfree #eatclean #cheflife #southwesternstyle

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