A variety of squash, all different shapes and sizes, adorned the front porch at local culinary instructor and cookbook author Suzanne Landry’s home. When she opened the door into her kitchen, a savory scent wafted out.

A few minutes later she was standing over a frying pan, pushing around an assortment of wild rice, celery, mushrooms, onions and spices with a wooden spoon.

“It’s very important that people get reinspired to make real food at home,” Landry said. “Americans need to regain their health and the only way they’re going to do it is by getting back in the kitchen.”

Landry, a local culinary instructor and cookbook author, shared her tips and tricks with The Bulletin for making two of her favorite fall dishes: acorn squash stuffed with rice pilaf and three sisters stew, which is named for the three crops it’s made with: beans, corn and squash.

The dishes are “hearty and warming,” and the recipes “take in all the great winter vegetables,” she said.

“The flavors of sage, thyme and rosemary absolutely shout out, ‘It’s fall time!’”

Three Sisters Stew

“The Native Americans had an affectionate name for three foods that they had as their staples — that was corn, squash and beans,” Landry said. The term they used was the three sisters. “If they had to move and go somewhere else, they could take their food with them.”

Landry drew inspiration from the three sisters for her stew recipe.

The stew is rich in flavor, with sweetness from the corn. Landry added tang by including tomatoes. She introduced a clean heat with a jalapeño. Butternut squash and black beans play starring roles in the stew. Landry recommends serving the stew as an entree with fresh bread and a side salad.

Tips on making the stew:

Add more vegetable broth or water to the stew to create the consistency you desire.

For a creamy soup, substitute one can of refried pinto beans for black beans and substitute one can of tomato sauce for diced tomatoes.

To enhance flavor, use the fire roasted canned tomatoes

To add more spice, use one to two jalapeño peppers.

Strain the black beans before using them so they don’t turn the stew black

Rice pilaf stuffed acorn squash

Landry originally created the rice pilaf dish as a vegan alternative to stuffing for Thanksgiving. She decided one year to serve the rice inside a roasted squash to enhance the presentation. The dish was a hit and now takes a page in her cookbook.

The rice pilaf is a savory side. The wild rice gives the dish its texture, and the saltiness from soy sauce balances nicely with the sweetness of the butternut squash.

It can be served as a main course with a side salad and a light soup, or as a side to a roasted chicken or turkey entree.

Chorizo, mild Italian sausage or a buttery cheese can also be added to the rice pilaf.

Tips for making the stuffed acorn squash:

It’s important not to overcook the squash or it will not be firm enough to hold the stuffing.

Stick a fork in the squash to make sure it’s tender enough.

The rices should be added to the mixture once the celery is tender.

To add tartness, add dried cranberries.

To add protein and spice, add chopped spicy Italian sausage or chorizo to the mixture.

Make sure the onions are translucent before adding the other ingredients so it doesn’t affect the aroma of the dish.

About the chef

Landry wears many hats: She is the author of “The Passionate Vegetable” and “Fresh Food Matters”; she was a celebrity chef — Steven Seagal used to call her cooking “homestyle gourmet.” She also teaches cooking classes for Central Oregon Community College’s Cascade Culinary Institute and Bend Parks and Recreation District, as well as for private parties.

Her introduction to cooking came at age 13 when she wanted to make a spaghetti sauce for her family. She accidentally used three bulbs instead of three cloves of garlic, but it didn’t stop her family from loving her first cooking creation. “To me it was a success, and there were a couple things that came out of it. Cooking can’t be that hard. If you screw up, it may come out fine anyway, and you can never use too much garlic,” she said.

When she was older and a mother of two, both of her children began having health problems. Landry did her own research and discovered dairy products were at the root of the issue. This was at a time when dairy-free alternatives were limited. Landry had to be creative when she cut dairy out of her son’s diet. She substituted calcium-rich dishes with a lot of kale, broccoli and collard greens.

As a result, cooking and food research became more of a profession than a hobby. Several years and $20,000 later, Landry self-published her cookbook “The Passionate Vegetable.”

About 6,000 copies of the book have been sold, an impressive feat for a self-published author. The cookbook includes more than 200 healthy recipes and information about nutrition, foods and cooking techniques.

“Your health is your greatest wealth,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0351, mcrowe@bendbulletin.com

18343393