Cooler weather calls for heartier meals and seasonal ingredients, so try out one of these simple vegetarian recipes featuring the “Three Sisters”: corn, squash, and beans. These three crops were once commonly grown together by indigenous groups across North America in a technique known as “companion planting”, as this trio thrives when planted together. Beans, along with other legumes like peas, fix nitrogen in the soil, providing important nutrients for the other crops. Squash vines provide a thick ground cover around the taller corn and bean plants, blocking out weeds, while the corn plants serve as a lattice for the bean plants to twine around. Combining hearty beans with sweet squash and corn make vegetarian cooking an easy choice this fall.


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Image © Tracy Benjamin

1. Squash and Arugula Salad with Corn and Cannellini Beans

Create this easy composed salad for a cheery, bright, and vitamin-packed addition to a dinner party, or a healthy lunch to pack for school or work. This recipe makes 4 plated servings, or you can make it all in one bowl.

Ingredients:

  • 1 12-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash, steamed or baked until tender  (you can microwave cubed squash for quick and easy prep)
  • 1 cup thawed frozen corn kernels, drained
  • 1/2 a red onion, sliced thinly
  • 4 handfuls arugula
  • 1 lemon, juiced, seeds strained out
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil

Step 1:

Prepare 2 cups of cubed butternut squash and cook it by baking (about 40 minutes at 350F), steaming, or microwaving. Let the squash cool slightly before adding it to the salad.

Step 2:

Arrange one handful of washed argula leaves on each plate. Sprinkle with sliced red onion and 1/2 cup of thawed, drained corn kernels. Sprinkle a large handful of the cannellini beans onto each salad. Reserve any remaining beans for another recipe.

Step 3:

Make the dressing. Juice one whole lemon into a bowl, straining out the seeds. Mix in one tablespoon of olive oil, a quarter teaspoon of sea salt, and some freshly ground pepper.

Step 4: Arrange 1/2 cup of cubed cooked squash on top of each salad and drizzle with the lemon dressing. Enjoy!

Related: Festive Architecture Designs Inspired by Fall Vegetables

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Image © E Barney

2. Squash and Black Bean Soup with Corn Masa Dumplings

This delicious, quick, and easy soup features southwestern-inspired flavors and fluffy dumplings that you make right in the pot.

Ingredients:

  • 7 cups vegetable broth (4-14 ounce cans; or you can use boullion)
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon mild chili powder
  • 1 12-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups cubed squash (butternut, kabocha or acorn squash are all good candidates)
  • 1 cup corn masa flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 diced spring onions
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper

Step 1:

Start the soup by sautéing the diced onion and garlic in a large pot in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until lightly browned.

Step 2:

Add the vegetable stock and squash. Simmer until the squash is semi-soft.

Step 3:

Add the black beans, cumin, and chili powder.

Step 4:

Mix the dumplings: Beat the egg with the milk, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add two diced spring onions and stir in the masa flour. If the mixture seems too dry and crumbly, you can add a little bit more milk. If the mixture is runny, add more masa. You should be able to form small, meatball-sized dumplings that stick together easily.

Step 5:

Drop the dumplings into the soup pot one by one, simmering but not boiling until they float to the top. Garnish with cilantro and roasted squash seeds and enjoy!

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Image © Jackie Newgent

3. Three Sisters Chili

One of the simplest and quickest ways to enjoy the “3 Sisters” in one hearty dish is by making this vegetarian chili. After spending a crisp fall afternoon hiking outside, make a batch of this chili and top it with bright, heart-healthy avocado and crisp cilantro.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or use bouillion)
  • 1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce can of kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 3 cups of cubed butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons chili spice mix
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 diced avocado
  • Diced cilantro

Step 1:

Sautee diced onion and garlic in olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until translucent. Add diced red bell pepper and jalapeno. Sautee for a minute or two.

Step 2:

Add vegetable broth, beans, corn, butternut squash, and chili spice. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Step 3:

Test the squash and if its not yet soft, simmer the chili a bit longer.

Step 4:

Ladle into bowls and garnish with diced avocado and cilantro. Serve with a side of warm corn tortillas!

fall, squash, three sisters, beans, corn, cooking, seasonal, food, recipe
Image © Marionlon

4.   Three Sisters Casserole

Got a potluck to attend or need an easy mid-week dish? Try this casserole that integrates all three of the “sisters”!

Ingredients:

  • 1 12-ounce bag of frozen corn kernels
  • 1 14-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pound of sliced summer squash (zucchini, yellow summer squash)
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 diced spring onions
  • Salt and Pepper

Step One:

In a large bowl, mix sour cream and eggs together.

Step Two:

Add in cornmeal, olive oil, diced spring onions, a few shakes of salt and pepper, and the diced jalapeno.

Step Three:

Mix in the zucchini, corn, and beans.

Step Four:

Pour mixture into a greased baking dish, and sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese on top.

Step Five:

Bake the casserole at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Related: Carve Pumpkins Into Halloween Jack-o-lanterns and Make Tasty Roasted Seeds 

fall, squash, three sisters, beans, corn, cooking, seasonal, food, recipe

5. Three Sisters Sautée with Pesto

This fresh and tasty dish will please your tastebuds, and you can even try your hand at making your own pesto if you feel inspired!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound zucchini, cut into coins
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups romano  beans, stems snipped off and sliced in half
  • 2 cups of frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup pesto (used jarred pesto or make your own)
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Pepper

Step One:

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan.

Step Two:

Sautée beans for one minute, then add squash, corn, and tomatoes.

Step Three:

Turn off heat, and add pesto, stirring gently to cover.

Step Four:

Serve, sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese and ground pepper.

*Note: Try serving this dish over noodles as a 3 sisters version of Pasta Primavera.

fall, squash, three sisters, beans, corn, cooking, seasonal, food, recipe

6. Bright and Fresh 3 Sisters Salad

Get your veggies with this bright and crisp salad – this would make an ideal side dish for a fall picnic or BBQ!

Ingredients:

  • 1 12-ounce package corn kernels, thawed and drained
  • 1 12-ounce package haricots verts (thin green beans), thawed and drained (or black beans – your preference)
  • 1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups sliced summer squash and zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sweetened rice vinegar
  • 3 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and Pepper

Step 1: 

Lightly sautée summer squash and/or zucchini in a pan, for just a minute. Set aside to cool.

Step 2: 

In a large salad bowl, combine corn, green beans, sliced red onion, and parsley.

Step 3: 

Mix the rice vinegar and olive oil.

Step 4: 

Add the sautéed squash, and drizzle the salad with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. You can also make this a heartier salad by adding in some quinoa or couscous.