Elena Terry, Wisconsin Dells


By Kelly Saran, Inga Foley and Ethan Freel | June 17, 2020


Elena Terry: Hainipi, Hocak raasra Hahemaaniwinga hingaire egi maixete raasra Elena Terry. I’m a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation.

I think, as a chef, it’s my responsibility to kind of be the last voice of these ingredients and to showcase them in a way that they’ll be appreciated and highlight their natural flavors. Also, to have good feelings when you’re in the kitchen because all of that gets transferred into the food and to treat your ingredients with the highest amount of respect and care because they gave their life to nourish you.

Ooh, looks perfect!

Especially when you’re cooking, you have all of your senses stimulated and you’re creating memories as you go. So, you know the smell, you know the texture and the feel and what you want it to feel like.


So, the name of the dish we’ll be making today is ‘SassSquash.’

And although it isn’t a traditional dish, it incorporates a lot of the ingredients that are from Wisconsin. And my favorite ingredient, which is squash, I think is really underutilized, and so, it’s a good way to showcase what the flavor development of that can be. I blend the squash and the maple for sweetness, and then, nuts.

And then, we’re just going to spread it out. And I like adding a cranberry sauce because it gives it a little bit of a sour and it’s not completely sweet note and it compliments it perfectly. Yeah, see, they’re starting to pop open. That’s what I want. And it really is, when we use our ingredients, it gives you a connection to your ancestors and makes you realize the responsibility you have as a steward of the land and caring for it and just making sure that these ingredients are going to be there for the next generation, as well.

I like to think that I came from warriors. I came from resilience and strength and endurance, and, you know, being able to make something of nothing and being able to get your family back to the lands that they came from. I feel the strength of generations telling me that, “You can do it,” you know? Every time I try this, it’s like the first time that I’ve tried it, and it always surprises me. It’s delicious.


“SassSquash” is a dish conceptualized by Elena Terry, of the Ho-Chunk Nation, as a celebration of Indigenous foodways and Wisconsin ingredients. This dish was inspired by the Hubbard Squash an ancient squash variety that is cultivated by Indigenous seed savers today. However, a variety of squash, including butternut, can be supplemented within this dish. Elena Terry is the Executive Chef and Founder of Wild Bearies and the Food and Culinary Program Coordinator for the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Cooling Time 1 hr
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Indigenous
Servings 12 squares


  • Mixing Bowls
  • 9”x9” baking pan
  • Food processor
  • Mesh strainer



  • 1 butternut squash other squash varieties can be used
  • 3 tablespoons flaxseed meal
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup maple syrup or maple sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • Large spoonful of pie spice ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon


  • 2 cups whole shelled walnuts
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Cranberry sauce

  • 1 ½ cup frozen cranberries
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • Large pinch of pie spice ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon


Squash Filling

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Cut 1 large squash in half, cover with foil.
  • Roast squash at 350º for 1 hour.
  • Spoon out contents of squash into a bowl to be added to the food processor.
  • Combine ½ cup water and flaxseed; stir.
  • Add spices and salt, maple syrup or sugar maple, roasted squash, flaxseed meal (w/ water) into food processor to be puréed. Blend until purée is smooth.
  • Set aside and make the crust.

Nut Crust

  • Pulse whole walnuts in a food processor.
  • Combine walnuts with almond flour and sunflower oil and pulse into a crumbly texture.
  • Take mixture and press it evenly and firmly into the bottom of a 9”x9” pan. Using the bottom of a cup can help smooth out the crust in the pan.


  • Pour squash purée over the crust, spreading the mixture evenly and smoothly across the pan.
  • Bake at 350º for 45 minutes.
  • Let cool for 1 hour (cooling will solidify the purée).
  • Cranberry Sauce (for drizzling)
  • Combine cranberries, water, and maple syrup into a saucepan and simmer on medium heat.
  • Stir occasionally and wait for the cranberries to pop and the natural pectin to be released thickening the sauce.
  • Once sauce has thickened, remove from heat and strain using a mesh strainer.
  • Set sauce aside until “SassSquash” has cooled.

To serve

  • Once “SassSquash” has cooled, cut into 12 even squares.
  • Plate and drizzle cranberry sauce (or maple syrup, if desired) over the dish and enjoy!

For Elena Terry, cooking begins with honoring her ingredients.

“I feel like the more these ingredients are talked about and cared for in a responsible and respectful way, the better chance they’re going to have of being there and for the future,” she said.

Elena Terry
Terry works in the kitchen at her home which she describes as her sanctuary. (Kelly Saran/PBS Wisconsin)

Terry’s deep connection to Indigenous foodways was fostered at an early age by the matriarchs in her life, who shared lessons on foraging and processing wild game. She remembers her great-grandmother speaking to her solely in the Ho-Chunk language and teaching her how to harvest turtles.

“I’m just so blessed to have such matriarchs in my life that knew that this knowledge, if they gave it to me, wouldn’t be taken for granted,” she ruminated.

Cranberries cooking in pot
Cranberries cook on the stove top, beginning to pop open as they boil. (Kelly Saran/PBS Wisconsin)
straining cranberry sauce in bowl
Terry carefully strains the cranberry sauce that will be added to SassSquash to provide a tart flavor. (Kelly Saran/PBS Wisconsin)

Terry embraces those lessons as the Executive Chef and Founder of Wild Bearies. Wild Bearies offers opportunities for individuals who may have struggled with emotional or substance abuse issues to reconnect with their tribal communities by learning kitchen and life skills.

“I really thought about it and with my specific skill set, what can I do to help encourage people that are trying to overcome some of these issues in the past and bring them back to our communities in a strong way?” she said.

Terry continues to give back in her new role as the Food and Culinary Program Coordinator for the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance. She also works in partnership with the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the Indigenous Seed Savers Network.

“All of the people that I come across – from the seed savers to the growers, to the policy advocates – everybody is working so well together to take a strong step forward that, you know, it’s hopeful,” Terry explained.

maple sugar in bowl
Dried maple syrup creates a fine sugar that melts in your mouth. (Kelly Saran/PBS Wisconsin)
baked squash in bowl
Fresh out of the oven, the baked squash is a celebrated ingredient in the dish. (Kelly Saran/PBS Wisconsin)

“SassSquash” the dish Terry shares, is a celebration of Indigenous ingredients that are found in Wisconsin. Sweet maple syrup, humble squash, crunchy walnuts and tart cranberries are masterfully combined to create a dish that honors the cultivators of the past and present.

As Terry savors the dish, she reflected, “Every time I try this, it’s like the first time I tried it. It always surprises me. It’s delicious.”

Basket hanging on wall.
A basket Terry wove for her daughter to forage Wintergreen, a plant native to Wisconsin, hangs in her living room. (Kelly Saran/PBS Wisconsin)

This story is part of Food Traditions, a multimedia project exploring food and culture across Wisconsin.

Kelly Saran

Kelly Saran

Kelly Saran is a multimedia producer for the Wisconsin Life project who grew up in Wisconsin and hopes to one day visit all of the large waterfalls around the state.
Inga Foley

Inga Foley

Inga Foley is a video editor for the “Wisconsin Life” project and enjoys bike riding, gardening and working on her old VW.
Ethan Freel

Ethan Freel

Ethan Freel is a videographer and editor for “Wisconsin Life” and has seen a Hodag in some woods Northwest of Rhinelander.

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