Green Bean Casserole {No Soups, No Mushrooms}

There was a time when I thought condensed cream soups were God’s gift to the home cook. I specifically recall a Crock Pot chicken recipe I used to make that involved cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup (and maybe Velveeta cheese?). Yes, it was creamy, and probably tasty, but also crazy high in sodium and pretty highly processed.

I’ve come a long way since those days. Now, whenever I can, I prefer to make sauces for casseroles, meat, or pasta dishes myself. I’ve found doing so cuts back on mystery ingredients, reduces sodium, and honestly just results in better quality food.

Enter this condensed soup-free Green Bean Casserole.

If you’ve ever made green bean casserole with a traditional recipe, I’ll bet it called for cream of mushroom soup. I know the recipes in both my Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks start this way. But now that I’m a fan of homemade sauces–and since I’ve never been fond of mushrooms–when I wanted a green bean casserole to go with a grilled chicken dinner recently, I thought I’d try my hand at a 100% from-scratch version. (Except for the fried onions on top. Those I’m happy to outsource to good old French’s.)

This recipe came out full of savory flavor, thanks to shallot, sage, and thyme. And thanks to a vegetable broth base, it’s totally vegetarian. Even though Thanksgiving may be several weeks off, I’d make this again for a veggie side dish any day!

Give this one a try if you’re looking for something a little less processed, or if someone in your family has the good sense to not like mushrooms. 🙂


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Green Bean Casserole {No Soups, No Mushrooms}
Not crazy about mushrooms? Prefer not to use condensed soups? This delicious from-scratch Green Bean Casserole is for you!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add green beans and cook about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Wipe out the pot and melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour, salt, pepper, sage, and thyme and whisk about 1 minute.
  3. Add milk and vegetable broth and whisk to combine. Increase heat to medium and whisk occasionally until sauce thickens. (It's ready when the whisk leaves a defined trail.) Remove from heat and stir in green beans.
  4. Spray an 11 x 7-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in green bean mixture and smooth. Sprinkle with fried onions.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until heated through.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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Sangria Cake

A delicious, fruity Sangria Cake for any summer special occasion!

Did you know that August and September are the months with the most birthdays? It’s probably the result of couples getting cozy around Christmastime nine months earlier–or some science even suggests the body is biologically predisposed to procreate in the winter months. Whatever the reason, in my own family of origin, it rings true: Both my parents have August birthdays, and I’m right behind in September.

Every year I bake my mom’s birthday cake. It’s a super fun exercise in creativity because she gives me free reign to make whatever I like, from this Chocolate Mint Layer Cake to this Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake.

This year, inspired by some gorgeous cupcakes I saw awhile back, I thought a sangria cake sounded perfect. Fruity, colorful, and a little different, it seemed just right for a summer birthday.

Once made, the flavors in this cake were actually rather subtle–not overpowering, but definitely with a fruity depth and a hint of orange. I especially loved the frosting, which was pretty in pink and just the right level of sweet. And I must confess I geeked out over decorating the exterior with an arrangement of fresh fruit. With the alcohol baked into the cake and just two tablespoons in the frosting, even my kids were free to partake. (And I think my mom liked it, too!)

So, for a special celebration, give this sangria cake a try! (My birthday is next week, hint, hint…)



Print Recipe
Sangria Cake
Happy summer! This Sangria Cake makes the perfect pretty, fruity celebration for a summer birthday or other special occasion.
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the cake:
For the frosting:
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
For the cake:
For the frosting:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in orange zest, then add eggs one at a time. Mix in orange juice and vanilla.
  3. Mix in dry ingredients and sangria, alternating between the two, until fully incorporated. Stir in food coloring until well mixed. Divide between cake pans and bake 30-35 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make frosting: In a large bowl combine butter and powdered sugar. Add orange juice and sangria and mix until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. Once cake is done, let cool at least two hours. When cake has cooled, frost to your liking.
Recipe Notes

Cake adapted from Liv for Cake, recipe A Love Letter to Food Original.

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Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake

Need a dessert to feed a crowd? This Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake with yogurt icing is just the ticket!

Every other Sunday for the last fifteen years, my husband and I have had Sunday dinner with his family. Coming from a New York Italian family as he does, Sunday dinner is almost more of a religious observance than a simple meal. Barring an act of God, it WILL happen. And it will probably involve sausage.

Over the years, as we’ve gotten together, the family has seen many changes. While Sunday dinner started out at his parents’ house every week, we’ve now transitioned to rotating between the homes of his mom and his siblings. And whereas, fifteen years ago, there were seven of us around the dinner table, there are now eighteen adults and kids. When it’s our turn to host, you can find me searching for recipes that feed a crowd.

I’ve assembled a handful of go-to entrees to serve for dinner, from chili to casseroles to barbecue chicken sandwiches (thank God for the Crock Pot). But sometimes the course that leaves me stumped is dessert. A single pan of brownies no longer suffices for this many people, and forget about a single pie–or even two. One dessert I come back to time and again is the ample, flexible bundt cake. It’s easy to slice and serve for any portion size, it doesn’t require the effort of frosting of a layer cake, and it always turns out so pretty. Plus, who doesn’t like cake?

I made this Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake for our most recent Sunday dinner. Lately I’ve been digging in to a bit of “research” (aka baking and eating) on replacing butter or other fats with heart-healthier olive oil. This particular olive oil baking experiment was certainly a success! The cake turned out slightly–but not overly–dense, with a delightfully almost-crunchy crust. Drizzled with a yogurt icing with a hint of orange, each slice was a little bit of citrus heaven, especially when accompanied by a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

To complete a Mediterranean-themed meal, I served this after my Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale. (See? I told you sausage would be involved.) For Sunday dinner or to feed any crowd, I’d say you can’t go wrong with bundt cake–especially this one.



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Orange Olive Oil Bundt Cake
Serve up a slice of citrus heaven with this orange olive oil bundt cake topped with yogurt drizzle!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
Instructions
Make the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously grease a 12-cup bundt pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix sugar and eggs with a hand mixer on medium speed. Add olive oil, vanilla, and orange extract and mix until smooth, then repeat with orange zest and juice.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix with hand mixer until no lumps remain.
  4. Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake 40-45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool completely before frosting.
Make the glaze:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, orange juice, and yogurt until smooth.
  2. Drizzle icing over cooled cake. Garnish with additional orange zest. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Food Network, glaze my own recipe.

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Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins

Oh, breakfast, I love you. How can anyone not eat breakfast everyday? I know there are those who say they feel nauseous in the mornings, or they’re just not hungry first thing, but breakfast is MY JAM. When my kids were really little, eating an entire breakfast for myself with no interruptions was something I’d fantasize about. Sitting there with my coffee steaming, a buttery muffin or crunchy bowl of cereal in front of me (and only me) sounded like pure bliss–the perfect start to the day.

Now, when I have a great breakfast to look forward to, it literally extends its joy to the night before. Last night, knowing I had these Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins to wake up to was enough to curb my late-night sweets cravings and make me wait until morning to eat. That’s right, I said NO to the COSTCO CHEESECAKE in my fridge for these things.

See, I’ve been kind of obsessed with flax seed lately. (And planning a post all about it and how to use it–so for now I’ll restrain myself for the moment from launching into accolades about its many benefits.) Suffice it to say, a switch has flipped in my brain and I am in full-on Flax Seed Mode. Energy balls, smoothies, and, of course, muffins make excellent vehicles for this mega-healthy–and, I think, mega-tasty–ingredient.

In light of recent evidence that more dietary fiber reduces the risk of numerous chronic diseases, I’m digging flax seed’s enormous fiber content. A single tablespoon of the stuff contains about 3 grams of fiber. Plus, flax seeds contain plenty of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. So even if they’re not a familiar ingredient for you, why not try something new?

These Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins are springy with flax seed, chewy with oats, and bursting with luscious blueberries. Maybe you can see why the thought of them sustained me when Costco cheesecake was calling.

Oh, and did I mention that each muffin has only 125 calories?

Oh. YEAH.

So whaddaya say? Gonna try flax seeds in your muffins? (And if you put them in your muffins, I have a feeling you’ll want to put them in everything.)

 


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Blueberry Flax Seed Muffins
Ready for something a little different? These blueberry muffins use a combination of ground flax seed and oats to achieve their unique texture--and blueberries for juicy pops of flavor. Delish!
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Course breakfast
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
muffins
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all wet ingredients: egg, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, yogurt, oil, and almond milk.
  3. To the same bowl, add dry ingredients: flax seed meal, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oats, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries.
  4. Divide mixture among 12 muffin cups and bake 20-22 minutes or until browned on top. Store in an airtight container.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Running With Spoons.

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Chocolate Mint Layer Cake

Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m a cake-aholic.

And I am also a nutritionist.

Do we have a problem here? Not necessarily. I mean, while I absolutely love cake, I don’t eat it every day, I maintain a healthy weight, and my diet is generally (I’d like to think) pretty healthy. In fact, I’m a big fan of the 80/20 principle when it comes to eating: stay on course nutritionally about 80% of the time, do what you like–within reason–the other 20% or so. (I even wrote an article about it here.) So do I feel bad posting a totally indulgent, party-perfect Chocolate Mint Layer Cake on the blog today?

No, I actually don’t. Especially because today is my birthday.

This cake isn’t actually for my birthday (mine will be a Neapolitan Strawberry-Vanilla-Chocolate sugar bomb I intend to make this afternoon), but rather, for my mom’s a few weeks ago. My mom and I have a little arrangement where, because I love making cakes and we both love eating them, I get to make her a cake of my choosing every year. Usually with chocolate.

This year mint chocolate was calling to me, and this recipe, modified from Lindsay over at Life, Love, and Sugar was exactly what I was looking for–except that with our family size, I didn’t actually need THREE layers. (Though I may have wanted them.) The cake came out fluffy and moist and kept well in the fridge, where it shockingly actually lasted a week. And though, with mint frosting, it can be tough to strike the right non-toothpaste-y, yet not-too-mild note, this stuff does so beautifully.

I’m no cake decorating expert–I’ve taken one single class at my local Michael’s with an instructor who was oddly enthusiastic about using Snickers to garnish cakes–but I have to say, I think this, with its pretty green color and tempting Andes mint pieces, turned out looking particularly appealing. And tasted amazing. What more does a birthday cake need?

P.S. I’m not including nutrition info for this one. It’s my birthday and I DON’T WANNA KNOW!



Print Recipe
Chocolate Mint Layer Cake
Minty, chocolatey, and totally indulgent, this cake makes the perfect choice for a birthday or other special occasion!
Course Dessert
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
slices
Course Dessert
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
slices
Instructions
Make the chocolate cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and grease two 9-inch cake pans well. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through salt). Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add egg, egg white, milk, and vegetable oil. Mix to combine. Add vanilla and boiling water and mix until well incorporated.
  2. Divide batter evenly between the two pans and bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
Make the mint frosting:
  1. While the cakes cool, mix softened butter, shortening, and powdered sugar until smooth. Add water or milk, vanilla, and peppermint extract and mix again. Slowly add food coloring to your liking (I'd say go with about 2/3 green and 1/3 yellow) and mix until color is even.
  2. Place one layer of the cake on a platter and frost the top. Top with second layer of cake and frost the entire cake, reserving about 1 1/2 c. for extra frosting garnishes.
  3. To get the look pictured, use a cake decorating tip like Wilton 1M to pipe swirls around the outer edge of the cake's surface. Insert whole Andes mints into the swirls, press them into the base of the cake, or garnish however you like!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Life, Love, and Sugar.

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