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┬áand 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. ­čÖé


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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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Amazing All-Purpose Tahini Sauce

In the past, I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid using tahini. It’s just so expensive, I thought, and what on earth would I do with an entire jar of sesame paste? Sure, I like hummus like any red-blooded Millennial, but I just couldn’t see making that much of┬áit from scratch.

Little did I know that tahini can be used for other things besides hummus.

A few weeks ago I came across this helpful post on Babble that set me straight. Twenty-eight ways to use tahini that AREN’T hummus? The mystery! The intrigue! Turns out the sesame flavor and smooth texture of tahini lends itself to salad dressings, pestos, and even…brownies? While that particular suggestion may be going a bit too far for my tastes, the idea did broaden my horizons. When I ended up buying a jar at Trader Joe’s (for only around $3–far cheaper than I expected) it was with plenty of options on my radar.

This amazing all-purpose tahini sauce started its life as a dressing for a to-die-for roasted cauliflower salad over at Budget Bytes, but in my house, it’s turned into so much more. This week I put it on baked salmon, dipped pita in it, and have been seriously considering its possibilities as a sandwich spread. (With a bit of deli turkey, sprouts, and cucumber, it sounds like Mediterranean perfection.) I could see it working well on grilled chicken, as a veggie dip, or on falafel.

And, if you’re really adventurous, I suppose you could┬áeven use it in brownies.


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Amazing All-Purpose Tahini Sauce
A tangy sauce that works perfectly on fish, chicken, or just for dipping!
Servings
(makes about 1 cup)
Ingredients
Servings
(makes about 1 cup)
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a measuring cup, mix all ingredients until well combined. Keep covered in the refrigerator.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

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Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Sage

Here’s a random tidbit: when you start a Google search with the words “how many people do…” Google does NOT assume you are asking it about potatoes and how many pounds feed how many people. No, my friends, Google wants to answer these other, far more intriguing questions:

Because apparently a lot more people want to know how many of us are getting killed by hippos than how many potatoes to buy to feed a crowd. Not sure how to take this, but I feel like it says something about our priorities?

Anyway, though I am (now) a bit curious how many people die annually from hippo attacks, I really did want to know about mashed potato portions, because it’s an area of culinary expertise that eludes me. Mashed potatoes seem like one of those foods that defy boundaries. There’s nothing exact about them. And since they so often appear as just one item in a multi-item meal (Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, let’s say), anything from a dollop to a pile seems fairly reasonable.

Well, it’s time to settle the score. The OFFICIAL serving size of mashed potatoes, as dictated by the Food and Drug Administration, is 140 grams. Since no one in the U.S. measures their food in grams (get it together, FDA!), allow me to interpret. 140 grams = 5 ounces, which for potatoes equals about 1/2 cup.

Therefore, if you want to make mashed potatoes for eight people, like this recipe does, 5 oz x 8 people = 40 ounces, or 2 1/2 pounds. Assuming no one’s going crazy with a potato free-for-all.

THIS MEANS SOMETHING. THIS IS IMPORTANT.

That’s how, even with creamy goat cheese, whole milk, and a bit of butter, these delicious, sage-kissed mashed potatoes end up with only 200 calories per serving. Portion control, y’all.

This hearty side dish makes a spot-on accompaniment to meat dishes like ham, pork chops, or meatloaf. What favorite meal would YOU serve it with?


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Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Sage
Mashed potatoes get a flavor makeover with creamy goat cheese and fresh sage in this side dish.
Instructions
  1. Cook potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling water until tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain and return to the pan. Add goat cheese and butter and mash or blend with an immersion blender (the immersion blender does a much nicer job getting a creamy texture!). Add milk and sage continue to mash/blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

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Lemony Green Beans with Almonds and Feta

Three ways you know you’ve found the best green bean recipe ever:

  1. You make it more than once.
  2. When you serve it at Thanksgiving, it disappears to the last bean.
  3. You actually sneak it out of the fridge to snack on it at night.

Or, perhaps all of the above…because all of these things have been true in our household with these Lemony Green Beans with Almonds and Feta. Who’da thunk a green bean side dish could be so appealing?

I featured this recipe on A Love Letter to Food’s Facebook page during my annual Healthy Thanksgiving Countdown as an alternative to the usual green bean casserole. To take my own advice, I decided to make it for the Thanksgiving dinner we attended with friends. It turned out better than I could have hoped, the beans pan-steamed to crispy crunachability and the feta and toasted almonds soaking up the lemony, garlicky dressing. When everyone was served at dinner, nary a bean was left.

On the heels of this success, I served this again at Christmas dinner. Even my 6-year-old fought me to eat the leftovers–cold. That’s a good sign.

Is it weird that eating this makes me think of the Gollum quote from The Hobbit:

“Is it nice, my preciousss? Is it juicy? Is it scrumptiously crunchable?”

Because yes, it is. And that beats green bean casserole any day, if you ask me.

 


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Lemony Green Beans with Almonds and Feta
Crisp-tender green beans tossed with a lemony dressing and sprinkled with toasted almonds and feta make an incredible side dish!
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. Toast the almonds one of two ways: either bake them for 3 minutes at 325 degrees or heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook almonds, stirring occasionally, until toasted. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add green beans, water, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cover and cook 7-10 minutes, stirring periodically. Uncover and increase heat to medium-high. Continue to cook another 3-5 minutes or until water has evaporated and beans are crisp-tender and bright green. Remove from heat.
  3. Meanwhile, make the dressing: whisk together olive oil, dijon, lemon juice, garlic, red pepper flaked, and black pepper.
  4. When beans are done cooking, toss with toasted almonds, lemon dressing, and half the feta. Spread on a platter or serving dish and sprinkle with remaining feta. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Cookie and Kate.

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Cranberry Salsa

How often do you eat cranberries in their fresh, raw form? It seems to go without saying that sweetened dried cranberries have pretty well monopolized the Cranberry Market in recent years, edging out their plump, juicy originators by a long shot. ┬áI’d wager few of us ever go around eating raw cranberries as our go-to fruit of choice. As a matter of fact, when my six-year-old daughter saw them in our fruit crisper the other day and asked to try one, I told her to do so at her own risk.┬áRaw cranberries are so stinking tart, they’re almost inedible on their own.

Not surprisingly, it took about two seconds before she made a horrible face and spit it into the trash.

That’s why this Cranberry Salsa–which I had the fresh cranberries in the fridge for–is so special. It features raw cranberries combined with apple, jalape├▒o, red onion, and a couple of other fresh ingredients for an unexpected, interesting appetizer that’s sure to be a hit at holiday parties. (It was at mine last night! The bowl I served this in was practically licked clean.)

Being a nutritionist, I’m a bit self-conscious about the food I serve when I entertain. Maybe no one is thinking about it but me, but I feel like my title obligates me to make at least some┬áfairly healthy options for my guests. Plus, the nutritionist in me likes to offer allergy-friendly options for friends and family in the “something-free” club. This salsa fit the bill for both, since it’s vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free–basically everything-free, since it’s made entirely with fresh fruits, sugar, and salt. Heck, it’s even RAW, if you’re into that, too.

Oh, and it’s easy. And make-ahead. And a balanced blend of sweetness and spice. And seasonal.

Can you tell I’m sold? Give this one a try for any upcoming Christmas parties and tell me how it goes!

 


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Cranberry Salsa
This Cranberry Salsa is a festive, healthy, allergy-friendly holiday appetizer.
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, process the sugar until very fine (to create superfine sugar). Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.
  2. Place cranberries, apple, red onion, and jalape├▒o in the food processor and process until the mixture reaches a finely chopped pico de gallo-type consistency. Add to the bowl with the sugar and stir to combine.
  3. Add orange zest and juice, lime juice, and salt and stir to combine. Cover and chill 2-24 hours. Stir in cilantro just before serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Home is Where the Boat Is, who adapted it from Southern Living.

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