This time of year, we gather and enjoy time with our families. These gatherings often include favorite dishes and treats made only this time of year. Instead of throwing out our healthy eating, I’ve been trying to tweak those favorites to be healthier. One of our family’s favorites is green bean casserole.
My tweaked green bean casserole recipe has no cream of ___ soup. The obligatory french-fried onions are there (but could be left out if you choose) — my family requires them. A less-traditional way to gain some crunch is to add water chestnuts.
I started with mushrooms (8-12 oz), sliced and sautéed in olive oil (2 Tbsp or so) over medium-heat in a large skillet. Add in some minced garlic and thyme. Over medium heat, keep stirring until the mushrooms are cooked well — and it all smells great.
Remove the mushrooms and aromatics, reserving as much liquid as possible. Place green beans in the skillet to partially cook. I use two pounds of french-style frozen green beans. Fresh can be used – you’ll need to add water (or broth) and cook a bit longer. Cook and stir occasionally over medium heat. If there is not enough oil left from the mushrooms, I add a few tablespoons of butter. Once the green beans are beginning to get soft, it is time to make the sauce.
I use corn starch to make a thickened sauce or gravy. Corn starch must be blended thoroughly with a cold liquid before heating; I use beef broth most of the time for these beans. Salt and pepper as desired. To add more flavor to the casserole, I add a generous splash of Worcestershire sauce and bit of sesame oil (a little goes a long way). I add these to make the flavor richer but I don’t want it to be too strong. Once these are blended well, stir into the beans. Continue stirring as sauce thickens. If too thick, add more broth or water. If too thin, more corn starch is needed. This will need to be made into a slurry with minimal water before being added to the skillet.
When the consistency of the sauce is good, stir in the mushroom mixture. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes or until green beans are done.
When we had this at Thanksgiving this year, only one person wished for the cream of something soup version. I call that success!
What traditional dishes do you tweak to be healthier?