Sunday, November 25, 2012

Food Revolution November Challenge and Green Bean Casserole

As an ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Foundation, each month we have challenges that help further the real food mission. This month, one of the challenges was to teach friends or family to make a holiday meal or traditional dish from scratch. Here in the US we just celebrated Thanksgiving. A dish that my family often has with Thanksgiving dinner is green bean casserole. The “traditional” recipe for green bean casserole would use some cans of cream of mushroom soup and a package of little onion rings. Needless to say, what we did was make a real food, from scratch version of the casserole. I am not advocating this as necessarily a health food. It is, however, a healthier version of a dish for a special occasion.

I asked my 15 year old sister, Maria, if she wanted to participate and learn how to make the casserole. We started off by talking a little about the benefits of making home cooked food from scratch as opposed to using packaged food. When you make food from scratch you use all natural, simple ingredients.  If you look at the back of a can of cream of mushroom soup you will see it contains a number of additives and tons of sodium in the form of MSG. We don’t want any of that.

Another thing that makes home cooked food different is the energy that is put into making it. The love and positive intent when preparing food from scratch really does make a difference for those consuming the food. So it’s always a good idea to center yourself before you start, make sure you have a clean space to work in/on and keep as calm and positive as possible. I know that last one isn’t always easy, especially when you find yourself in a rush. When that is the case for me, I just try to catch myself and bring my thoughts back to my intention for the meal or dish; for it to taste good and be nourishing.

the finished product

Here is the recipe adapted from this one on the blog Season withSpice. It would be great for any holiday celebration and could also be made gluten and/or dairy free with some substitutions.

2 pounds green beans, trimmed and snapped into bite size pieces
4 cups chopped mushrooms
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 dabs of butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons corn starch, dissolved in water
2 cups organic half-and-half
2 pinches dried parsley
2 pinches dried thyme
2 dashes of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste (I added probably 1.5 teaspoons Real Salt)

For the Onions:
4 medium cooking onions
Flour (about 1.5 cups)
Milk (about a cup)
High quality oil to fry
Salt and pepper

First blanch or steam the trimmed green beans until bright green and just a little tender. Set aside.

Next heat olive oil and butter over medium heat and then add garlic. Sauté for about a minute then add the chopped mushrooms. Give it a good stir and then add the water and soy sauce. Sauté for 7-10 minutes. Next, stir in the half-and-half, corn starch mixture and herbs and spices. Kick the heat up a bit and, stirring constantly, allow the soup to thicken. Once the soup is a good consistency, taste test and add salt and pepper if needed. Mix in the green beans and set aside.

Now for the fun part (by the way, I highly recommend a helper for this part, it goes way smoother). Slice the onions and separate the rings. Heat some oil in a frying pan or wok on medium-high heat. Mix the flour with some salt and pepper in a bowl and pour the milk in another bowl. First dunk the onions in the milk and then the flour. Once the oil is hot (you can tell by sticking a wooden spoon in it, if you get bubbles around the spoon, it is hot) put some onions in there (and turn the heat down a little) and fry until golden brown, flipping them once. I put them on a plate covered with a paper towel and sprinkled them with a bit of salt after taking them out of the pan.

Once all of the onions are done mix them into the green beans but reserve several of the prettiest ones. Transfer to a casserole dish and put the pretty onion rings on top. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. This amount made enough for 8 adults and we had a little bit left over.

Here is a tip:
If you are making a whole meal or have a lot going on, I recommend making this the night before. Or at least fry the onions ahead of time and then mix in before you bake or before you go to the get together.

Thank you to Maria for learning and helping to make this, it was a success. And I think we have a new traditional green bean casserole. And also thank you to Casey for the photos.

What are your favorite holiday dishes to make from scratch?

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