Fresh, organic, canned, frozen green beans...a favorite anytime of year.
After taking note of a social media post about 'what to do with green beans', I started recording all of the various green bean recipes FB friends were suggesting for Thanksgiving. Surprisingly, most weren't weighted down with heavy sauces, creams, and soups but were made with few ingredients and for the most part, healthy.
That's a 180 degree turn from the 70's when casseroles were all the rage. It was during this era, a Campbell's Soup Company employee, Dorcas Reilly, created the green bean casserole. She decided 'the bean' was boring and needed a flavor boost. So, she dumped a can of cream of mushroom soup in with 'the bean' and viola, a new holiday favorite was conceived.
In case you're unfamiliar with the recipe...here it is:
One large can of string beans (drained and rinsed) then poured into a square or rectangular glass dish. Add four to five pats of butter and heat through in a 350 degree oven until the butter melts. Add a can of cream of mushroom soup and spread over the beans. Top with the French's fried onions and bake until golden brown. Make sure you look for the bubbly soup 'doing its thing' along the side of the pan.
Did you know that green beans didn't make the cut for the traditional Thanksgiving meal until the 19th century? I can't imagine not having the green, go-to vegetable on the holiday table.
In fact, the first recorded Thanksgiving, more likely than not, had turkey, along with other fowl, pumpkin (not pie), potatoes, nuts, herbs, and grains.
How did the first Thanksgiving gathering come about? Governor William Bradford organized the feast in 1621 commemorating the Pilgrim's first successful corn harvest. He invited members of the colonies and Native American allies.
Since those early days, we've come full circle with vegetables. We're getting back to our traditional roots by eating whole foods like the early American settlers. Check out the recipes recorded in the comments of the social media post mentioned earlier.
Mexican Green Beans: Cut raw bacon into one inch squares. Cook in a frying pan on high heat for 3 - 4 minutes or desired crispness. Add a can of drained jalapeno/carrot mix (jalapenos in escabeche - located in the Mexican food section) and cook for two minutes. Add a can of drained and rinsed green beans and cook until the beans are heated through.
'Take it up a notch' Green Bean Casserole: Start with wild mushrooms sautéed in olive oil. Once browned, add one tbsp. of butter and flour. Stir in a cup or so of black garlic infused cream (substitute with roasted garlic and a few drops of balsamic vinegar), then pour over trimmed - blanched French green beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in French's fried onions and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with a few more fried onions the final few minutes until golden brown.
Chinese Green Beans: Deep fried green beans smothered in black bean sauce.
Organic Green Beans: Steam and top with sliced almonds and bread crumbs.
Junior League Green Beans: Fresh green beans covered in a ginger and orange sauce.
Go Go Go Green Beans: Spicy with extra mushrooms
Chi Dynasty Green Beans: Sauté fresh green beans in olive oil with lots of garlic.
Stir Fry Green Beans: Blanche then stir fry in olive oil, butter, minced garlic, sea salt, black cracked pepper and roasted, slivered almonds.
The BEST Green Beans: Fresh green beans, very lightly coated in cream of mushroom soup and seasoned with garlic powder and red pepper flakes. Bake at 350 degrees until warm and bubbly. No fried onions.
Last year, the holiday season was overshadowed by all things Covid leaving many of us longing for gatherings with family and friends. This year, with the aid of vaccines and a clearer understanding of how the virus spreads, we're able to reach out and touch our loved ones once again and appreciate the little things in life.
One of those little things is pumpkin-shaped yeast rolls. It's good to try new recipes. These dinner rolls will create a little whimsy and magic at the dinner table. Even more exciting is the extra effort behind this little project is incredibly easy. The only drawback is a little time waiting for the dough to proof. No big deal. If you're ready to try it, I've got the recipe complete with tips and a video.
Direction and Ingredients needed for Pumpkin-shaped yeast rolls.
Two packages of yeast
Two cups warm water
One Tbs. of sugar
Mix and let sit for 10 minutes
Add to the following:
½ cup sugar
Two tsp. salt
¼ cup of extra light EVOO
1 egg (beaten) and at room temperature
Five to six cups of all-purpose flour
Four cinnamon sticks cut in thirds. If making smaller dinner rolls, you'll need eight cinnamon sticks.
A one minute video on how to wrap the dough balls with kitchen twine to create pumpkin-shaped yeast rolls.
After the yeast has dissolved, add to other ingredients. Start with four cups of flour. On medium speed, mix until smooth. Side note: I used a Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus Food Process with a dough setting. I've had this machine for close to 20 years and have never used it for bread. There's always a first time. At this point, add another cup of flour and mix. The idea is to have a stiff dough. If you need to add more flour, do so at this time.
Once the dough is a good consistency, begin to knead it on a surface that’s been floured. Knead the dough for approximately six to seven minutes. The dough should be pliable, flexible.
Next, add the dough to a large bowl that’s been greased. Place the dough ball in the bowl and flip it one time so the entire dough has some grease on it. Cover the dough and place in a warm place. It may take an hour or less to proof. Check it after 30 minutes. After the dough has doubled in size, punch down the dough. Begin dividing the dough into 12 round balls. If you want smaller dinner rolls, cut into 18 - 24 rolls.
After forming the dough balls, set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. Now, it’s time to wrap twine around each ball. Cut 12 – 32 inch strings from the kitchen twine (adjustment to the length of the twine is needed if making smaller dinner rolls). Each ball will be wrapped like a present and rotated until the ball is cut into eight pieces, like a pie. Be sure and pull the string tight enough to make small indentions in the ball.
Next, brush each pumpkin with egg whites for browning with a little shine. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. The pumpkin rolls should brown. After taking the rolls out of the oven, cut the strings off each roll. After the string is off, add the cinnamon sticks to each pumpkin roll.
Cornbread dressing with maple sausage...bringing back the sweet and savory classic.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and the idea of adding more guests to the table could send you into orbit. Don't sweat it. There's always time for a quick menu change. If the guest list has expanded, go to plan B. Plan B is to make the cornbread dressing into a meal. By adding meat or additional veggies to any dish you can make a little go a long way.
Recently, I've enjoyed adding sausage to several of my dishes. It's like a one-stop shop. Whether it's sweet Italian, maple or plain sausage, sausage has that extra kick that elevates a recipe.
This recipe is a tribute to the 80s and 90s. Once upon a time, adding sausage. veggies, nuts, and dried fruits to cornbread dressing was all the rage. It was the newest, greatest thing in cooking...more is more. So, we're bringing it back.
Enjoy the recipe and read the tips throughout. Pay special attention to the dialogue at the end of the recipe between chef and myself.
Cornbread dressing w/ maple sausage (Serves 8)
1 lb. sweet maple sausage
1 1/2 c onion finely diced
3/4 c celery finely diced
5 slices dried white bread
6 c dried cornbread (about 2 lbs.)
2 plus cups of chicken broth (canned or box is fine but a small pack of leg quarters makes an easy broth that will pay dividends in the final dish)
3 eggs beaten
1/4 c butter plus drippings (from sausage)
2 tsp rubbed sage or 4 tsp fresh sage chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
"Using maple sausage lends to a minor sweetness that pairs very well with this savory dressing." chef
Make a pan of cornbread the night before & break into 1” pieces & let dry on a pan over night (be sure to season the cornbread too). This is building layers of flavor for later. Tear the white bread into pieces and let it dry with the cornbread.
To make the dressing start in a non-stick skillet by adding the sausage & break up as it browns (thoroughly). Remove to drain and poor off all but 2 tbs. of the drippings (save drippings for later use). Add the onion & celery all the while scrapping up any of the brown bits. Sauté for 3-5 minutes until translucent.
In a large bowl add both breads. When onion & celery are done, add to the bread mixture along with the sausage. Beat eggs and add the reserved drippings to combine with bread mixture. Season with salt and pepper then add sage.
Mix completely and start adding broth (just as in cornbread-for a drier dressing make a drier mix and for a moister dressing add more broth). The wetter the mix the more moist it will be in the end (This is a personal choice). Add mixture to a well buttered 9x11 baking pan and bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes.
Dialogue between me and chef Fleming:
Me: That sounds fantastic! I've got a question. I've never used homemade broth. Are you supposed to skim the fat off the top of the broth or send it through a sieve?
Chef Fleming: I used to skim mine religiously. And for a good clear broth YES. What I’ve started doing lately though is to leave it & the fat rises & sets up on the top after it cools. Using schmaltz to cook in is simply amazing. Talk about layers of flavor. So it’s a personal choice but normally, yes skim it.
Me: What is schmaltz?
Chef Fleming: Oh, chicken fat.
Chef Fleming: It’s great stuff. It’s better than bacon grease. I would not joke about this.
Me: How do you use schmaltz?
Chef Fleming: I use it to sauté veggies instead of olive oil. I also use it when I make fried potatoes. Just about anything you substitute out any oil. It’s FULL of flavor & it’s not a trans fat so it’s really not worse than canola or olive oil.
Me: Interesting. I didn't know. Thanks, chef.