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Thursday, July 25

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My Thanksgiving cheer has yet to arrive. Which is a shame, because usually by this time each year I've thought and read and watched and even dreamed all about Thanksgiving Dinner. The huge dinner with turkey and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and... well, I'm not feeling it this year. I've got some hum-bugness going on.

Or it could be that I went clothes shopping today and realized that instead of getting close to losing a pant-size, I was instead tight in the size I've been for a while. Or it could be that while I love all of our families traditional dishes, I'm tired of eating the same starches, sweets and turkey. I want a vegetable that doesn't come out of a can. So this year's Thanksgiving column is all about vegetables.

Vegetables! I know! At Thanksgiving! Call out the National Guard if you like, but I'm going to do what I can this year to spread the love of vegetables to my family, and maybe you. I think veggies get shorted on the Thanksgiving table, at least at my Midwestern home. And while I understand that mashed potatoes and baked sweet potato casserole originally started out as vegetables, they don't really count. I want green things. I want something that isn't drenched in sugar or butter or marshmallows. And I want it to taste good. And I want my family to like it.

I figure I'll start off simple with the traditional green bean casserole, add some mashed turnips to the table, and then I'll get really crazy with some sliced beets with arugula dressing.

Green Bean Casserole
The original is good, and I admit that I adore it. But it tastes good because its full of fat, and check out the label on a can of condensed cream soup and tell me which of those ingredients you can figure out. Based on some research by the fine folks at Cook's Illustrated, I found out that fresh green beans were preferred to either canned or frozen. But I still want to make something a bit healthier than theirs.

1 1/2 pounds of fresh green beans
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
10 ounces of mushrooms (or 5 ounces of seitan chopped small and covered in vegetable broth overnight to soften)
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning (or a generous pinch of cayenne pepper, thyme, dry mustard, nutmeg, ginger, paprika, cardamom, salt, and pepper)
2 tablespoons of flour
3/4 cup of vegetable or chicken broth
3/4 cup of whole milk or cream (or full-fat unsweetened soymilk)
3 ounces of French fried onions (or panko breadcrumbs)

Preheat your oven to 425° F. Rinse the beans well under cold water. Cut or break the ends off the beans and break them into bite-sized pieces. Add them to a large pot. Cover the beans with about two inches of water, sprinkle the salt on top and place it over a high heat. Once it comes to a boil, cook it for 4 minutes. Drain the beans and rinse them in cold water to stop them from cooking and keep them bright green. Set the beans in a strainer to drain while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Trim off the mushroom stems (save them for stock) and chop the mushrooms into small pieces. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the the oil, mushrooms, garlic and spices. Cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 10 minutes, or the seitan is warmed through, about 4 minutes. Stir the flour into the broth and whisk until it is smooth. Very slowly pour the broth into the skillet, whisking again to make sure there are no lumps. Reduce the heat to low and stir constantly until the liquid thickens. Slowly pour in the milk and continue stirring until it thickens again, about 7-10 more minutes. Taste to adjust the seasonings before stirring in the beans. Pour into a greased casserole dish. Bake it for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the onions on top and return it to the oven for another 15-20 minutes.

If you want your sauce to be extra creamy, you can stir in 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese after the milk has thickened.
Makes 6 servings.

Mashed Turnip and Apple Casserole
This won't replaced mashed potatoes with gravy, but it might be an easy way to get people to eat turnips. The apples make them sweet, and they just may not realize how healthy this dish is because they'll be too busy enjoying it.

1 pound of turnips
2 apples
1/2 cup of white wine
1 tablespoon of butter (margarine can substitue)
1 tablespoon of cream (full fat soy milk can substitute)
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 300° F. Place a large pot of water over high heat and cover. While it comes to a boil prepare the turnips by trimming off the ends, peeling them, and chopping into large cubes. Once the water is boiling, add them to the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Peel the apples, cut out the core and chop them into large chunks, then add them to the pot as well. Let everything cook for about 20 minutes. When you poke a turnip or apple with your knife the cube should easily slide off. Drain off all the water and return to your pot, or a bowl that you can use a masher in. You can use a hand masher, a hand-held mixer, or you can use a potato ricer. Stir in the wine, butter, milk and seasonings. Pour into a lightly greased baking dish and place in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Makes 6-8 servings.

Sliced Beets with Arugula Dressing
Now, I know my family isn't about to eat a salad when they've been waiting to dive into turkey all day. But I know they actually like beets (something about eating red food at this time of year) and I'm hopeful that I can get them to eat greens by disguising it as dressing.

1 pound of beets
Large sprinkle of salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
8 ounces of arugula
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 ounces of crumbled fontina or goat cheese

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Cut the ends off the beets and peel the skin off them. Cut the beets into thin slices (1/4" to 3/8" thick). Layer them in a casserole dish with a light sprinkle of salt and pepper between layers. Drizzle olive oil over the top and place them in the oven for 45 minutes. The slices should pierce easily with a fork. Wash the arugula thoroughly and shake it dry. Place it in a blender or food processor with the oil and vinegar. Puree until it is well combined and able to be poured. It doesn't have to be smooth. Pour the arugula over the beets and sprinkle with the cheese. Serve while warm.
Makes 6-8 servings.

I'm skeptical that I'll get my family to agree to try all of these dishes, but I'm hopeful that they'll agree to eat at least one. And I'm pretty sure that they'll even like it. They're not the most adventurous eaters, and I don't get many opportunities to try new dishes with them. But I'm hoping to start a new tradition this year of trying a new dish to get them to expand their horizons a bit.

Have you tried new dishes on your family and they've liked them? If so, feel free to add the recipe in the comments.

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Dan Grzeca / November 19, 2007 5:10 PM

Awesome! thanks for the green bean recipe!

jen / November 20, 2007 12:45 PM

yes, thanks for the green bean recipe! great idea to substitute mushrooms (bleck) with seitan (yum). my family will never know.


About the Author(s)

Cinnamon Cooper is an untrained cook. Most of what she's learned has been by accident. The rest has been gained by reading cookbooks, watching The Food Network and by scouring the Internet. Oh, and she also hates following recipes but loves the irony of writing them down for others to follow.

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