Everyone has a food weakness, and mine is green bean casserole. I know it may seem strange that instead of a chocolate cake’s fudgy center or an apple pie’s buttery crust, I prefer the cliche side dish that graces every holiday table, but I just love its hypocrisy. Considering that the main ingredient of the casserole is green beans, one might expect it to be healthy; however, it is really far from it. All you have to do is look at the recipe and see cream of mushroom soup and fried onions to know that this casserole is a diet buster.
Despite my love for fresh produce and making things from scratch, I look forward to every holiday meal when the traditionally prepared green bean casserole sits, piping hot, on the table. If you have ever read the label on the back of a cream of mushroom soup can, you know that while mushrooms are listed as the second ingredient, the majority of the “soup’s” flavor comes from laboratory-made compounds. Onions are also in the recipe, but, like the mushrooms, they are debased of any nutritional value after being coated in flour and oil.
After really thinking about how unhealthy the dish may be, my mom decided to try whipping up a homemade green bean casserole for our Thanksgiving feast two years ago. We boiled fresh green beans, sauteed onions and mushrooms in a buttered skillet and then added some sour cream to make our own version of cream of mushroom soup. After topping it with grated mozzarella cheese and cornflake crumbs, we put in it the oven, almost too anxious to wait the 20 minutes required for cooking. Once it emerged from the oven and sat on the table for perhaps more time than it took to bake, I dug in with a spoon. I had a spoonful of green beans and a blob of cheese resting on my plate. Needless to say, my mom and I realized the validity of the age-old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Green bean casserole might be one of those few instances where fresh ingredients don’t always mean better-tasting food; however, the majority of the time, using items found in the produce section instead of the canned food aisle of the market will create healthier, flavorful meals. In the recipe below, the list of ingredients is really flexible — use rice instead of quinoa, chop peppers in place of mushrooms or choose scallions over onions. Why microwave a container of Easy Mac when you can have a hearty saute of real ingredients?
Bethany Imondi is a junior in the College. MARKET TO TABLE appears every other Friday in the guide.
Mushroom Quinoa Saute (adapted from the food website biggirlssmallkitchen.com)
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 small onion
6 white mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1. Prepare the quinoa according to the package’s directions. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir constantly for about two minutes or until translucent.
3. Add the mushrooms and salt. Stir constantly and cook for another three to four minutes until the mushrooms are golden brown and have given off some of their liquid.
4. Add another pinch of salt, thyme and minced garlic. Cook another minute, then add the quinoa and cook as if stir-frying to combine all the ingredients together.
5. Turn off the heat and transfer the saute to a bowl. Add Parmesan and mix to combine.