Using canned foods used to prove you were “with it.” It meant you cared about feeding your family well and about convenience. At Thanksgiving, mothers proudly slid a cylinder of gelled cranberry sauce out of its can to serve in round slices. It was also the time for serving canned yams, reheated whole in their syrup, mashed and baked under marshmallows, or topped with canned pineapple rings glazed with brown sugar.
Particularly during the 1950s and 60s, manufacturers sponsored recipes featuring canned ingredients to encourage using their products. When one soup company created Green Bean Bake, it was presented as a quickly assembled casserole. No one imagined that this combination of frozen green beans (another popular convenience food), condensed cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, and a can of French-fried onions would become a classic and a holiday favorite.
At its debut in 1955, the amount of sodium and fat we consumed was not recognized as an issue. Today, even when you use the reduced-sodium condensed soup, plus half of a 6-ounce container of fried onions, your green bean casserole will still contain nearly 1900 mg of sodium and about 19.5 g of saturated fat.
Determined to keep green bean casserole on my holiday menu but horrified by these numbers, I worked out a version made from scratch. Using fresh foods, it is still slightly overindulgent and wins raves. With it you also regain the wholesomeness of scratch cooking we gave up in the name of convenience. If gluten is an issue, notice rice flour is the thickener in this casserole’s creamy sauce. Also replace the panko with a gluten-free version of breadcrumbs and you have a dish good for everyone.
Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole
Summary: A healthier version of the classic and holiday favorite bean casserole.
- Canola oil cooking spray
- 1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces, or frozen green beans
- 2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. canola oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 8 oz. white mushrooms, stemmed and cut into 4 to 6 pieces
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. rice or all-purpose wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat (2 percent) milk
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat 11-inch x 7-inch (2 quart) baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
In large pot of boiling water, cook green beans until almost tender, 5 minutes. Drain in colander, and then transfer beans to bowl of ice water. When beans are cool, drain well and spread in prepared baking dish.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until browned, 8 minutes, stirring often. Scoop onion into small bowl, add panko, and mix with fork to combine well. Set topping aside.
Return pan to medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until they look wet, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic and cook until mushrooms are tender, 5 minutes, stirring often. Add mushroom mixture to green beans.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to pan. Sprinkle flour over oil and cook, using a wooden spoon to stir and scrape mushroom and garlic bits from bottom of pan. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, lowering heat as needed to prevent flour from browning. Pour in milk while stirring vigorously. When sauce boils, reduce heat and simmer until spoon leaves a wide path and sauce is thick enough to coat spoon well, 5-7 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper, and add cayenne pepper Add sauce to vegetables, and stir to combine. Then spread in an even layer.
Sprinkle topping over casserole and bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until topping is crunchy and mostly golden brown. Let casserole sit 10 minutes before serving.
Note: If preparing this casserole ahead, do not make topping until just before serving. Cool vegetables in the baking dish, then cover with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Let casserole sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Heat it covered, at 350 degrees F., for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make topping as above. Increase heat to 425 degrees F. and finish baking casserole, uncovered, until topping is crunchy and browned, 10 minutes.
Diet type: Vegetarian
Number of servings (yield): 6
Fat: 8 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat)
“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.