Friday, November 20, 2009

Garlic and Chili Green Beans-Not Green Bean Casserole Part 2

Yesterday I ranted about the awfulness of green bean casserole and gave you a simple alternative. As promised, today I'll tell you what I'm doing with my green beans this Thanksgiving. This recipe was inspired by some really amazing green beans I had once in Vancouver at a Chinese restaurant that looked like this photo here. It's tasty, and simple.


1.5 lbs green beans, frozen or raw.

10 or more cloves garlic, minced.

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil (you can use regular oil if you don't have toasted sesame oil. It just provides another layer of flavor.)

1-2 tsp Sambal Oleak (chili paste)  or 1 tsp dried chilies

1/4 cup broth chicken/turkey/vegetable or 1/4 cup water and a bouillon cube.

2 tbsp soy sauce


You will need a large frying pan or wok, the bigger the better if you are making a lot of beans so they cook evenly. Heat the oil and garlic together in the bottom of the pan over medium heat. Both are very easy to burn so watch the temp. Stir frequently.

Once the garlic begins to caramelize and cook through add the chili paste. Saute a few minutes longer and add in the green beans.

You want to get the beans all coated in the oil and garlic so stir it around really well for a minute. Next add the broth. If your pan is hot enough this should steam up a bit and cook the beans while it loosens all the good stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the soy sauce as well, to taste. Remember, it's salty so don't over do it. Cover and cook, stirring frequently so all the beans cook at the same time. As soon as they are cooked through remove from heat and serve. They should be bright green, not gray.

This is really simple to make, and tastes amazing. Add strips of dried tofu, carrots, or bean sprouts and serve with brown rice for a really interesting main dish. My whole family loves this.


The photo was taken by P.M.M. and is used under the terms of a Creative Content License.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not Green Bean Casserole-Part 1

Does anyone actually enjoy that sickly greenish grey concoction that takes up space on many tables in America on Thanksgiving day? I grew up in Canada, so I'm not used to it I'll admit. But why is it there if if doesn't taste good?

Don't get me wrong, I love green beans. They're one of my favorite foods.

The monstrosity known as green bean casserole however bears no resemblance to the vegetable I love. And I intend to rescue it from such shameful treatment and bring it back into the realm of tasty. Ready?

To begin with, nix the canned beans. Look, I understand that long ago, before refrigeration, people need to preserve their summer vegetables to keep them from going to waste, and to have something green to eat in the winter. And though they have less nutrients after the canning process, canned green beans are still better than no vegetables at all and scurvy. But it's the 21st century now. We have a choice. You can purchase them fresh and raw in November, or frozen at peak freshness. Either of these taste much better than the store bought canned version. (I say store bought because I've known some amazing canners in my lifetime and their canned green beans were tasty, crisp, flavorful, and usually also pickled and spicy. MMMM.)

So to rescue this traditional vegetable from mushy, nasty flavor hell we first need to start with fresh or frozen. Already the flavor will be improved 100%. Frozen is actually cheaper than canned these days. I can buy 1.5 lbs of frozen french green beans at Trader Joe's this month for $2. In fact, I just did. It would take at least 8-10 cans at $0.60 each to give me the same number of green beans.

Next, stop with the cans of onion soup! Please! Just back away from the green beans, put your can opener down. I will show you how to serve these.


Steam them, in a steamer, or pot, but only for a few minutes. Do this less than 10 minutes before you serve dinner. AS SOON as they turn a lovely shade of very bright green remove them from the heat. "I will never ever again eat gray green beans." Say it with me.

As soon as you take them from the heat add a generous amount of real butter to them, as well as sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Cover and keep warm. Serve as soon as you can. (Don't yell at me about the butter. You were going to put canned cream of onion soup on it. Besides, it's Thanksgiving. Also, secret, you can cut a bit of butter and add more salt, which brings out the flavor of the butter and no one will ever know. Since it's sea salt it's not quite as bad for you.)

If you really love those crunchy fried onion things that usually top the casserole, go ahead and sprinkle them on top of the beans just before serving. Personally, I would go with slivered almonds or peanuts to add crunch.

I PROMISE. If all you do is this you will have people saying over and over, "These green beans are really good. Wow, what did you do with them?"

They just taste good if you treat them right.

Now, since this is my go to method of serving green beans, I like to jazz it up a bit for Thanksgiving. Tomorrow I will tell you what I'm going to do with my green beans next week. Here it is.
Garlic and Chili Green Beans

photo by ccharmon Used under the terms of a Creative Commons License.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Just One

I've been thinking for a long time about what it is that makes it hard for a person to lose weight.

Most of us know what we have to do. Eat less, exercise more, cut out foods that have more calories than nutrients, and we'll be able to lose and maintain a healthy weight. So why is it so hard for so many?

I think one of the main reasons is forgetfulness. We continue to think that an extra unnecessary little indulgence that we allow ourselves is the only one. (An extra cookie a day can lead to a 3-6 pound weight gain over the course of a year if we don't change something else.)

We have a cookie after lunch. Just one, as part of a balanced diet that's not bad. But mid afternoon we've forgotten all about the cookie as we eat, just one, handful of chips or popcorn. After dinner we have just one glass of wine or beer, with just one or two snacks, maybe a second helping of potatoes that we didn't really need.

All of these just one indulgences that we allow ourselves in the course of a day can add up to several hundred/thousand extra calories that our bodies don't really need. Just one store bought muffin with coffee is 400 calories. It would take an hour of flat out running to burn that much off.

The reason we don't take steps to change as well is because of this just one problem. Just one more day. I'll start eating right tomorrow.

Why do we think that the road to eating well is a long hard one that we must put off, all the while eating just one more candy after dinner?

We are bad at math, and bad at remembering.

I think I've figured out how to turn this just one mentality to an advantage. I got the idea from Alcoholics Anonymous. I've never been to an AA meeting so really I got the idea from the idea I have of AA from the way it's portrayed on TV.

Addicts have to take it one day at a time. If they look at the years and years stretching in front of them and try to face it without another drink it's overwhelming.

Well, we are essentially food addicts, creatures of habit, eating without thought usually. Let's use the same concept for ourselves shall we?

For just one day I will eat only what I need.
For just one day I will stop eating as soon as I'm not hungry.
For just one day I will taste my food and be thankful for every bite, noticing the flavor, smell and texture.
For just one day I will not snack after dinner, or lunch.
For just one day I will be thankful for the body I have, that works as well as it does, and will honor the gift by taking care of it.
For just one day I will move and stretch and enjoy being in my body.
For just one day I will feed my hungry senses with things that aren't food; fresh air, flowers, aromatic lotions, scented candles, etc.

I can do all this for just one day.

You can too.

The pretty cookies above were photographed by Sifu Renka. The photo is used under the terms of a Creative Commons License.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Mexican Bean Soup-(Not-Tortilla Soup)

You know how sometimes those days happen? It's dinner time and you have no idea what to even start cooking. Maybe you had a plan, but forgot to defrost something. Or maybe you just looked at the clock and realized that people are hungry and it was your job to make something, but you completely forgot about it until now.

I had one of those nights recently. Desperation is the mother of invention, especially in the kitchen.

What I had; a family size can of re-fried beans, (I buy it on sale and break it out for bean and cheese burritos on occasion.) tomato sauce, condensed chicken broth packets, cheese, green onions, frozen corn. What I didn't have were tortillas, otherwise I would have made some burritos for dinner.

So it all became soup instead. Though I wasn't sure about it at first. I mixed the can of beans together in the pot, added the tomato sauce, water, a packet of chicken broth, and spices; ground cumin, a dash of chili sauce, cayenne, oregano, etc.

The beans were already seasoned so I didn't have to add much.

Once it was boiling and smooth I added the frozen corn, turned off the heat and served it with shredded cheese and sliced green onions.

Technically it's tortilla soup, and you can fry up strips of tortilla to put on top like croutons, but I didn't have tortillas, remember? So it was not-tortilla soup. My kids didn't know the difference and were actually delighted to get leftovers for lunch the next day.

The best part about this soup is that it adapts very well to whatever you have. You don't need a can of beans. Some leftover frijoles, black beans (leftovers from Volcanoes perhaps), chicken broth, etc can all be thrown together to make this soup. Or you could plan ahead and cook some pinto beans from dry. If you do, I recommend adding onions, garlic and salt to them as they cook.

The key ingredients are beans, tomato, broth, cumin, and cayenne.

You can add vegetables, such as celery or carrots, substitute cilantro for green onions. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top. It's really all up to you isn't it? Because, after all, you're the cook.

PS. I'm making this for a potluck this weekend. Instead of putting in corn I plan to use hominy, which is like big corn kernels that are starchy instead of sweet. That should make it more hearty. But I'll need to add in the sweet another way, probably with a can of tomato paste.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fall Flower-Apples and Cream Cheese

For a very tasty and fun seasonal snack try this.

Cut one of those yummy red fall apples into slices.

Arrange them around a plate so they look like a flower.

In the center put a spoonful of whipped cream cheese, pumpkin flavored.

Add a dash of cinnamon and eat by dipping the apple slices in the cream cheese.

If your kids don't love it, great! That means more for you.

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