Saturday, November 22, 2014

Adapting the Classic Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole for Healing

Is it Thanksgiving if you don't have a green bean casserole?  For many American families the classic green bean casserole has become one of the required turkey-day side dishes.

There are really two ways to make the standard dish.  The quicky-cheaty version is the one we all think of and it was invented in 1955 by a home economist at the Campbells Soup Company.  This version requires a can of Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup...not an option if you're living a healing lifestyle.

Classic Campbell's Soup Green Bean Casserole--How do we make it taste even better and provide more healing?
The other version is a more classic French style preparation and requires a traditional white sauce, also known as Bechamel.   The Bechamel sauce is utterly delicious, of course, much more tasty than the Campbell's Mushroom Soup.  It's made from butter, flour, milk, salt, nutmeg.  I've adapted it here to be more healing, but still preserving it's delicious sauce-y French flavor and texture.

From a healing standpoint, I try to remove gluten, dairy and sugar products from my recipes.  These substances are three of the biggest culprits in creating inflammation in the body.  And as most of us already know, inflammation leads to many of today's diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and all the auto-immune diseases.   (See blue box below for a list of conditions caused by inflammation.)

Does giving up dairy mean giving up butter?--  So let's start with the butter.  Although it is a dairy product, made from cow's milk, butter is what's left after the butterfat has been separated from the milk. Most of the inflammation causing elements in milk have been removed with the buttermilk.

Even better, research shows that one way to fight inflammation is to increase the omega-3s in our diets. Lucky us...butter, if it's the right kind of butter, is full of healthy inflammation fighting omega-3s. The right kind of butter is grass-fed organic, of course.  So be sure to switch your brand of butter to one that comes from pastured, organic cows.  Then you can eat butter guilt-free.  Yippee...butter is good for you!  (For more information on how to up your omega-3's, see here.)

A lower gluten form of flour--  As for the flour in Bechamel, regular flour is full of gluten, of course. However, I have been cooking lately with an ancient form of flour called Einkorn.  Modern flour has been hybridized over the years to increase production, resistance to pests, and gluten content.  Yes, I said gluten content.  We've actually intentionally increased the gluten in our flour.  Gluten gives baked goods that fluffy quality we all like in our donuts, dinner rolls and breads, so over the years the gluten content has steadily been ratcheted up in American flour.

In contrast, the gluten content is lower in some European countries.  If you have problems eating gluten, you may have noticed that you are able to eat croissants and baguettes in France and pasta and pizza in Italy, without a problem.  And yet, if you have one slice of bread here in America, your tissues swell up or you may have digestive issues.  That's because the flour in the U.S. has a much higher gluten content.

Einkorn flour, on the other hand, is still very similar to the way it was over 10,000 years ago when man first started cooking with it.  It has never been hybridized. Its gluten content is lower and many people who have issues with gluten are able to tolerate it.  It also has a higher protein and mineral content than our modern flour does.  (See here for more information on Einkorn wheat.)

I'm not suggesting you eat a lot of Einkorn flour, after all, there is still some gluten in it.  However, you might want to try a little and see how your body reacts.  I know that if I eat regular flour, I get puffy and swollen by the next day.  That's inflammation.  I seem to be able to tolerate a little Einkorn now and then.  I try to limit myself to 2 times a week or so and that seems to be working for me.  (By the way, if you have celiac disease, you cannot have Einkorn--this only works if you have a gluten-intolerance.)

Back to Bechamel--replace the milk with wine and chicken stock--  This works.  The recipe still tastes great without the milk.  Milk is inflammatory, so it's out.  (See here for information on dairy intolerances, allergies and inflammation.)

Natural sea salt is healing--  Sea salt is good for our bodies while regular table salt causes disease. That's okay by me...sea salt is so much more delicious than that tasteless granular powder that comes in the cardboard canisters.  Give me pink Himalayan sea salt crystals that I can grind fresh any day.  I love that stuff!  (For more on the healing properties of sea salt vs. table salt, see here.)

The nutmeg can stay--  Hey, good news, the nutmeg is anti-inflammatory, so it gets to stay.

So here's my adapted recipe for white sauce, or Bechamel.  I actually have two versions.  You choose the one that appeals the most to you.  They're both delicious!

Bechamel with Chardonnay

1 T Einkorn flour
1 T butter (grass-fed, organic)
1/2 c chardonnay
1/4 c chicken stock
1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t white pepper
pinch of nutmeg

In a small saute pan, melt the butter.  Stir in the flour and keep stirring until all the flour is absorbed completely.  Let the mixture boil while stirring for a minute or two.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring continuously until sauce is thickened.

Bechamel with Chicken Stock

1 T Einkorn flour
1 T butter (grass-fed, organic)
3/4 c chicken stock
1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t white pepper
1/4 t Dijon mustard
1 t Worcestershire sauce

In a small saute pan, melt the butter.  Stir in the flour and keep stirring until all the flour is absorbed completely. Let the mixture boil while stirring for a minute or two.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring continuously until sauce is thickened.

Green Bean Casserole

1 1/2 lbs green beans ends snapped off and cut into 2" lengths  (I used a package of frozen French green beans from Trader Joe's)
5 oz mushrooms chopped
1 small onion chopped fine
3 T butter or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Double recipe Bechamel Sauce
Crispy fried onions (see below) or blanched sliced almonds or fried crumbled bacon pieces

In order to make the green bean casserole, boil the green beans until al dente and remove from heat. Drain. Put the butter or olive oil in a saute pan and saute the onions until soft and translucent.  Add the chopped mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms are cooked.  Stir the bechamel, the green beans and the onion mixture in together and put into a casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper as desired.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove casserole and top with crispy onions, bacon pieces or sliced almonds and put the casserole back into the oven for another 15 minutes.  

If you'd like to make the crispy onions, here's a recipe below.  If you'd rather not bother with the crispy onions, just top the casserole with some blanched sliced almonds or fried crumbled bacon pieces.

Crispy Onion Rings

1/2 cup Einkorn flour
1/2 cup and 2 T beer
1 small onion sliced into circles
salt and pepper
8 T olive oil

Mix the flour and beer, salt and pepper together to make a batter that resembles thick pancake batter. Dredge 1/2 of the onions through it.  Heat 6 T of olive oil over medium high heat in a large frying pan until the oil is very hot.  Drop in 1/2 the onions leaving space between each onion piece and cook several minutes until the bottoms are golden.  Flip the onions and cook until all onions are golden throughout.  Remove from pan and let drain on a paper towel.  Add 2 T of olive oil to pan and repeat process with the remaining half of the onions.

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