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Countdown to Thanksgiving: Green Bean Casserole Turns 55 -- Time for a Makeover?

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Green Bean Casserole
Green Bean Casserole was never part of my traditional Thanksgiving lineup. Which is odd since it’s been a Thanksgiving icon for 55 years. Yes, this year marks the 55th anniversary of the green bean casserole, invented by Campbell Soup Company in 1955 to prompt happy housewives to buy more cream of mushroom soup.

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I always thought that my Thanksgiving dinner covered all the bases—ample side dishes, casseroles, two kinds of stuffing, dessert and of course the turkey. But apparently, I’d been cheated out of this Thanksgiving icon my whole life. So I decided on a whim to see what I was missing. I bought the whole shebang—the condensed cream of mushroom soup, the French-cut green beans and the French’s original French Fried Onions in a can. I whipped it up and it was delicious. I’m not going to lie. But it was also high in calories, sodium and saturated fat. Since Thanksgiving is already somewhat of an overindulgence, I wanted to scale back on the processed ingredients and make a healthier, fresher version to enjoy at my Thanksgiving table.

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We developed a healthier version of green bean casserole in the EatingWell Test Kitchen a few years back, so I made that recipe the following week to see how it compared flavorwise. I liked it better. Sure, it’s easier to open up a few cans of soup and throw on prepackaged fried onions, but I found that our version had more depth of flavor and, nutritionally, it was better for me.

Here’s what we did and how our version compares to a traditional version. See our recipe below:

casserole comparison
  • We cut the sodium by taking out the canned soup. Instead, we made our own white sauce and used fresh mushrooms.
  • Butter adds richness, but also adds saturated fat. So do full-fat milk and sour cream—all ingredients you can find in traditional versions of green bean casserole. We call for low-fat milk and reduced-fat sour cream. We also use buttermilk powder, which adds tang. You get tons of flavor and 8 grams less saturated fat than traditional versions.
  • We cut calories by skipping the canned fried onions and sautéing our own. Tossing fresh onion slices with flour and seasoning and pan-frying them in just a small amount of oil gives you the texture and flavor of the canned version without all the calories.

Green Bean Casserole

Active time: 30 minutes | Total: 45 minutes

This healthy revision of green bean casserole skips the canned soup and all the fat and sodium that come with it. Our white sauce with sliced fresh mushrooms, sweet onions and low-fat milk makes a creamy, rich casserole.

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion (half diced, half thinly sliced), divided
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup low-fat milk
3 tablespoons dry sherry (see Ingredient Note)
1 pound frozen French-cut green beans (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons buttermilk powder (see Ingredient Note)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with
cooking spray.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushroom juices are almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Add milk and sherry and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in green beans and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in sour cream and buttermilk powder. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

3. Whisk the remaining 1/3 cup flour, paprika, garlic powder and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Add sliced onion; toss to coat. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with any remaining flour mixture and cook, turning once or twice, until golden and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Spread the onion topping over the casserole.

4. Bake the casserole until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings, about 3/4 cup each.

Per serving: 212 calories; 10 g fat (2 g sat, 5 g mono); 10 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber; 533 mg sodium; 259 mg potassium.

Nutrition bonus: Calcium (16% daily value).

1 1/2 Carbohydrate Servings

Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 2 fat

Ingredient Notes:

Don't use the high-sodium "cooking sherry" sold in many supermarkets. Instead, purchase dry sherry sold with other fortified wines.

Look for buttermilk powder, such as Saco Buttermilk Blend, in the baking section or with the powdered milk in most supermarkets.

What Thanksgiving side dish would you like to see made healthier?

By Hilary Meyer Hilary Meyer

Hilary Meyer is assistant editor for EatingWell Media Group. Hilary spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute. More from EatingWell:

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Green bean casserole - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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