Green Beans with Chili and Roasted Red Peppers

I’m trying to plan a Thanksgiving for two.

We had an Australian version of the holiday last week, but I wanted to plan something closer to the actual day.

With the exception of pasta, I’m pretty skilled at figuring how much food will feed me and my very strong and handsome fiancé, and leave me a little extra for lunch the next day. (I just can’t figure out dammed dried pasta portioning!)

But a Thanksgiving feast for two is a whole different gig. I want a range of foods and familiar dishes just like the real thing, but I don’t want to have an out of control leftover situation.

So far, here’s my plan of attack:

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Greek-Style Vegetable Casserole

I grew up in a house where dinner wasn’t complete unless there was something green on the plate – or at least something colorful and nutrient-dense. Some days it was sautéed spinach or steamed broccoli or roasted bell peppers, but most often it was a salad.

This meal standard has quietly followed me into adulthood (with the exception of a hardcore grilled cheese phase in college) – I find myself always searching for that all-important color on my plate.

Sydney winter has got me craving warm vegetable dishes in the place of the usual salad. This recipe for a baked Greek-style vegetable casserole is perfect for all sorts of vegetables (and for cleaning out the crisper drawer) – topped with feta and dill, it’s comforting and vegetable-packed with a robust Greek flavor.

It makes the perfect side dish for fish or meat, or simply have it as a meal on its own with some crusty bread or rice. A fried egg on top never hurt anyone either.

Greek-Style Vegetable Casserole
adapted from Bon Appetit
Feel free to swap the eggplant for zucchini, the potatoes for sweet potatoes, and add or subtract any vegetables you’d like.

– 1 small-medium eggplant (or half a large one) cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
– 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) wedges
– 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
– salt
– 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) wedges
– 1 large carrot, cut into rounds
– 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) strips
– 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
– 1 14-ounce (400 gram) can peeled whole tomatoes, cut into quarters or cherry tomatoes with juices
– 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
– 1 tablespoon dried oregano
– 2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
– 1/4 cup crumbled feta
Heat oven to 450 F/ 230 C
Place eggplant, onion, and 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Season with salt. Transfer to a large baking dish (9×13″ or larger) and roast until the eggplant is slightly dried and beginning to turn brown, 12–15 minutes. Set eggplant and onion aside.
While eggplant is cooking, toss remaining 2 tablespoon oil, potatoes, carrot, red pepper, green beans, tomatoes with their juices, garlic, lemon juice, and oregano in a large bowl. Season with salt.
Place mixture in the same baking dish and top with roasted eggplant and onion. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove foil and stir vegetables. Bake until pan is nearly dry and potatoes are tender and beginning to brown, about 25–35 minutes longer.
Sprinkle dill over the vegetables and let casserole sit for 10 minutes. Garnish with feta and serve.

Tomato and White Bean Salad with Roasted Greenbeans

Gingerbread! Champagne! Honey glazed ham! Chocolate chip cookies! Sugar cookies! PeppermintChocolateAmazingness!

Let’s face it, holiday treats trump vegetables. Even for salad groupies like me, the lunchtime standard looks a little lackluster next to something as glamorous as baked brie.

No matter what advice Women’s Health gives me about eating off of small plates for portion control, filling up on carrots and celery or drinking lots of water – I am still probably going to have an extra cookie. Or five. And that’s totally ok – because heck, it’s Christmas and everyone’s brought their sugary best!

For me it’s not about skimping on the festive morsels, it’s about feeling like I’ve eaten enough good stuff in my day to warrant some of the naughty stuff.

These past few weeks I have consciously been trying to create salads that I can get excited about so I can fully enjoy some healthy food before I hit up the dessert buffet.

Last week I shared another salad that I deemed “festive” and I think this one is worthy of the same label – just look at that color combo!

Tomato and White Bean Salad with Roasted Green Beans and a Balsamic Reduction
(serves 4)
– 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1 cup of white beans, cooked and rinsed
– 1 cup of green beans, chopped into bite sized pieces
– A handful of basil, roughly chopped
– Olive Oil
– Salt & Pepper
– Balsamic Reduction
– 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
– salt
Pour balsamic in a pan and sprinkle with salt. Bring the vinegar to a high heat and let it boil, stirring occasionally until it is reduced by half. It should have a syrupy consistency and a sweeter flavor. Let cool.
Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F. Toss green beans with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake on a lined oven tray for 10 minutes until tender. Let cool.

Combine tomatoes, white beans, green beans, 3/4 of the basil and salt&pepper together. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and sprinkle with the last of the basil leaves. Serve pre-cookie binge.

This salad also stores well in the fridge for a day or two.

Happy Thanksgiving! (p.s. I love Green Bean Casserole)

It’s Thanksgiving here in Australia already and I should probably be writing about pumpkin pie and other glamorous autumnal dishes, but no, I am writing about good ole’ green bean casserole.

Green bean casserole is one of those very American baby boom-era dishes (fun fact: it was invented by the Campbell’s Soup company in the 1950’s, says Wikipedia.) and happens to be one of the more controversial dishes in my family’s Thanksgiving Day lineup.

It was often snickered at/ignored by certain members of our family who deemed it a little lame and old-fashioned. Until one year, it just wasn’t there. (Did you see this one coming? I sure as hell didn’t.) Gammy* didn’t make it because, “no one liked it”. Whaaat? I never said that.

And so I began my crusade of bringing the unhealthy, almost unnatural veggie casserole back into fashion. I didn’t get far beyond making it for my friends at college and getting it back on our Thanksgiving table, but that was enough for me.

This is my second Thanksgiving away from home and this week I was craving that endearing cream-o-mushroom-flavored dish something awful.

I decided to challenge myself a little and make it without the magical ingredients of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom condensed soup and pre-packaged fried onions. Both of which I probably couldn’t find here if I wanted to, so I spared myself the disappointment.

I used chicken stock thickened with flour and a little cream, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions and green onions that I crisped in the oven. The result was a success – I captured the flavor and essence of an old fashioned green bean casserole with healthy, fresh ingredients.

Green Bean Casserole
– 6-7 green onions finely chopped (thinly sliced shallot would work well too)
– 5 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-3 cm/1 inch pieces
– 1 1/2 cups white button mushrooms, sliced
– a small knob of butter
– 1 cup of chicken both
– 2 tablespoons of flour, sifted
– 1 tablespoon of cream
– 4 heaping tablespoons of caramelized onion**
– salt& pepper
– 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Place the green onions on an oiled baking sheet and grill/broil in the oven for about 5 minutes, until crispy. Set aside. (I burnt mine a little – be careful.)
Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F
In a small saucepan bring the chicken broth to a boil. Take off the heat and whisk in flour and cream until thickened. Season with salt & lots of pepper.
In another pan, melt the butter and saute mushrooms. Season with pepper. Once softened, add to the thickened chicken broth.
Place green beans in boiling water for about 5 minutes and drain.
In a casserole dish combine green beans, thickened broth with mushrooms, and caramelized onion. Toss gently to coat the green beans.
Cover and place casserole dish in the preheated oven or 20 minutes. Uncover, turn on the grill/broiler and top with the crisped green onions and parmesan. Bake for 5 more minutes.


*Gammy is the master of mashed potatoes AND green bean casserole. She also happens to be the greatest grandma in the world.

**To make caramelized onion: Combine chopped brown onions with a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and cook covered on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 40 minutes or until sweet and a completely softened. I try to make a big batch to have on hand for making things like this more awesome.