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Dreamboats. November 24, 2014

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Silence Dogood here. Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner at home or going to join family and friends, having a beautiful, delicious, holiday-appropriate appetizer on hand is a must. This one is the best ever, with its holiday colors and flavors. It requires just four ingredients (plus black pepper), you don’t cook it, it keeps well, and it’s the perfect finger food for hungry guests: just give them napkins and watch the whole plate disappear.

I’m talking about endive boats, and this is all you do the make them: Buy two large, plump heads of Belgian endive (no wilting or browning leaves). Cut the end off each head and separate the leaves. Place a ring of leaves, tip ends pointed outward, on a serving plate, with a second ring behind them. Add a rosette of leaves in the center.

Fill each “boat” (leaf) with crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese, no more than four dried cranberries (for just a hit of flavor, you don’t want these to be sweet), and crumbled pecans. Lightly grind fresh-cracked black pepper over your boats. You’re done!

If you’re taking these someplace, cover the plate tightly with cling wrap so the boats don’t topple over. And, if you wonder about this particular flavor combination, make an extra boat and try it yourself. Once you have, just don’t eat the whole plate! This has become our go-to appetizer from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. It’s refreshing, fun to eat, and flavorful, but it never overwhelms the food to come—or the busy cook.

‘Til next time,



Vegetarians, hooray! No gelatin in Marshmallow Fluff! November 21, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. If, like me, you grew up with peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwiches, and marshmallow cream on your hot fudge sundaes—or, say, marshmallow cream on the revered Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole—and became vegetarian at some point, you were probably horrified to learn that marshmallows, and marshmallow cream, contain gelatin.

Gelatin is made from calves’ feet, which means that Jell-O, marshmallows, and such unlikely products as Goo-Goo Clusters and Altoids are off-limits to vegetarians. Rats!

Here at Hawk’s Haven, our friend Ben and I grew up with Thanksgiving sweet potatoes roasted and served with butter, salt, and black pepper, so we never had to contend with the iconic marshmallow-covered sweet potato casserole. But those peanut butter sandwiches and sundaes were favorite treats, even if we don’t really eat them now. So I was thrilled to read in today’s Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) that Marshmallow Fluff doesn’t contain gelatin. Vegetarians, rejoice! Nobody’s going to say the stuff is good for you. But at least you can enjoy it on Thanksgiving or when you’re craving a peanut butter sandwich or sundae, and not have to worry about gelatin.

             ‘Til next time,


Thanksgiving persimmon salad. November 20, 2012

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Silence Dogood here. For years, we’ve been trying to grow persimmon trees here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share in the middle of nowhere, PA. And basically, we’ve been failing, our poor little ‘Meader’ American persimmon still hardly coming much past my waist, and a new American persimmon we found this year at Meadowview Farm in Bowers, PA, no taller than my knee.

American persimmons, like Brussels sprouts, need frost to sweeten up. This is also true of the Japanese Hachiya persimmon. But it’s not true of the Japanese Fuyu persimmon, which is available in grocery stores now and is the star in Chef Marc Vetri’s Persimmon and Arugula Salad, featured in the past weekend’s Wall Street Journal (check it out at www.wsj.com). I was really thrilled by this salad, since it looked absolutely delicious and perfect for fall, and I happen to love arugula, Parmesan, lemon juice and persimmons.

Best of all, it’s so easy! To make the salad for four, buy 3 Fuyu persimmons, 4 cups baby arugula, Parmesan shavings, and 1 or more lemons. Chef Vetri suggests trimming the persimmon tops and ends, and peeling them if you choose, then halving and thinly slicing them. Toss the persimmon slices with the juice of one lemon, a pinch of fine sea salt, and 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Give them five minutes for the fruit to release its juices and the salt to dissolve, then taste and add more lemon juice or salt to taste.

Now it’s time to plate your salad. Put a cup of baby arugula on each plate, then top with 1/4th of the sliced persimmons. Drizzle with the sauce from the fruit bowl, garnish with plenty of shaved Parmesan, top with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper, and sit back and watch your guests wolf down the most amazing Thanksgiving salad ever! So good, so easy. Yum!!!

            ‘Til next time,


Ultimate Thanksgiving mashed potatoes (plus). November 23, 2011

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Silence Dogood here. For our friend Ben and me, whatever else we serve, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes. But they seem pretty plain Jane compared to the rest of the holiday fare, and if we had guests, the poor mashed potatoes tended to sit neglected (except by the two of us). Not any more!

I was thrilled to find a special recipe that combined potatoes and winter squash in a way I was convinced would be healthy, hearty, and perfect for that all-American holiday, Thanksgiving. (Squash and potatoes are both native to the Americas, after all.) In this recipe, you’re combining the vitamin A and high-fiber content of winter squash with the inherent yumminess of potatoes and the protein of cheese. And the gorgeous color combo of golden Yukon Gold potatoes and orange Butternut squash is ideal for a winter feast.

I discovered the dish originally on the Tennessee Locavore’s blog (http://tnlocavore.typepad.com/). She makes it as a casserole. But I wanted to make it for Thanksgiving dinner, and between my dressing, summer squash casserole, roasted veggies, rolls, and corn pudding, the oven was pretty much taken. So I simplified the recipe and made it stovetop, in the heavy Dutch oven I use to cook the potatoes. Check out her blog to see her recipe, which I’m sure is luscious. But oh my, the version I made was simply fabulous. Our friend Ben, no slouch when it comes to eating mashed potatoes or praising my recipes, announced that he ranked this in the top five of everything I’ve ever made for him. Check it out:

      Mashed Potatoes and Winter Squash

2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, chunked

1 Butternut squash, peeled and chunked 

9 ounces (one block) Gruyere cheese, grated

3/4 cup shredded Parmesan

4 tablespoons butter

3 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon Trocomare or salt (we like RealSalt)

1 teaspoon lemon pepper or cracked black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes and squash until tender; drain, mash, and stir well to blend. Return to very low heat. Add butter, cheese, eggs, and spices, stirring well to blend. Heat and taste, adjusting seasonings, and serve.

This really is delicious, and pretty easy, too, though peeling and seeding the Butternut squash isn’t much fun. But our local grocery sells pre-peeled and chunked winter squash, so I’ll use that this time. I’m notoriously texture-sensitive, so the slippery-slimy texture of winter squash would normally cause me to pass up any dish containing it, but the potatoes in this dish cover for the squash, and I thought it was incredibly good. Trust me, your guests won’t ever think of mashed potatoes as boring again. Don’t be surprised if it’s the first dish to vanish from the table!

         ‘Til next time,


A Colonial Thanksgiving. November 21, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, homesteading, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here, and no, I’m not talking about the First Thanksgiving, that iconic meal of stewed or roasted pumpkin, dried corn, fish, and game—including, of course, wild turkey—shared by the Wampanoag people and the Pilgrims. Instead, I’m flashing forward to the Founding Fathers and what George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and their countrymen might have eaten for Thanksgiving. Would it be fun to recreate a Colonial Thanksgiving, I wondered, or would the meals be so elaborate or disgusting to our modern tastebuds that we’d be better off just reading about them?

Not only was America’s first capital city Williamsburg, but many of our early presidents and patriots—including Washington, Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, George Mason, Patrick Henry, and “Lighthorse Harry” Lee—were Virginians. So it seemed like a good idea to start with the Thanksgiving menu in the Favorite Meals from Williamsburg cookbook (recipes compiled and adapted by Charlotte Turgeon and the Staff of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1982).

Their menu, for Thanksgiving Dinner in Tidewater Virginia (the Tidewater is a region, not a city), looks delicious: corn bisque, roast tom turkey with giblet gravy, oyster dressing, cranberry and orange relish, honey and cinnamon-candied yams, green beans with Surry County peanuts, pumpkin muffins, and Virginia apple custard tart. But I just had to wonder about the authenticity. Green beans with peanuts sounds good—a regional take on that crunchy fried onion topping—but I suspect that peanuts didn’t make it onto planters’ tables until considerably after the Revolution. Cranberries way down in Colonial Virginia? And pumpkin muffins?! Clearly, more research was needed.

But first, let me share their recipe for oyster dressing with you, since it’s a Southern tradition to this day. My own mother made it every year, and my brother’s family still maintains this tradition, though how his fussy kids manage to eat oysters in anything is beyond me! (Mama made a second, crunchy dressing with no oysters and baked it separately for her brood of three, and that’s what I make for our Thanksgiving table here at Hawk’s Haven.)

                   Williamsburg Oyster Dressing

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups celery, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons poultry seasoning

16 cups stale white bread cubes, lightly toasted

1 quart oysters

Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, and parsley and saute over medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Do not brown. Add the salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Add the sauteed vegetables. Mix well. Drain the oysters on paper towels, reserving the liquid. [Say what? Perhaps “Drain the oysters, reserving the liquid, then pat dry with paper towels”?!—Silence] Chop the oysters coarsely. Add to the mixture, tossing gently to mix well. Add a little of the reserved oyster liquid if the dressing seems too dry. Taste for seasoning. Stuff and truss the turkey. Place any leftover dressing in a buttered casserole. Bake in the oven with the turkey for the last 30 minutes of roasting time.

Next, I pulled Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery (Karen Hess, editor, Columbia University Press, New York, 1981) from my shelf. Could I find recipes for our first president’s Thanksgiving table? Alas, no. There was not one recipe for turkey, pumpkin (or any squash), or corn to be found. However, there was a sauce recipe for roasted turkey, and another for  oyster-stuffed capon (capons were castrated roosters, which were fat, succulent, and prized like today’s tom turkeys).

There may have been no turkey recipe because, in Martha’s day, everyone knew that turkeys were spit-roasted in a tin reflector oven with its open side facing the enormous cooking hearth. Someone had to sit there and turn the crank, basting the bird often with the drippings which fell from it during roasting and were caught in the bottom of the “oven.” Often, the tedious task fell to a small child, but ingenious inventors of the day also devised a setup that employed a dog to turn the spit! Anyway, here are the two recipes:

               To Make Sause for Foule [Fowl]

For turkeys…take gravie [presumably the drippings from the bird] & strong broth & leamon, minc’d, & grated bread, a spoonefull or 2 of claret wine & a little butter. & if you have an anchovie. give all a boyle together.  

                 To Roste a Capon with Oysters

Take a fat Capon & pull & draw it [pluck and remove the innards], yn stuff ye body wth raw oysters, yn truss & lay it to ye fire, & set a clean dish under it to save ye gravie. yn make a sauce for it, with water yt [that] cometh from ye oysters, & a little clarret, a little pepper & vinegar & ye gravie, & rub an ounion up & downe ye sauce, yt it may taste well of it. when it hath boyled a little, put in some butter & mince in some leamon and leamon pill [peel, i.e., zest], then serve it up with slyced leamon on ye capon & round about ye dish.

So much for Martha. What about the gourmet of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson? I finally struck gold in Thomas Jefferson’s Cookbook (Marie Kimball, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA: 1976). Here at last were recipes for turkey (with the apparently inevitable oyster sauce), corn pudding, Indian pudding (made with cornmeal), even sweet potato pudding and pumpkin soup.

Mr. Jefferson also served his turkey boiled, with a variety of garnishings; stuffed or braised; in a galantine, jellied; as filets of turkey breast, larded and jellied; and as a Colonial version of Buffalo wings: turkey wings “crumbed, broiled or baked, with mustard sauce.” And he preferred his green beans not with peanuts, but with sweet herbs or in a white sauce. Here’s his recipe for pumpkin soup:

           Monticello Pumpkin Soup

Take half a small pumpkin, peel [and remove seeds], cut in small pieces and put on the stove with half a glass of water. When the pumpkin is tender, drain, and pass through a colander. Add 3 tablespoonfuls of butter; sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Let it simmer for fiteen minutes. Add 4 cups boiling milk, stirring well while pouring it in. When well mixed, pour over croutons, made by cutting three slices of bread in small cubes and browning well in butter.

Next on my list was Revolutionary War Period Cookery (Robert W. Pelton, Infinity Publishing.com, Haverford, PA: 2003), which serves up a heaping helping of Founding Fathers family favorites. From Ben Franklin’s homely winter favorite, Mashed Turnips and Potato Dish, to Mrs. John Jay’s thrifty Thanksgiving Leftover Turkey Pot Pie to Molly Pitcher’s Cranberry Muffins to another Franklin fave, Ben Franklin’s Favorite Honey Cookies, all the Founders and their preferred dishes are here.

Colonel Timothy Pickering’s favorite, Pumpkin Custard, and the Sampson family favorite, Pumpkin Pie with Cheese Crust, both look delicious. I especially love the idea of a rich pumpkin pie filling in a Cheddary crust, and may feature this recipe—and the story of its creator, Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Revolutionary War—in a future post.

But for now, I’ll share another recipe that no Southern table would be without at Thanksgiving or Christmas: pickled crabapples. Like pickled peaches, these are staples of the Southern holiday table, served every year in my family home (and in our friend Ben’s). I had no idea that they dated back to Revolutionary times! This recipe was served at the table of Brigadier General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina, Aide-de-Camp to General Washington.

                 Pinckney Family Crabapple Pickles

4 cups vinegar

8 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

4 cinnamon sticks

8 cups crabapples, pared and quartered [nowadays, most often found pickled whole—Silence] 

Blend together in cooking pot or kettle [a large cooking pot, like a stock pot, not a tea kettle] the vinegar, sugar and cloves. Bring to a boil and drop in the cinnamon sticks. Let cook for 6 minutes while continually stirring. Add quartered crabapples and allow to simmer until tender. Pack in sterilized jars. Fill jars to 1/4 inch to top with syrup from kettle and seal.

In today’s germ-conscious world, I’d advise you to either refrigerate your pickled crabapples or preserve them in a hot-water-bath canner, following directions in a book like The Ball Blue Book.

The next book I picked up was The Lewis & Clark Cookbook: Historic Recipes from the Corps of Discovery and Jefferson’s America (Leslie Mansfield, Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA: 2002). I’m delighted to have this book in my cookbook library, but the title notwithstanding, I can’t quite see dishes like Creamed Turkey with Corn and Bacon over Polenta, Duck Breasts with Pear Eau de Vie Sauce, or Venison Roulade Stuffed with Mushrooms and Smithfield Ham as standard fare for the starving Corps of Discovery.

However, it warmed my heart to see creamed turkey listed among the recipes. As a child, I loved our Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys. I loved the turkey sandwiches we’d have after the big meal. But for me, the most special part of all was the creamed turkey my Mama made from the bits of leftover turkey that were too small to slice for sandwiches. She’d pull them off the carcass and add them to a hot, thick sauce of heavy cream, butter, salt, and white pepper, then spoon them up over toast. To my youthful, pre-vegetarian soul, this just had to be heaven!

Finally, I took a peek at The Early American Cookbook (Hyla O’Connor, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: 1974). Specializing in Colonial cooking, this cookbook is a treasure-trove of traditional dishes that could grace today’s Thanksgiving tables, including Pumpkin Soup, Farmers’ Corn Soup, Corn Chowder, Apple Corn Bread, Corn Pone, Original Plymouth Succotash, Simmered Turkey, Fricassee of Turkey Wings, Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Pickles, and warming beverages like Hot Flip and Fish House Punch.

From this wonderful book, let me share a classic American dessert, Apple Brown Betty, so easy to make, so satisfying on a cold autumn or winter day:

            Apple Brown Betty

4 cups large bread crumbs

1/2 cup melted butter

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

3/4 cup brown sugar

4 cups chopped cooking apples [McIntosh, Jonathan and Rome are classic cooking apples, but I think a tart, crisp apple like Granny Smith makes a wonderful Betty—Silence]

Grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine bread crumbs with butter, cinnamon, salt, and sugar and toss lightly. Make alternate layers of crumb mixture and apples in baking dish, ending with bread crumbs. Bake about 1 hour, or until top is a rich golden brown and apples are tender. Serve warm with heavy cream.

That’s it for today! I hope you’ve all been inspired by the wealth of Colonial recipes, and are eager to try out your own Colonial Thanksgiving. Trust me, I haven’t even scratched the surface. Let’s hope I find time to share more!

                ‘Til next time,


Wonderful winter coleslaw. November 20, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Most of us think of coleslaw (just slaw to us Southerners) as a summer dish, a cooling, crunchy salad to bring to picnics and barbecues. But with a few twists, it makes a great full-bodied, full-flavored winter salad, too, with lots of autumn color. That’s a great thing for gardeners and homesteaders, since cabbage, carrots, apples, and onions, the four main ingredients, all store so well over the winter.

Another great thing about slaw is that it’s so easy to make, and the flavor just gets better if you make it a day in advance. If I’m rushed, I’ll just pick up bags of pre-shredded red cabbage and carrots at the grocery to make the preparation even faster. I think this colorful slaw makes a perfect side on the Thanksgiving table. I hope you agree!

                     Carrot Cabbage Confetti Slaw

 1 package shredded carrots

2 packages shredded red cabbage

1 sweet onion (Vidalia, 1015 or WallaWalla type), diced

1 crisp apple (Granny Smith, Braeburn, Winesap, Honeycrisp, Ginger Gold, or your favorite), diced

1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced (optional)

1 carton crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (you could substitute blue or feta cheese if desired)

2 tablespoons cracked fennel seeds or 1 tablespoon each cracked fennel and whole cumin seeds

1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds or pepitas

lemon or orange juice

extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice, vinaigrette, or Greek salad dressing

salt (we like RealSalt) and lemon pepper or fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Sprinkle apple with lemon or orange juice immediately after dicing and toss well to prevent discoloration. Toss all ingredients well to mix. Then add 1/3 to 1/2 bottle dressing or drizzle on oil and lemon juice, stirring it in gently but thoroughly to just coat the slaw. Refrigerate, covered, until time to serve, then set out (still covered) for an hour before serving to bring the slaw to room temperature.

That’s all there is to it! I’m going to go make some right now. Yum!

                   ‘Til next time,


Thanksgiving: Desserts. November 26, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here, continuing a week of Thanksgiving-themed recipes here at Poor Richard’s Almanac. One thing it’s easy to be thankful for is a delicious homemade dessert. But if you’re not a pumpkin pie fan, or you just want to provide an extra dessert or two, you may be stuck trying to think of something appropriate.

Never fear! Between this yummy pumpkin roll and these easy, delectable cranberry oatmeal cookies, you’ll never be at a loss again!

             Pumpkin Roll

For the cake:

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup 100% pumpkin (not pie filling)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 cup flour

powdered sugar

For the filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 Tbsps. butter, at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp. real vanilla extract

For the cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the eggs, sugar, pumpkin, baking soda, cinnamon, and flour. Beat well. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a jelly roll pan (or use a large rimmed cookie sheet), and line the pan with the paper. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and lift out of pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, then roll up with parchment paper so the layers don’t stick together. Cool for 2 hours.

For the filling: Mix the cream cheese, butter, cup of powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Unroll the cake, remove the parchment paper, spread the filling over the entire surface of the cake, and reroll. Sprinkle more powdered sugar over the top. Refrigerate to set the filling.

               Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups quick-cooking oats

1 cup raisins

1 cup dried cranberries (“craisins”) or coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

1 12-oz. package vanilla or white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; add to the creamed mixture. Stir in oats, raisins and cranberries. Stir in vanilla or white chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonsful 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes 6 dozen.

Yum! Just thinking of these makes me feel thankful.

We wish each and every one of you a joyous and blessed Thanksgiving. Our favorite Thanksgiving prayer is the beautiful old French prayer, “For this good food and joy renewed, we give you thanks, oh Lord.” We also like “God bless this table and all of us around it.” And let’s not forget that ultimate prayer, Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, every one.”

         ‘Til next time,


Thanksgiving: Green beans. November 23, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Green beans are a traditional Thanksgiving side dish—like turkey, pumpkins, corn, and potatoes, a native New World crop and therefore appropriate to the day. (I’ll be talking about another regional Thanksgiving tradition, dried corn, tomorrow, and tackling the whole sweet potato issue on Wednesday, leading up to desserts for the day on Thursday, and frugal tricks with Thanksgiving leftovers on Friday. Stay tuned!)

Getting back to green beans, we always had them at Thanksgiving when I was growing up, but Mama served them simply boiled, topped with butter, salt, white pepper, and thinly sliced almonds. I had never heard of the apparently ubiquitous green bean casserole until I moved to Pennsylvania, and have still never tasted one, though that may change this Thanksgiving, since we’ll be celebrating with our neighbors.

I still love green beans the way my mama made them, and I still think “classic” green bean casserole sounds like a bad idea. Not because of the crunchy, oily “French fried” onion topping—hey, both our friend Ben and I love a good, crispy-crunchy, greasy onion ring, bring it on!—but because of that can of cream of mushroom soup, the milk, and the soy sauce. Soup, milk, and soy sauce with green beans? Good grief.

In case anyone besides me has never made a green bean casserole but might want to, here are two versions, from those who should know, Campbell’s, maker of the cream of mushroom soup, and Birds Eye, provider of frozen cut green beans. You’ll note that the amounts of each ingredient differ slightly, even allowing for the 12-serving Campbell’s recipe versus the 4-serving Birds Eye version, but the concept is definitely the same. I’ll depart from the original recipes only in eliminating the brand names.

              Classic Green Bean Casserole

This is the Birds Eye version.

1 10 3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup 

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp. soy sauce

ground black pepper

1 1-pound bag frozen cut green beans, thawed and drained

1 1/3 cups crispy French-fried onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In an oven-safe casserole dish, mix soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, green beans, and 2/3 cup onions until well combined. Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle remaining onions on top and bake an additional 5 minutes until crispy. Serves 4.

         Green Bean Casserole

Here’s the official Campbell’s version.

2 10 3/4-ounce cans cream of mushroom soup

1 cup milk

2 tsp. soy sauce

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

8 cups cooked cut green beans

1 6-ounce can (2 2/3 cups) French-fried onions

Stir soup, soy sauce, black pepper, beans, and 1 1/3 cups onions in a 3-quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until hot. Stir. Top with remaining onions. Bake for 5 minutes more. Tip: Toast 1/2 cup sliced almonds. Add with remaining onions. Serves 12.

Well, I guess Campbell’s was trying to make a gesture with the almond tip, but still. I remember reading a “gentrified” version of green bean casserole in my favorite cooking magazine, Cook’s Country, but I can’t find the issue, nor could I find the recipe online. Sigh. If I do, I’ll revise this post and include it. Once again, stay tuned.

Meanwhile, there just have to be other options for serving green beans on Thanksgiving. Here’s one I found in Parade magazine. (I love that it’s called “String Beans,” when mercifully most people now wouldn’t even know what that means. Back in the day, green beans had tough, fibrous strings running down the side with the line on it. Before you could cook them, you had not only to snap off the sharp, rough ends—thus “snap beans”—but also to pull off the “strings.” Modern varieties have somehow managed to do away with the tough strings, so now you only have to cut or snap off the ends.)

         String Beans

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 yellow onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes

Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper

1 tablespoon each finely chopped fresh oregano and flat-leaf parsley

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed

Crumbled feta cheese 

In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft and clear, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook briefly until soft and golden brown. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, and about 1 cup water. Stir in the green beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer until beans are just tender, about 12 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon onto a warm platter and top with feta cheese. Serves 8.

Actually, this sounds good. In fact, it sounds like it might make a great topping for pasta or rice, especially if you sauteed some sliced mushrooms with the onion and garlic. But, whoa, it certainly doesn’t sound like Thanksgiving dinner, at least not to me. Yes, tomatoes are also New World plants that should perhaps be given a place, along with bell and hot peppers, on the Thanksgiving menu. But in the salad (and perhaps the sweet potatoes—we’ll be getting to that), not the green beans, thanks very much. 

So, okay, what green bean dish should you be serving with Thanksgiving dinner? I still love my mama’s buttered green beans with sliced almonds. But when push comes to shove, what I usually make is a simple dish of boiled green beans (cooked just long enough to be tender, but still bright green, drained, and topped with sauteed sliced mushrooms in browned butter with salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare) and lemon pepper. Yum!!! Easy and oh-so-good.

Do you have a favorite green bean recipe? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

             ‘Til next time,


Thanksgiving: Cranberry sauce and beyond. November 22, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here, kicking off a week of Thanksgiving recipes with that classic, cranberry sauce. Our friend Ben and I grew up in households where our mamas lovingly made cranberry sauce for every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Their recipes were pretty similar—fresh cranberries, oranges, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, cooked up into a glittering but bitter dish served up in elegant cut-crystal dishes. Yes, they looked gorgeous. No, we didn’t like them. We’d take that canned cranberry jelly any day.

So, how do you make cranberry sauce without making it bitter? I saw a recipe in the Parade magazine last week that I thought would do the trick, from noted food author Dorie Greenspan. I plan to try it this Thanksgiving (with the changes I’ve noted in the recipe). You might want to as well.

          Dorie Greenspan’s Cranberry Sauce

2 bags (12 oz. each) fresh cranberries [Note from Silence: I have read emphatic assertions that frozen cranberries are actually better than fresh cranberries in cranberry sauce. I didn’t even realize there were frozen cranberries, but I might try them if I find them and see what I think.]

1 cup orange juice

1 cup apricot jam

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. powdered ginger [Note from Silence: No way! I’d mince either fresh or crystallized ginger and add it instead.]

1/4 pound dried apricots, finely diced

[Note from Silence: I’d at least think about adding 1/2 cup of dried cranberries—aka “craisins”—or dried tart cherries, too. And I know plenty of folks add a splash of Grand Marnier in their cranberry sauce. We’ve never done it, but can’t hurt, might help should you choose to try it.]

Stir all the ingredients together in a large, heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the berries pop and the sauce starts to thicken—it will thicken much more as it cools—about 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature, cover, and chill.

Okay, sounds easy and good, right? But you might want to halve the amount—Dorie claims this recipe serves 20. (It certainly wouldn’t here! We love our cranberry sauce.)

 FYI, we posted lots of great Thanksgiving recipes and resources back in November 2008. To access them, use our search bar to look for the ones that speak to you: “Putting some heat in your Thanksgiving celebration,” “Curried pumpkin soup,” “Try this with turkey,” “Cookbooks to be thankful for, parts 1-3,” Silence’s Chili Surprise,” “Fabulous easy salad dressing,” “A good day for baking cookies,” “Pumpkin chili, glazed carrots, and sweet potato souffle,” “Time for pumpkin bread!”, “Picking pumpkins,” and “Silence’s Amazing Cranberry Stuffing.”

Meanwhile, keep an eye on this site for recipes and lore that will take you to Turkey Day and on towards Christmas! And please, we’d love it if you’d share some of your own favorite Thanksgiving recipes with us.

          ‘Til next time,