Let’s get Greeny….and Beany. Green Bean Casserole

Recipe Test: Paula Deen’s Green Bean Casserole

Holy crapola where has the time gone by?!  It’s OCTOBER?????? Wasn’t it just August a few days ago?!  Jesus how time has flown by.  And so much has happened.  Far out, I feel like I am suffering whiplash.

I started a new role withing the company I work for (which I absolutely love.  I can happily say I actually get excited about coming to work.  Not many people can say that!).  Along with that I managed to squeeze in a small holiday to Bali, the one country I have been to where I bawl my eyes out every time I leave.  The people, the culture, the perfect weather, It’s seriously paradise to me.  If I could I would probably “go bamboo” and live there permanently.  But alas, life goes on.  And I gots ta get paid.

That being said, we have eleven weekends before Christmas.  That’s right.  Only eleven weekends before the family chaos and gluttony that is the Christmas holiday are upon us. And Americans out there that means it’s  seven weeks until Thanksgiving.  Bring on the turkey and expandable pant wear!

Thanksgiving, or Turkey Day as the hubster and I call it, is my favourite holiday.  As a kid, it was the one time of year my mum let me eat easy cheese and gorge on ranch dip before la piece de resistance, the turkey with all the trimmings, came out to the table.  At uni, my friends and I would gather together and have a “friendsgiving” and again stuff ourselves silly and just have a good laugh around the table.

When I got married, I really missed being able to celebrate this holiday with my family and friends, and the hubster being the man that he is really wanted to try cooking a turkey on his new toy, the keg spit.  And so, Turkey Day was born.  We’ve managed to keep this tradition going (with the exception of last year.  We were away on an adventure on Fraser Island), with every year getting bigger with more friends and coworkers coming and better as our spit roasting technique improves.  If you haven’t tried it yet, dear God go find a spit roast and roast your turkey on it.  Best. Bird. Ever.

Along with the traditional turkey I always make a green bean casserole to go along with it.  It’s not Thanksigiving unless you have a green bean casserole, well at least it was at my friend’s houses and in my uni days.  Green bean casserole is an excellent side dish to any holiday or Sunday roast, and there are heaps of different recipes out there you can try.  But today I’m going to test out Paula Deen’s green bean casserole recipe.

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Paula Deen, the Butter Queen. Photo courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Now if you don’t know who Paula Deen is, you certainly are in for a very southern treat.  She’s the butter queen, with the majority of her recipes using butter in one form or another.  As the years go by her hair just seems to defy gravity more and more, and that southern drawl just adds pizzazz to her TV personality.  She had a major setback a few years ago due to a rather public lawsuit, but I’m sure that her heart attack inducing, sinfully delicious recipes will endure.

I’ve also done something rather different this time around.  I’ve actually shot video of the entire test and posted up on my Youtube channel.  I hope you have a watch of it.  And yes, I’m cooking in activewear, and the cat video bombs at some point.  It’s my first time trying to film a test so be kind!

Alright, moving on.  Here’s Paula’s version ya’ll.

Ingredients

  • 1 pinch Paula Deen’s House Seasoning
  • 1 (2.8 oz, or 80 grams) can French-fried onion rings
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz, or 304 grams) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups sliced green beans
  • 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/3 stick (38 grams) butter
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Sauté the onions and mushrooms in the butter.
  3. Boil green beans in chicken broth for 10 minutes and drain.
  4. Add the green beans, mushroom soup, onion rings and House Seasoning to taste. Stir well.
  5. Pour into a greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the Cheddar and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and cheese is melted.

The Good, The Bad, The Inedible

The Good – With just five steps this recipes is so bloody easy.  The step that took the longest time was the baking part, and if you play your cards right, cleaning up should only take you a few minutes.  No seriously, I’m better at making a mess and it took me maybe five minutes to clean everything up.

The Bad – If you’re on a diet this is not the recipe for you.  Like I said Paula Deen is the butter queen, and  1/3 of a stick (or 38 grams) is a fuckton of butter for the amount of casserole this recipe actually makes.  The other problem I encountered (and this is shown on the video) is that soup can sizes are not universal.  10 3/4 ounces is actually 304 grams, and soup cans here in Australia are 420 grams.  So in the second test I actually had to measure out 304 grams, which come out to dead on 1 cup, leaving about a 1/4 of the tin left.   This is perfect proof why it’s always good to do a second test.  I’m pretty sure this is the first time where human error played a part in Clem’s Recipe Reviews.

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Now the soup can size isn’t Paula’s fault, at least I don’t think so.  But looking at her video and even the images on her site I doubt that she uses even the full can of cream of mushroom soup.  I got curious and had a look for soup can sizes in the US, and the standard is 10.5 ounces, so sorry Paula, I think your ingredient amount is a bit flawed. A full can with the amount of actual vegetables this recipe calls for really makes this dish Cream of Mushroom casserole instead of a green bean casserole.  You really only taste the soup contents and the cheese on the top, and if you’re wanting to taste the green beans, that’s just not going to happen in this recipe.

Paula also calls for you to add the fried onions into the casserole itself.  Now this does make the onion flavour slightly stronger, but the casserole as whole then lacked texture.  Cooked vegetables are just soft and could use something to boost the flavour factor here too.  So I would sprinkle them on top of the casserole at the very end to give the dish that extra bit of crunch and a bit of  extra flavour.

Might not sound like a big deal but I think your pan size is also important here.  Paula says to use a 1.5 quart dish to bake the casserole in.  Look this is entirely up to you, but it seemed to me that an 8×11 (if you stick with Paula’s recipe) or 9×12 dish (if you stick with mine) actually seemed to work better in keeping the soup mixture from boiling over the cheese at the very end. Just sayin’.

The Inedible – did I mention how much butter there is in this?  That’s all you can taste and your mouth is just coated in it after one bite.  I get it Paula, you love butter.  But ma’am, this time around you’ve gone a tad bit overboard.

To improve this recipe I added more of most of the ingredients to really get the green beans to be the main character of this dish and to give it different dimensions of flavour, but also so I could use a whole can of soup.  Because I mean seriously, who is going to use 100 grams of soup?  I think the amended version below is still worth a shot if you are stateside and have the 10.5 ounce cans.  You might find it not to be as thick and much closer to what Paula’s site images and video are.

If you have time, try out Paula’s house seasoning.  But if you have a go to recipe or brand, use it.  Mine is Old Bay.  It’s incredibly rare to find over here so I have a stash of it and go absolutely apeshit when I do find it at Costco.  Also onion rings are another rare find, but fried shallots from your local Asian grocery store are an excellent replacements.

I also cut the butter by half, and switched around the first two steps.  I found if I did the green beans first, and then sauteed the onions and mushrooms, then the green beans had plenty of time to drain and get as much water out as possible.  I also added garlic, because onions and garlic go together like PB & J.  Plus you’re already going to have onion breath, may as well have garlic breath too!

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Paula Deen’s House Seasoning, or your go-to seasoning mix
  • 1 (2.8 oz, or 80 grams) can French-fried onion rings, or fried shallots
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz, or 304 grams) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups sliced green beans
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/6 stick (19 grams) butter
  • 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. (175 degrees….180 is perfectly fine)
  2. Boil green beans in chicken broth for 10 minutes and drain.
  3. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Sauté the onions and mushrooms in the butter.
  4. Add the green beans, mushroom soup, and seasoning. Stir well.
  5. Pour into a greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the Cheddar and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and cheese is melted. Top with fried shallots.

And here without further a due is my video…..be prepared, it’s not the greatest quality but hey, I’m proud with what I’ve done!

Livin’ in a Foodie’s Paradise

Coolio’s Chili Mac Pimpi

Where has time gone?  It feels like it’s been ages since the last post on Clem’s Recipe Reviews.  Well actually it has.  It’s been two months!  I have a few very good reasons though why I’ve been incognito for this long.

Reason 1.  We renovated our bathroom.  There were quite a few lessons learned with this experience. Take it from me, never EVER live in the same area as where your renovations are occurring, especially if you only have the one bathroom.  Never rely on the time line your contractor tells you.  While our bathroom is tiny, it blew way past the 2 week timeline estimation, all the way out to about 5 weeks.  Everything and anything can and will happen in your renovation, so don’t make the mistake we did and have an extremely strict deadline.  With overseas visitors arriving 4 weeks after demolition started, it was down to the wire when it came to having the bathroom usable, with the sparky installing the IXL the night before the parental units arrived from overseas.


Which brings me to Reason 2.  My mum and stepdad flew over from Virginia for a visit.  This was my mum’s second time in Oz and my stepdad’s first time here. I jam packed their two week stay so they can get the most out of their visit.  They’ve spent 32 hours on planes and in airports, there’s no way they’re just sitting around binging on Netflix!  I started the trip off with my adoptive hometown of Sydney by grabbing them an AirBnB in Kirribilli, just blocks from the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence.  It was the perfect central point for all the touristy things to do in the city.  We walked the Sydney Harbour Bridge, visited the Maritime museum, the Sydney Opera House, and walked around til our feet gave way.


Then, it was off to the Hunter Valley to taste some fantastic wine  stuff our faces with cheese and chocolate and meet up with my aunty, my mum’s sister.  We stayed in the cozy Summerfield cabin in Rothbury.  It was a beautifully decorated home with a slow combustion fireplace that kept us toasty during our Rummy marathon games. We didn’t get to visit all the wineries that I would have liked, but we certainly enjoyed a few hidden gems in the Hunter.  Peterson’s Winery is one of my favourite vineyards in the area.  There was no way I couldn’t take the relatives to the Hunter without visiting their Mount View cellar door.  We had a fantastic private wine tasting in their cellar lead by one of the up and comers in the wine industry, Savannah Peterson.  I highly recommend their Semillon, Verdhelo, and any of their reds (go on, splurge and get a bottle of their Back Block Shiraz!).


Krinklewood Vineyard was another fantastic winery we went to.  It’s tucked away on the western side of the Hunter, and makes some fantastic blends.  I hadn’t had any great experience with byodynamic and organic wineries in the past, but Krinklewood certainly convinced me otherwise.  Their Gewurztraminer Verdehlo blend was the game changer for me.  It’s an unfiltered white blend with a beautiful fruity palate that tastes like Granny Smith apples at the end.  It was such a surprise and completely unique to to the area.  I highly recommend enjoying a tasting while also munching on their pungent biodynamic and organic cheeses.

It was then off to Byron Bay to my aunty’s property in Mullumbimby for warm weather and sun.  If I ever need to recharge my batteries, I head up to the area.  There’s just something about the greenery, the people and my aunty’s home that just makes me slow down and catch my breath.


We came back in Sydney for the last leg of the trip, taking in the evening cityscape with a opera at the Sydney Opera House and nibbles at Opera Bar before the show.  We of course could not pass up a visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park to get the usual photo with a koala and feed the kangaroos.  As luck would have it, there were also 8 week old Dingo pups at the park, which were absolutely adorable….and asleep when we saw them. So cute!

And oh man, the food that we ate! The wine that we drank! I am shocked I didn’t gain a hundred kilos in the process. There was not just the cheese from Krinklewood, there was Indian food from down the road, delicious Yum Cha and dumplings in Eastwood, my Auntys curry, and my grandmothers mousse au chocolat. Visitors give me the opportunity to taste new flavours and revisit old favourites and family memories.

Things have changed quite a bit since the last time my mum and I were together, or at least I feel that I’ve changed since the last time I was around the parental units.  I was in a dark place a few years ago, and very far away from home.  I was trying to manage all of these big and minute and unimportant things at the same time and felt like a failure when it didn’t go the way I wanted it to, or something happened well beyond my control.  I’ve since learned (okay, still learning!) to not pile too much on my to do list for the day or weekend, and do what needs doing and still enjoy the fruits of my labour.  I’m much calmer, more composed, and even perhaps more honest with myself when it comes to what I want to get out of life.  I’m extremely proud of myself when I manage to get a load of laundry done during the week, or get the energy to put the dishes away after a long day at work.  I know the signs of when I’m getting anxious or stressed, and I do what I need to do to get me back in the right head space.

I know my mum was incredibly worried about me during my bad time.  Being thousands of kilometers away from your child when they ‘re struggling mentally would not be easy for any parent. I hope she realised by the end of her trip that I’m actually happy and for once comfortable in my own skin, even if that means I’m at home several weekends in a row in my pajamas doing laundry, baking and cuddling the cat on the lounge while reading a good book.

Once the parental units left it was time to get back into the swing of things, and time to get back to testing recipes.  And what better way to start Clem’s Recipe Reviews back up than with the legend cook that is…Coolio.

That’s right.  Coolio!  He’s not just a Grammy winning rapper, but also has a rather eccentric cooking Youtube channel and has published a incredibly entertaining cooked book.  My best mate sent me his book for my birthday a few years ago, and found a easy looking recipe that looked tasty enough to put to the test.  So, here goes!

Chili Mac Pimpi

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons of garlic
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds (1 kilo) lean ground beef
1 can kidney beans
1 large tin/jar tomato paste
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 dime bag salt (1 teaspoon)
1 dime bag pepper 
1 cup shredded cheddar (tasty) cheese
  1. Follow the damn directions on the macaroni box and get those elbows all cooked up and drained and ready to join the party.  This is a good time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
  2. In a large skillet, saute the garlic and onion flakes for 3 minutes in the olive oil.
  3. Add the beef and cook it up until the meat is no longer pink.
  4. Drain that nasty grease.  That’s the shit that’l clog your arteries.
  5. Get the beans, tomato paste, and condensed soup involved in the mix.
  6. Salt and pepper that whole thing  to your own personal taste.
  7. Climb up to the top ropes and drop the flying elbow (macaroni) into the mixture
  8. Mix all the elements up like punch-drunk fighter’s brain.
  9. Take that shit and situate it into a large baking dish.
  10. Cover the dish and deposit it in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  11. Slide it out of the oven and sprinkle it with the cheese.
  12. Slide it back inside, uncovered, for 5 minutes longer, or until the cheese is melted.
  13. Gather all your hungry relatives and serve it up.

Okay, first of all, Coolio’s recipes are a joy to read.  Extremely entertaining while easy to follow.  Come on, I’m sure you had a laugh reading the instructions above!

Let’s focus on the ingredients, as the instructions are pretty simple.  Now, I’m not the biggest fan of using condensed soups in recipes as they’re not exactly the greatest food health wise, but I’ve made and exception with this recipe.  The soup adds the creaminess to the dish that it needs without muddling the spicy tomato flavour.  I didn’t quite understand the onion flakes instead of minced onion, but after trying out my own version of Chili Mac Pimpi, I understood why.  Using fresh onion would just overpower the whole dish with onion, and in my (and I assume Coolio’s) book that’s a big no no.  So definitely use onion flakes for this recipe!



The one thing I would suggest is if you want to make this a bit healthier is use kangaroo meat.  To you non-Aussies out there, I can imagine some of your faces right now. Here me out.  Eating Skippy is a win win on all fronts:

  • Roo meat is naturally over 98% fat free
  • It has an extremely high amount of iron of any meat, with 33% of an adult’s daily intake in a 150 gram piece of roo.
  • One 150 gram uncooked piece of Kangaroo fillet has 66% of an adult’s daily protein intake
  • It’s an excellent source of Omega-3’s and Vitamin B.
  • It’s naturally free range.  When have you heard of a Roo farm?  Never heard of it?  That’s because they don’t exist.  All roo meat is wild kangaroo, harvested under government regulations and management plans.*
  • According to the Australian government, kanagaroos are classified as pests.**

Nutritional information found on http://gourmetgame.com.au/nutrition/nutritional-facts/

*Free range information found on https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/meat-fish-and-eggs/meat/articles/kangaroo-meat

**http://www.environment.gov.au/node/16678

If you can’t find roo meat at your supermarket, then try turkey or chicken mince, or even bison if you can find it.  Have a play around, invite some friends over and try this recipe out!

Cookin’ With Coolio is available on Booktopia and Amazon.  Check out Coolio’s cooking shows on Youtube. You won’t regret it!