I came up with this Clean Cuisine healthy Green Bean Casserole recipe —along with the previously posted Kale-Pomegrante-Quinoa Stuffing and Roasted Quince Cranberry Chutney with Horseradish recipes—for the Thanksgiving feature article of Natural Health magazine using Dr. Oz’s ten SuperFoods. My Thanksgiving spread was printed in the 2009 November issue. The shortened story is that I was asked to develop recipes for a “whole foods” Thanksgiving feast using ten superfoods. The superfood in this dish is pumpkin seeds (more on those in a bit).
Enjoying Healthy Green Bean Casserole All Year Long…
Although green bean casserole is often made just once a year around the holiday season, there is no reason not to enjoy it all year long. In fact, green beans reach their peak season from early summer through mid-fall.
You can test the freshness of a green bean simply by bending it; if it is dull in color, rubbery and limp then you know it is past its prime. You want a lively bright green bean that bends a bit and then snaps right in half, that’s how you know it is fresh.
Do be sure to look for organic green beans though. Along with strawberries and peppers, green beans are one of the most heavily sprayed crops in conventional agriculture. That is because green beans are as attractive to insects and diseases as they are to us! Organic growers have a variety of “clean” methods for keeping insect pests under control and it really does make a difference in health…and taste…to go the extra organic mile when buying green beans.
Not Your Mama’s Green Bean Casserole
As for green bean casserole, although it has always been a hit in our family, I realize there are two types of people; those who love green bean casserole, and those who don’t.
As for me, even before I became enthused with eating and cooking clean I was never a particularly enthusiastic fan of mushroom soup dumped on top of green beans (the sort of “Green Bean Casserole” made famous in the 50’s by Campbell’s soup). However, I have always loved a good home-spun green bean casserole. For about five years now I’ve been making the same one printed in our Fitter, Firmer, Faster book. But, after getting the assignment from Natural Health magazine this one is definitely my new go-to and my family’s new favorite.
Not only is this healthy green bean casserole considerably healthier than your traditional recipe (it’s even healthier than the version in my own book!) it also sneaks in a superfood…
Sneaking In a Superfood
The pumpkin seeds I use for the crumbly topping add just as much in nutrition as they do in taste.
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with fiber, protein, omega fats and magnesium. They are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan—richer in fact than turkey (by the way, tryptophan increases the brain’s levels of mood-improving serotonin.)
When processed in a food processor and mixed with whole wheat panko crumbs the subtly sweet flavor and chewy texture of pumpkin seeds makes them perfect for a crumbly casserole topping. In fact, the crumbly topping is my favorite part of the whole dish. I promise you won’t miss those greasy French fried onions one bit.
In making the crumbly topping be sure to use whole wheat panko crumbs. I’m not sure if another brand exists or not, but I always use Ian’s Natural Foods, and I know it’s pretty much available everywhere—even in mainstream supermarkets.
As a side note, you might want to double the recipe for the crumbly topping and use it for baked fish, as a topping for salads or even on top of tomato soup.
One Last Tip…
Finally, be sure to resist the urge to chop the mushrooms into military uniformity—breaking them up by hand keeps them from assuming that dreadful canned texture.
Green Bean Casserole with Pumpkin Seed Crumble
- 1/3 cup cashews plus 3/4 cup water
- Unrefined sea salt (for boiling water), plus more for seasoning
- 1 1/2 pounds organic green beans, ends snapped and broken into bite-sized pieces
- 7 ounces shitake and oyster mushroom mix, cut into bite sized pieces
- 5 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, brushed clean and stems discarded
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- White pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour (such as King Arthur brand)
- 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup whole wheat panko crumbs
- Place the cashews and water in a mini food processor or high speed blender (such as Vitamix) and process until smooth and creamy. Set cashew cream aside.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.
- Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with cold ice water and ice. Set aside.
- Fill a large pot with water and add 1 tablespoon of salt; bring water to a boil. Add green beans to boiling water and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until fork-tender. Drain the beans in a colander and immediately plunge them into an ice bath. Drain the beans again in a colander. Dry the beans with a kitchen towel or paper towels (don’t skip this part!). Set aside.
- Break the mushroom tops into pieces using your hands.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil; add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Remove skillet from heat. Add the cooked green beans into the skillet with the mushrooms and gently toss. Transfer the green bean-mushroom mixture to the prepared baking dish. Season green beans with salt to taste.
- To the same skillet used to cook the mushrooms, add 1 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoons flour; heat over low heat and whisk constantly for 1 minute. Add the cashew cream very, very slowly and continue whisking until all of the cream is used and the mixture is creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Add this roux to the green bean-mushroom mixture and gently toss to coat.
- Add the pumpkin seeds, panko crumbs, and remaining 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil to a food processor; process by pulsing about 10 quick times. Season with salt and pulse again. Top green bean-mushroom mixture with the pulsed pumpkin seed mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Garnish with whole pumpkin seeds before serving.