Modern Green Bean Casserole

The Free Press WV

For the holidays, there are people who absolutely love a classic green bean casserole made with condensed soup, canned beans and packaged fried onions.

I get the nostalgia. And the thought is a winning one: tender green beans enveloped in a creamy sauce and topped with crispy crunchy oniony things.

But how about a fresher take on the concept?

Here, shallots are crisped in oil (which then can be used for sautéing other things, as it will be nicely infused with the flavor of the shallots). Those will go on top.

Haricot verts are thin, young green beans that are more tender than their sturdier, string bean cousins. They are also a bit pricier, but this is a holiday, after all, and you are reinventing a classic, so it’s worth seeking them out.

And the sauce is a lovely medley of sautéed fresh mushrooms and a blend of broth and half-and-half that is just creamy and thick enough, but still on the delicate side, so the flavors of all those fresh ingredients can come right on through.



Serves 10

Start to finish: 45 minutes



5 shallots, very thinly sliced

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Kosher salt to taste


2 pounds haricot verts, ends trimmed

2 tablespoons butter

1 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and roughly chopped (any kind of mushrooms, button, cremini, wild, whatever you like)

3 shallots, minced

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup half and half

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Fresh parsley or chervil to garnish (optional)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a shallow 3-quart casserole. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Line a plate with paper towels. Place the five sliced shallots in a small saucepan and pour in canola or vegetable oil to cover. Place the pan on the stove, turn the heat to medium and allow the shallots to cook, stirring occasionally until they turn medium brown. Drain them in a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the oil for another use, then turn the shallots onto the paper-plate lined plate and blot with another paper towel. Sprinkle with salt.

Fill a large bowl with water and some ice. Plunge the haricot verts into the pot of boiling water, and cook for about 5 minutes, just until crisp tender. Drain and plunge the partially cooked green beans into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain.

Melt the butter in large skillet. Sauté the mushrooms until they’re browned and any liquid they have released has evaporated, about 6 minutes. Add the three chopped shallots and sauté for another 2 minutes until the shallots are slightly softened. Sprinkle the flour over them, and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes until the flour coats the mushrooms well, and turns golden. Slowly pour in the broth while stirring. Stir in the half and half, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid thickens. Add the partially cooked green beans. Turn into the prepared casserole. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the crispy sliced shallots over the casserole and bake for 5 more minutes until shallots are hot and re-crisped. Serve hot.


Nutrition information per serving: 162 calories; 102 calories from fat; 11 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 39 mg cholesterol; 248 mg sodium; 13 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 5 g protein.

Serve petite beef filet for a holiday dinner

The Free Press WV

Want to serve a fancy roast for Christmas dinner without breaking the bank? Try a petite beef filet. Cut from the shoulder, long and thin, and weighing between 8-10 ounces, the petite filet looks like a mini tenderloin of beef — one of the priciest and most popular of roasts. But it’s much less expensive and more flavorful than the tenderloin. And tender, too.

Here we’ve rolled it up and stuffed it with prosciutto, as well as with pesto and roasted red peppers. The latter two ingredients — one green, the other red — echo the signature colors of the holiday even as they delight the taste buds. And, bonus! You can buy them by the jar in the supermarket, which makes the prep that much easier.

The only tricky part of this recipe for Prosciutto and Red Pepper Stuffed Petite Filet is double-butterflying the roast — that is, cutting the filet in such a way that it becomes a big flat rectangle. Start by looking for the largest petite filets you can find. They’re the easiest to slice and they hold more stuffing. Then, before commencing your butterfly surgery, read the instructions several times. The goal is to avoid cutting a hole in the meat as you butterfly it, although it’s not a problem even if you do. The roast will still hold together after the meat is pounded, lined with prosciutto, rolled and tied. And tying it isn’t that difficult. If you need help, there are several terrific videos online that will take you through it step by step.

This recipe doesn’t need to be made at the last minute. You can cut, roll and tie the roast ahead of time and chill it for several hours. Then, when you’re 25 minutes or so from sitting down to dinner, brown it, pop it in the oven and let it rest for the requisite 10 minutes. Whip up the sauce while the roast is resting. You will look like a culinary genius as you plate up a singularly elegant and festive holiday meal.


Servings: 4

Start to finish: 45 minutes (25 active)

Two large petite beef filets (about 1 1/4 pounds total)

1/4 pound thin sliced prosciutto

1/4 cup pesto

1/4 cup thin red pepper strips

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

Black pepper

1/3 cup dry red or white wine

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Butterfly the petite filet roasts: Working with one filet at a time, place the filet on a cutting board with one of the short ends facing you. Start cutting the roast along the left long side about 2/3 of the way down from the top of the filet, cutting through almost to the other side but stopping about 1/2 inch from the other side. Flip the roast over so that the cut side is now on the right. Repeat the procedure on the left side again, slicing about 2/3 of the way down from the top of the filet, cutting to within 1/2-inch of the other side. Open up the two flaps that you have just cut in the filet so it is the shape of a rectangle. Pound the meat between two sheets of plastic wrap, sprinkled with water until it is about 1/4-inch thick all over.

Arrange half the prosciutto over the inside of each roast, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. Spread half of the pesto on top of the prosciutto and arrange the red pepper strips down the middle. Starting with the long end, roll up the beef to form a cylinder and tie it with twine at 1-inch lengths.

In a medium ovenproof skillet heat the oil over medium high heat, add the meat, seasoned all over with salt and pepper and brown it on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pan to the middle shelf of the oven and roast the filets for 10 minutes for medium-rare meat. Transfer the roasts to a plate, cover them loosely with foil and let them rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, add the wine to the skillet and deglaze the pan over medium-high heat, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom. Add the chicken broth and any juices from the resting meat and simmer for 3 minutes.

To serve: Remove the strings, slice the meat and arrange it on four plates. Spoon some of the pan juices over each portion.


Nutrition information per serving: 402 calories; 201 calories from fat; 22 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 122 mg cholesterol; 976 mg sodium; 4 g carbohydrates; 0 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 42 g protein.

Pantone picks deep purple ‘Ultra Violet’ as color of year

The Free Press WV

What we have here in 2017 is a heap of chaos and disruption. What we need in 2018? The Pantone Color Institute thinks whatever that might be will come in the deep purple hue of “Ultra Violet,” its color of the year.

The color wasn’t chosen because it’s regal, though it resembles a majestic shade. It was chosen to evoke a counterculture flair, a grab for originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking, Pantone Vice President Laurie Pressman told The Associated Press ahead of the announcement.

“We are living in complex times,” she said. “We’re seeing the fear of going forward and how people are reacting to that fear.”

Pressman wasn’t keen on talking politics. The color, she said, playing out in home design, industrial spaces and products, fashion, art and food, reflects the idea of living not inside the box or outside the box but with no box at all. Specifically, she called the color “that complexity, that marriage, between the passionate red violets and the strong indigo purples.”

Ultra Violet leans more to blue than red and that, Pressman said, “speaks to thoughtfulness, a mystical quality, a spiritual quality.” There’s still a passionate heat from enough red undertones, and a touch of periwinkle, but “it’s really the cool that prevails.”

The 2018 color of the year follows 2017′s “Greenery,” a grassy fresh, revitalizing shade that reflected new beginnings.

The purple choice, a la Prince and the glam rock of David Bowie — both of whom died in 2016 — speaks to rebellion, finding new ways to interpret our lives and surroundings, Pressman said. It also speaks to the pleasing calm of Provence and its purple flower fields.

“I see this as very much an optimistic color, an empowering color,” she said. “We want to find some peace and calm within ourselves. How do we quiet our minds?”

Well, there are meditation and yoga studios, some of which rely on violet light that some believe has a power to heal. A company in the United Kingdom has come up with a shower head fitted with the same hue of light that turns bathing into purple rain. There’s an embrace of purple cauliflower and sweet potato, joining eggplant and purple-colored cocktails.

The color has a history that has shifted over the decades.

It played a role in logos used by the women’s suffrage movement of the early 1900s in Britain, lent a flash to flappers in the 1920s and has popped in paintings through history, from the seated woman’s dress in “The Pained Heart” of Pre-Raphaelite Arthur Hughes and the work of Gustav Klimt to Bauhaus modernists such as Wassily Kandinsky and on to Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.

Fast forward to Jimi Hendrix and his “Purple Haze,” the penultimate song he played in concert on Sept. 6, 1970, days before his death. Grace Jones, Lady Gaga, Kylie Jenner, Beyonce, Katy Perry (remember her purple hair?) and Rihanna have embraced the color, Pressman said.

Richard Wagner surrounded himself with purple when he composed and Leonardo da Vinci wrote that meditation and prayer were “10 times more powerful if done while sitting in the violet light, shining through a stained glass window.”

Ultra Violet represented on fashion runways for fall 2016, continuing into this year’s collections, including those of Alberta Ferretti and Marni. For spring ’18, Kenzo put a model in a bright sleeveless purple dress paired with high black-and-white socks and a yellow handbag.

In beauty, versatile purple is prevalent for eyes, lips and nails. Ultra Violet brings the drama but it’s an easy drama, a non-threatening color, on the body and in the home.

“It’s a color that can be worn by so many different skin tones,” Pressman said.

So who wears it best? Rihanna, Pressman said. Particularly, Rihanna in a 2017 Dior ad with gorgeous violet lips and purple-tinted sunglasses.

“When you think of this color she perfectly sums up the originality, the inventiveness, the forward thinking, the non-conformity,” Pressman said. “The exploration, the expression, the do your own thing. She thinks about things differently than anybody else. No boundaries.”

This Might Be the Biggest Reward Ever for Missing Pets

The Free Press WV

The owners of four cats that went missing after a house fire last month are getting reports of sightings in their Detroit-area neighborhood—and they’re offering a lucrative reward to anyone who can help get one or all safely home. One odd twist: two of the cats are in the Guinness Book of World Records, notes the Detroit Free Press. Will and Lauren Powers are offering $25,000 apiece, to be paid in bitcoin, for the return of Arcturus, Cygnus, Sirius, and Yuki. It just so happens that Cygnus has a tail 17.5 inches long, a world record for a domestic cat, while Arcturus stands 20.1 inches tall, another world record.

“Sirius, Arcturus and Cygnus have all been sighted lately, but no sightings of Yuki who lived on the second floor,“ say the couple in a Facebook post. “The boys are out there, and we need to find them before they freeze!“ The Washington Post notes that this could be the biggest reward ever offered for a pet, surpassing a $20,000 offer posted in California earlier this year. It’s not clear how the bitcoin payout would work, especially given that the digital currency is poised for a volatile ride soon.

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