Last year, I was scheduled to work on Thanksgiving day. This created a problem for our family because I am the primary cook, and Thanksgiving dinner is always my responsibility. Realizing that I would be unhappy with anything less than the full Thanksgiving Menu, I knew I had to come up with an idea that would allow Baker’s Man to be able to get dinner into the oven and have it ready to pull out shortly after I arrived home from work. Sue Chef, Bus Boy, and Food Critic would all be available to help, but their culinary skills are still very limited.
As I considered my options, I remembered the Once-a-Month cookbook that I used frequently a few years ago. Why couldn’t I apply the principles explained in that book to Thanksgiving side dishes. The first dish I tackled in this way was the green bean casserole. I chose this recipe to prepare first for two reasons. It was very easy and required no chopping or grating on my part, and one of the components was already frozen.
The truth is that I had become an adult without ever eating green bean casserole. It wasn’t something my mother made. A friend told me about it when we were standing in line for a ride at Universal Studios one October. Food Critic was still in diapers, and Bus Boy was still sucking his thumb. Sue Chef hadn’t joined our family,yet. My friend was talking about plans for Thanksgiving and shared that she was going to bring the green bean casserole to her mother’s house for dinner. When I asked her what she was talking about, she stared incredulous. How could I have never tasted THE Green Bean Casserole? Apparently, I was the only person she knew who didn’t know about it.
In spite of her shock at my lack of knowledge, she told me the recipe, which I remembered, but never made. I did, however, share it with my mother who prepared it one Thanksgiving when we were visiting. Bakers’ Man loved it, and he told me I needed to get the recipe from my mom to make it at home. When my mom told him that I gave her the recipe, he was confused. Why had I given my mom the recipe but never made this delicious concoction for him? The truth is, I didn’t think I would like it. More importantly, I didn’t think he would like it. This just goes to show that you never really know the person you marry.
One day after work, the week before thanksgiving, I mixed up the cream of mushroom soup and all of the other ingredients and tossed them with some still frozen green beans. The entire conglomeration was then poured into a freezer and oven safe dish which was covered with foil and placed in the freezer. I kept the french fried onions that go on top in the pantry to add to the dish on the day of cooking to prevent them from becoming soggy. Then, I crossed my fingers, said a little prayer, and waited.
The result was delicious. Since I begin with frozen instead of canned green beans, no one noticed a difference in taste or texture. On the big day, it turned out that I didn’t have to work. So, I was able to cook stuffing inside of the turkey instead of in a casserole dish that I took from the freezer. The macaroni and cheese which Food Critic demands for all holidays was made ahead and frozen, too. I didn’t regret my make ahead Thanksgiving Menu, though.
The best part was that because I had prepared most of the side dishes ahead of time, all I really had to do was season the turkey, fill it with stuffing, and put it in the oven. Later, I pulled out the frozen sides and put them in the oven while I made mashed potatoes. Instead of spending half of the day in the kitchen cooking, I was able to spend time playing games and watching a movie with my family. Time spent with my family is something I’m always thankful for. I think make ahead side dishes will remain a part of our Thanksgiving Menu.
One problem, though. I forgot to take pictures of the food before everyone devoured it. By the time I remembered, there was only 1 serving left of the green beans. That photo above this paragraph was the original featured photo for this post. It didn’t make a good impression, so I took some new photos, but it’s taken me a while. (It’s taken 4 years.)
Happy Thanksgiving from Patty Cake’s Pantry where we’re thankful for each and every one of our readers and subscribers.
- 1 can (10½ ounces) cream of mushroom soup
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- Pinch of Black Pepper
- 1½ cups french fried onions (divided)
- 4 cups frozen green beans (About 1 pound)
- Mix together soup, milk, soy sauce, and black pepper
- Stir in frozen green beans and ¾ cup of the onions.
- Pour into a 1½ quart freezer and oven safe dish. (I always use a 9X9 inch square metal pan. It's not pretty, but I know it won't break when placed in a hot oven.)
- Cover with foil and place into freezer. Store remaining onions where they won't be eaten before serving day.
- Remove casserole from freezer and bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove foil, and bake for an additional 25 minutes or until it is hot and bubbly.
- Top with remaining ¾ cup of french fried onions and bake for 5 more minutes.