Claire Moshenberg

    What We Talk About When We Talk About Green Bean Casserole

    Posted November 19th, 2010 by

    Picture it: Thanksgiving, circa 1990. The table filled the entire room and overflowed with guests, so many that looking back all I remember is a blur of noise and food and endless pies. But in that blur, one thing stands out: green bean casserole. The white ceramic crock, crisp and brown on top. The layer of crunchy onions that sheltered a grotesque tangle of green beans and partially congealed mushroom soup. Okay, it wasn’t the prettiest food on the table, but I didn’t care. I was in side-dish-love.

    They say you can’t talk about religion at the dinner table. They say forget about politics, forget about controversy, and if Miss Manners were more prolific these days, I’m sure there would be a new rule that toxic chemical exposure is off limits. Who wants to find out their shampoo is poisonous or their chemicals legislation is flimsy when they’re enjoying their second slice of pie?

    But if there’s one thing you can talk about, it’s food. And this year, when we talk about green bean casserole, we’ll be talking about more than its overwhelming deliciousness. Green bean casserole is a toxic minefield, composed of a laundry list of over-processed, canned ingredients. But instead of abandoning it this year, I decided to give it a non-toxic makeover. And all I did was apply a couple easy rules that can be applied to any of your favorite Thanksgiving fare:

    Swap canned soup for boxed soup: BPA is an unfortunate condiment when it comes to canned soups. So opt for boxed soup and reduce your BPA exposure.

    Swap canned vegetables for fresh or frozen organic produce: Buying your produce in bulk, or choosing a frozen alternative, can make this even more affordable.

    Switch out a Nonstick pan: Sometimes, you can’t throw everything away. So how about this instead—think about what recipes you cook the most, and what cookware you use for those dishes, and focus on replacing that cookware. That way the foods you eat the most will also be the foods cooked in the healthiest way.

    Toxic chemicals are exhausting. They’re in our homes, our workplaces, our favorite kitschy holiday foods: it never ends. And maybe that’s the only way to talk about it. I know I won’t be the only person at my Thanksgiving table who has been disappointed to find toxic chemicals in a favorite product, piece of furniture, or food. This non-toxic recipe is delicious, but we need to make over more than our side dishes: we need to make over our chemicals legislation. So if you’re looking for a way to bring up chemicals reform this Thanksgiving, try this recipe, or give your own favorite food a non-toxic makeover, and get the conversation going.

    Non-toxic Green Bean Casserole*

    Serves 4

    2 cups Green beans

    1 ½ cups (boxed!) creamy mushroom soup

    ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

    ⅔ cup Brown Rice Krispies

    1 onion

    1 tbsp. Olive Oil

    ¼ cup Flour

    Salt and pepper to taste

    1) Chop up an onion into long thin slices. Toss the onion in one tablespoon of olive oil until thoroughly coated, then toss it in a little less than a quarter cup of all purpose flour, until fully coated. Disperse them evenly over a cookie sheet, then give them a liberal shake of salt and pepper. Pop them in a 375 degree oven and take them out when they start to brown.

    2) Wash and chop up about two cups of cooked, fresh (or frozen) green beans.

    3) Take 2/3 cup of brown rice krispies and smash them until they’re very fine. You can also smash in some ground flax, to give them more color and a richer flavor.

    4) Put the green beans in a casserole dish and add just under 1 and ⅔ cups of mushroom soup. Stir in bread crumbs and fresh grated parmesan cheese.

    5) Pop the casserole in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Top with onions, and optional additional parmesan cheese. Bake for an additional 5-8 minutes.

    *Measurements are approximate, adjust as desired!

    And when your green-bean-casserole-converts ask you for the recipe, make sure to pass this along too:

    The Toxic Chemical Safety Act (H 5820 )/ Safe Chemicals Act (S 3209)




    1) Our chemicals legislation has not changed since 1976, leaving us exposed to the potentially dangerous side effects of thousands of chemicals. And it’s not just through kooky, once-a-year holiday foods: it’s through your shampoo, your school supplies, your canned goods, and more.

    2) We don’t have to live in a world where eating a bite of green bean casserole, or taking a shower, or cleaning our homes exposes us to dangerous toxic chemicals. We have a chance to make a change by telling Congress how important it is to update the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. We can’t protect our kids and families from toxics without the help of federal legislation. To gain real MOMentum on this important issue, we need your help. Tell Congress that it’s time to get serious about TSCA!

    This is a Healthy Child Hot Topic- an effort by Healthy Child Healthy World to help inspire a movement to protect children from harmful chemicals. Read more:…or_not/

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    November 24, 2010 at 8:46 am by Sammie

    Everyone is talking about healthy food (taking aim at obesity) but not enough people are talking about this aspect of “healthy” — SAFETY! Thanks for this info!


    Anita Reply:

    @Sammie – thanks for your comment! Yes, food safety is an important part of the dialogue on health. If you share this (click the red “Share” link above), let us know what your friends and family think as well. Thanks!


    Claire Reply:

    @Sammie, Great point! It’s funny, there are racks of magazines with “Keep the Holiday Weight Off!” headlines, but it’s so rare that we talk about the safety side of holiday foods. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!


    November 24, 2010 at 8:11 am by Alexandra

    Thank you for raising awareness on this important issue. I hope everyone will follow the link and send a message to Congress. Toxic chemicals must be regulated. They are disrupting hormone systems and making us sick. Enough, already! Congress will not stand up to the chemical industry without our help. Act now.


    Anita Reply:

    @Alexandra- thanks for speaking up in support of this. It’s really good to see the energy folks have around increasing health and safety in our food supply and in the chemicals industry.


    Claire Reply:

    @Alexandra, Your passion is inspiring. “Congress will not stand up to the chemical industry without our help”–yes, yes, yes! Thanks for your comment, and for spreading the word on the importance of these issues!


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