I saw a quote on Twitter recently that made me laugh. “Clever food is not appreciated at Christmas. It makes the little ones cry and the old ones nervous.” I could totally relate, because so many times I’ve tried to serve a new recipe, or a twist on an old one at the holidays, only to have my family ask “but where’s the…?”. I’m sure I did the same thing when I was young. Certain foods or recipes just bring back happy memories of things that you’re especially thankful for, and sometimes, there’s just no reason to change that.
This month’s Recipe ReDux challenged us to share a food memory for which we are thankful – and try to lighten it up. I have lots of food memories – most of which involve desserts, and at the risk of dating myself too much – Jell-O molds. Don’t worry – I won’t go there because I wouldn’t even know where to begin to make a healthier version of a Jell-O mold.
My mom used to make a vegetable dish for holidays that she called “Mixed Vegetables Mornay”. Of course it featured a Mornay sauce – which is a white Béchamel sauce jazzed up with some cheese. She used Parmesan, and added a bit of white wine, and it always got rave reviews. I was never a huge vegetable eater when I was young, but man, did I love that recipe! It was always on the table for holidays and special family gatherings, and it especially reminds me of Thanksgiving and family.
Once I moved to Boston, and got married and had kids, and my parents moved to San Diego, it was just too much to fly everyone out for such a short weekend, so we all started to do our own Thanksgivings, and honestly, I kind of forgot about some of those recipes that my mom always made. This year though – we’re finally within driving distance, so we’re packing up the car and driving over the river and through the woods to spend Thanksgiving with my family for the first time in about 25 years. I’m wondering if this dish will still be on the menu, but either way, I’ll still be thankful to spend the day with them and other family members.
I decided to try this recipe for the ReDux when I was shopping at Trader Joe’s the other day, and stocking up on frozen vegetables. I have nothing against other brands of frozen vegetables, and in fact frozen are just as nutritious as fresh, but sometimes I find that the quality isn’t great. TJ’s on the other hand, has the absolute best frozen vegetables. I’ve never been disappointed, especially with their Hericot Verts – AKA green beans. The best!
So I skipped the bag of mixed veggies that mom always used, in favor of some fresh rainbow carrots (because they’re pretty and festive, and there’s no substitute for those), and an assortment of frozen veggies from TJs.
Mom’s original recipe called for frozen mixed vegetables, cream in the sauce, and lots of buttery bread crumbs on top. I also seem to recall that it was more sauce than vegetables – probably the reason it was such a hit! My somewhat lightened up version calls for lots more vegetables, and a lighter sauce – I kept the cheese because WHY NOT, but used low fat milk instead of cream, and less butter. I also used whole wheat bread for the crumbs, and just tossed them in a bit of olive oil.
It was just as delicious as I remember it to be! Maybe even more so, because I actually like vegetables now, and there are so many in here 🙂
- 2 cups sliced carrots about 5 medium
- 2 cups cauliflower florets fresh or frozen
- 2 cups thin green beans frozen is fine
- 1 cup peas frozen
- 1 cup corn frozen
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- about 1 3/4 cups 1% milk + reserved cooking liquid from vegetables to make 2 cups
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 ounces grated Gruyere cheese
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs whole wheat bread
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly steam carrots and cauliflower if using fresh, not frozen cauliflower, until vegetables are just tender. Be careful not to overcook. Drain water.
Add remaining frozen vegetables to the pot with the carrots and cauliflower, and add 1/4 cup of fresh water, plus 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder to the pot.
Bring vegetables to a boil, and cook for about 3 minutes, just until they are thawed.
Drain vegetables, reserving cooking liquid.
Place vegetables in a casserole dish, or 9 x 13 inch glass baking pan.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter, and stir in flour. Mix well over medium-high heat, and let the butter-flour mixture cook for 1 minute.
Slowly whisk in milk and vegetable cooking water until sauce is smooth. Continue to whisk until sauce comes to a boil, and thickens. Reduce the heat to low, and add wine, salt, thyme, garlic powder and nutmeg.
Add cheeses and stir well to combine and melt.
Remove sauce from heat, and adjust any seasonings as needed.
Pour sauce over the vegetables.
Toss the fresh breadcrumbs with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, in a medium bowl.
Sprinkle bread crumbs over the sauce.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly, and breadcrumbs are light golden brown.
If necessary, brown the breadcrumbs under the broiler for the last minute or two.
Make sure you visit the other Recipe ReDux posts to see what everyone else is cooking up for Thanksgiving.
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