Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans

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Bobbie says:

If you live in the U.S., green beans are probably still “in season” for a little while, so you’ve still time to try Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans – a savory side with a couple unexpected ingredients. Things to like: short ingredient list, simple prep and short cooking time. Things to love: Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans tastes like it took way more effort than it really does.

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - the money shot

 

My teenage self would never believe I’m writing about this. Other than babysitting, my first job was on a green bean farm. Sure, they grew other stuff. But seriously, it was mostly beans. Beans, beans, beans. All summer long. But we didn’t pick the beans. They were mechanically picked, and hauled to the barn and dumped into a contraption the owner’s son built to sort out most of the stems and rocks and teeny-tiny beans. Anything that made it through was dumped onto a conveyor belt manned by a handful of kids (can you still say “manned” if they’re teens? And mostly girls?) whose starting pay was $1 an hour, and whose only job was to pick out anything that wasn’t a nice, pretty-looking green bean before it went into the crates at the end. And not to get hypnotized by the conveyor belt going past oh, so steadily, because then you’d fall over. (Or maybe that was just me….) And we’d listen to the radio and sing along to the Bee Gee’s Bald-headed Woman.**

Moving on…

A few weeks into that job, I’d given up on trying to grow long fingernails (stupid conveyor belt) and also I never wanted to see another green bean. In. My. Life. By the time I’d worked there three summers (and late springs, and early falls) if anyone had told me one day you will go out of your way to buy fresh green beans, I would have told them they were nuts.

And speaking of nuts (see my subtle segue?) – they’re a major player in today’s recipe: Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans. Most people have had, or at least heard of, Green Beans with Toasted Almonds, which may be called Almondine or Amandine, depending on where you live and the circles you move in. Quite tasty, but been there, ate that, and most likely dribbled it on my t-shirt.

Well, this one’s a bit different, with butter toasted walnuts (obviously) but also a couple “secret ingredients” that you might not expect. Dry vermouth and…vanilla. Just a touch of each, combined with butter, garlic and onions, makes a sauce that belies the tiny amount of time and effort to make it. It tastes gourmet without much effort.

If you don’t have dry vermouth, you can use a dry white wine. Do not use sweet vermouth or other sweet wine, because sweet won’t work here.

Oh, and the vanilla! If you’re one of those who’ve always thought vanilla meant plain or boring, then you need to try vanilla extract in this non-sweet dish.  It enhances the other flavors in a decidedly non-vanilla way. Be sure you use real vanilla extract rather than imitation.

Make ahead: The nuts can be toasted and the sauce made earlier in your meal prep, but it’s best to cook the beans right before serving, so as to avoid overcooked beans, or you can serve them at room temperature if they’ve cooled down, rather than reheating them. I know any time I try to hold beans at serving temperature for a while, or when I reheat them, they taste overcooked. I can’t be the only one who hates mushy beans.

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans

1 1/2 pounds green beans, washed, stem ends trimmed. Leave whole, or cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 cup broken walnuts. Not chopped – break each walnut half into 4 or 5 pieces with your fingers
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon dry vermouth (or dry white wine)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (the real stuff)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Add beans to a saucepan of already boiling water. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. They should be still be bright green when they’re done.

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - toast the walnuts

While the beans cook, prepare the nuts and sauce.

Melt 1 T butter in saucepan over low heat.  Add broken walnuts, and stir until lightly browned. Remove to a small bowl.

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - saute the onion

 

Melt remaining butter, then add onion and stir for one minute.

 

 

Add garlic, vermouth, vanilla, garlic, salt & pepper. Let it come to a boil and cook for a minute or two. Remove from burner, but keep warm.
When beans are done to your liking, drain, then return to pan.

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - toss with sauce

 

Pour the sauce over and stir to coat well.


Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - top with walnuts

 

 

Transfer to pre-warmed serving dish, then sprinkle walnuts over top. Serve immediately.
This same sauce would also go wonderfully on roasted green beans. Those may take just a bit longer to cook, so plan accordingly. Toss with the sauce after roasting the beans.

 

Frozen green beans can be used out of season, but do try Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans with fresh, in-season beans while you can!

Butter Toasted Walnut Green Beans - dinner is served

 

** I swear I am not making this up. One of my co-workers at the green bean farm, a girl who shall not be named, absolutely  believed the Bee Gees were singing bald-headed woman instead of more than a woman. We learned this the first time the song came on, and she started singing the wrong words. Unironically, because nothing was ironic in the 70s. And when we tried to tell her the real lyrics, she argued with us about it, convinced she was right, and she was not the kind of person to try and put one over on us. So now, over 35 years later, I always sing Bald-Headed Woman quietly to myself as I wash and trim the green beans.

 

Bobbie Laughman is a dabbler in this, that, and the other thing. She is blessed to be Gwamma to EB: a half three-year old girl, half fierce tiger, and half genius philosopher, who currently lives 2 miles away and visits frequently.
Bobbie lives in the Gettysburg PA area, with her husband who has known her since 1981 and loves her anyway.

 

 

Homemade Pasta – Fettuccine Noodles from Scratch

Heather says:

Here is an updated recipe for making fettuccine noodles from scratch.

I should do this again very, very soon.

Or maybe I shouldn’t look at this when I’m hungry.

Homemade Noodles

A (Very)Basic Tutorial

Noodles

It won’t be long before someone whose traditional, Italian grandmother taught them how to make noodles chimes in and tells me I did it all wrong. I know this, There is a different (more traditional) technique that involves piling all the flour on the cutting board and mixing the eggs in a well. My goal for this tutorial is to explain the process in a manner even a very novice cook could attempt. I also live in a small town and Semolina flour requires a long drive I wasn’t going to make for an experiment. Ok, now that’ we’re on the same page, let’s get started.

  • 4 eggs (use the best quality you can afford / find)
  • 1/4 tsp salt aka a pinch
  • 2 TBSP olive oil (again best quality)
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose (plain, not self-rising) flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

beat the eggsIn a large bowl, beat the four eggs with the oil and salt.

white and wheat flourIn another bowl whisk together the all purpose flour with the wheat flour.

stir with forkUsing a fork to stir, slowly add one third of the flour mixture. Stir until there are no lumps, then hunt down a spoon.

Add another third of the flour mixture while stirring. The dough will be very sticky.

Slowly add flour from the final third of the dough until it has all come together and isn’t impossibly sticky. It was so humid in my area that I had to use all the flour. Drier climates and seasons may require less flour. Don’t underestimate the weather when it comes to some recipes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about five minutes. Much like bread dough, you want to knead enough to encourage the gluten (basically flour glue) but not so long that the proteins from the wheat break down.

shape into a ballShape the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Allow it to rest for 15 – 30 minutes. If you’re bored, click through the McKlinky above and see what other Home Eccers have been up to.

Roll the dough out using a rolling pin. Turn the dough (or I highly recommend the pastry mat,  for less than $10) about an 1/8th of a turn after each roll to try to keep the thickness of the dough as even as possible.

eighth inchRoll the dough out until it’s about 1/8th of an inch thick. Don’t break out the ruler, eyeball it. Think about boxed fettuccine, as that’s the general idea of what we’re going for.

Let the dough hang out for at least then minutes. A little longer if the air is so humid that it’s hard to breathe (what, like you’ve never complained about the weather before?)

Grab the bottom of the sheet of dough. Fold it about 1/4 of the way toward the top. Grab the bottom and fold it up again, repeat until you reach the top. It’s kind of like rolling up the dough, but it’s flat folds.

slice into ribbonsGrab a sharp knife and cut the dough into 1/4 – 1/2 inch strips.

draped noodlesUnroll the strips and drape over whatever is handy. If this is your first time making pasta, I bet you don’t have a past drying rack, either. I used one of my grill accessories as it happened to be nearby. Whatever floats your boat.

Let the noodles hang out and dry for a while. Some tutorials said ten minutes, some said three hours. My noodles hung out somewhere around 30 – 45 minutes.

pot of waterNow, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

boil the noodlesDrop your noodles in and check after 3 minutes. Fresh noodles don’t have to boil anywhere near as long as dried pasta. Don’t forget about them or you will have a pot of starchy mush, not the best way to end a culinary adventure.

Drain and toss with your favorite sauce.

In our case, we had alfredo with beef stewed in a wine gravy. All I can really say is NOM!

Homemade noodles

Enjoy!

Learn Your Refrigerator’s Zones for Optimal Food Storage

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I need help!  I like my milk very, very cold, so the temperature in my fridge is very low (38 degrees), but my produce keeps freezing.  I do keep some produce in the produce drawers, and some I put on the top shelf to see if that worked better, and the jury is still out on that one.  Some things did better and some did not.  How can I have my milk cold and my produce crisp?

Signed,
Limpy Lettuce

Heather says:

38 is actually a great temperature for your refrigerator, but my theory is the cooling space of your appliance isn’t all sitting at 38F.

Get to know your refrigerator’s zones.

Your refrigerator may have very distinct zones and these zones may be much colder (or warmer) than the temperature indicated, depending on the location of the sensor. Get yourself a thermometer for your refrigerator, they are quite inexpensive -$5 on Amazon¹, significantly cheaper than a service call, no?

Over the course of a day or several days, set the thermometer in different locations in your fridge. Shut the door and allow the refrigerator to do its thing undisturbed for a couple of hours. Please don’t just pop the thermometer on a shelf, and stand there waiting for the needle to stop moving. You won’t get accurate results. The door needs to be shut long enough for the refrigerator to cycle and the temperature to return to normal. Write down the temperature of each zone and create yourself a map of your refrigerator.

How do I know where my refrigerator’s zones are?

Well, it’s going to depend a lot on the layout of your particular appliance, but generally the upper area is cooler than the bottom. In general drawers are more about either organization or humidity than temperature, unless there is a drawer at the bottom of the appliance for holding meat. This drawer may have a small vent from the freezer that keeps this portion of the refrigerator extra cold.

You may find that the temperature of your refrigerator is different from the one indicated. Adjust your refrigerator’s thermostat accordingly or simply change your storage habits. If it’s wildly different, it may be time for a service call.

Ivy, my former partner here, once wrote about How to Minimize Food Waste by Thinking Like a Kitchen Manager. It’s a great post explaining the first in first out concept and other ways to reduce the amount of food waste in a home kitchen.

Additionally know that storing produce in a refrigerator isn’t as simple as just opening the door and plunking it on a shelf. Produce is very persnickety about silly things like humidity. Aside from cooling food one of your refrigerator’s most important jobs is removing excess humidity. The slider on your refrigerator’s produce drawer is more than just a nifty little decoration, it opens and closes a vent to allow or prevent the circulation of moisture from the drawer.

The Unclutterer has an old, but highly useful guide to storing produce in a refrigerator.

Have fun getting to know your appliance.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

¹Affiliate link

Cutting Board Care

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I’m interested in learning proper care of a wooden cutting board. I use one for veggies, and meats (I use bleach on it after it has been used for meats) and a separate board for fruits. The reason is that if I cut fruits on the cleaned veggie board, the flavors of onion, garlic, and other stinky stuff gets picked up by the fruit, and well, it tastes yucky. I’ve tried scrubbing with lots of hot soap & water & scrub brush, to no avail. How do I get it clean, and should I treat the wood with anything?

Thanks!
Vampire-Free Since ’08

Heather says:

I could have written this the other night.

At home I have multiple, large cutting boards, but I was at someone else’s house preparing dinner -mango salsa and grilled halibut with watermelon for dessert. I had been procrastinating cutting up the watermelon as they are a giant pain in the rear and I hate the chore. Without thinking I used the same cutting board that I had used for the mango salsa.

Oops.

Fast forward to the next day when I received a phone call about the leftover watermelon smelling of garlic. /shrug It happens. It can be prevented, I was just lazy and or forgetful, you can choose which.

Garlic odor can be neutralized with white vinegar. Keep some vinegar in a spray bottle, rinse the cutting board, spray it with white vinegar, give the acid a moment to work and then wash the board as you normally would. Yes, you will have to smell white vinegar for a few minutes, but you won’t experience the joy of unintentional flavor transfer.

As a general rule, stick with the multiple cutting boards for marathon cooking and to avoid cross-contamination.

Wooden cutting boards do require special care, check out this post on cutting board basics for the full rundown.

For the TL:DR crowd -never soak, wash quickly with hot soap and water, rinse, sanitize with dilute bleach and dry fully. Treat once a month with food grade mineral oil and remove gouges with a scraper not sandpaper.

While we’re at it, you may want to sharpen your knife skills and learn about how to use bleach safely. Nothing ruins date night -or the entertainment budget- quite like a trip to the ER.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

Get Clothing Clutter Under Control

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I have a dilemma. I find my bedroom becoming cluttered very quickly with clothes that are “too clean to wash” yet “not clean enough to put away”. I was a single mom for many years, going to school or working, sometimes more than one job, and as a result, I didn’t want to spend more time on laundry than I had to. I’d wear clothes until they were visibly dirty, overly wrinkled, or they became… umm… odiferous.

When I was a single parent, that didn’t take as long as it does now! Now, I’m married and have one teen at home (who is responsible for his own laundry). I work at home caring for my elderly parents, and the piles of “not clean, not dirty” clothes are overwhelming. In our bedroom and my parents’! Sometimes, items in the pile have to be washed simply because they have been there so long, they’ve become wrinkled.

What do other people do with their clothes? Do they wash every item, every time they wear it? Do they wear the same thing until it needs to be washed? Do they hang up or fold and put away slacks and jeans and tops that have been worn but aren’t dirty?

Help me get out from under this heap! If you need something cleaned, I’m your girl. I’m not a very physically organized person, and “stuff” is my great foe.

Signed,
Clothes Horse

Heather says:

I’ll let you in on a secret, I’m a bit disorganized, too. Ok I struggle a lot with organization, but I do try.  I tend to be a perfectionist control freak -no comments from the peanut gallery, thank you very much- about my own space, which in a weird cruel twist of fate means stuff often piles up as I wait for the “right” time to take of something. It takes a huge amount of -wait for it, I’m about to say a dirty word- self-discipline for me to do the daily upkeep that  organization requires.

When I read your dilemma my first thought is that perhaps you have too much clothing.

Generally speaking those of us who live in relatively affluent Western cultures have too much stuff and that stuff causes misery. If we aren’t careful we tend to enter a cycle where we work to buy things and then work to take care of our things and then work to buy more things to replace the things that fell apart due to neglect. I’m tired just thinking about it.  (You all know that this is where some people are going to tell me that they live with exactly 3 pieces of clothing not including their underwear and that they have no idea what I’m talking about, right?)

So outside of those people who claim to have 3 items of clothing, what are you to do?

Don’t pile your clothing. 

Piles are the enemy.

Hang everything you possibly can, ESPECIALLY the items that have been worn but aren’t ready for washing. If you can’t hang everything, then you must find storage for out of season clothing and I don’t mean a pile in the corner of your room. Space saver bags, a box under the bed, a box in the attic, anywhere except a pile that’s going to get knocked over and them trampled on.

Hanging allows clothing to dry thoroughly, preventing that musty now I have to wash it condition.

Go into your closet(s) right now and hang everything backwards on the bar.

As you wear items and wash them, hang them the normal way on the leftmost side of the bar. Just keep shoving the stuff hanging backwards toward the right. Over six months or a year (depending on your climate) you’re going to get a better idea of the clothing you actually wear. Donate or consign the rest and do not feel guilty about it.

Just let it go. Someone else needs that item much more than you.

Don’t hang onto items for “when I lose ten pounds” and certainly don’t hang onto items “in case I gain ten pounds.”

Just let it go.

While you’re undergoing the great clothing weed out, do not buy more clothing. If there is an item you cannot pass up, something in your closet has to leave the house before that item can be introduced to your wardrobe.

This isn’t an overnight fix, but  over time you will notice a significant reduction in the amount of laundry done in your home.

Good luck!

 Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.