Last year for St. Patrick's Day, I tried to make you guys a great Irish pot pie. Irish in that it had Guinness in it. It was so good except for one thing. It was crazy bitter. Like barely choke it down bitter. I took some great pictures (or what I thought were great at the time since I was just starting this take pictures of your food thing), and I was all set to post it. But then I thought and I thought, and I tried it again, and I couldn't. It was too bitter, and I didn't really understand how it came to be so dang bitter.

The week after St. Paddy's day last year, I was watching an episode of Chopped on the Food Network, and one of the basket ingredients was a porter beer, like Guinness. I believe it was Alex Guarnaschelli who said that you couldn't cook that beer for too long or it would turn out really bitter. I was so happy to hear that, and I tucked away that nugget of information for almost a year and finally made this stew.

The beauty of this stew is its simplicity. The only seasoning other than salt and pepper? Bay leaves. I found that the veggies, beef, and Guinness gave it plenty of flavor. I cooked this stew for about five hours and added the beer after three hours. I think you could trim that down to about three hours total and add the beer for just the last hour. You really only need to cook the stew long enough for the veggies to soften and the meat to tenderize. And the valuable lesson is that you definitely don't want to cook that beer for too long. Trust me on that one!

Irish Beef Stew Recipe
Serves 4-6
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2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound stew meat
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Salt and pepper
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 small carrots, diced
8-10 baby yellow potatoes, cut into small chunks
4 ounces mushrooms, quartered
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
3 cups beef broth
3 bay leaves
1 can Guinness draught

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large zipped bag. Add in the stew meat and shake until the flour is coating the meat. Set aside. In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat until hot. Add in the onion, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms and cook until slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Remove the vegetables to a bowl or plate.

Add the other tablespoon of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add half of the floured stew meat to the pan and let cook for 2 minutes without moving so it can brown. Then stir it around and let it brown on all sides. Repeat with the remaining meat, adding more oil if needed before browning. Pour about 1/2 cup of the broth into the pan and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add in the rest of the broth, the can of tomatoes, cooked veggies, beef, and the bay leaves. Let simmer for 2-3 hours or until the veggies are soft and the meat is tender.

One hour before you are ready to eat, add in the can of Guinness draught and let simmer on low heat. Serve hot.

A She Makes and Bakes recipe
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I feel like while all of you have been eating healthy things like salad, soups, and egg whites, I've been stuffing my face with pizza, wings, and cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes. The last time I ate something green that wasn't tinted with food coloring (never a good sign) was too long to remember. Until now. I think green beans are a year-round vegetable because I don't really think they taste different in the winter than they do in the summer unless they come out of my own garden. I could be wrong or maybe I'm just desperate for anything fresh in the winter. So fresh green beans with mushrooms, garlic, and almonds are pretty fantastic right now (and at all times of the year)...not to mention healthy. Thank goodness. Maybe I can retire my fat pants if I eat enough of these and less pizza. Fingers crossed! 

I have some fun news to share today. In 2012, I traveled to New Orleans, Ireland, and France for my previous job with a writer, Linda. Linda now is starting a free ezine and has asked me to be a part of it. It's going to be great. It comes out every month and will have articles/stories from yours truly, celebrity interviews, movie reviews, health and life coaching articles, book reviews, stories from a travel blog, and much more. The title of the ezine is perfect- Aurora: A Guide to Living in Color. Because nothing about your life should be ordinary. If you want to sign up to receive this ezine, you can send an email to with the subject YES. The first issue comes out January 30th and will repeat each month. I hope you all sign up because it's going to be a lot of fun. And you can never get enough of me, right? Right? Crickets. Ok...I'm sick of me already. The other women involved are pretty amazing, so I'm excited to get it in my email every month!

So there you have it. Green beans and fun stories. Let's do it, shall we?
My Favorite Green Beans
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8 ounces of fresh green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half
1 tablespoon butter, divided
4 ounces mushrooms
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
Salt to taste

In a medium sauce pan, boil salted water. Add the green beans once the water is boiling and cook for about 7 minutes or until the green beans are cooked but still crunchy. Drain and plunge into ice water to stop them from cooking.

While the green beans are boiling, melt half of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until they have released their liquid and are soft. Stir in the garlic and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the almonds.

Drain the green beans and add them to the mushroom mixture. Add the rest of the butter and season with the salt. Cook on medium until warm. Serve immediately.
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Are you ready for one of the most comforting meals ever? Well hello. I love pot pie, and I definitely love it with pie crust (mainly because I adore good pie crust). However, in January a few veggies soaked in cream stuffed inside a buttery flaky pie crust can be a bit much. Calorie wise, that is. This creamless pot pie studded with cream cheese pepper chive biscuits is incredible. You don't have to fuss with a pie crust (which can be annoyingly difficult), and the biscuit topping almost preportions the servings. And have I mentioned yet that the biscuits are the perfect contrast to the filling? A bit of spiciness from the pepper contrasts nicely with the cream cheese and chives. Not to mention they're so tender and wonderful. And yes, I'm aware that I'm trying to make pot pie sound healthy. Just go with it.

This really isn't hard to make, and if you wanted to save yourself some time, you could use a bag of frozen veggies instead of doing the prep and cooking the veggies yourself. I included an onion, carrots, green beans, and celery but you could do zucchini, peas, or any variety of your favorite vegetables (or the ones you know your family will eat). I have to leave the peas out or the hubs won't touch it. If you are going to add peas, use the frozen ones and add them into the sauce at the very end (still frozen).

The broth is a simple roux made with chicken broth instead of milk/cream. I'm not going to's a little skimpy on the sauce side but it does coat the veggies well and it's not dry. This sauce really allows those veggies to shine, but if you like it saucier (and I don't blame ya), you can double the sauce part. I used a very large chicken breast that I boiled, but if you're really going for easy, cut up a rotisserie chicken! All in all, it's one of our favorite cold-weather meals. And I love that I can have it in my arsenal when I need it. Not to mention that it's not 8 million calories like some of the other ones out there. 
Chicken Pot Pie with Pepper Chive Biscuits Recipe
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*Note: This filling is not very saucy as it's mainly veggies (because I was trying to be a tad bit healthier). If you like a lot of sauce, double the flour, butter, and chicken broth mixture.

For the biscuits:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
2 tablespoons cold butter cut into cubes
2 ounces cream cheese, cold
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk, cold

For the filling:
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups carrots, finely diced
1 cup green beans, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup butter*
1/4 cup flour*
2 cups chicken broth*
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

To make the biscuits, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, garlic powder, sugar, pepper, and chives in a medium size bowl. Add the cold butter and cream cheese and cut them into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or a fork until they resemble coarse crumbs. Add in the buttermilk and stir until the dough is in one ball. Place a little flour on your counter and pat the biscuits out until they're about 1/4 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or a glass and cut 9-12 biscuits (depending on size). Place them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and spray a 9x9 pan with cooking spray.

To make the filling, in a large skillet over medium heat melt the 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the carrots, green beans, yellow onion, and celery and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often, until the veggies have softened slightly. Add the garlic and cook for about 30-60 seconds or until fragrant. Remove them to a bowl. In the same skillet, melt the 1/4 cup butter over medium heat and sprinkle the flour on top. Whisk together and cook for about 3 minutes until bubbling and slowly add in about 1/4 of the chicken broth while whisking. Keep whisking and slowly add in more of the broth. Once all the broth is incorporated, whisk and cook for a few minutes until any lumps are gone. Season with salt and pepper. Add the veggies and chicken to the broth and stir to incorporate everything.

Pour this mixture into your prepared pan. Place the biscuits on top of the chicken mixture and brush them with buttermilk, heavy cream, or melted butter. Place in the oven and bake for 20-23 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown and the pot pie mixture is bubbling. Let cool slightly before serving.

To reheat, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Cover with foil and bake until heated through, about 15 minutes.

Adapted from Joy the Baker
What's in a name? Really these should be called pesto tomato mozzarella puff pastry bites, but that seemed just a bit too long. Pesto caprese puffs? Awesome appetizer? I dunno, but I do know they're pretty lovely. It's really hard to go wrong with puff pastry and pesto in my humble opinion. By the way, I love that spell check is freaking out over caprese but not dunno. Really? Ok spell check. Whatevs. Oops...there you go again.

I served these at my husband's 30th birthday party last summer, and I think they're great for a party because they don't have to be served hot. Sadly, the day of football playoff parties is over here in Denver. Ask me how fun it was standing through double overtime in single degree temperatures (with a windchill of negative 6) to have my team lose. My toes still are screaming at me. Anyway....if you're lucky enough to be attending or throwing a playoff party, I highly recommend these guys. They'll make you happy, even if your team is losing. Or loses in the last second. And for that big game in a couple of weeks that could have been ours, well I think I'll whip up a batch of these to console me. 
Pesto Puffs Recipe
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One sheet puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup pesto
1 tomato, sliced
Mozzarella slices cut into 1-inch squares

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Unfold the puff pastry on your counter and spread the pesto on top (you may need more or less depending on your love for pesto). Cut into 3-inch squares and place 1-inch apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Cut the tomato slices into quarters and place a quarter on each square. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms and edges are lightly browned. If you want warm, melty cheese, place the cheese on top of the tomatoes immediately. If you want to serve the puffs at room temperature, plate the puffs and then add the cheese after they've cooled. Refrigerate any leftovers.
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Is anyone else semi obsessed with Friends? I LOVED watching it when I was younger...I even thought of creating a trivia game for it.

Q: Where did Chandler say he was moving to in order to get away from Janice?
A: Yemen

Q: When Ross got a new couch and it got stuck in the stairwell, what did he repeatedly yell?
A: Pivot! (Please tell me you yelled that in a Ross voice when you read it!)

Q: How was Chandler's name printed on magazines that were mailed to his apartment?
A: Chanandler Bong

I think that last one was on one of their own trivia games, but it's a classic. I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode at least twice, and I've started watching the reruns again. On Nick at Nite. Which depresses me. How am I old enough to have my favorite shows (which I watched in high school/college) to be playing on Nick at Nite?? Last week they showed the episode where they all turn 30, and let me tell you from someone who is turning 30 this year, they are older than 30...or I think I look younger than that. Or will I always think they look older than me? Even when I'm 50? I guess we'll see. But I'm right there with Joey...why God why?! This girl is not looking forward to turning 30 this year. At all.

Anyway....maybe egg white omelets will keep me looking younger? I dunno. I do think that these are great if you're on a diet right now...and they're great if you're not, too. You really can put anything into it that you want. Mine has cheddar cheese, mushrooms, and spinach--one of my favorite combos. I realize cheddar cheese isn't exactly on most diets, but you can use low fat, just a tiny bit, or none.

I really have no way to relate an omelet to Friends, but that's where my brain is at tonight. My apologies.
Egg White Omelet Recipe
Makes one
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Note: If you want to use the whole egg, just scramble the two eggs together before you add them to the pan.

Small handful of baby spinach
1 large mushroom, sliced
Sliver of butter
2 egg whites
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded

In a small skillet, melt the sliver of butter over medium heat. Add the mushroom slices and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted. Spoon the mushrooms and spinach to a bowl and set aside.

Spray a spatula with cooking spray.

Spray the same skillet with cooking spray and add the egg whites. Cook for a couple of minutes until the bottom is set. Season with salt and pepper. Slide the spatula under the eggs and carefully flip them. Place the cheese, mushrooms, and spinach on half of the eggs and flip the other side on top of the toppings. When the cheese is melted, remove the omelet to a plate and serve.
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We got a new computer this week, and it's great except for one thing. It has Windows 8 on it, and it is the most confusing operating system ever. Ever. I had to google how to restart it because I could not find it anywhere. How ridiculous is that?? That handy start button that's been on every Windows computer since the beginning of time (not really) is missing. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually, but I've spent the past three days feeling like a complete idiot.

Here's where I could say that when I feel like an idiot I like to make stew. Well, that's not really true. When I feel like an idiot, I like to curl up in bed and watch tv. Which doesn't equal stew being made because my dogs can't cook and my husband works during the day. Sigh.

However, I've been eating this stew since I was little, and it's one of my favorites. Perhaps it's because you serve it over rigatoni and that's one of my favorite pastas. Or maybe it's because it's a simple stew with carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, beef, and Italian seasonings that has amazing flavor and depth. It's pretty easy to make, and you could do the prep the night before and put it in the Crock Pot to cook while you're at work. It's also a great weekend meal...I've even made it on a night when I didn't have a lot of extra time but it sounded really good. I just put in extra liquid and boiled it on medium high heat with the lid off until everything was tender. So it can be made in a rush if you're desperate. Or if you feel like an idiot and want to redeem yourself.

Italian Stew Recipe
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Notes: I prefer tenderized stew meat because it speeds up the cooking process quite a bit. If you can't find tenderized meat, ask the butcher/meat counter to tenderize it for you. Or you can beat it with the pointy edge of a mallet (but this doesn't work as well). If you don't have or don't like red wine, just use more beef broth.

1 tablespoon butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound tenderized stew meat, cut into smaller bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 1/2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
8 ounces mushrooms, stems removed and quartered
1 1/4 cups carrots, cut into bite-size chunks
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

1 pound rigatoni cooked al dente
Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove to a bowl.

Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika in a zip-top bag. Add in the chunks of stew meat and shake until the flour mixture is covering the meat.

Over medium high heat in the same pot, add the one tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is almost smoking, dump in the bag of meat and flour. Let brown on all sides. When the meat is browned, pour in the red wine and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. (At this point, you could move this to a Crock Pot and add everything else in the Crock Pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.) Add the beef broth into the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, bay leaves, parsley, and basil. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Place the lid on, but leave it open a crack, and let it simmer for about 2 hours, stirring every so often. The stew is done when the carrots and beef are tender. Discard the bay leaves, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve over rigatoni. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
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The first time I saw these potatoes, I knew they would be an instant hit at my meat-and-potato house. But the recipe I followed led to burning butter and a smoky oven and house. They were good, but I knew there had to be a better way to make them. A few months later, I happened to be watching an episode of Cook's Country on PBS, and it showed me a better way to make them. Gotta love that!

So here are a few tricks:
1. Place a wooden spoon next to the potato while you slice it. Your spoon will stop the knife from cutting all the way through the potato. The first time I did this, I put the spoon under my potato and shockingly sliced right through it. I was confused. Don't be like me.
2. Run water between each slice in the potato to get rid of the starch that acts like a glue. This will lead to better fanning.
3. Microwave your sliced potato for 5-7 minutes to help speed along the cooking process.
4. Brush the top of the potato and in between the slices with olive oil before it goes in the oven. Once it's done, then you can add the butter and cheese and pop it back in the oven until the cheese melts. This will keep your house from smelling like you don't know how to cook (a definite plus when you have dinner guests).
There are a million variations you can try with this method. I love putting sharp cheddar cheese on mine, but you could add chives and bacon, garlic, other seasonings, and I've seen it done with sweet potatoes, too. These are a great alternative to the standard baked potato, and when they get crispy on the top and bottom, it almost feels like you're eating a fried potato...without some of those calories! 

Hasselback Potatoes Recipe
Makes two potatoes
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2 large potatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
Kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Scrub your potatoes well and place them on the counter next to a wooden spoon. Cut thin slices through your potato, using the wooden spoon to keep you from cutting all the way through it. If you do cut through it, you can use a toothpick to put it back together. 

Run water in each cut to remove the starch. Microwave the potatoes for 5-7 minutes (depending on the size of your potato). Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and place the potatoes, cut side up, on it. Brush the olive oil on top of the potato and in between each slice. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the inside is soft.  
Once the inside is soft, drizzle the butter on top of the potato and inside the slices. Place the cheese inside the slices and on top and bake for another 5 minutes until the cheese has melted. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste and serve.

Tips from Cook's Country
As much as I love food now, I was a total brat growing up. I would eat mac and cheese, potatoes, and cold hot dogs. My parents would play the "if you eat three more bites, you can leave the table" game, and I would sit at the table for hours because I was too stubborn. It's definitely not that I was full. I just didn't like it. One day, they served something that I didn't like (again), and I *kind of* threw a fit. A big fat fit. I kept loudly saying (some might say I was yelling) "I want a potato!" My mom looked at my dad and told him to get me a potato; so my dad got up, grabbed a potato, and slammed it on the table. I looked at him, burst into tears, and yelled "I want a baked potato!" Looking back, it's pretty funny, but I know I'm going to pay for that when I have kids. Big time.

At Thanksgiving, I would eat a tiny piece of turkey, a lot of mashed potatoes (with extra butter, no gravy), and a few rolls. My uncle looked at my plate once and asked if I ate anything that wasn't white. Clearly not. So I've had my share of potatoes over the years, especially at Thanksgiving. I've been making these for as long as I can remember, and I love how adaptable they are. I've learned a few tricks along the way, like to put a clove of garlic in the water while you're boiling them because everything is better with garlic.

This is my favorite mashed potato recipe (for right now). If you're making these for a crowd, I highly recommend you use evaporated milk. However, regular milk works great, too, especially if you don't want to open an entire can for a small serving. When we make these for Thanksgiving, we boil the potatoes and once they're finished cooking, we drain the water, place the butter in the pan with the potatoes, and put the lid back on. Once things are ready to start coming together for dinner, we quickly mash them and add the other ingredients. One tip, always make sure you add enough salt. Nothing is worse than undersalted potatoes! 

Mashed Potatoes Recipe
Serves 3-4
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Note: This recipe makes enough for 3-4 people. To make more, just double or triple the recipe.

1 1/2 pounds of Russet potatoes, peeled (about 2 large potatoes)
1 garlic clove, peeled
4 tablespoons butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Chives (optional)

Cut your peeled potatoes into 1/2 inch slices and cut the slices in half. Place them in a large pan filled 2/3 the way full with salted water. Place the garlic clove into the pan with the water and potatoes. Cover the pan and heat it on high on the stove. Once the water boils, crack the lid and turn the heat down to medium-high. Let boil until the potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes from when you turn on the stove. Drain the water out of the pan, add the butter into the pan with the potatoes, and place the lid back on the pan.

After the butter has melted, add the cream cheese and mash the potatoes using a potato masher. Once the potatoes are mashed to your desired chunkiness, slowly add the milk while continuing to mash. Once the potatoes have reached your desired consistency, add the salt and pepper, adding more to taste if needed. Garnish with chives (optional but recommended) and serve.

A She Makes and Bakes recipe
I've been getting the magazine Taste of Home for a couple of years now, and I think they have some great recipes. I was struck by a recipe in last month's issue, but I was more excited by the idea of it than the actual recipe: green bean casserole stuffed mushrooms. Their recipe had pureed stuffing, and I really didn't think it looked too appetizing. It kind of looked like baby food stuffed into a mushroom. I didn't even read how they made it because I wanted to create my own and make it "prettier."

Now I'm not going to lie and say this is something that you can quickly whip up. There are a few parts to it: you have to roast the mushrooms, boil the green beans, fry the onions, and make the sauce. But you can multitask a lot with this recipe. While the oven is preheating, you can make the onion topping. While the mushrooms are roasting, you can make the sauce. I tried a few different variations of this before I came up with this recipe, so I know that you can't put the sauce into the mushrooms and then roast them. It becomes a hot mess. It's best to roast the mushrooms separately and then stuff em and serve em.  

I do, of course, have a way you can enjoy this appetizer with much less work. If you're making green bean casserole, save out a few of the green beans and chop them into 1/4 inch pieces. Pull out some of the sauce (minus the mushrooms), mix the green beans into it and spoon it into the roasted mushroom caps. You can even top it with the canned onions if you don't feel like frying the shallots or you could fry the shallots earlier in the day so they're ready when you need them. Whatever way that you do this, I think people will be pleasantly surprised by this appetizer. It's a different spin on the typical green bean casserole.   

Green Bean Casserole Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe
Makes 8-10 mushrooms
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8-10 large mushrooms, rinsed and stems removed

For the filling:
10-12 green beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 small clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the onion topping:
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Dash of salt and pepper
Dash of cayenne powder
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a small sheet pan with cooking spray.

While your oven is preheating, make the onion topping. Place the sliced shallot in the milk and let sit for 10 minutes. Place the vegetable oil in a small skillet and heat on medium until smoking. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Remove the shallot slices from the milk and dredge them through the flour mixture. When the oil is hot, carefully place the floured shallot slices into the oil and let cook for about two minutes or until they are golden brown, turning the slices so they don't burn. Remove to a paper towel and let sit while you make everything else. 
When you oven has preheated, place the mushrooms cap side down on the pan and bake for 20 minutes. Drain the liquid in the caps.

While the mushrooms are cooking, make the filling. Fill a medium saucepan with salted water and boil. Place in the green beans and cook for 5-6 minutes until bright green and crisp. Drain the green beans and plunge into a bowl filled with ice cold water to stop the cooking. Then cut the green beans into 1/4 inch pieces. 

In the same saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour and garlic. Stir and let brown for one minute. Add in the chicken broth slowly while whisking and let cook for one minute. Then whisk in the cream. Let cook for about 2 minutes while stirring until the sauce has thickened. If it's too thick, you can add more broth. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and add more if needed to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped green beans.
Place a spoonful of the green bean topping into each mushroom cap and top with some of the fried shallots. Serve immediately.

A She Makes and Bakes original
Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away; are you ready? Let the menu planning begin. Or maybe you're like me and you've already been planning. We always go to my parent's house for Thanksgiving, and it's usually a fairly small affair. We love to have variety, so we try and do small batches of everything but that hardly works. We always have way too much food.

Too much food at Thanksgiving? That probably only happens at my house, right? One of my favorite Thanksgiving foods is green bean casserole, and while I love the cream of mushroom version, it is absolutely incredible homemade. As in completely from scratch. Real green beans, a real roux sauce, and real mushrooms. We first had this a couple of years ago when I saw it in one of my America's Test Kitchen cookbooks. The flavors are stupendous, and it's everything you want your green bean casserole to be. The first time I made this recipe, I used this recipe for crispy fried onion strings as my topping. I highly recommend it, but it's kind of a pain to fry the onions and such. If you want the more convenient and still delicious route, the onion topping below is the way to go. I know this takes more time than the usual green bean casserole, but it's definitely worth it!

Homemade Green Bean Casserole
Makes a 9x13 pan
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2 pounds green beans, trimmed and halved
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound mushrooms, stems removed and quartered
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

For the topping
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups canned fried onions

Fill a large bowl half full with cold water and some ice. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook until bright green and tender but crisp, about 5-6 minutes. Drain the green beans and then plunge them into the cold water bath to stop the cooking. 

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

In the same pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and it has evaporated. Add the flour and cook for one minute while stirring. Add in the broth and let simmer, stirring constantly, and then add in the cream. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is thickening, make the topping. Melt the butter in a small skillet and add in the panko bread crumbs. Mix in the seasoned salt and pepper and stir frequently. When the bread crumbs have turned a golden brown color, remove from heat and stir in the canned fried onions.

When the sauce has thickened, stir in the drained green beans. Spoon the green bean mixture into a greased 9x13 pan and spread the topping mixture on top. Bake for 15 minutes until the top is brown and the sauce is bubbling around the sides.

Barely adapted from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2008 cookbook