A Spot of Tea…and a Green Bean Casserole

13 Nov

The other day, I had the joy of spending an afternoon with my Aunt Sue. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the weather was just gorgeous. We took a drive through the Irish Hills in Michigan, stopping to see the cottage where she spent her childhood summers, then headed in the direction of home, landing at this cute little place called The British Pantry & Tea Garden Cafe for lunch. It sits right on the main street through an historic downtown, in a long row of other local shops and businesses.

We wandered the small pantry and gift area while waiting for a table. The pantry area is filled with foods imported from Great Britain including things like steel cut oats, crackers, shortbread cookies, teas, and some strange tin called Gravy Granules. Interesting stuff. The other part of the storefront has gift items such as books, kitchen goodies, Christmas decorations and ornaments, and a wall of jars filled with loose leaf teas.

Once seated in the small cafe, we each ordered a pot of tea — Aunt Sue’s was Sweet Sin and mine was Chocolate Orange. Delicious! The menu included a variety of British items such as Cottage Pie, Ploughman’s Lunch, English Pork Pie, and Pasties stuffed with chicken or beef. They had several vegetarian options, too — Spinach Quiche, Maiden’s Lunch (wedge of Brie with fresh fruit and crackers), Tea Sandwiches, and all kinds of salads. There were no truly vegan items but I was able to order a veggie wrap without the cheese and a small side salad of mixed greens, dried cranberries, toasted almonds and raspberry vinaigrette. It was perfect. We ended our meal with more tea and a couple of scones. I know they contained butter and weren’t vegan, but I can’t resist a scone, so I had a Cranberry Orange one. Fantastic!

Thank you, Aunt Sue, for a wonderfully relaxing afternoon escape that I so desperately needed!

After my afternoon away from home, dinner needed to be something not too time consuming. Luckily, I had my weekly menu already planned and was able to pull it together quickly. Our side dish for the night was veganized green bean casserole. Yes, I’m talking about that green bean casserole. The one typically made with canned green beans, Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and French’s French Fried Onions served at many Thanksgiving dinners.

Except mine didn’t contain any of those ingredients. Mine was fresh, healthy and vegan! Better yet, it passed the hubby/kids inspection. I used this Vegan Green Bean Casserole recipe from the FatFree Vegan blog. The flavor was fantastic and I couldn’t stop eating it! I actually found all-natural French fried onions at the Dollar Tree, if you can believe it. The brand name is Golden Farms and the only ingredients are onions, vegetable oil, wheat flour, soy flour and salt. No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. As for the recipe itself, there are only a few small changes I would make the next time around.

1. Cleaning the fresh green beans was the most time-consuming part of the whole process. I would consider using two 12-ounce packages of frozen green beans that are already cut into bite-size pieces. I know the flavor will be just as good, and it will save time on a day when cooking is an all-day event.

2. I chopped the mushrooms really small because I thought that would best resemble the Campbell’s soup version. Next time, I will dice them bigger. I want to actually have bites with chunks of mushrooms in them.

3. The mushroom sauce was a little thin. The recipe calls for only 2 tablespoons of flour and you whisk it into the broth before adding it to the sauteed mushrooms. It came out pretty soupy and I’d prefer the mushroom sauce actually cling to the green beans. Next time, I’ll use 1/4 cup flour and stir it into the sauteed mushrooms before whisking in the broth. This should thicken it better.

All-in-all a great recipe. It’s quite low in fat and the taste is absolutely addictive. I will probably make this to take to Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws.

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2 Responses to “A Spot of Tea…and a Green Bean Casserole”

  1. diana November 14, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    What an amazing visit!! Growing up in the Detroit-area, I’ve never heard of, or visited, the Irish Hills. Since moving to Bedford, I hear people talking about that area all the time! I would love to road trip with my kids there some time. How do I get there??

    The British Pantry sounds wonderful- thanks for mentioning it; I’ll definitely check it out.

    • tamiespears November 15, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

      Just go up US23 to the Dundee exit (M-50) and head west. We drove up US-12 and it was beautiful. If you Google the British Pantry in Tecumseh, they have a website with directions. Also, Google search W.J. Hayes State Park or Wampler’s Lake in Michigan. You should get tons of Irish Hills travel info.

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