While canned vegetables are no one’s culinary darlings, they are perhaps undeserving of their unglamorous reputation. Many people would just as soon leave them on the grocery store shelves or shove them to the back of the pantry, reserved for a nuclear apocalypse, after all the fresh vegetables have been irradiated out of existence.
Home-canned veggies are a step up, but I freely admit to becoming vomitously tired of the home-canned green beans that seemed to appear at nearly every childhood meal. I would take a few bites, pack them — unchewed — into my cheeks, then excuse myself to go to the bathroom and spit them into the toilet. I don’t know how my parents failed to notice and reprimand me, or maybe they did notice but they were too exhausted from canning all those dratted beans.
Let’s not be too hasty to dismiss them, however — their softer texture and paler color shouldn’t automatically disqualify them from a place on your table. In the spirit of bold experimentation, I thought I would try recipes that feature store-bought canned veggies and see if I could discover anything tasty enough to share. For fresh veggie die-hards, yes, of course they can be made with fresh or even frozen veg, but if you’re in a pinch and need to use up the beans, carrots and beets lurking in the back of your pantry, give these a try.
Arkansas Green Beans
I don’t know why these beans are Arkansan, but that’s a mystery for the ages, along with where my husband’s socks go. This recipe feeds a dozen, or one with 11 days of leftovers. Don’t let the recipe name mislead you. The key ingredient isn’t beans, but bacon (and maybe that’s why this dish tastes so good).
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Cook 12 slices of bacon (not too crispy because it will be cooked twice). I used turkey bacon for this recipe, because I prefer the leaner meat, but if that sounds like sacrilege to you, please use your thick-cut peppered streaky pork belly bacon. Pour 5 cans of well-drained green beans into a casserole dish and top with the bacon, either in whole strips or crumbled up, however you like it.
Next, mix together 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, 7 teaspoons soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder or more to taste. You can, of course, use fresh or jarred minced garlic in place of garlic powder. I also added ginger paste because I like ginger and I’m the one making this, so stop arguing. Pour the sauce over the beans and bacon and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, 45 minutes if using frozen beans, and forever if using fresh. Just kidding, you’ll only have to bake it for probably an hour.
Sweet & Spicy Glazed Carrots
In a skillet, mix 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook on medium until bubbly, then add 3 drained cans of carrots, stirring to coat. Cook another 2-3 minutes and serve warm.
Variations include changing up the spices to make it more Christmas-y with pumpkin pie spice, allspice, cardamom or a dash of cloves. I accidentally used nutmeg instead of cinnamon and it was quite good. I also added fresh ginger because, as I said, I like ginger (just a reminder in case your attention wandered off after I mentioned bacon). For a zestier glaze, add 2 tablespoons of orange juice and 1 teaspoon of orange zest. Try dropping in 1/4 cup dried cranberries or walnuts for festive oomph. If you like heat with your sweet, add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. If, like me, you think most vegetables could benefit from a little bourbon — or maybe it’s me that benefits from the bourbon; I’ll get back to you on that — then add 1 or 2 tablespoons of bourbon when melting the butter, sugar and spices.
Hold onto your aprons: Here’s something that’s actually healthy! It’s also easy and yummy, especially if you like beets and garbanzo beans and think that blending them with lemon juice, olive oil and garlic only heightens their natural yumminess. Don’t look now but I’ve pretty much given you the entire recipe already. Here are the specifics:
Most hummus recipes recommend removing the garbanzo skins by spreading drained beans on a tea-towel, then massaging them gently with another tea-towel until their transparent shells come off. You will never catch me massaging garbanzo beans in my kitchen. Smooth hummus is not worth the trauma.
In a blender or food processor, mix 1 drained can of beets and 1 can of garbanzo beans, drained except for 2 tablespoons of bean water, with 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Blend everything together and serve with fresh veggies for dipping. If you like a chunky dip, mix the ingredients with a potato masher.
The dip keeps well in the fridge for two to three days. In fact, I’m snacking on it right now. I’m building up the nutrients in my system in preparation for all the Christmas cookies I’m planning to eat.