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Green bean or sweet potato: Battle of the casserole dishes

We can't make the choice for you. But here are some arguments that can help you choose between green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole as part of your Thanksgiving dinner.

By Staff writer / November 19, 2011

For your Thanksgiving dinner casserole, should it be green bean or sweet potato. Why not both?

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, families across the US are searching high, low, and online for recipes on those turkey-side perennials: sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole.

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The Monitor's "Stir it up" food blog has offered up appealing recipes for both (see links a few lines down from here).

But for many holiday cooks, the first question to answer is, which of these casseroles should I really cook?

OK, this choice may not have cosmic implications. Nor does it have the pocketbook implications of choosing whether your first step toward the world of tablet computing should be with an iPad, a Nook, or a Kindle. But it's your time and effort – and maybe the crowd reaction to a special meal – on the line.

We can't make the choice for you. But here are some arguments that can help justify your decision, whether it's for the green bean casserole (see recipe and article here) the sweet potato casserole (recipe and article here), for both, or for neither one.

Green beans. Simple to prepare, this casserole offers textures that can be delightful in their own right (crispy on top, softer underneath) and also as a contrast to other items on the plate. Where sweet potato casserole can have a texture that's not all that different from mashed potatoes or stuffing, eaters can enjoy a distinctive squeak and crunch with the beans.

Sweet potatoes. This is one of those underappreciated veggies that blends nutrition with great flavor. OK, some people say the flavor is great once you work in the sugary, buttery, or even marshmallowy additions. But that's what the casserole recipes are usually about.

The government's ChooseMyPlate.gov website (a successor to the "food pyramid" of dietary recommendations), urges the use of more veggies like sweet potatoes that are high in potassium (among other nutrients).

A Harvard School of Public Health commentary on the "My Plate" guidelines, by the way, offers this advice: "Most Americans don't get enough vegetables, especially the dark green and red-orange types, or fruits." Sweet potato sits on My Plate's list of red-orange veggies, but, interestingly, green beans aren't listed under the "dark green" category. They are grouped under "other vegetables" because, the Agriculture Department says, their nutritional properties are similar to the other "other vegetables" (including onion, cabbage, and iceberg lettuce).

Hey, we're not getting down on green beans, though. Just mentioning that bit of trivia.

Both. They're both delicious and traditional (at least traditional as of recent decades). With this option, you can't go wrong. A meal that may be mostly white/brown (turkey, bread, gravy-and-mash) can use all the extra colors it can get. While you’re at it, consider making these dishes on other days of the year – not necessarily both on the same day.

Neither. Who needs tradition? If a family meal tastes good, is nutritious, and is offered with love, then people will enjoy and maybe even be excited to try different things. If some guests or family members pine for a casserole, they can bake it themselves.

Enjoy the decision-making.

And while you're thinking, here's another option called sweet potato pie

Happy Thanksgiving!

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