Cheddar-Pecan Green Bean CasseroleCan you believe it's the Tuesday before Thanksgiving? My local grocery store started selling Christmas trees just a few days ago, which caused me to start stressing about buying Christmas gifts. I realized that there is so much pressure surrounding the holidays--pressure to buy the best new thing, pressure to host a great party, pressure to be a great cook, pressure to be everywhere at once. We get so caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle that we forget to sit back and enjoy this special time.

I have a proposition: This year, let's focus less on consumerism and more on giving back and spending time with our loved ones. For you, that might mean baking cookies with a niece or nephew instead of buying them a lavish gift. It might mean telling your spouse or significant other just how much you love them (with words, not diamonds). It might mean sending a card to someone who has hurt you in the past. It might mean volunteering at a local shelter or buying a meal for a homeless person. Whatever you do this season, make it count.

Good news: Cooking is a great way to show someone you care, and what better time than Thanksgiving? I'm all about classic recipes with modern twists. This green bean casserole fits the bill perfectly. It's got everything you love about green bean casserole, minus the can of condensed soup. An easy Buttermilk White Sauce stands in as a stellar replacement, while blanched fresh green beans maintain better color and texture than the canned variety. The over-the-top topping consists of French-fried onions, breadcrumbs, pecans, and cheddar cheese. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, so why not bring new life to a family favorite?