Monday, December 3, 2012

5 Minute, 5 Ingredient Soup

College Cooks: Are you in the midst of finals? Or about to be? Surviving on potato chips and ramen (i.e. salt)? Luckily, the College Student can survive the sustained assaults of such a diet--at least for a few more years.

Still, wouldn't it be nice to get some sustaining nutrition instead? Here's another good idea from Andrew Schloss, creator of clever recipes. If you had followed my pantry advice for the College Cook, you would have all the ingredients under your bed. But even a shopping trip should be doable and provides a nice break from procrastination.


1. 15 oz can of broth
2. 15 oz can of black beans (or any beans) drained
3. 15 oz can of tomatoes
4. 7 oz instant black beans** (these can be expensive--so why not just use another can of beans and mash with fork OR a can of refried beans?)
5. hot sauce

Combine in your rice cooker OR a pot (if you have a stove). Add 1 can of water. I would guess you could also put in a bowl and microwave. HEat up. Let sit a minute to let flavors develop.

This makes enough for 2 meals--or share with your frazzled roommate.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Healthy Soup for the College Cook

We just finished the last week of classes. Finals next week. I am crabby. My students are looking rather peaked. I'm sure they need some vitamins. I am also sure they are eating fast food and potato chips these days. How I wish I could make them eat their vegetables! I'm sure it would improve their studying.

I found an interesting recipe, almost perfect for the College Cook--no stove, ingredients easily stored, no special skills needed, no mess. All these things are important any time. Even more so at the stressful end of the semester.

Here is the recipe,from a clever cookbook called Almost from Scratch. I am adding the College Cooking modifications. I also cut the recipe in half. This makes 6 servings, so half would be--3. The amounts are for the 6 servings.

Broccoli-Spinach--Potato Soup with Cheddar

Saute 1 cup frozen chopped onions in a little butter
(CC Modification: just throw these in the rice cooker. You can try to saute in it, but it is a pain. Oh well.)

Add 32 oz broth.
(CC Modification. OR some broth with water and a few cloves of garlic. Or just water with garlic.)

Add about 10 oz frozen chopped broccoli and 10 oz frozen chopped spinach.
(Remember: you don't have to be exact.)

Turn rice cooker on. When it comes to a boil, click on warm. When everything seems done, puree with your stick blender.

Stir in 3/4 cup instant mashed potatoes. (OR a leftover baked potato or a few frozen french fries or--losing potato flavor--some cooked rice)

Keep on warm. Add grated cheddar and serve. (You can also add some milk or even stir in some cream cheese).

Don't boil once you add the milk products!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Why Your College Cook Needs My Cookbook

Miss Em forwarded me a story from her college paper. The intrepid reporter--also a good writer--did a test drive of some recipes for a cookbook geared to college students. The book itself has quite favorable reviews on Amazon, as it happens. The article is titled: Simple Recipes for Students End Badly. After Miss Em read the story, she emailed the writer and said, "My mom and brother put together an ebook that addresses all the problems!" So Frugal Son and I may be interviewed. Fame??

The problems with the college cookbook--this one in particular and in the genre as a whole--are many: they are a bunch of discrete recipes, and hence don't take into account the issues of shopping, equipment, know-how, storage, cost, and whattodowithleftovers. These are issues for any cook, of course, but especially for the College Cook, who often doesn't even have easy access to a stove.

The problems with the cookbook under review can be summed up in two words: PINE NUTS (or is that one word?). I looked at a pasta recipe. It called for a ricecooker (good for the stove-less). It called for simple ingredients. It was easy. BUT IT CALLED FOR A TABLESPOON of pine nuts!A 2 oz bag of pine nuts will run about $4.00 at the store. The leftovers will no doubt languish in the fridge. That's an expensive tablespoon.

Below, I've pasted the review of recipes. If you want to read the original, here it is. Basically, the author spent over $50.00 for three recipes that didn't come out well. UGH.

The book Frugal Son and I put together can be found on Amazon (if you have Kindle) and here (for a pdf). For the $50.00, you can eat for a week. And shop once. And everything comes out. Because we tested all the recipes (and they are forgiving recipes in any event).

Here is the article.

My “kitchenability” skills involve making grilled cheese, baking brownies from the box and, if I do say so myself, making an excellent bowl of cereal.

College life has made me appreciate all the foods I have at home that I don’t have here. As such, I found myself turning to “Kitchenability 101: The College Student’s Guide to Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Food” by Nisa Burns, which is a cookbook meant for students who live in both dorms and apartments that offers basic recipes and tips for beginning cooks.

Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I thought I would start off with a “Creamy, Gooey, Drippy Bagel” (34). All I needed was a bagel, cream cheese, cinnamon and honey, which were all easy enough to find at Publix.

Next came “Avocado Lettuce Wraps” (56). This is where I found myself wandering through the grocery store trying to track these ingredients down. Two avocados, two tomatoes, lime juice, salt and pepper, cilantro and one head of lettuce.

Finally came the main course, “Tropical Pineapple Chicken” (78). This required three chicken breasts, but I substituted for two. I kept looking for a package that only came with one chicken breast — you know, the kind meant for single people who are more often than not making dinner for one — but that package did not exist.

Reaching the checkout line, I cringed as I watched each item go through the scanner. An action card swipe at the dining hall hurts a lot less than a credit card swipe at the grocery store. My total came to $52.93, a swift blow from reality and the reason why I have a meal plan.

Since we are not allowed to have a toaster in our dorm room, I had to stick the bagel in the oven on a broiler pan so it could toast. Lacking a timer on our archaic oven, I had to keep checking it every few minutes to make sure it had not caught on fire. After I spread the cream cheese and sprinkled the cinnamon, the bagel didn’t look quite as dainty as the one pictured. Mine was scattered with clumps of cinnamon cemented in place by the honey.

For the lettuce wraps, what the cookbook failed to mention is that it is nearly impossible to get a leaf fully intact after you have peeled it off the lettuce head – my lettuce “wraps” looked more like lettuce tacos. While they did taste good, most of what I ate ended up in my lap due to my beginner lettuce-wrapping techniques.

When it came to the “Tropical Pineapple Chicken,” the recipe did not specify how long to cook the chicken. It might as well have said, “If it looks good, then I guess you can eat it.” After I cut through the middle and it appeared fine, I served it to my roommate. A few bites of rubbery chicken later, it was safe to say it was actually not cooked all the way through.

Although my roommate now believes that I tried to poison her and my bank account aches, the endeavor proved worthwhile as I discovered something I never knew before.

I should stick to microwave meals only.

Poor Hannah! I sent her a pdf.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jazzed Up Canned Soup in Your Rice Cooker

The seasonings that make your food taste good just so happen to be one of the more expensive components of stocking your kitchen. And then there's chopping onions and garlic, then sauteeing them: time-consuming and messy especially if you don't have a real kitchen.

I've written before about Roger Ebert's idea: use canned or powdered soup as your base. then jazz it up to lower the sodium and add some freshness. Your rice cooker will do the work.

Today, I put this idea to the test. I had some Progresso Albondigas (meatball, if you forgot your Spanish) soup that Big Lots had for a mere 50 cents a can. I added some drained low salt beans, some extra water, and a handful of preshredded cabbage (aka cole slaw mix). You could try frozen spinach instead.

Throw everything in the rice cooker and cook!

Folks, it was good. Add some of the hot sauce you have on hand. More than acceptable.

Any other ideas for jazzing up canned soups?

For other ideas, see the cookbook I put together with Frugal Son.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Veggies for the College Cook: Spinach and Broccoli Soup

The biggest problem for the College Cook (or the recently graduated cook or even for me) is vegetables. They are more expensive than you might think. They are messy to prepare. Frugal Son figured that out after two days in his new apartment. He called, "What is the best way to deal with vegetables?"

I flipped through some of my many cookbooks and came upon a promising soup. It is in a cookbook by Andrew Schloss. I got mine from do not spend $100 on this!

It is a interesting--albeit gimmicky--book. Schloss likes to take things--premade hummus, premade polenta, and the like and make other things out of them. I like metamorphic cooking myself, but I do not have his skill, training, or imagination.

Broccoli-Spinach-Potato Soup with Cheddar (his recipe)

Saute a cup onion and some garlic in some butter. Add 32 oz chicken broth, box frozen broccoli, box frozen spinach. Cook for a bit, puree, and stir in 3/4 cup instant mashed potatoes (!!!! genius!!!). Add some cheddar before serving.

Easily adaptable for the college cook!
Pantry ingredients from the cookbook:
frozen spinach, frozen onion, cheese

What I did: I threw some butter and about 1/2 cup frozen onion in the rice cooker. After a bit, I threw in a few cloves of garlic (I decided not to use broth). I then added two big handfuls each of frozen broccoli and spinach. Water to cover. Cook for a bit. Puree with stick blender.

Then I clicked to warm and stirred in about 1/2 cup of instant mashed potatoes (I only had a flavored kind--with bacon and other things, so I did not use the broth). Then I added cheese.

Notice how adding a few ingredients to the basic 20 we call for in the book really expands the options. In this case, you need to buy soe instant mashed potatoes, frozen broccoli, and garlic. All cheap and easy to store, even in limited space.

I will test this out on Miss Em later. I think it came out well.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What Else To Do With Couscous

OK. Let's say you bought the 10 pound bag of couscous from Amazon per my recommendation. Now what?

If you have my ebook, you know we recommend amassing a pantry of about 20 ingredients. These include:

canned tomatoes
canned beans (chickpeas, in this case)
frozen chopped onion
frozen chopped bell peppers

If you put all of the above into your rice cooker, you can make an almost authentic stew. Yes, it would be better to saute the onion (and you can try in the rice cooker), but honestly, the easy way is almost as good. I'd use a handful of the two frozen veggies. Remember to rinse and drain the chickpeas.

Cook on high for a bit and then turn to "warm."

If you want to jazz this up, you can add some baby carrots (no chopping required!), If you care or dare to chop, some sliced zucchini would be good. As always with the rice cooker, cook till done.

Oh yeah, add some raisins or dried apricots if you have them. A pinch of cinnamon and/or cumin too.

And, in the meantime, cook your couscous by putting some in a bowl and adding hot water to cover. When it's done, top with your stew.

Call your mom and tell her that--yes--you are eating well. Then tell her that she--or dad--can make this on the stove if they lack a rice cooker.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Couscous: Friend of College Cook

Couscous--that wonderful middle eastern grain--is positively mainstream these days. It is also a good friend: you can cook it with tap water! We spent a good chunk of time in France last summer and had to keep to a budget. We could magically create luscious meals with a box of couscous, some olive oil and vinegar, and a can of chickpeas.

Here's how: put some couscous in a bowl and cover with water--preferably hot. Then add oil and vinegar to taste. Then drain your chickpeas and add. Eventually your couscous will cook itself.

Sometimes we added sliced tomatoes and/or preshredded carrots and/or raisins.

The only annoying thing is that in France couscous is cheap: you can get it for as little as one euro (around $1.25) per kilo (about 2.2 lb). For some reason, in the USA, couscous is a luxury product, and can be a pricy choice. The cheapest we've found it is on Amazon.

This is perfect for the College Cook, because Amazon will deliver right to your door. It's always fun to get a package.