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.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rao's Sausage, Cabbage, Tomato Sauce for the College Cook

I wrote about this recently cooked dish on my other blog. It is a perfect recipe for a great convenience item: packaged coleslaw mix. And, no, you don't need to use the brand-named items in the recipe.

1 lb. Rao’s Penne Pasta
1 jar of Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce
1/4 cup of Rao’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 pound Italian sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound savoy cabbage, cooked and chopped into bite-sized pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

Heat Rao’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil and garlic in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add sausage, and sauté until meat is cooked.

Add cabbage, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes. Stir in 3 cups of Rao’s Marinara Sauce, and cook for 3-5 minutes, until flavors have blended.

Meanwhile, cook Rao’s Penne pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain pasta and return to the pot with ½ cup of sauce. Stir for one minute over high heat. Place on a serving platter and pour remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese, if desired.

It is easy and cheap--perfect for the College Cook. It has all major nutritional needs in a single dish. Also perfect for the College Cook. How can the College Cook--who doesn't want to make a mess--partake of this dish? Buy a package of shredded cabbage, aka cole slaw mix.

Well, I'm not sure you can do this in the rice cooker. So head on over to the dorm or a friend's kitchen with your two pots. Pot 1 is for the pasta. Use any shape.

Pot 2: Saute some sausage in your pot (no oil, since sausage will exude lots--you can spoon some out if too much), then add the package of coleslaw mix with a little garlic. When that's done, add a big can of tomatoes (of any kind). Stir for a while. When you think it's done, combine with pasta and top with grated cheese.

You got the shredded Italian cheese at Publix two weeks ago, didn't you?

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Quick Asian Meal for the College Cook

Check out the recipe from a bonafide College Cook. Tofu, Peanut-Hoisin Sauce, Rice, and Vegetables. Note that Miss Em, while still in a dorm suite with no stove, does have a kitchen a few doors down. So this is a stove recipe, though it could be adapted to the rice cooker.

I'm going to be trying this tonight.

That night I made an OMG-easy dinner that is going to be my new go-to! I already had a batch of brown rice that I'd made earlier in the week and some steam-in-bag veggies I'd gotten BOGO at Publix a week or two ago. I steamed the veggies in the micro (3 minutes). I heated some oil in the skillet, added some garlic, opened one of those packs of tofu, and grilled/lightly fried it in little chunks. (5 minutes). I mixed together hoisin sauce, peanut butter, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes to make a sauce. (1 minute, while veggies were in micro). I took the tofu out of the pan, added the veggies and the sauce, and stirred it together. (1 minute) Then I added the tofu to the pan again (at the end so it wouldn't fall apart), turned the stove off, and brought the still-warm pan to my room and set it aside (1 minute). I heated the brown rice in the micro (1 minute), poured half the veggie/tofu mixture on top, and threw some fresh peanuts on top (30 seconds). How long is that together? A little over 10 minutes? And it was SO GOOD! I can't even explain. And it made enough for two meals! It would be good with a fried egg, too (I am obsessed with eggs lately. I eat at least one a day. Great for protein boosts, versatile, quick and easy to cook!).
Anyway. I was quite excited by the quality meal I got with so little effort. It almost made me feel guilty. Heh.

Note the reliance on the College Cooking pantry: rice, frozen vegetables, tofu, peanut butter, condiments. Miss Em uses the tofu that comes in the little boxes, requiring no refrigeration.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What You Can Cook from the Shopping List or Pantry: Permutations

As an experienced cook, I marvel at what you can make from a limited number of pantry ingredients. Inexperienced cooks (or people who hate cooking like my mother) tend to keep their cupboards bare and so have to shop afresh for every meal. This is time-consuming and expensive.

From the Publix sale list posted last time, you can see a plethora of possibilities. And permutations within the permutations.

Pasta with tomato sauce.
--Add cheese
--Add sausage

Rice with Eastsmart* veggies
--Add cheese
--Add sausage
--Add egg if you have one
--Add soy sauce instead of the cheese for some Asian flair

--Broth plus veggies
--Canned tomatoes
--Add rice
--Add pasta
--Soy sauce

*Those Eatsmart vegetables are great, especially when on sale for $1. We went to Publix in Alabama for research (not really; we went to visit Miss Em). The packages included: broccoli, broc and cauliflower, broc and cauliflower and carrots, Asian mix (my fave); broccoli slaw (runner up). If I were you, dear College Cooks and Fellow Travelers, I would buy as many as I could use up to the expiration date (or even a bit past).

Any other ideas?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

College Cooking/ Frugal Cooking from Publix: THE SHOPPING LIST

OK, College Cooks (and even people like me with a kitchen): with the list from this week's sales at Publix, you can make easy, nutritious, and (yay!) even frugal meals. If you go to the Publix site and make your own list, you will even get info on which aisle your delicious goodies can be found in.

Note that--as a lazy and disorganized person--I do not use coupons. And--as a healthy cooking nerd type--I do not buy any of the heavily processed or convenience foods that are good deals for those who might want them.

And--as befits the College Cooking rubric--I am assuming you have only a rice cooker, a microwave, and a fridge. You will have to supplement with some cheap pantry staples like cooking oil, but you can make a lot with what's on the list below.

For HOW TO do these things in a rice cooker, see the little e-tome I put together with my son (above right to order ebook from us or Kindle-ready on Amazon). OR just google around and you can find how-tos hither and yon. Or email me and I will write out an instruction for you.

Certain ingredients may pique your interest: we use smoked sausage because it's precooked. I love the big bags of frozen ravioli. This is an excellent convenience product.

And finally, in certain states you have to BUY 2 to get the BOGO price. In others--like where my daughter lives--you need only buy one and will be charged half price.

Next post will enumerate various things you can eat and cook. Stay tuned.

Hunt’s 100% Natural Tomatoes BUY 1 GET 1 FREE thru 2/28/2012

Hunt’s 100% Natural Tomatoes BUY ONE GET ONE FREE thru 2/28/2012

Alma’s Macaroni Product Organic Pasta BUY ONE GET ONE FREE thru 2/28/2012

Ronzoni Pasta BUY 1 GET 1 FREE thru 2/28/2012

Progresso 100% Natural Broth BUY 1 GET 1 FREE thru 2/28/2012

DiGiorno Cheese BUY 1 GET 1 FREE thru 2/28/2012

Mona’s Pasta Café Five Cheese Ravioli BUY 1 GET 1 FREE thru 2/28/2012

Butterball Turkey Smoked Sausage 2 FOR $5.00 thru 2/28/2012

Eat Smart Vegetables $1.00 thru 2/28/2012
Florida Strawberries 3 FOR $5.00 thru 2/28/2012

Florida Tangerines or Juice Oranges 2 FOR $5.00 thru 2/28/2012

Fresh Express Salad Blends BUY 1 GET 1 FREE thru 2/28/2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Healthy Soup in Your Rice Cooker: Bob's Red Mill Mix

I started this blog (and put together a little ecookbook) so my daughter would have good things to eat in her stove-free dorm suite. As it happens, she doesn't need much help: she partakes of some of the free food opportunities that are a part of college life, cooks a sweet potato in the micro, or prepares a rice concoction in the rice cooker. No recipes needed for the above.

Yesterday, I bought some of the Bob's Red Mill bean mixes. They are somewhat misleadingly called soup mixes, but they are bean or bean and grain mixes only. You do need to spiff them up. You can buy these on Amazon.

I wanteed to see if it was possible to cook this in the rice cooker. Long story short: yes. I put 1 cup of mix in the rice cooker with 4 cups water. I three in a few peeled cloves of garlic (I don't like stock cubes, but go ahead). I turned the cooker on. When it came to a boil, I switched it to WARM setting.

Genius idea, developed by Miss Em. This turns your rice cooker into a slow cooker. I checked now and again and added some more water. When it was done, I tasted, added salt. It tasted--shall we say--virtuous.

I had some ham and added a few scraps. I also added some frozen spinach. It was good AND virtuous.

There are many possibilities--chopped carrots, mushrooms, etc would all be good.