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.