28 September 2008

Economical Soup

Today, I made two soups from recipes on the USDA's Food Stamp Nutrition Connection. I'd originally planned to make these yesterday, because there's nothing like soup for rainy weather, but got sucked into The Magicians and Mrs. Quent and just couldn't be bothered. So I made them today during, of course, a freak heatwave.

The first soup I made, "Italian Bean Soup," is a basic tomato-based bean soup. It tastes pretty good and, according to the recipe, will freeze well. Good news, as I plan on freezing most of it in 4 oz storage cups.

(At this rate, I'm going to need an extra freezer).

The second soup, "Mushroom Barley Soup," was mostly an excuse to use up some of the quick cooking barley I had purchased when I was looking for barley flakes (they are not the same thing). It's a basic vegetarian mushroom barley soup -- nothing to write home about, but nothing to turn your nose up at, either.

While I have no complaint regarding the tastiness of the recipes I used, I am a little confused by the math involved. For example, "Italian Bean Soup" has a per recipe cost of 6.49 USD ... I couldn't get my recipe close to that.

While I bought store brand/generic everything except the vegetable juice and broth, that wasn't special for these recipes. I usually purchase store brand/generic tinned beans and save my money for the low sodium vegetable broth (which is impossible to find in store brand/generic) and the Muir Glen tomatoes.

Ingredients:
1 can (15 ounce) great northern beans @ .60
1 can (15 ounce) red kidney beans @ .60
2 cans (15 ounce) pinto beans @ .60 each
1 can (46 ounce) V-8 juice, low-sodium @ 3.00
1 can (15 ounce) Italian style or stewed tomatoes @ .75
1 can (15 ounce) vegetable-broth, low-sodium @ 1.75
1 can (15 ounce) drained green beans @ .61
1 1/2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 medium chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 fresh garlic cloves

Without factoring in the cost of seasonings and alliums (items I already had on hand and can only guesstimate the cost of), I've already spent 8.51 USD. 2.02 over the listed per recipe cost. Yes, if I'd bought the full sodium store brand tomato juice, I would have saved 1.21. Substituting store brand/generic low-sodium chicken broth would have saved me .95 and brought my per recipe cost down to 6.32 (excluding seasons and alliums), but would also have made the dish non-vegetarian.

Anyway, factoring in the guesstimated cost of the seasonings and alliums, say my per recipe cost was 9 USD. Divide by 18 servings and I get a per serving cost of .60 ... pretty good when compared to the cost of those microwaveable low-fat low-sodium soup bowls (which taste like pants).

All right, so even if I can't get my numbers to match the USDA's, these soups are still pretty economical. Honestly though, unless you're making lobster bisque with sherry, home-made soup usually is the most economical whole meal choice.

24 September 2008

Leftover Beer Roast Italian Stew

Modified version of "Leftover Roast Beef Italian Stew" from Kalyn's Kitchen. Brilliant way to use up leftover roasted beastie.
Leftover Beer Roast Italian Stew

1 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
10 oz. leftover beer roast (approx)
1 cup beef stock + 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes with "Italian" herbs
1/2 T dried oregano
1/2 T dried basil
1 small container mushrooms, halved
3 T chopped fresh basil, chopped 
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for 3 minutes, add bell pepper and saute 3 minutes more. Add beef, stock, broth, tomatoes, dried herbs, and mushrooms, reduce heat to very low, and simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper if desired. Add fresh basil when stew has cook to desired consistency and cook 10 minutes more.
Yummy in my tummy!

19 September 2008

Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!

It's that time of year, again. That blessed season when a woman's heart turns toward ... soup.

Today, I made two stockpots full of soup using all sorts of vegetable goodness. My plan is to freeze most of the soup in 1 cup servings to create easy grab-and-go meals, but a lot depends on whether I retain self control or break down and face plant in one of the stock pots. As Garfield is to lasagne, so am I to a good vegetable soup.

Green Bean & Tomato Soup
7 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth 
1 cup small pasta bowties  
½ instant rice 
1 large carrot, diced 
2 celery stalks, diced 
8 oz green beans, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces 
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes 
Ground pepper 
McCormick Salt Free Garlic & Herb Seasoning 
Dried parsley 

Bring broth to boil, add pasta and simmer 5 minutes. Add carrot and celery. Simmer 5 minutes more. Add beans, parsley, tomatoes, salt free seasoning, and instant rice. Cook 5-10 minutes longer or until rice is done and beans are tender.

A pretty good fast soup, but a little bland. Maybe, more tomato and less broth next time? The Husband thought it tasted "a little weird," but could not describe "weird" so caveat epulo?

Vegetable Soup for a Crowd

1 T olive oil 
8 medium carrots, thinly sliced (used mandolin) 
2 onions, chopped 
4 celery stalks, chopped 
1 red bell pepper, chopped 
2 T bottled minced garlic 
28 oz can crushed tomatoes 
15 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained 
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 
½ small head of cabbage, chopped 
2 cups frozen green beans 
2 cups frozen peas 
1 cup frozen corn 
15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed 
2 small bay leaves 
1 envelope Lipton Recipe Secrets Vegetable soup mix 
Dried parsley
Ground pepper 

Heat olive oil. Add carrots, onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Sauté 7 minutes. Stir in all remaining ingredients. Let simmer 1 hour. Remove bay leaf. I purposely made this dish more stew-like than soup-like, because that's what I like. You could make it more soupy by adding broth or water.

Of the two soups I made, "Vegetable Soup for a Crowd" was far and above the best. Rich, tomato-y, and redolent of garlic ... this is the soup I am most likely to face plant in.

Both recipes were (heavily) adapted from Reader's Digest The Ultimate Soup Cookbook (Reader's Digest, 2007). This is an excellent cookbook and I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in getting into soups. There are over 900 recipes in this cookbook and they all sound delicious. Can't wait to try "Cabbage and Carrot Soup" or "Bean and Barley Chili!"
Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Poetry for Young People: Lewis Carroll (Sterling Publishing, 2000)

12 September 2008

Vacation Food

As the In-Laws have been visiting I have not done much cooking. I did make two suppers, but all our other meals have come from restaurants or cafes. Happily, both suppers I prepared were quite yummy and well received by the In-Laws (one would not wish to delay their departure by giving them food poisoning).
Baked Salmon with Lemon & Dill

Place two pounds skinned salmon in a lightly lubricated baking dish. Cover with thin slices of lemon and sprinkle with dill. Dot with pink-nail sized pieces of butter. Bake until cooked through. I made these with crab stuffed baby portabellas I picked up at the fish counter with the salmon and they both took about 20 minutes at 375°.

Served with buttered parsley potatoes and garlic green beans.
Roasted Lemon Chicken

Rinse and pat dry one four pound chicken. Mix together softened butter, lemon zest, garlic, and pepper. Gently lift up skin on chicken breast and smear butter around. Rub chicken with a little olive oil. Squeeze one halved lemon over chicken and then put squeezed halves in chicken cavity. Roast at 350° for about ninety minutes or until the juice run clear and chicken is cooked through.

Served with leftover buttered parsley potatoes, leftover garlic green beans, and Birdseye Steamfresh asparagus, corn, and baby carrots medley.
While I've had a nice vacation, I look forward to returning to normal life. I haven't been to a farm stand or farmers' market in a week, people. I am getting desperate for corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes. Restaurant salads have been very nice, but I'm longing for stuff I've made with my own two hands.

When we drove past on of the stands this morning I saw that the pumpkins and mums were out. Pumpkins! Can't wait!