Monday, September 19, 2011

Tomato-Black Bean Soup

One of the other dishes that I made back in May before I moved in with my husband was the Tomato-Black Bean Soup from the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.  I really liked this dish because it was very chili-like, almost like a vegetarian chili, but because you add water in the end, it ends up being lighter than chilis normally are.  The thing that was greatest about this dish for the graduate student is that because most of the ingredients come from cans so it is (a) cheap and (b) really quick and easy to put together.  Now, my mother would probably insert something here about not eating so much canned food because of the high sodium and the whole risk of BPA, but on a graduate student budget, there isn't always another option.  (And don't worry, mom, I normally try to get the low sodium options if they're not too much more expensive.)

Anyway, if you don't believe me about how easy this recipe is, there are only two directions.  The first is: throw everything into the crock pot and stir, then turn it on and cook on low for 5-7 hours.  The ingredients are canned black beans (rinsed and drained), canned chopped roasted green chilies, canned Mexican stewed tomatoes with green chiles, canned diced tomatoes in juice, canned corn (drained; you can also use fresh or frozen corn, but if you're already in the canned foods aisle, you might as well cut your shopping time so you can get back to reading and get the canned corn as well), sliced green onions, pressed garlic cloves (these two ingredients are the only actual prep steps in this recipe), chili powder, and ground cumin.

So, this is what the soup looked like before cooking.  Aren't all the different colors great?

And this is what it looked like after cooking on low for 5-7 hours.

Now, you'll notice from the image above that once the "soup" is done cooking, it doesn't look all that much like soup.  And that is to be expected since the only liquid that was added to the soup was whatever came in the cans of tomatoes, so not much at all.  Which brings me to the second step, which is to add some boiling water to make it more soup-like, if you want.  I did this to make it more like as soup, as you can see from the image on the right.

The recipe recommends that you serve this soup just as you would serve chili: with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.  So, as I said in the beginning of this post, although it is in the chapter about soups in the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, it is very chili-like.  The great thing about this recipe too is that it was really cheap to make!  I actually had canned black beans already because I had gotten some way back when my roommate and I made a Costco run and I had the diced tomatoes already because I purchased a few extra cans at one point when I had a coupon.  The garlic, chili powder, and cumin are also ingredients that I normally have on hand.  So... I only spent $6.81 on everything for this recipe!  That comes out to $1.14 per serving for six servings!  For this recipe, because almost everything is canned, the big ticket items are the spices, but those are also the things that most people will have on hand from previous recipes.  Of course, even if you did have to get everything for this recipe, you'd still only come out to $2.60 per serving.  As for calories, even with the beans in this soup, the calorie count comes out pretty low per serving, about 220 calories per serving.  The toppings (cheddar cheese and sour cream) will add about 100 calories to that, though I was thinking as I was looking at the picture that that dollop of sour cream looks to be a little more than one tablespoon, which was the serving size I was using to count the calories, so, obviously, your mileage may vary.

Anyway, my overall analysis is that this is a really good dish for a graduate student.  It's cheap enough that it'll help stretch your stipend and it's low-calorie enough that it won't make you feel like you have to spend extra time in the gym instead of in the library.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Soy-Sake Asparagus - Take 2

I was travelling this weekend for the wedding of one of my in-laws, so I didn't have the time to work on my blog post this weekend.  So, I thought that instead I'll just make a quick post about my second attempt at the Soy-Sake Asparagus, which I made this past Wednesday as a side dish to the "Gregory's Jamaican White Fish" that I was making from the Vera Bradley: Cooking with Friends cookbook that I received as a bridal shower gift from my aunt.

You'll recall from my last post about the Soy-Sake Asparagus that the recipe comes from the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.  This time, I was doing my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's and they had asparagus, but it was almost $4.00 for the bunch.  However, they also had white asparagus on sale for only $1.99 and I thought:  Hey, I've never had white asparagus.  Might as well try it out.

The recipe itself is exactly the same as in my last post, except that I was using the white asparagus instead of green.

Overall: this recipe was just as yummy as it was using green asparagus.  I think that generally I prefer the flavor of green asparagus, but this was a fun adventure, trying out something new.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Beef Daube

As you may recall from the note at the bottom of my Crock-Baked Beets and Pollo Colorado post, I got married on August 20.  (In fact, you can read about Gourmet PhD's adventures in New England food due to being in the Boston-area for my wedding and having delayed flights on the way back on her food blog.)  Obviously, I not only didn't get any reading for exams done during the two weeks surrounding the wedding, I also didn't have a chance to update my blog.  Now I'm back and I have a backlog of posts to make.

Speaking of food blogs and websites, I was very excited to recently discover the Crock Pot Girls who have a Facebook page and a web page (that is a bit under construction).  They facilitate recipe sharing for slow cooking, so I'm very excited to start exploring their site.

Anyway, one of the great things about crock pot cooking is that almost any regular soup recipe can be adapted for the crock pot.  You may remember that I did this back when I made the chicken tagine.  So, back in the beginning of May (May 3, to be exact) I did just it again.  Basically, my roommate and I had some white wine that had been in the fridge for too long and could really only be cooked with at that point.  So, I pulled out my Joy of Cooking and checked the index for things that could be made with white wine.  What I found, and decided to adapt for the crock pot, was a "Beef Stew with Mustard, Herbs, and White Wine (Beef Daube)."  The Joy of Cooking explains that "the word daube comes from daubiere, the French word for a covered casserole.  This is a refreshing change from the heavier flavors that we associate with beef stew."

Although I generally followed the recipe, I was kind of free adapting it for my own tastes.  The recipe as listed in the Joy of Cooking only has beef, tomatoes, and onions in the stew (not counting spices, of course).  I added celery and carrots to make it a little more stew-like for my taste.  I'll include my recipe at the end of this post.

You can follow the pictures from the top of my post to see how I made this stew.  I covered the beef with seasoned flour and then browned it on all sides before adding it to the crock pot.  With the beef, I added the veggies and spices: onion, celery, carrots, garlic, dried parsley, dried thyme, dried marjoram, a bay leaf, and dried celery flakes.  I added the wine and Dijon mustard to the frying pan I had cooked the beef in and mixed that together before adding it to the crock pot.  Then I turned it on to LOW and cooked it for the whole day.  I'd recommend 6-8 hours, or at least until the beef is cooked.

This is what the stew looked like when it was finished cooking.

Unfortunately, because it's been so long since I made this recipe, I don't remember how many servings I got!  My guess would be 6-8 servings, since most of the soups that I've made in that crock pot have turned out to have that many, so I'll estimate the cost and the calories based on that estimate. Depending on how big of a serving you serve, this could be 510 to 382 calories (510 for six servings, 382 for eight).  With a salad, this could be a full meal.  Even adding a piece of bread or a small roll to it wouldn't really kill you calorie-wise (and force you to actually get out of your window-less graduate student office to go to the gym).

In terms of cost, the good thing about this recipe is that a lot of the ingredients, especially the spices, mustard, and olive oil, are things that you'll normally have on hand in your kitchen.  I actually only purchased the beef, onions, and celery flakes for this recipe, making it only cost me only from about $1.15-$1.50 per serving.  Obviously, if you had to buy everything, it would cost a lot more, especially in the cost of purchasing the spices. I'd estimate in that case the cost would be about $5.75-7.60 per serving (of course, assuming, that you're buying a cheap bottle of wine to cook with).  So, ultimately, I'd say that this is a good, cheap and pretty healthy recipe if you have some white wine that needs to be used up.

1 cup all-purpose flour
approx. 1 tsp. salt
approx. 1/4 tsp. black pepper
approx. 1/2 tsp. paprika
2 lbs. beef stew meet
olive oil
16-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
2 medium onions, sliced
2-3 carrots, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried celery flakes
3 cups dry white wine
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika together in a bowl.  Coat the pieces of beef stew meat with the flour mixture.
Heat 2-3 tbsp. of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the beef to the olive oil in batches and brown on all sides.  Remove the beef from the frying pan and place in crock pot.  Add the tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, and the remaining spices to the crock pot.
Pour off most, but not all, of the fat from the frying pan.  Add the white wine and bring it to a boil, scraping the leftover bits of meat from the bottom of the pan.  Reduce the heat to simmer.  Add the Dijon mustard and whisk to blend.  Pour this mixture into the crock pot and stir everything to combine.
Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, until the beef is cooked through.