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.