21 August 2014

Improv Challenge: Beans & Bacon

I'm a sucker for Campbell's "Bean With Bacon" soup, but I don't eat it as often as I crave it as it's full of salt. And, yes, I know the Healthy Request version has half as much sodium, but that's still too much considering I'm likely to eat the entire can in one sitting. Also, quite frankly, the stuff I buy now seems neither as beany nor as delicious as the Campbell's "Bean with Bacon" of my childhood memories!

So I decided to just go ahead and make my own version of the soup for August's Improv Challenge. Sure, it's hot and humid out. Sure, the air conditioner is constantly cycling on. It's the best time ever to make soup! Or not. But I wanted soup and soup I would have.

I started by looking at the ingredients on the back of the soup can:
And then converted them into something I could handle:
Canned small white beans, lower-sodium bacon, tomato paste, carrot, celery, onion, bay, thyme, low-sodium fat-free chicken broth, salt, pepper, liquid smoke.
The soup I ended up with was surprisingly tasty for a first attempt ... although, admittedly, not exactly like the canned version! It's smoky, bean-y, and bacon-y and that's good enough for me. (I do find myself thinking I might get better results using finely shredded bits of smoked ham instead of bacon? My mom makes her split pea soup using the meaty bone from her Easter ham and that might work here, too).
White Bean & Bacon Soup

1 1lb 13oz can small white beans, drained and well rinsed
6 strips lower-sodium bacon, chopped fine
3 Tbsp tomato paste [Amore]
1 carrot, chopped small
1 small onion, chopped small
2 stalks of celery, chopped small
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 bay leaf
½ Tbsp dried thyme, crushed
3 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Foods]
Salt and pepper, to taste
Liquid smoke, to taste [Lazy Kettle]
Crispy bacon, for garnish

Pretend it is late October. Cook bacon in large heavy pot on medium-low for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, or until bacon is crispy and as much fat as possible has rendered out. Remove bacon.

Drain all but 1 Tbsp bacon fat from pot, reserving fat for another use. Add celery, carrots, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and covered in bacon-y goodness.

Add the beans, broth, bay, thyme, and tomato paste. Cover and allow to gently simmer on low for 30 minutes.

Remove bay leaf. Puree a little of the bean mixture with your immersion blender (or puree a few cups in a "proper" blender) so your soup is half puree and half chunk (or however you like it best). Stir in bacon. Let simmer uncovered for 10 minutes (this will help the soup thicken).

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and liquid smoke. Garnish with additional crispy bacon bits, if desired.
(I apologize for my photos! I had to take them with my phone as my camera has gone missing. We had people over last weekend and I did a quick tidy hide-all-the-things before they arrived ... and I hid my camera so well I still don't know where it is!)

18 August 2014

Menu Plan Monday: 18 August

Sometimes I get tired of menu planning, grocery shopping, and cooking week after week. So I go away from it all for a little while ... but I always come back to it. Usually, because the numbers on the scale have begun to creep up and the receipts lining the bottom of my handbag make me ashamed of the amount of money I've spent on meals I could have made myself.

So, hello Menu Plan Monday. It's good (?) to see you again.

Because it's summer and we're all busy people, this is an easy meal plan. Maybe it doesn't need it be written down, but it's easier to stick to with if it is.

Grilled boneless pork chops (scored and soaked overnight in Stubb's BBQ sauce) with "Classic" Suddenly Salad (tarted up with red onion, grape tomatoes, corn, and cucumber).

Ham sandwich (lower sodium ham, reduced fat provolone, garlic mustard, cucumber, red onion, tomato, sandwich thin) with salad greens and blueberries.

Grilled marinated chicken breasts (scored and soaked overnight in mustard-vinegar marinade) with Heinz baked beans and cucumber-and-tomato salad.

Tangy tuna salad sandwich (tuna, sweet relish, sriracha, light mayonnaise, tomato, sandwich thin) with salad greens and raspberries.

Lemon and thyme grilled tuna steaks with a Near East quinoa blend and steamed green beans or carrots (depending on which looks most like it needs eating up).

Tuna, sweetcorn, and mushroom pizza with tossed salad. (Trying to make pizza more often as The Husband misses the homemade kind and it's not as if it's difficult to do).

Turkey burgers (dressed with cucumber, tomato, red onion, and garlic mayonnaise) with chips and cucumber-and-tomato salad.

I love that my spellcheck still refuses to recognize sriracha and quinoa as real words :)
29 July 2014

Something From The Cupboards: Crunchy Salmon Cakes

I did a bunch of shopping over the weekend, but all of it was for work, so there wasn't much left in the fridge by the time Sunday night came around. Happily, there was salmon and panko in the cupboards and I threw together a quick batch of crunchy salmon cakes and a rather tasty lemon-dill sauce.

To make the patties, I combined two six-ounce cans Wild Alaska pink salmon, well drained and flaked, with two eggs, two pressed cloves of garlic, black pepper, salt, dill, parsley, and a scant half cup crushed garlic-and-herb croutons. I molded the salmon mixture into palm-sized patties and then coated them with panko before cooking them in hot olive oil for about 5 minutes per side.

The sauce was a simple combination of a half cup of Hellmann's light mayonnaise, lemon juice, pressed garlic, dill, and black pepper. The sauce was decidedly garlicky and I worried The Husband would find it a bit too zesty for his delicate palate, but he really liked it!
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