Category Archives: Soups

Less than 5: Big-kid Ramen

Another in my “Less than 5” recipe series. All recipes beginning with that title will have less than 5 ingredients and/or cost less than $5. Bonus for ones that also take less than 5 minutes. =)
 
Ramen used to be the greatest after-school snack ever. Then in college, it was pretty much a daily staple. At 10-20 cents per pack, the good people of Ramen keep poor college kids worldwide from starving. When I started graduate school, and started taking this blog more seriously, I figured Ramen was no longer part of my life. I had graduated to frittatas, lasagna, and white bean chicken chili. Big kid food. 
But then in my masters study, my Taiwanese advisor had Ramen for lunch nearly every day. She just fancied it up by adding a handful of fresh spinach and an egg. Well of course I had to try it, as the chicken-salt smell of Ramen is hard to resist. Adding veggies ups the nutritional value (which previously was negative zero) and an egg or tuna will bump up the protein.

It turns out to make a decently healthy meal, for way less than a dollar per serving. Ever since then, when I have a random Ramen craving, I give in with the justification that at least it’s “big kid” Ramen. Now you can too!

 
Ingredients:
  • 1 package Ramen noodles
  • 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables or spinach
  • Optional: 1 egg, thinly sliced meats, shrimp, tuna
  • Spices (I used parsley, parmesan, and red chili pepper for kick)

Step 1: Heat the noodles and 2-3 cups water for 3 minutes in the microwave, or pour in boiling water. Let stand for 3 minutes.

Step 2: Add the vegetables and egg. Break the yolk so it doesn’t explode. Microwave another 3 minutes.

Step 3: Stir in seasoning packet and spices, enjoy!

The chili flakes gave it a nice bite of heat, and I like the frozen mixed veggies because of the corn and carrots’ sweetness. You can get creative with this. Use tofu, beans, tuna, chicken. Any cooked vegetable will work well. I’m partial to the chicken flavoring only, but there are beef and shrimp flavorings too.

For 0.10 (noodles) + 0.10 (egg) + 0.10 (frozen veg) = $0.30 

Not a bad meal!


What do you put in your Ramen?

Under 100 Calories per Bowl: Cruciferous Vegetable Soup

 

I’m always a big fan of recipes that help “clean out the fridge or pantry“, and if they are healthy as well then bonus! We all have some assorted cans, boxed, half bag of frozen mixed vegetables, etc. that have been sitting around since approximately we moved into whatever abode we inhabit.

Even the most strict, list-making, meal-planning, leftover-eating of us have odds and ends we need to try to use up before expiration dates. It is especially hard with produce. I have a bad habit of buying everything that’s on sale, I want to cook eventually, sounds healthy… and then I have a fridge packed full of five-day-old veggies beginning to wilt and lose nutrients. Sad face. 

That’s why this soup is fantastic! You can mix and match what vegetables you add based on what you have waiting to be used, and choose whatever protein and grain is in the half-empty box in your cupboard. There is of course a few caveats.

You need a huge ratio of veggies to other stuff, and a large portion of it must be water IF you are going for a filling, vegetarian, healthy, low-cal, low-fat soup.

Try to choose mostly cruciferous vegetables and/or leafy greens, as those pack the most nutrients and fiber for the least carbs and calories. Cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc. Limit the beans and grains to one cup each to keep calorie counts low. If you have a “meat tooth” feel free to throw in some cooked shredded chicken or steak.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole head green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup barley
  • 1 cup pinto beans
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Garlic salt
  • Lots of water (stock or bouillon for extra flavor)

Step 1: Chop all your veggies and add to the crock pot. Add the grain (barley) and protein (beans) as well as diced tomatoes. You can sub fresh chopped tomato or tomato sauce, or forget the tomatoes. I just super love diced tomatoes in all the things.

Step 2: Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until veggies, barley and beans are tender. Add any other seasonings you like. Enjoy for under 100 calories per bowl as often as you are hungry!


*Disclaimer: I do not recommend crash diets like the cabbage soup diet where this is all you eat all day, but I do believe that soup before a full meal will help dampen hunger and make it easier to eat healthy and manage a healthy weight, and broth based soups should be incorporated into your meal plans to keep total grocery costs for the week low.

Crazy fast curried carrot soup

This dish happened because I had some squash that needed used up, and was in the mood for a thick winter vegetable stew. But I didn’t want just acorn squash soup, so I added bunches of carrots for color and lots of spices for flavor.

Ingredients:
1 acorn squash
1/2 cup milk
1 bag frozen carrots (or 1 bunch fresh)
Squirt of sriracha
2 tbsp garam masala
1 cup chicken broth

 
Step 1: Cut the squash in half and pull out seeds with a spoon. Put some water in the middle and microwave on high for five minutes. Flip upside-down and microwave another 5 minutes.
Step 2: The squash should be soft, remove the skin and smash in a bowl. It looks a bit like applesauce at this point.

Step 3: Put the squash in a blender with the milk, stock, spices, and carrots. If using fresh carrots, boil them or microwave for 10 minutes first so they are softened. Blend it all together.

There you have it, a simple thick stew with TONS of vitamins, fiber, and beta-carotene. Enjoy with a winter greens salad or some fresh bread.



French Onion Soup

Soups have been around since fire was invented and we figured out water could be boiled. It is no surprise, since there are endless combinations and variations, and soup is the simplest method of cooking a filling, healthy meal in one pot. Onions have also long been a cooking staple: they grow well in most soils, they are easy to store long-term, they are cheap and filling and versatile. It was only a matter of time before onions in soup became popular, at least as early as the Roman Empire. The most popular version is a meat-broth-based soup with carmelized onions, most often topped with some sort of bread and melted cheese. It is rumored that the version of French Onion Soup as we know it was invented in the 18th century by King Louis VX of France. Hence the name “French” Onion Soup.

The most commonly accepted version involves carmelizing the onions in butter by cooking them for a long time to make them soft, translucent, and sweet. Then a broth is added, most often beef broth. A crusty bread, or ‘crouton’ is placed on top, and covered in cheese, most often gruyére. The soup is then gratineéd, meaning it is baked in a ramekin, then served immediately. However there are of course infinite variations, some add brandy or sherry or wine, some recipes use plain water rather than broth, the type of onion and amount may differ, you could use a Crock Pot all day rather than boiling on the stove, any type of bread or cheese may be used, or bread and/or cheese could be omitted entirely. This version is what I had handy and the flavors that I most wanted.


Legend has it that the first French Onion Soup was created by King Louis the XV of France when all that could be found in the pantry of his hunting party’s lodge was butter, onions and champagne.  It is said that he combined these ingredients to create the first French Onion Soup.  It is unclear if this story is myth of fact, but it is a good story none the less!
Onions have been a popular staple in preparing meals from at least as far back as the Roman Times.  Onions are easily grown in most soils they are cheap abundantly available and have a long shelf-life.  For this reason onions were seen as The Poor Man’s food.
The modern version of the soup has evolved from a basic recipe where onions were sliced, fried and then cooked in water and would typically be served with bread and capers.  It was only in the nineteenth century that cooks started adding flour, salt and pepper and topped the soup with cheeses such as Gruyere.
Today French Onion Soup Recipes is often made with caramelized onion in a meaty broth.  This is often served in individual ramekins and topped with grilled Gruyere cheese.  Try Chef Billy’s take on this time-honored dish – ideal for keeping the chills at bay on those cold winter nights!
– See more at: http://kitchen.net/blog/the-story-of-french-onion-soup/#sthash.4qSbyr89.dpuf



Ingredients:
6 onions
8 cups water/stock
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup Worchestershire 
Pinch of Thyme
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of sugar
2 bay leaves
Nice crusty French bread
Sliced Parmesan cheese

 Step 1: Cut up all the onion into thin slices. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add all the onions.

 Cook slowly over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 30-60 minutes. The onions will become brown & carmelized, and smell wonderful.

 Step 2: Add the water broth, bay leaves, sauce, sugar, and other seasonings. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1-2 hours.

 This smells fantastic. At this point if you wanted to add some white or red wine, sherry, or brandy you could. You could also simmer for pretty much all day if you want the flavors to melt together more.

 Step 3: Put a slice (or 2 or 3) of crusty bread on top, and cover with cheese. If you have oven-safe ramekins, you can bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is brown and bubbly. I didn’t trust these bowls in the oven, so I just microwaved 30 seconds to get the melty-cheese effect.

This soup is complex, warm, and delicious, perfect on a cold night. Depending on what you want to add and how long you let it simmer, a hot, impressive dinner could be on the table within an hour.

Free e-Cookbook

Don’t forget to check out my ecookbook, 7 Souper Soups, and get your free copy! The next edition will have to include this recipe…

Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili

Chili is definitely in my top ten favorite winter dishes. I suppose really all year, but especially in winter it’s nice to cook up a hot batch of thick, delicious chili to enjoy at the end of a chilly day. (See what I did there?)

There are also endless variations, from vegetarian chili, to Skyline chili like in southwest Ohio (go to Columbus or Cincinnati and have some if you don’t know what I’m talking about), chili over noodles, meatless chili, bean-less chili, sweet chili… you get the idea.

There are chili cook-offs all over the nation, there is even an International Chili Society. That’s how serious some people take this stuff. Their webpage explaining the history of chili is pretty fascinating.

Now, hardcore chili con carne people who believe beans have no place in chili and pasture raised longhorn beef is the only meat good enough to earn the name, will not like my laissez faire approach to chili. I’ve been known to throw in all manner of vegetables, use various preparations of tomatoes besides juice, and use all kinds of types of meat.

This version is a kind of white bean chicken chili, but it got a little Jen makeover, as most things coming through my kitchen do.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can navy beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • Dash chili powder
  • Optional: 1/2 cup milk

 

Step 1: Spray the Crockpot and add the chicken breasts. Turn it on low.

Step 2: In a blender or food processor, liquefy the can of kidney beans (or any other type really. This just adds a thicker, creamier texture) after you drain the can. Add water or some milk if you need to.

Step 3: Add the liquid beans plus all the other cans, milk, and any spices you want. (Garlic, onion, hot sauce, etc)

Step 4: Cook on high 4 hours or low 4-6. Take the chicken breasts out and shred them with two forks. Put back into the chili, stir and let sit another hour or eat immediately.

Top with whatever you like. I used plain Greek yogurt and shredded cheese, but salsa, cornbread, or avocado would also be delicious.

This chili is such a perfect combination of creamy and light. It has just a hint of spice from the diced tomatoes with chilies, but you could kick it up a notch easily by adding jalapenos or other peppers, or sprinkling on some hot sauce.

You could also use two cans white beans, kidney, black beans, whatever you have in the pantry. I’d really recommend not skipping the pureeing though, it totally adds that little ‘something’. I had leftovers for three days, and was not upset about it!

What’s your favorite kind of chili?

Soups for the Super Bowl

 

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, world! 
Today the Denver Broncos meet the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife stadium in New Jersey, far from either team’s hometown. And in case you missed it, yes, both teams are from state which have recently legalized marijuanna. However, the game is not being played in a state which has that legalized, so fans beware. Also, I’ve never heard it being accused of enhancing performance in sports, so anyone who thinks that is unfair clearly doesn’t know its effects.

Photo from the Up & Under Pub website
 

Regardless of who you are rooting for, you are likely either at home with a huge buffet of finger foods, or going to a pub/bar with copious amounts of burgers, chicken wings, beer, and french fries. And, may I say, I am jealous. Since I will be home, working on a midterm exam for my neuroscience course. Nonetheless, as a Denver transplant, I think I’m legally obligated to say, Go Broncos
.
Once the game is over, and the dreaded Monday rolls back around, all the office gossip will be who caught what pass, how many touchdowns were scored, and which commercials were the funniest/best/worst. And it’s likely many will have a bar food/beer/ buffet hangover.

The Big News!

Not to worry, just in time for the Super Bowl I’ve rolled out my first ever e-cookbook, and this one’s on the house! Seven Souper Soups, packed with recipes like my spicy Mexican-inspired Chicken Tortilla, the classic winter Butternut Squash Soup, hearty yet healthy Sausage and Kale, thick & creamy Baked Potato and more! Including a bonus Peach dessert soup, and cover drawing by Mike over at WebDonuts comics.

So if you would like a copy of 7 Souper Soups for your very own, I’ve added it to my Google Docs and made it public for anyone to view and comment on: 

You can also email me at BudgetEpicurean (at) gmail.com and I will send you the PDF as an attachment. I hope you enjoy these favorite recipes of mine and share with family & friends. Enjoy today’s festivities, and keep coming back for more! There are several projects in the works, so keep an eye out.

Souppa like Zuppa Toscana

I still had some sausage left over from my sausage gravy & biscuits, plus half a bunch of kale that hadn’t been made into kale chips. (If you’ve never tried kale chips, I definitely recommend it! Kale is super good for you but can be bitter, and this is a super simple way to get your leafy greens). A quick internet search for “sausage and kale” quickly showed a trend towards this “Zuppa Toscana” that Olive Garden makes (don’t sue me please!) that lots of people claim to mimic.

Well as any loyal reader knows, I’m not a ‘by-the-book’ recipe follower, so I just took the general idea and ran with it. What happened was a simple, delicious soup that quite frankly surprised me with how tasty it was. With really only 4 ingredients and 30 minutes, a warm, filling and complex soup for dinner can be yours!

Ingredients:
1/2 pound sausage
1/2 bunch kale, shredded
2-3 large potatoes, diced
6 cups water
4 chicken bouillon cubes
3 tbsp cornstarch
Italian seasonings

Step 1: Brown the sausage in a frying pan. Drain most of the fat and set aside.

Step 2: Dice the potatoes into thin wedges. There’s no right or wrong way really. Most copy-cat recipes use redskins but I only have russet so those will do. Drop them into a pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork.

Step 3: While the potatoes boil, rip the kale into bite sized pieces, discarding the stems. When the potatoes are soft, drain and put back into the pot.

Step 4: Add water, bouillon, seasoning, kale and sausage. If you’re on a super budget the spices and bouillon aren’t required, just kicks up the flavor a notch. If you’re flush with cash, try adding half heavy cream and half chicken stock to make a creamier base soup. Of course, if you’re rolling in Benjamins you could also just go out to Olive Garden for dinner tonight…and we should be friends. Email me k?

Step 5: Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes. In a cup, combine some hot soup water and the cornstarch and mix. Once it’s all dissolved add it to the pot. This will help it to thicken. Also not completely required, but I like a little body. You could use flour for the same purpose.

The flavors combine beautifully into a rich soup that I thoroughly enjoyed. I would definitely make this again. If only I had some salad and bread sticks to go with it.

Butternut Squash Soup

I recently had a dinner party, and in the spirit of the season (fall) I decided to make butternut squash soup as one of my main dishes. Earlier I posted about butternut squash macaroni & cheese, if you have one and soup just isn’t your thing. No reason not to enjoy the bounties of fall, regardless of texture preferences.
So as per usual, I googled around and pulled from several recipes and what I had in the house to come up with this. It received universally positive reviews! I made a large amount since I was feeding 6, you can cut everything in half for a smaller number of people.
Ingredients:
2 squash, halved and seeded
2 carrots
2 celery sticks
1 small chunk peeled raw ginger (about 1 inch)
1 white onion
4 chicken bouillon cubes
5 cups water
1 package cream cheese
Cinnamon, nutmeg and coriander seasoning

Step 1: Place halved squash on a baking pan with a little water. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork.

Step 2: While the squash are baking, boil the carrots, celery, onion and ginger in chicken water until tender.

Step 3: Scoop the squash out of the skin and blend in a blender. There’s a surprisingly large amount of flesh in there, I had to do it in three batches. Add hot water from the pot to thin it out. Blend in the cream cheese, the vegetables and chicken stock as well, put it all back into a large stock pot.

Step 4: Add a healthy dose of cinnamon, nutmeg and/or coriander, adjusting to your tastes. Bring to just a simmer, and enjoy.

This is a great taste of fall, good on its own or I’m sure you could pair it with any number of dishes. You could probably mix and match too, if you wanted to try pumpkin or acorn squash instead. You could add milk or half and half to make it creamier, or omit the cream cheese & chicken bouillon to make it vegan.

Slow cooker chicken soup: “Just like grandma used to make”

When I was younger, Sunday was always early dinner, and almost always chicken noodle soup. Grandma or mom would put a pot of soup on to simmer, we would go off to church or on a Sunday drive around town, and come home to a house that smelled delicious and a pot full of warm delight. I like continuing that on my own, though I use the modern miracle of the crock pot so I don’t have to worry about it burning on the stove (that’s a hilarious story for another time…).

Since I had recently roasted a chicken, naturally I made soup from what wasn’t eaten the first day. We had eaten the legs and drums, so I cut off and saved the whole breasts for sandwiches for lunch the next day. The rest of the bird plus a few extras was made into a huge crock pot full of chilly weather goodness. There is nothing like coming home to the smell of homemade chicken soup!

Ingredients:
1 chicken carcass
3 large carrots, sliced
2 potatoes, diced
1 whole onion, sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 pint fresh mushrooms
1 cup barley
1 tbsp butter
Water

Step 1: That gorgeous roasted chicken had a tray full of juices and spices that I added into the crock pot first. Waste not want not, and that’s some powerful flavor I don’t want to waste.

 Step 2: I diced up all the assorted veggies and added them and the chicken (skin, bones, extra meat and all) into the crock pot. I added water all the way to the top and put it on low all day (about 8 hours).

When I came home, the house just smelled amazing. The chicken had been brined in all that lovely salt and sugar and pepper and spices, so I didn’t even really need to add anything to the broth.

Step 4: I boiled 1 cup of barley in 1 1/2 cups of water with 1 tbsp butter for 45 minutes. 

Barley is a bit chewy, and I added some of the broth after 40 minutes to let the flavor soak in for the last 5 minutes. Maybe a 1/2 cup.

 

Just look at all those gorgeous veggies! And the sheen on the surface, that’s from the natural chicken fat that dissolved into the broth. Sure it isn’t the healthiest thing in the world for you, but boy howdy does it taste great! And you can let it cool in the fridge then skim the extra fat off the top.

The barley was surprisingly perfect for this soup. Normally I use egg noodles but didn’t have any on hand. The flavors blend so well and are perfect for nippy fall nights. It is so easy to make, and you will have leftovers for days (unless you share). I guarantee* you won’t get sick, or if you already are you will immediately feel better.

*Guarantee based only on personal experience, not actually backed by anything or redeemable for anything. But other experiences and comments are welcome to be shared. =)

Slow cooker soup-in-a-bag

Dinner can literally not get any easier than:
Step 1 – take bag out of freezer
Step 2 – pour in crock pot
Step 3 – hit “start”
Ok, maybe “pick up phone and dial Pizza hut” is one step shorter, but you have to order, wait, tip the delivery guy, their customer service is outsourced to Pittsburgh… it’s way healthier my way. In my humble opinion.

Maybe this is partially inspired by these things you see on Pinterest all the time about a salad in a mason jar. Which is a great idea, and someday I’ll try it. But anyhow, with bits and pieces from other meals, I just accumulated veggies in a bag and one day after I’d made chicken and had leftover bones and grease, I used that to create a simple soup.

Ingredients:
Chicken bones, skin, fat from 4 drumsticks
1 tomato, diced
1 potato, diced
3 whole carrots, sliced
1/2 white onion, diced
2 tbsp chicken flavoring
Dash garlic salt and Italian seasonings

That bag can be tossed in the freezer to be pulled out whenever you want a quick meal hot and ready for you that night.

Step 1: Put bag of ‘stuff’ into crock pot. Add seasonings if you want, or extra chicken meat if you want.

 Step 2: Add water until crock pot is about half full. Set on low all day.

This is easily customizable to whatever veggies or meat you like. You can also add a grain like noodles, rice, or barley. If you’re full vegan, don’t use chicken leftovers as a base, you can make your own veggie stock.