Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not buying it: cream of celery soup;
Still buying it: sweetened condensed milk

What is a can of "cream of celery soup" if not celery gravy?
Have I told you about my love affair with author Michael Pollan? He had me at "Eat Food. Mostly Plants." So, my heart sank when I came across this line in one of Pollan's writings: "If you're the kind of cook who starts with a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup all bets are off.” Y'mean all those mystery ingredients in the canned stuff might be bad for me?
   From then on, I've been making my own "cream of" soups. Don't think it hasn't been a struggle. What could be easier than opening a can of condensed soup to get supper on the table asap?
Chicken Asparagus Casserole
May not look like much now that it's gotten cool, but we liked it.
One chicken breast and one leg made enough casserole for two meals.
Why I now make "cream of" soups from scratch every time I have the 10 or so minutes to spare:
  1. If I believe in Pollan's essential message that home cooking like our great grandma's served up is the basis for good health, why buy canned soup?
  2. If I am sincere in my desire to reduce my packaging waste, why buy canned soup?
  3. If I truly believe that small economies add up to a better standard of living for my family, why buy canned soup?
   In a pinch, I might still buy a can but homemade tastes better. I just sautéed some minced celery in butter and olive oil; seasoned it with pepper, celery seed and onion salt; added flour, stirring to cook the flour a bit; and then slowly stirred in enough milk to make the equivalent of one can of condensed soup.
Still buying it: Sweetened Condensed Milk
Sweetened Condensed Milk experiment I was so hopeful about!
Oh, my, was this ever an experiment gone wrong!
   I made some cherry ice cream the other day and not having any sweetened condensed milk, I dug out my Aunt M's mock recipe I'd been meaning to try. Not "tasting as you go along"...BIG mistake!
   What a waste of precious, hand-picked cherry ice cream tastes like powdered milk. UGH!
   Anyone have a sweetened condensed milk recipe that doesn't include powdered milk? Am I the only weird one that doesn't like to taste as I cook? (I only taste at the finish line and adjust seasonings then.)
   And if you've got one, feel free to share your experiment gone wrong!

Looked promising but did NOT pass the taste test!


melissa said...

I'm loving your "Not buying it" posts. I've been trying to slowly but surely increase my repertoire of homemade items that I used to always buy canned or jarred. Recently I've stopped buying both barbeque and enchilada sauce. It's been awhile since I did a "not buying it" experiment, though and you've renewed my inspiration!

Annie Jones said...

I haven't bought cream soup in quite a while. It's not hard to make my own with whatever thickener is handy. Flour, cornstarch, potato starch, Mochiko (sweet rice flour). They all work a little differently, but all work well, and all taste better than canned.

As for sweetened condensed milk, I have a recipe I've never tried. I don't use a lot of it to begin with, so I just go ahead and buy it. It's a little pricy, I think, and a little processed, but the ingredient list is short and real: just milk and sugar.

BLD in MT said...

I am a huge Pollan fan and a former start-with-a-can-of cook myself. Homemade is so much better in countless ways I know you are familiar with. I can't imagine it any other way now.

I can't help with the condensed milk recipe as I have never used that item before, but good luck in your quest!

Thanks for the post and have a great day!

becky3086 said...

I am real bad about buying soup. I know I could make it, just never have. I do like to make casseroles too because they take so little meat.

Practical Parsimony said...

I have a condensed milk recipe I have made dozens of times to the tune of utter failure. I will post it sometime when I can find it.

Dmarie said...

@melissa, thx! I look forward to seeing what recipes you come up with!
@Annie, your recipe sounds like a winner to me! I'll have to experiment with making and canning my have on hand for ice cream of course!
@BLD, you said it: "countless ways," yup, that says it all!
@Becky, that's why I'm a casserole fan too!
@Practical, look forward to seeing your post. As always!

mb said...

i heart michael pollan too! :) just finished omnivore's dilemma days ago, actually, but it was one of those i might have been seen reading years ago. i love this post and the thoughtfulness that goes into this stuff. i grew up with can-of-cream-of-soup recipes so this has been huge for me too, but i found that with this skill, i can now make the meanest (in a good way) chowder, which comes in quite handy in a coastal fishing town. or for using up freezer veggies- just ate corn/collard green chowder for lunch on that theme, actually. :)

Dmarie said...

@mb, I've made a few bisques lately, which I guess is the same as a chowder. or is it the sherry that makes it a bisque? And you're right, I love learning a new technique that translates to yummier home-cooked foods. soo envy you living in a coastal town!

Dayla said...

I too am a no taster as you cook, it doesn't occur to me. the only thing I try is pasta to see if it is cooked.
I used to love cream of mushroom soup in a can. And then I tyried making it with fresh mushrooms added and more stock. That was nice too but now I make it only with fresh mushies and chicken or veg stock that i have made myself. Far superior.

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