Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Duped Project 6/50: Creamed Soup

I was born and raised in North Carolina, but you wouldn't know it from the way I talk. My dad is from Illinois, and when I was a year old, my paternal grandparents relocated from Springfield, IL to southern NC to be near their only grandchild. Growing up, I was at Grandma and Grandpa's house for dinner at least 2 times a week. The contrast of Grandma's supper to the food I got practically anywhere else was stark. It was what I am fond of calling "yank cookin'."

This romantic casserole photo must
have been taken by a midwesterner.
Apparently, my mother's preference for northern men was hereditary, because I married someone from a part of the country so far north, he's practically Canadian. Hailing from Michigan, my husband moved southward in his teens. He also noticed the distinct difference between the homecooking of the mid-west and that of the Carolinas. To him, a casserole tastes like home. To me, it tastes like my Grandma's cooking. Two very positive associations mean that yank cookin' makes it to the table many nights in my house, especially in the winter.

What makes a yank dish so special? I'll tell you one thing: It's not a lack of saturated fat. That aside, there's a few ingredients that seem to pop up over and over. Sour cream, cheddar cheese, and egg noodles as ingredients are all distinctly midwestern to me - but one food reigns supreme yank ruler in my eyes. Cream of Something.

Something seems artificial in my soup.
Those union folk are always creaming something. Chicken, broccoli, celery, potato, and my personal favorite, mushroom. But (big surprise) there's a lot more in that can of soup than the wholesome steamy bowl on the label would have you think. Even the low sodium versions are busting through the salt ceiling, and try as I might, I could find a single dairy ingredient in something that starts with the word "cream." I did find a plethora of sugar and soy products though.

I knew I could make my own soup, but aside from starting my own cannery, I didn't think this was practical. After all, the whole point is to have all the ingredients on hand so you can just add a few fresh things (like meat or veggies) to the mix and have a ready meal. Then I came across this post (from One Orange Giraffe), detailing how to make your own "Cream of Something" dry soup mix.

Knowing absolutely nothing (hey! stop snickering!) I dove in. Find out what happened, catch the recipe,  and read about how I managed to screw it up completely, after the jump.

Creamed Soup Dry Mix:
1 cup non-fat dried milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup dry bouillion (any type, I used low sodium chicken)
4 Tablespoons freeze dried minced onions
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
The recommendation given for reconstituting:
"For the equivalent of one can of condensed cream soup, mix 1/3 cup dry mix with 1 1/4 cup water. Cook until thick."*

Ingredient Round Up!

Incidentally, this package of dry milk was the perfect amount.

Making the mix is truly easy. Toss it all in a mixing bowl, fluff with a fork, and you're done. I stored mine in a repurposed jar and put it in the pantry. A few nights later, when I had the kind of day with my kids that makes adoption seem smart, I thought I could use the mix to make an easy dinner. 

It worked out ok, but lemme tell you, the instructions on reconstituting the stuff were not nearly specific enough for me. Now, I know I'm the queen of "just throw it all in a blender and poof! a milkshake!" so I'm certainly not gonna criticize, but I will elaborate for those of you who are efficiency obsessed in the kitchen. DO NOT heat the stuff on high. DO NOT forget to stir it often. And if you ruin the first batch, don't worry coz there's plenty more. I think you can infer what occured. Blog shame.

*Here's what I would recommend:
Mix 1/3 cup dry mix with only 1 cup water in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring often. Remove from heat immediately.

And here's the rub.
Oh dairy. What a fickle lover you are.

I added my second batch of soup to: 8 oz bow-tie pasta, 15 oz canned tuna in water, 8 oz frozen peas and 1 cup shredded cheddar. I didn't even bake it. Mix and serve. Voila - dinner in minutes, despite a debacle.

Here's the biggest downfall about this mix: it's still very high in sodium because of the bouillion. Check out that label, to the right. Shameful. But it's a lot more pure, saves space in the can cupboard, saves money, and just generally simplifies life, so I'll probably do it again. For Grandma.

Photo credits: alex27, cwcav from All other photos original.

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