My eldest sister, who is a pain in the rear, thinks she knows how to cook well. She does not. She never did. She sometimes tries to insult me by telling people who I am having a conversation with about cooking or recipes in front of her (that she is not a part of) that "He cooks from cans!" - which I admit I do from time to time. Not always, but sometimes I do for some things. Most everyone cooks from cans in this country and in many other countries to some extent. Very few people cook everything from complete scratch each and every time. If you make your own pasta sauce and use canned tomato paste, err, umm, you did not make the entire thing from scratch. And if you are making a tomato based pasta sauce and do not use tomato paste, it is probably not really a sauce. ;P
Tomato paste can be made from scratch. It is just a long, arduous, wasteful, and who-has-time-for-that-and-where-is-that-stupid-sieve
process. Just use the canned tomato paste, for God's sake! It is probably better than most of your batches of homemade anyway - unless you make it frequently, which most of us do not do.
My Simple Vegetable Stew
is an easy make. It is simple, very inexpensive to make, perfect for those who are frugal or on a fixed income, and is healthy. It covers most, if not all, of your nutritional needs. And yes, it is a stew, not a soup, but it could easily be a soup if one just adds more liquid. It could also be a vegetable beef stew or vegetable beef soup, or a variation of both or something else. It is in essence the base from which many other recipes can be built upon. Or, just leave it be and it is good by itself for the main course or as a side dish.
By the way, the ingredients for this recipe are all, or in part, from a can. Actually, from lots of cans. *chuckle*
If you can afford to make it (and have the free time to) from all fresh ingredients, more power to you! Go for it. I'd love to see you make it and taste it too. Invite me over. You'll probably have to provide the air-fare, but you'd be proving a point to me, so it might be worth it. ;PThe Basic Ingredients You Will Need28 oz cans (or larger):
1 Diced Tomatoes in Tomato Juice (not sauce)
1 Seasoned Mixed Greens (Or Collard, etc..)
15.2 oz cans of:
1 Corn (white or yellow or mixed)
1 French Cut Green Beans (or regular)
2 Peas and Carrots (or 1 can of each)
1 Butter Beans (Or Cannellini or whatever type you like)
1 Northern Beans
3 Tbsp of Mrs. Dash Original (or your favorite Mrs. Dash type)1/4 Jar (16 oz) of Herndez Tomatillo Verde Mexican Cooking Sauce
... or add some Tabasco sauce to add flavor instead, or other sauce seasoning that you already use and like. Do not simply add something you are not familiar with because you think it will be the same as what you are used to. Most brands of hot sauce, mixes, flavor ups, are nothing alike and some actually are just nasty tasting when you add them to certain kinds of foods or recipes. If you cannot use Tabasco or the Herndez, use something kind of like it. I use it because it adds a very slight heat and tang to the recipe. Add more or less depending on your taste, but wait until the next day to add more after you've tasted it again.
I learned the hard way not to use Chili Sauce in this recipe. It works great when I am making a meat dish in the crockpot, but it is not as good by far when I added it to this vegetable stew recipe instead of the Herndez or Tobasco. At least, it did not taste all that great to me. I also tried it with an unknown to me brand of Mexican Hot Sauce that made me throw the entire pot of ruined stew into the garbage. *bleh*
You can also add a small onion and some chopped peppers (green and red) , and sliced mushrooms (which is really nice), all canned or fresh or frozen, if you want, but these ingredients are really for added taste, texture, and flavor depending on your likes and dislikes. You can make it more plain with just the canned ingredients above one time and then make it more enhanced the next time. Alternate! Then you will never get tired of it and can make it every week slightly (or majorly) a different way. Going with just the canned goods, it is a very inexpensive pot that will last you days or for an entire week.
What about all of that dreaded sodium
in the canned veggies? To handle most of that what you do it open each can, drain it, then put the contents of all the cans into a big bowl - all except the canned diced tomato in tomato juice and seasoned greens. Then, fill the big bowl with cold water all the way to the top. Let those de-canned veggies sit there soaking in that bowl for 20 minutes or more and then pour it out into a colander and rinse with more cold water. That gets most of the sodium and preservatives out of the canned product. I do this each and every time I make this recipe as I need to keep my sodium intake as low as possible.
But, I digress. Sorry about that. On with the cooking!
In a large pot (with a lid) put in the canned diced tomatoes in tomato sauce, the seasoned greens, the onions, peppers, and mushrooms (if you are adding them), and the Herndez Sauce and Mrs. Dash. Bring that mixture up to a simmer and then add in the contents of the colander. Cover and bring back up to a simmer and then turn the temperature down to medium-low (about 2 1/2 to 3 on an electric stovetop). Stir occasionally. It will take 3 hours or so without onions, peppers, or mushrooms (unless you've cooked them in a sauce pan prior to adding them to the stew). 4 hours if those added ingredients are fresh or frozen and uncooked.
When the 3 or 4 hours is up, turn the burner off and let the pot sit there and cool down for an hour or so with the lid on. Or, you can eat it now, or put it in a container to continue to cool off. When it is cooled down a lot you can stick it in the refrigerator. Let it sit overnight or until that night or even eat it right then and there. It does not matter, except that...
It will taste a lot different the next day after sitting in the refrigerator overnight - so please do not over-season it while cooking or after the first meal on the same day. It can taste a little bland when tasting it during the cooking process. It will turn out very different in the end. Better to under-season than over-season. You can always add seasoning to each serving but you can never take seasoning out unless you water it down, which kind of ruins it.
I recommend trying it out with just the canned goods to start. Make it simple. But the collard greens or mixed greens are essential, even if they are not seasoned or canned. Buy them frozen and add them frozen right into the first mix. And, the beans are essential too. Pick out your 2 favorite types and add them instead of the Northern and Butter Beans. One type should be small and the other a large bean. That adds a diversity of texture and flavor.
From this very basic recipe you can add, subtract, adjust, to fit your needs and taste. If you want to make more of a beef stew, do the meat separate, dice it up, and add it to the pot in the last hour or so. Alternatively, make the meat and keep it separate and then add some chunks to each serving. That way you are not locked into a whole lot of beef stew sitting there in your refrigerator.
That's all it takes. You could also do this recipe in a crockpot. Set it up, go to work (or to sleep) and it is done (or mostly done) when you get home, wake up, or stand up from binge-watching a TV series on Netflix after 4-6 hours. *cough*
If you wanted to know why my eldest sister, as I mentioned in the beginning of this blog entry, says to people that I cook from cans, it is all because I did one thing during a holiday dinner that I made by myself for my entire family and visiting family. Everything else, even the cranberry sauce and stuffing I made from scratch. The one dish I did not make from scratch was a nice little spur-of-the-moment addition of canned small whole white potatoes put into a pan, drizzled with oil olive, and lightly seasoned, and baked in the oven. They came out very nice, slightly crispy on the outside, and everyone except my sister loved them. When my sister sat down at the table (after arriving late, as usual, and slightly drunk) she made a point to exclaim out loud to everyone, and with a sneering expression on her face, that I had obviously used canned potatoes for that dish. Everyone else at the table, more or less, told her to shut the f*** up.
Ever since that time she has remembered only that one dish and delights in telling people that I cook from cans. Well, yes I do, sometimes. And so does she on a daily and holiday basis. One has to laugh at that kind of hypocrisy.
I do. Daily.