Judy Alter loves to cook and entertain, and she also likes to write about it. She’s the author of more than 60 books but is having her first-ever cookbook, Cooking My Way Through Life: Kids and Books in the Kitchen, to be published in January 2009 by State House Press. Why did it take her 60-plus books before getting to a cookbook? Well, she’s also the director of TCU Press, grandmother to seven and mother to four, so she keeps pretty busy. Here, she defends the time-honored use of canned soup to make a quick and tasty dish.
Some time ago, I wrote a memoir/cookbook. Why I wrote it is too long a story to tell here, but it was fun to do, and I was pleased with the results. A local university press that publishes cookbooks reviewed the manuscript and, after many months, sent a detailed, six-page critique. The critique was like a roadmap for a revision, and I was grateful, but at one point it called my recipes “nice faux gourmet recipes.” Referring to my recipe for that standard, King Ranch Chicken, the anonymous reviewer claimed she never used canned soups but always made her own white sauce.
Canned soup recipes likely have been around as long as canned soups, and probably have been controversial just as long. The critic’s comment sounded like snobbery to me, but a lot of people simply prefer not to use canned ingredients. Some people object that canned soups are high in sodium and fat. Yes, but you can buy low-sodium and low-fat versions. Others simply prefer not to use canned soups and make everything from scratch.
I’m for canned soup in moderation. Almost everyone knows how to make King Ranch Chicken with soup, but here are a couple of less common recipes of which I’m fond.
1 pound ground beef
1 pound breakfast sausage (mild, medium or hot, according to taste)
1 jar (16 ounces) Pace picante sauce (again, mild, medium or hot, your choice)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 pound Velveeta
Brown meat in skillet. Put meat in a crock pot, add remaining ingredients, and heat until cheese melts and ingredients are blended. Serve hot with corn chips.
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 packages (10 ounces) chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
32 ounces Monterey jack cheese with jalapeños, shredded
1 can (11 ounces) cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
1/2 teaspoon onion power
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 jar (2 ounces) diced pimiento, drained (optional)
Combine everything but bacon, pimiento and paprika. Heat until cheese melts. Stir in crumbled bacon, sprinkle with pimiento and paprika, if desired. Serve hot with crackers.