Saturday, September 20, 2008

Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

I love using those canned cream soups in cooking. A pot roast cooked in a crockpot with cream of mushroom soup makes some of the best gravy ever. Add a can of cream of chicken soup to some cooked noodles and steamed vegetables, and you really don't need much besides a few dashes of pepper. But I've always studiously avoided the ingredients lists on those cans. Why? A few examples:

monosodium glutamate
disodium phosphate
"spice" (and that would be???)
modified corn starch

But it always seemed like something to live with. I have to pay taxes. I have to spoil my cats. And I don't have a substitute for canned, condensed soups.

But do you know how easy it was to discover I was wrong on that last one? As long as it took to type "homemade condensed cream of chicken soup" in Google and hit send. And look-y what the Very First Result is:

And do you know how incredibly simple this was to make? Of course you don't, because you weren't here when I made it. Here, I'll show you:

Step 1: Mix some stock, milk and seasonings in a pot and boil:

Step 2: whisk together some milk and flour:

Step 3: Combine the two, whisk, boil.

Done! And it took me about 10 minutes from start to finish - and I bet about 1 minute of that was because I took 7 pictures. It might not be quite as fast as getting a can out of the pantry and opening it. But it's darn close.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cheesecake Tarts

Is there any food more wonderful in this world than a good cheesecake? Maybe a perfectly cooked steak (that's medium rare, by the way). Or perhaps a fresh croissant, purchased fresh from a Parisian boulangerie. Even better, my mother's fried pork chops with homemade macaroni and cheese.

But none of those are things I've cooked recently, and since I have cooked some cheesecakes, we're gonna go with that. Okay?

Last week, we had a little shin-dig at work for a lady who's moving away. We all brought multiple dishes - and we had enough leftovers for two more days! - and one of mine were cheesecake tarts. (Tarts being a little more finger-food friendly than an entire cheesecake).

Like so many of my attempts lately, these need a little tweeking. They were a little too tangy, and not quite enough cheesy - but they disappeared, and that's all my soul needs to feel redeemed.

Graham Cracker Crusts:
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used honey grahams this time, but either will work)
  • 1 Tbsp Splenda (or sugar)
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
Cheesecake filling:
  • 2 8-oz blocks of cream cheese, softened (I used fat free)
  • 1/4 cup Splenda (or sugar)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (ditto on the fat free)
  • 1/3 cup plain yogur (ditto on the fat free)
  • 1 envelope gelatin
  • 1 cup boiling water
The crusts:
Preheat oven to 350F.

Line 18 cupcake tins with papers.

Mix together graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Stir in melted butter, and mix until it's completely incorporated.

Evenly measure the graham cracker mixture into each cupcake tin. I did about 1 Tbsp-ish, then went back and filled in what was left. Pack firmly down into the bottom of the tin.

Bake for 8 minutes and cool completely.

The filling:
Pour boiling water over gelatin.

In a mixer, blend together cream cheese and Splenda until fluffy. Add the sour cream and yogurt.

Add the gelatin, and mix just until thoroughly...mixed.

Divide evenly among the 18 cups.
Refrigerate overnight.