Single in the Kitchen: Mexican Soup

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Single? Congratulations! You don’t have to worry about anyone else’s weird picky food habits, or distaste for spinach, or need for every meal to consist of meat and potatoes. Just meat and potatoes.

There are several cookbooks out there with recipes for cooking for one, but they tend to be a little, well, less than helpful (Here! Here is a can of beans! Did you know you can make a whole meal from a can of beans? Have you been on a date lately? No. Hmm. Well, here’s a recipe that will cost you $40 a meal to make. Have you signed up for an online dating service? They’re great! No? What’s wrong with you? Eat your beans.).

Not here! The Starter Kitchen celebrates the joys of cooking for yourself, and shows you how to do it in ways that make sense. All Single in the Kitchen recipes meet the following four requirements:

  1. Under thirty minutes to cook. You mean you don’t want to spend three hours roasting a turkey for one? Yeah, me neither.
  2. Economical. Cooking for yourself shouldn’t cost you a small fortune. Most foods you’ll get at the grocery store aren’t packaged for one, and nature didn’t always design produce in single-serving pieces. Recipes must include tips and tricks for making good use of your food dollar.
  3. Designed for one.  Recipes must either freeze well (so you can divide it into servings and save the rest for another night) or be easy to prepare for one.
  4. Delicious!

Mexican Soup Recipe

This recipe looks just as good as it tastes. A gorgeous soup with bright red tomatoes, vibrant green herbs, yellow peppers, and a spicy kick, this is a filling, low-calorie dinner that freezes beautifully and packs an amazing nutritional wallop. Plus, it costs under $15 for four full meals. Not bad!

Tools:

  • Large pot/dutch oven
  • Ladle
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Glad-ware containers

Already in your starter kitchen:

  • Canned chicken broth (or veggie broth)
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil

Shopping List:

  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with jalapenos (you can use regular tomatoes if you don’t like spice)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Steps:

  1. Slice onions and garlic (instructions are here).
  2. Chop bell peppers, removing seeds and white flesh.
  3. Chop cilantro finely.
  4. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in your pot for one minute. Add onions and garlic. 
  5. Add both cans of tomatoes and one one cup chicken broth and let boil for three minutes.
  6. Rinse black beans in a strainer under cold water until the liquid runs clear.
  7. Add beans, peppers, and cilantro to the pot. Let boil for five more minutes.
  8. Ladle into four servings – three for the freezer and one for now!
  9. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and enjoy.

Nutrition:

This recipe is full of superfoods.

  • Canned tomatoes – Contain beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E, and carotenoid lycopene – in fact, canned tomatoes contain more lycopene than raw tomatoes.
  • Garlic – Decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, contains vitamin C, B6, Manganese, and Selenium, acts as an Anti-Inflammatory, Antibacterial and Antiviral, reduces the risk of common cancers, and promotes weight control.
  • Cilantro – a great source of  good source of iron, magnesium, manganese, and phytonutrients.
  • Black beans – contain cholesterol-lowering fiber plus molybdenum, which is helpful for people with sulfite sensitivities.
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Your Momma Don’t Cook (But You Can Learn): Peeling Garlic

My mother was a successful, professional woman and a great role-model for her daughters. But while she was out bringing in the bacon, she wasn’t spending much time teaching me how to cook the bacon. Welcome to the feature where we learn how to do the things in the kitchen we know we should know, but never quite learned.

Almost every meal I cook now starts with chopping onions and garlic.  The health benefits of garlic include:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased cholesterol
  • Reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Contains vitamin C, B6, Manganese, and Selenium
  • Acts as an Anti-Inflammatory, Antibacterial and Antiviral 
  • Reduces the risk of common cancers
  • Promotes weight control

Now, you can certainly buy pre-peeled, pre-chopped garlic at most grocery stores these days, but studies have shown that fresh, just crushed and peeled garlic is more flavorful and provides significantly more health benefits than packaged garlic.

To prepare garlic:

  1. Separate cloves from the bulb by pulling the off the outer layer of paper and then pulling off individual cloves.
  2. Lay cloves on a clean cutting board.
  3. Place a wide knife on top of the clove with the blade facing away from you and bring the heel of your palm down on the flat side of the knife. This “crushing” or bruising releases the beneficial compounds in the garlic and separates the papery layer from the clove, making peeling easy.
  4. Peel off the outer layer and slice off the brown, woody stem if one remains and discolorations. Your cloves are now ready to crush, dice, or slice.
  5. Let garlic sit for 10 minutes before cooking or eating – this releases garlic’s beneficial compounds.

Note: If the garlic clove has started to sprout and has a green stem in the middle, you will want to remove this shoot – they are difficult to digest and can become bitter when cooked.

Have a basic cooking question? Ask The Starter Kitchen by e-mail or in the comments section.

How To: Host the Perfect Easter Brunch

So you’re on your own for your first Easter Sunday, but you want something a little more complicated than cheerios.

Host a perfect make-ahead Easter Brunch! The whole meal will cost less than $50, serves up to seven, and most of it can be prepared the night before in less than an hour! Sunday morning, wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee while your oven does the rest!

 Menu:

Three-cheese egg basil and tomato casserole
Baked pecan and blueberry french toast
Bacon
Hash-browns
Mimosas

Tools
Two cookie sheets
Aluminum foil 
2 glass casserole pans ($11.99 at Shaws)
Frying pan
 

Already in Your Starter Kitchen: 
Cooking spray
11 eggs
Orange juice
Milk
Sugar
Nutmeg
Vanilla extract
Butter
Flour
Baking Powder
Salt
Pepper

Your Shopping List:
1 loaf french bread
1/2 cup pecans
Blueberries
1 pound jack cheese
4 oz cream cheese
1 pound cottage cheese
Bacon
Frozen hash-browns (pre-shredded in the potato section of your frozen foods isle)
Basil
2 ripe tomatoes
Champagne

The Night Before:

French toast

  1. Break four eggs into a mixing bowl. Add 2/3 cup orange juice, 1/3 cup milk, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 vanilla extract, and whip together using a whisk or fork.
  2. Slice french bread into 1 inch thick slices.
  3. Place slices of bread in a single layer – don’t worry about keeping the slices seperate; put as many in as you can fit.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Turn the bread with a spatula once before you hit the sack.

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