Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cooking my way to San Francisco: 30-minute budget-friendly meal

Foodbuzz is hosting a blogger festival in San Francisco (my happy place) and as much as I wanted to go, I just couldn't afford to take the trip. Times are tough! Luckily for me, Foodbuzz offered me a $250 stipend to offset the costs of the trip. I just have to do my part -- write a post about a budget-friendly meal that I whip up out of ingredients I have in my pantry or fridge.

This is the new pantry. Yep, it's as big as the fridge.
People often ask me whether I cook every night. Other than when we're eating out, the answer is yes. I mostly hate leftovers (lasagna and soup are a few other exceptions), so it's a rare meal that doesn't get cooked fresh each night. I'd rather put in an extra 30 minutes to make a quick and simple meal than re-heat a plate of <insert whatever I had last night>. In a 30 minute pinch, here's what happens Chez Rose. We have a gorgeous, wholesome soup.

The garden is key to eating fresh vegetables even on sad days when the refrigerator crisper drawer is empty. If there's anything in the garden, I start there with my soup. It's the beginning of fall, so there's stuff in there, including some kale and this weird looking carrot.

For your edification, the carrot's skin is red, but the flesh is yellow and orange. Funky!

In the fridge, I look for meats, a soup base, and other fresh veggies. There are almost always some mushrooms and some miso paste for soup. On this occasion, there was no meat but I did discover a couple of chicken backs in the freezer so I roasted them, then threw them in a soup pot with some carrots and celery to make a chicken stock. That was a fortuitous find, but in a 30 minute pinch, I'm not to proud to use a good quality chicken soup base either.

In the pantry, I've got grains, noodles, and dried and canned beans. If I were using a miso paste, I might opt for a rice noodle. But with a freshly made chicken stock, I opted for pearl barley.

To balance out the soup with a bit of protein, I had some canned garbanzo and cannellini beans. Mr. Rose got to choose and he went with cannellini beans.

On an average winter day or during a cold stretch in the fall, I'd have some bread dough sitting in the fridge and I'd bake a crusty boule. Last night, there was none. I guess I was pushing my luck with the chicken back treasure.

For the people who need precise recipes, here's how I made this soup (approximately).

30-Minute Soup (serves 3-4)
8 cups of chicken stock
4 handfuls of barley
7 kale leaves, ribs removed (and fed to dogs) and torn into small pieces
1 large misshapen carrot, diced
5 button mushrooms, sliced
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

Bring chicken stock to a boil, then add barley. Bring to boil, then lower heat to medium so you have a light boil. Let boil for 5 minutes before adding carrot. Let boil for another 5 minutes before adding kale. Let that cook for another 10 minutes before adding mushrooms and beans. Once the soup comes back to a boil, the beans should be heated through and the soup is ready to serve.


  1. Looks yummy. This is my favorite way to make soups too. Just look to see what heve in the veggie drawer, and go from there. If that's empty (almost never), I always have frozen edamame and eggs to make a yummy egg drop soup!

  2. Between the veggie drawer and a flourishing garden, a yummy soup may be just a few minutes away!

  3. Char, regarding your loathing of leftovers. I will take them any day.

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