Can-Do-It Yourself

It all started with a browse through my mom’s cookbook collection. I was deciding which books to take with me when I moved out. My recently acquired New York Times Essential Cookbook was a given, as was the Culinary Institute of America’s The Professional Chef that I referred to like a dictionary. The 3-year crinkled and stained Fine Cooking magazine collection was a toss-up. Would I have room in my tiny apartment? I could always look up recipes online…But there’s nothing like turning the crisp as parchment pages, to find them, worn and stained with oil or sauce.

There were other cookbooks that just didn’t make the cut. Church fundraiser recipe collections and kindergarten class cookbooks were dusty or barely creased. I would reluctantly leave behind my mom’s Joy of Cooking, a kitchen staple. Then there was one I had never seen before. The tacky cover looked like a Campbell’s soup can label and the mediocre photos didn’t make my mouth water, but it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. It was like one of those cookbooks you buy at a used book fair for $1 because you hope you’ll find culinary secrets penciled in the margins.

So I paged through the Campbell’s Creative Cooking with Soup book. One recipe for cheese soufflé caught my eye. Classy from a can? I had to try it.

When I scooped out the cheddar cheese soup the recipe called for, I must admit, I felt a little discouraged. Was this nacho goo really going to transform into a rich, light soufflé? The preparation was easy, the hard part was not opening the oven to check on the progress. (Even the slightest change in temperature could affect the outcome of the soufflé.)

It started to poof, and I couldn’t stop peaking through the oven window. When I took it out, it was beautiful and golden, but three minutes in the cool air and it deflated. Still, the flavor and consistency weren’t bad. Airy yet rich, the soufflés tasted pretty darn good. The extra cup of grated cheese really makes it though. So choose a good quality Vermont Cheddar or extra-sharp cheese.

Alexia is a recent grad living in Lancaster, PA. She loves to travel, experiment in the kitchen, and shop locally. The best breakfast she’s ever had is Swedish Oatmeal Pancakes.


Easy Soufflé
adapted from Campbell’s Creative Cooking with Soup
Serves 6

1 can Campbell’s cheddar cheese soup
1 cup shredded Vermont sharp cheddar or Jarlsberg
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
6 eggs, separate

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Combine soup, cheese and nutmeg in a saucepan and over medium heat and stir until melted. Do not boil. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form, set aside. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed until thick and lemon-colored.

Gradually stir cheese mixture into egg yolks. Then, fold cheese mixture into egg whites.

Pour into lightly greased individual ramekins. Fill ramekins about 2/3 of the way. Bakee for 30 minutes or until soufflé is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Also check out these variations for “can-do-it-yourself” inspiration:

Tomato – This soup serves as a great base for minestrone, taco soup or even pasta sauce. I crumble corn chips and cheddar cheese in the bottom of a bowl, pour in the tomato soup and season with hot sauce then finish with a dollop of sour cream.

Cream of Chicken, Broccoli or Celery – Cream soups have been gracing casseroles since before my time. Mix it with 1/4 cup water, 3/4 cup brown rice, 3 cups of softened veggies and about 1 pound of chicken and pour into a casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Cream of Mushroom/Golden Mushroom – For moistening lean burgers like turkey burgers, add some mushroom soup to the meat mixture.

Chicken Broth – Sautée veggies in chicken broth and you have a healthy alternative to oil with added flavor.

Originally posted on Sunday, March 6th, 2011

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