Recently I’ve been on a quest to learn how to cook from scratch. I have been blundering through this assignment in an orderly manner for the past several months. You’d never think there could be such well-planned disasters. But to my dismay, planned menus don’t always lead to a good meal. Things like whole wheat pasta and homemade tortillas and even peanut butter cookies are vicious creatures waiting to attack if you are caught off guard.
Since I am a pragmatist, I used to rely heavily on recipes that called for condensed cream soups—you know, cream of mushroom, cream of chicken and cream of celery. I gave these up for the assignment because of some suspicious ingredients: MSG, tons of sodium, preservatives with long names. Not to mention, I discovered that canned foods in general are suspicious because can lining is made of BPA (toxic chemical). Oh yes. AND—have you ever noticed that the soup sort of maintains the shape of the can when you pour it out? That just seemed wrong and gross.
But I started missing the taste (and convenience) of those condensed soup based recipes. I did some research and found the perfect, pragmatic solution: homemade condensed cream soup substitutes. What’s great about them is that you can prepare them in less than ten minutes!
Here’s what you need. This is the substitute for one can of condensed cream of chicken:
2 T butter
3 T flour
1/2 c chicken broth
1/2 c milk
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour. Slowly stir in the milk and chicken broth and heat the mixture until it bubbles. Keep stirring the whole time. When it bubbles, reduce heat and continue stirring until it thickens. When it’s thick, add salt and pepper to taste (a few shakes is good).
Voila. More natural cream of chicken soup, ready to go into your recipe.
I am thrilled about this discovery—not only is it a pragmatic substitute for condensed cream soups, but it is tastier, healthier and easy to alter. Here are a few more tips:
- For low-fat versions, use 1 T butter and nonfat milk.
- For a condensed cream of celery soup substitute, saute about 1/4 c of finely chopped celery in the butter until tender before you add flour. Don’t use chicken broth (unless you want to have chicken flavor) – use a full cup of milk instead.
- For a condensed cream of mushroom soup substitute, saute about 1/4 c of finely chopped mushrooms in the butter for 2-3 minutes before you add the flour. Use a full cup of milk instead of half milk, half broth.
- To adjust consistency, increase or decrease the amount of flour you use.