Sunday, June 1, 2014

Canned Food Challenge

      I was watching Chopped on the Food Network and frowned when I heard a competitor say that she, "never uses any kind of canned product in her kitchen." First, I find that hard to believe. Lots of things come in cans. Using stock that comes in a box instead of a can doesn't count, it's still a packaged product. Skirting the issue doesn't mean you aren't using "canned" products. Second, lots of great products come in cans. Where would we be today without canned tuna fish? Hungry for mayonaisey goodness, that's for sure.  Those of you know me well know that I'm a big fan of the show Chopped. I have even been known to "play" Chopped with the contents of my fridge on my Facebook page. What you might not know is that I am frequently frustrated by the holier-than-thou attitudes of the contestants. Just because you wouldn't use it in your restaurant doesn't mean that those of us watching at home aren't stuck with a canned version of something because it's easier to get, more cost effective, and shelf stable.

      Have you ever been in a situation where you didn't have a heat source or a source of fresh meat and produce? No? If you don't think you can do it, I suggest you stay clear of areas that are prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or any other kind of natural disaster. I'll be honest, after 2006, I never want to see another can of Hormel Chili ever again.  
      I wondered if I could cook for an entire week using only canned ingredients. I'm not talking about pre-made canned items like Chef Boyardi Ravioli or Hormel Chili (anyone can open a can of soup for a week!) I was thinking more along the lines of things like beans, veggies, fruits, and proteins that can be purchased in canned form and creating complete meals. Why would anyone want to do that? Well  . . . I think I already told you; canned foods are easy to find, cheap, and last forever.

      I'm going to try it. I'll be taking a trip to Save-A-Lot or Aldi on Thursday (I have to figure out which one is closer) . . . home to the cheapest canned ingredients one can buy--yes even cheaper than Wally World. I have one caveat to the challenge: dried rice and pasta will be used to fill out the experiment. In addition, my regular pantry is available--things like milk, eggs and butter

What would you cook with only canned ingredients?

Here's my favorite canned food recipe--it's also the easiest recipe ever:

Hawkeye's Black Beans

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of Rotel style tomatoes, don't drain!
1 can of corn, drained and rinsed
Add a protein: 1 can of chicken, yup drained and rinsed. (I'll be honest I usually use a frozen chicken breast for this recipe, but canned works just as well.)

Combine all of the ingredients in a pot and simmer until the liquid from the tomatoes has reduced. Serve over rice.
Bonus ideas: top with a fried egg for breakfast, load into tortillas for tacos, serve over chips for hearty nachos

It should be an interesting week!

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