A Marriage of Convenience

Canned goods.

They seriously get a bad rep from chefs, but you know, sometimes it’s truly all you have. And let’s be honest.
Most of us were raised on canned goods.
And I am not talking about your grandmother’s canned goods from the garden. I am talking about the actual off the grocery store shelf corn that comes in a tin can.
I mean, for most of us grabbing those cans off of that shelf is, let’s be honest, a marriage of convenience.
It’s like going out on date with Steve in accounting because he’s the only one that asked.
It’s like eating a breakfast burrito and drinking a diet coke on the way work because it’s quick.

It’s a marriage of convenience.

It’s fast and easy and gets the job done.And there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Just because Chef Sassy Pants turns her nose up at canned sweet peas, doesn’t mean she hasn’t probably at some point in her life digested them unknowingly.
I mean, my Mama’s pea salad is probably one of the most glorious things I have ever eaten in my life, and I can tell you right now, those peas came out of a can.
My Mama was a kindergarten teacher who had two kids at home and a husband who worked long hours and she didn’t have time to be fighting with the garden for fresh peas!
To this day, Carey Dean and I have hamburger steaks with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, brown ‘n serve rolls, and yep, you guessed it, my Mama’s pea salad with peas from a can.
And it’s literally probably Carey’s favorite meal!
I will tell you something else that is can-centric.
My taco soup. Yes, you read that correctly.
Sweet M’s famously delicious taco soup is more times than not, an open and dump situation.
Now, not always, but most of the time.
Again. Marriage of convenience.

Let’s face it.

In this day and in this hour, can we honestly cast disparaging glances towards that can of baked beans lovingly placed at eye level on the HEB shelf.
No, we can’t. Because look at this way. In the extreme case of a Zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dean all by itself has taught us that the beans in that can may be all there is to eat.
Now, can you honestly say that you wouldn’t beat a zombie up for a can of Bush’s Baked Beans if it came down to it standing between you and an empty stomach?
I mean, I’m the fat kid, and I am going to tell you right now, I love some canned cream style corn.
I truly cannot think of one canned vegetable that I wouldn’t happily partake in when given the opportunity.
Well, not canned asparagus. That is just a travesty.
Del Monte needs to be shut down just for doing that.
It is all limp and slimy. Not good. The marriage of convenience would be in serious jeopardy.

So, just for the record. NO. CANNED. ASPARAGUS.

Seriously. It needs to be pulled from the shelves.

Anyway…. Back to all the good things about canned goods. Now, don’t let me lie to you.

I am a huge proponent of the fresh vegetable. I love them! I would prefer to use them instead of canned, but again… It’s a marriage of convenience.
Sometimes I just don’t have time to properly clean and prepare fresh vegetable.
I know, I know. “You’re supposed to be a chef.”
And yes, I wrote that with a whiney, disapproving tone going off in my head.
But look, I don’t care what any chef or home cook or whoever tells you.
Sometimes, you just have to break out the can opener and go to town on some tin!
And I also don’t believe that those fancy chef so-and-so’s who make a mean face when the Chopped host opens up their basket and there is a can of some vegetable, that they don’t secretly rejoice in their heart because, hey, you only have 30 minutes to make a gourmet dinner option for some of the most discerning palates in the world!
Now, get out your can opener out of the drawer or dust off the one sitting on your counter and get to cooking!
And you do it with pride! Not shame or guilt.
Canned vegetables are our friends!
And just to prove it…
Here is Sweet M’s Open and Dump Taco Soup recipe. Now, I can hear you right now. Same voice I heard in my head earlier.
“It’s 78 degrees outside! I don’t want to eat soup.”
Well, my friend. That is a discussion we will have at later date and time.
Trust me. It’s coming.

Sweet M’s Taco Soup

1 or 2 pounds of ground beef, browned
2 cans of corn
2 cans of Rotel tomatoes
1 large can or two small cans of pinto beans or black beans, or one of each – your choice
1 small can of green chilis
1 package of low sodium taco seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

So, first, you want to brown your ground meat in a large skillet on medium heat. I said 1 or 2 pounds, because I like a lot of meat in mine. Some people don’t. It’s just a matter of preference. I also add a little sprinkle of salt and pepper, mainly because I can’t stand to not season my meat, even though we will be adding in the taco seasoning shortly.
Once the meat is browned, let’s drain off the excess oil. Because let’s face it. No one like greasy soup.
You know like when you store it in the fridge and you take off the lid and you can see it there, just kind of floating on the top.
Yeah, gross.
Next, transfer the ground beef to your soup pot and turn the heat on low to medium. Watch it carefully because you don’t want the meat to get over done.
Next, break out that can opener and get to popping!
I usually open them all at once so I can just dump them in and move on.
But don’t drain the liquid. We need it!
Corn, Rotel tomatoes, pinto beans or black beans, and the green chilis – all of the kids get in the pool.
And here’s the other beautiful thing about this soup.
You don’t have to add any chicken or vegetable stock unless you just want to, because the liquid from the canned vegetables will make an amazing broth!
Again, 100% personal preference, however. If you want to add some, then you go right ahead! I won’t be mad at you! Promise.
Next up, taco seasoning. Just dump it right in.
Why low sodium you ask?
Because as a chef, I do need to have some control over the situation and that comes into play in the level of salt in the dish.
I know, but I seriously can’t help it. Not even a little bit.
So, after all is said and done, I usually let the soup get a good simmer going, meaning it needs to stay under the point of boiling. You really want those flavors to mix and mingle and really get to know each other, but we don’t want it to boil because, believe it or not – soup will burn!
And then I turn the heat down fairly low until I am ready to serve it. If you are making it to serve the next day, you can go ahead and take off the heat, put the lid on your pot or whatever and stick it in the fridge.
This soup also freezes really well, and I will usually put some in the smaller quart size freezer bags and then all I have to do when I want taco soup is drop the whole baggie in a pot of boiling water to thaw it out some and then I just pop it in the microwave.
Voila! Lunch is served or a really quick dinner on the go!
So, look.
Canned goods are not the enemy. They can even be your friend or the love of your life.
Again, it’s a marriage of convenience.
And that’s not a bad thing.
Neither is taking that date with Steve from accounting.
You just never know the good things that can from it.
Like taco soup that tastes like shucked the corn and stewed the tomatoes yourself.
Or pea salad….
Cooking something delicious doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be technical.
It just has to be fun, and it HAS to be done with love.
I hope this article finds you happy, healthy, and surrounded by those you love!
And as always, I wish love, peace, and good food!

Love,

Sweet M

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