Star-Bulletin Features

Sunday, February 17, 2002



Elevate soup mixes to
grand status while saving time

By Barbara Burke
Special to the Star-Bulletin

"The Soup Mix Gourmet"

By Diane Phillips (Harvard Common Press, 2001, softcover, $18.95)


The title, "Soup Mix Gourmet," may seem like an oxymoron. After all, what could be gourmet about a dip made from Lipton's onion soup mix, or a can of Campbell's soup poured over chicken breasts before baking?

Well, for starters, author Diane Phillips has jazzed up the traditional onion dip, Santa Fe-style, by adding cilantro, Anaheim chiles, grated pepper Jack cheese, red onion, chopped jicama, and fresh tomatoes.

Her recipe for Chicken Tarragon does use the obligatory can of soup, but she upscales the entrée with pre-cooked wild rice, tarragon and fresh mushrooms, all topped with sliced almonds that toast to a golden brown while baking.

If you're still not convinced, consider dishes such as Grilled Portabello Mushrooms, White Gazpacho or Pork and Peanut Stir-Fry. You're not likely to find these recipes on the back of a can or box.

The cookbook offers 375 recipes, more than one for every day of the year. Each recipe uses a dry soup mix, canned soup or package of flavored ramen noodles, saving you valuable time in the kitchen.

You can make these dishes special and get away from the processed taste of convenience products by incorporating bold flavors such as garlic, herbs, Hoisin sauce, sesame oil or sun-dried tomatoes, says Phillips.

One word of caution: Many commercial soups, whether dry or canned, tend to be high in sodium, which is a concern for individuals with certain health problems.

Spinach Squares

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
Two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
6 large eggs
1 envelope Knorr Cream of Spinach Soup Mix
2 cups dry bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a 10-inch sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat, add the onion, and cook, stirring, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, soup mix, bread crumbs, cheese and nutmeg and stir until combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into squares. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 280 calories, 12 g total fat, 6 g saturated fat, 16 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 180 mg cholesterol, 700 mg sodium.

Barbara Burke is a Hawaii-Pacific University instructor who teaches and writes about food and nutrition. Her cookbook reviews run every two weeks. Contact her by e-mail,

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