You know it’s a bad thing when you love to cook and bake, yet your daughter looks at you when she wakes up and the first thing she asks is, “Mommy, are we having something new for dinner tonight?” Yes, we’ve eaten all the leftovers in the fridge, and I may have been a bit lazy the last few days. Even though it was the middle of the week and I knew I had a lot to do both while the wee ones were at school and once school got out, I knew I had to make something extra yummy for dinner.
I do enjoy making dinner from scratch every night, but I’ve yet to master cooking for 4 (let alone cooking for 2 back before I had kids). I always have at least a little bit of leftovers, which is what we eat for lunch the next day. I had been making new things for dinner every night even though my husband hadn’t been home for dinner, and once I realized how full my fridge was, we ate a lot of leftovers.
Now I’m back to creating something I know the wee ones will enjoy eating, but my challenge is that my husband is not home at all this week, which mean I’m the chauffeur to gymnastics, tae kwon do, basketball, and Boy Scouts while supervising homework and making dinner. This is not the time for a fussy meal. As much as I want food to taste great, I still need to ensure I can get it on the table quickly without a ton of effort.
I found two winners this week, both riffs of meals that the wee ones loves that take a whole lot more time to make when doing them the traditional way. Me? I had both meals on the table in under a half hour.
When I first went shopping that day Little Miss called me on the carpet for not providing her with interesting enough dinners, I had already decided to make some sort of tamale. I was picking up more chicken stock – because I was out, again – from Walmart when I saw a new Campbell’s product that is designed for cooking. The Campbell’s Soups for Easy cooking come in four flavors and are meant to help you create real, homemade meals in 30 minutes or less. Ding ding ding!
I saw there was a great Mexican Style Tomato soup that would be perfect for the tamales in place of the sauce that I usually cook up. It already had so much great flavor in there that I wouldn’t have to add much of anything else to the filling. I also picked up the Creamy Herb & Garlic with Chicken Stock which I knew would pair perfectly in my complete cheater creamy Parmesan risotto that I could whip up the second night using instant rice. There was also Savory Portobello Mushroom that would work well in skillet dishes and Sweet Onion that would be delicious in a meatloaf or in skillet dishes.
Making the Ramekin Tamales
Tamales are one of Little Miss’s favorite foods, and Mister Man is a pretty big fan, too. I’m pretty sure that she could eat them every single day if I let her. I make my own traditional tamales, but it’s a time consuming process that I reserve for weekends (though fortunately all the work turns out a huge batch of tamales I can freeze and enjoy later). I’ve also made a skillet tamale version that cuts down my time, but this time around, I wanted to be easy, breezy done – so I made my “tamales” in ramekins.
Why ramekins? They’re perfect portion control sizes, and I didn’t have to worry at all about wrapping and prepping them the way I do elsewhere. Plus, they’re cute, and it makes giving the wee ones leftovers the next day even easier. They will literally take the foil-covered ramekin to school in their lunchbags and eat it, making all their friends jealous.
To create this recipe, I needed only eight ingredients. I picked up a rotisserie chicken to save myself even more time, but I could easily have poached a few chicken breasts or even roasted my own chicken to make this. I also needed the Campbell’s Soups for Easy Cooking in Mexican Style Tomato, some frozen corn, masa flour, salt, baking powder, chicken stock, and lard. I added just a little chipotle sauce to flavor the masa dough, but you don’t have to. Many stores also sell prepared masa, but I like making my own, and it’s very quick to do.
I started out by heating up my chicken stock on the stove with the lard. While that was warming up, I pulled chicken off the rotisserie chicken and dumped it in the bowl of my stand mixer. One of my favorite tricks when I need shredded chicken is to add it to my mixer and use the paddle attachment to shred it on low speed.
While the chicken is shredding, grab the rest of your ingredients and preheat your oven. You’ll also need some tin foil to cover the ramekins while baking, but they do not need to be greased.
Once your chicken is shredded, which really takes less than a minute, add it to a bowl, as you’ll want to use your mixing bowl to whip up your masa dough. Add the Mexican style tomato soup to your chicken, and stir it to combine. Add corn and stir again.
Once it’s mixed together, divide the chicken filling into six large ramekins (or 8-10 small ones).
To make your masa dough, add the masa harina to the bowl of your mixer, along with salt and baking powder. Mix it up, then add the warm chicken stock and lard. Stir to combine, then turn up the speed to whip it a little. Since I’m not going to be truly steaming these like I would if I were making traditional tamales, I like to have my dough a little wetter than normal, which means adding a touch more chicken stock than I typically do. I’ll also add a teaspoon or so of chipotle sauce to the masa dough just to give it a little more flavor.
Once it’s mixed up and a little fluffy, add it to the tops of each of your ramekins, dividing it equally. Smooth it gently to ensure the entire top of the ramekin is covered, but don’t be too fussy about making it perfect.
Cover the ramekins with foil and bake for fifteen minutes at 350 degrees. Turn up the heat to 400 and remove the foil to bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the filling starts to bubble under the masa topping. Remove from the oven, and serve immediately.
Both Little Miss and Mister Man dug into these with gusto, and I’ll admit that Little Miss was very disappointed this morning to learn that there were no ramekin tamales left. This had way fewer ingredients than I usually use in making tamales and the filling, but the soup was so full of flavor, you’d never know I “cheated” like this.
Creamy Parmesan Risotto
I adore risotto in its many forms, but it can take a long time to make on the stove, constantly stirring and mixing and adding ingredients. I’ve made quick risotto before using rice that was left over from takeout dinners (in restaurants, I never have enough rice when eating Asian foods but when I get takeout, we end up with so many extra containers every time!) and from instant rice, as well as rice that I’ve made earlier in the day in my rice cooker using less chicken stock than usual so it’s only mostly cooked. Any method works for this, and once you start, it goes very quickly.
Because it does cook quickly, and when you’re stirring in the chicken stock, you want to be available to continue stirring and not doing other tasks, make sure you get all your ingredients together before you start. Have a liquid measuring cup and your chicken stock nearby. Shred your Parmesan cheese ahead of time, and of course, chop your parsley.
Not sure how to easily and quickly chop parsley? It’s simpler – and faster – than it looks. Check out this tutorial I made for a super quick and simple way to chop all your herbs.
When you’re ready to start, add your uncooked rice to a large skillet over medium heat and add two-thirds of your usual cooking liquid. Let the rice cook down, covered with a towel between the lid and the pot to allow steam to escape. If you’re using half cooked rice (again using two-third of the usual liquid in your rice cooker) or leftover rice, skip this step.
Once the rice is partially cooked and the first portion of the liquid has been absorbed, turn down the heat to medium low. Remove the lid and add the Campbell’s Soups for Easy Cooking Creamy Herb & Garlic with Chicken Stock and stir it with a wooden spoon to ensure it is incorporated throughout the rice.
Once it has been mixed up, add one cup of your remaining chicken stock. Use your wooden spoon to stir it constantly while the stock is absorbed. Once the first cup has been absorbed into the rice, add another half cup and continue stirring constantly.
You’ll notice that though the rice initially looks as though there is way too much stock, it quickly works its way into the rice and is ready for more stock to be added. Add another quarter cup of stock and continue stirring, adding the last quarter cup once the rice is ready.
Once all the stock is absorbed, begin adding the Parmesan cheese. You’ll want to reserve about a half cup or so for garnish, but the rest will slowly be added into your risotto. Make sure you add just a small handful at a time and stir until it’s melted and incorporated or you’ll end up with an unwieldy clump of cheese that no one wants to eat. As the cheese is incorporated, add more, bit by bit until it’s all added except the portion you’re reserving. You’ll notice that the risotto is much thicker now and as you stir it, you’ll get little strings of cheese that quickly pull apart. This is when it’s ready to serve, a half hour (or more like 20 minutes if you use leftover or half cooked rice) from when you started.
Spoon it into bowls and top with some chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
Love tamales but are intimidated by the amount of time it takes to make them? You'll love this simple fix of baking your filling and masa dough in ramekins for a beautiful presentation and great flavor in under a half hour!
- 4 c chicken, shredded
- 1 14.5 oz container Campbell's Soups for Easy Cooking in Mexican Style Tomato
- 1 c frozen corn
- 1 1/2 c masa harina
- 1/2 t salt
- 3/4 t baking powder
- 1 1/2 c chicken stock
- 1/3 c lard
- 1 t chipotle sauce, optional
- Add chicken stock and lard to a pan and heat over medium heat. You want it warm but not boiling. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Shred your chicken and add it to a bowl. Add the Campbell's Mexican Style Tomato soup and the frozen corn and stir to combine.
- Divide the chicken filling into six large or 8 to 10 small ramekins.
- In a mixing bowl, add the masa harina, salt, and baking powder and stir to combine. Add the warm stock and large and stir on low until combined. Add the chipotle sauce, if using, and turn up the speed to whip the masa dough for 30-60 seconds.
- Add the masa dough to the tops of each of the chicken filled ramekins, ensuring the tops are fully covered without worrying that it's perfect.
- Cover each ramekin with foil and bake covered for 15 minutes.
- Remove the foil and turn up the oven to 400 degrees and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until the chicken filling is bubbling under the masa dough tops.
- Serve immediately in the ramekins. They will store, covered, in the fridge for 2-3 days.
This easy version of tamales takes a half hour to make and presents the traditional tamale flavor in a new and much easier form. It is dairy free and gluten free, as well.
- 3 c uncooked instant rice
- 4 c chicken stock, divided
- 1 14.5 oz Campbell's Soups for Easy Cooking in Creamy Herb & Garlic with Chicken Stock
- 2 c fresh grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- ⅓ c fresh parsley, chopped
- Prep all your ingredients, chopping your parsley and grating your Parmesan. Have a liquid measuring cup and your chicken stock handy.
- Add the rice to a pot on medium heat and add 2 c chicken stock. Cover with the lid, placing a towel between the lid and the pot to allow steam to escape while being careful the towel is nowhere near the flame to catch fire.
- Once the rice is cooked, remove the lid and turn the heat down to medium low. Add the Campbell's Soup, and stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Once its combined, add one cup of stock and stir again until the stock is absorbed.
- Add a half cup of stock and stir again until the stock is absorbed. Add a quarter cup and repeat and the same for the last quarter cup.
- Once all the stock is absorbed, begin adding the Parmesan cheese in small batches and stirring until it is melted before adding any more. Add all but a half cup you will reserve for garnish.
- Once the risotto has melted all the cheese, serve immediately in bowls, garnishing with your reserved Parmesan cheese and some chopped parsley.
- This will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for two to three days.
Think you might want to try out one of these recipes? There is an online coupon at Walmart.com for these Campbell’s Soups for Easy Cooking where you can save $0.75 on any one package. This coupon launches today (March 13) will be available for just one month, so act fast!
There are so many creative ways to use Campbell’s Soups for Easy Cooking. Check out more delicious, homemade recipes on the Easy Cooking website. Which will you make first?