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A Healthier Swap for Canned Condensed Soup: Homemade Béchamel

healthiersoupswapDo you ever wonder how on earth we survived before convenience foods came on the scene? For many working Americans, dinnertime is synonymous with “crunch time.” On a recent Monday night, I found myself frantically searching the cabinets for a quick and easy meal. My foray left me frustrated. Dang it, why did I have to quit buying those uber-convenient condensed soups! Damn my healthy lifestyle.
With one swipe of the can opener I could have easily prepared a classic green bean dish, a comforting tuna noodle casserole or pork chops simmered in mushroom gravy. But then I remembered, those same easy to use soups also left me groggy and headache-y with an MSG hangover. So while meal prep may have been a breeze, the rest of the evening was shot to hell. So instead I decide to go all retro, and make my own béchamel.
Before condensed soups hit the market in 1934, a harried cook turned to the mother of all sauces, the béchamel, for all of her thickening and gravy-like needs. Béchamel, or white sauce as it is commonly referred, is nothing but roux (which is a little butter and flour cooked together) simmered with milk. It is a fantastic base to which you can add mushrooms, celery, onion, jalapeno, chicken, beef or vegetable stock, cheese, sour cream, plain yogurt — you name it — to create most any sauce.
The whole process takes a whopping five to six minutes and can even be made ahead of time. I guarantee your homemade béchamel is going to work just like that store-bought soup in your casserole. And it will taste infinitely better.
You don’t get healthy sitting on the couch and you don’t get healthy opening up another can of processed glop. Try making a versatile white sauce the next time your recipe calls for condensed soup; the few minutes of in-convenience is well worth it.
Have you given up processed soups in your quest for a chemical-free diet?  —Karen

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