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Yes, You Can Cook a Three-Course Gourmet Lunch with Canned Food

There is always the temptation to run to the nearest restaurant, fast food chain, or café to buy food for your last-minute guests or if you’re in a rush to eat. The thought of preparing a meal from scratch can be quite a chore on busy days and can be quite challenging when you’re already hungry! I have experienced this situation a couple of times. Thankfully, the following recipes have helped me get by with a satisfied smile afterwards. And with some basic ingredients, like canned products always on hand in your refrigerator and pantry, a 30-minute limit is no longer an excuse to succumb to fast food or restaurant take-out.  


Creamy Mushroom Casserole


Make a no-bake version by simply enjoying the creamy mushroom mixture on top of toasted bread, rice or cooked pasta. Feel free to switch the cream of mushroom with cream of onion or any cream soup mixture instead.

Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 500 grams canned mushrooms, drained and sliced
  • 1 pack cream of mushroom soup mix
  • 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
  • 12 to 16 slices bread, sides cut off
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1. Heat oven to broil or preheat to 275°F. 

2. Melt and heat together oil and butter in a pan. Add onion and sauté until soft and tender. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes. 

3. In a bowl, mix together cream of mushroom soup mix and milk until mix is dissolved. Add mixture to the pan with sautéed onions and mushrooms. Bring to a boil over medium to low heat, stirring continuously. Let simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

4. Arrange 6 to 8 slices of bread at the bottom of an 8 x 12-inch baking dish. Pour half of the mushroom mixture on top of the bread then sprinkle with half the cheese. Arrange the remaining bread slices on top. Pour the remaining mushroom mixture and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.

5. Place the mushroom casserole in the oven and bake until cheese melts. Serve warm.


Roasted Corn Salad


This good-for-you salad is made hefty with the addition of couscous, but you can also substitute with cooked quinoa or any desired grain. Jazz up the dressing with a little balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice, and add pitted olives and roasted bell peppers for more flavor.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 410-gram cans whole corn kernels, drained well
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 6 scallions, minced 
  • 1 cup golden raisins, dried cranberries, or dried apricots or a combination
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lettuce head, leaves separated, optional
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, optional

1. Toast corn kernels in a skillet. When a bit brown, add butter and continue to sauté. Set kernels aside.

2. Add chicken broth and toasted corn kernels to a pot, cover and bring to a boil. Remove pot from heat, add couscous, stir and cover. Allow couscous to sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork until all clumps are removed. 

3. Add scallions, dried fruits and parsley and gently mix. 

4. In a separate bowl, prepare dressing by mixing fresh lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the corn kernels and couscous.

5. If desired, arrange lettuce leaves in a bowl. Top with corn-couscous mixture. Then top with feta cheese.


Lychee Fritters


The idea of fried lychees may seem strange, but trust us, this dessert is delicious! If you don’t have coconut milk, just use fresh milk for the batter. And for an added treat, serve the lychee fritters with whipped cream flavored with a little almond extract.

Serves 4 to 6

  • corn or vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 500 grams canned lychees in syrup, drained
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch, for dredging
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  • macapuno or vanilla ice cream
  • toasted sesame seeds, for garnish, optional

1. Fill a skillet halfway with corn or vegetable oil. Heat oil to 375ºF. 

2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add coconut milk and stir until combined. Set aside.

3. In a small mixing bowl, toss lychees in cornstarch. Then dip into the coconut milk batter. 

4. Carefully drop lychees into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Allow to cool then dust with confectioners’ sugar.  

5. Serve lychee fritters with macapuno or plain vanilla ice cream. You can also sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.


This article first appeared in FOOD Magazine, Issue 1, 2015

Photography by Justin de Jesus

Styling by Tina Concepcion Diaz