I am one of those people who anticipate with glee the clear crisp autumn mornings. Give me gloomy gray clouds with a slight rainy mist moving over the blooms of spring and two things will immediately happen: the closet will resemble an end-of-summer department store clearance rack as the fall wardrobe takes over, and the stove top will brim with comfort food. And of all the politically incorrect comfort dishes bursting from my flour-dusted and grease-stained mid-1950’s edition Betty Crocker cookbook, my favorite fall cuisine would have to be soup.
Soup (the creamier, the better!) transports me to my grade school days, wearing my little red jumper dress, where upon twisting the plastic cap on my Partridge Family thermos I am rewarded with a whiff of mom’s Slumgullion soup. To this day I’d lay bets that the smell of that soup wafting on a stiff fall afternoon breeze brought my test scores up at least twenty percent.
Once a week mom would magically create a soup our huge pot she jokingly called “the cauldron.” and the resulting aroma that would seep into every corner and crevice of our home wasn’t of this world. Like the cartoons of the day, I could imagine my feet being lifted off the ground, nose sniffing the air, as I floated toward the simmering taste of heaven coming from the kitchen.
Mom had many names for her consommé concoctions; Italian Delight, Everything but the Kitchen Sink, or my favorite: Slumgullion Soup. And I loved every slurp, despite the outrageous names. When I grew older, and asked mom for the recipes to her incredible soups, she let me in on The Big Secret: every one of her soups was made from leftovers. They weren’t exactly recipes, she stammered, a little embarrassed at the thought. How could she not have recipes for her incredible gourmet soups?
I couldn’t fathom that these bowls of bliss which I so closely connected with my wonder years weren’t going to be passed down for future generations. I was almost incensed until I realized that while they may not have been pulled from the pages of a gourmet magazine or from hand-scrawled notes long-stored in great grandma’s recipe trunk, these soups were put together out of a combination of financial necessity and love. I know that now.
Just last night I peeked in the fridge and pawed through the cupboards pulling out the left over ground beef, some broth, an assortment of canned vegetables, and the ubiquitous jar of spaghetti sauce. I made my (mom’s, really) Minestrone Mumbo for my husband, my parents, and my daughters. It tasted just like those old school days. Mom smiled, “You got this out of great grandma’s secret recipe trunk, didn’t you?”
“Sure did Mom, just like you did.”
1 lb. ground beef
4 potatoes (diced)
1 can of corn with liquid
1 can of green beans drained
½ to ¾ bag of shell noodles (any noodle will do)
1 cup of fresh vegetables (zucchini is what I prefer)
6 tsps, or cubes of beef bouillon
1 jar of red spaghetti sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions: Brown the ground beef in pan and drain out fat. Salt and pepper the meat.
Boil the potatoes in water until soft. Once potatoes are soft, drain out enough water so that the potatoes are just covered.
Adjust stove temperature to medium and add drained ground beef. Make sure the water is at a small boil and add your dry noodles. Cook until noodles are tender.
Add can of corn with juice, can of green beans drained, any other vegetable you would like, and 6 tsps or cubes of beef bouillon, then simmer. Taste to make sure there is enough beef flavor from the bouillon. (Sometimes it can need more or less bouillon; it just depends on the day, so make sure to taste.
At this point, pour in the jar of spaghetti and bring the pot back up to a simmer. (This soup can also be made with chicken and chicken broth instead of beef broth, and Alfredo sauce in place of red sauce. It’s great with a little bit of Parmesan cheese and cornbread, or French rolls. You’ll probably even have leftovers to pour into the school Thermos, as well.