Saturday, February 25, 2012

Easy Hamburger Soup

After the kids' piano lessons this morning, they were happy to be home. It was almost noon and I needed something hot, quick and easy to feed the kids on a snowy, dreary, winter's day.

Sounds like a day for soup.  Scrambling around all morning, I didn't really feel like chopping a whole bunch of vegetables.  Just wanted to open a can of soup and be done with a meal. 

But then I'm not satisfied with the cans of soup we have in the stores these days.  I find that they are pretty skimpy, especially if I am used to making my meals from scratch as much as I can.   

With a bit of compromise, I was able to use the frozen vegetables and meat in my freezer and pantry to come up with a pretty tasty soup that the kids like! 

I didn't have a chance to defrost a pound of ground beef, so I just fried the frozen chunk of meat and scraped the cooked bits off.  Eventually, it was cooked.  The meat looked pretty greasy, so I drained the meat, scooped it into a metal sieve and rinsed it off with hot water.  Yes, it is an extra step, but it's personal preference.  I don't like greasy soup. I wiped the pot of excess grease and then dumped it back with chopped onion. 

Luckily, I have some frozen onion in the freezer.  (I bought a 10lb bag of onions for $2.99, chopped some of it up, placed chopped onions on a parchment lined baking sheet, froze them for a few hours and placed them into ziplock baggies.)  I dumped about 1/2 cup frozen onion into the beef.  This trick saved me more time!   

Then I dumped everything in the pot, except the pasta.

I recently discovered the beauty of tomato paste in a tube.  A lot of recipes ask for 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste.  I find it a pain to open up a can for that small amount and the rest of it is unused in the fridge.  Surprisingly, I stumbled across this product at my local supermarket chain and German deli!  I squeezed some into the soup for extra body.  I never expected that a tube of tomato paste would be so convenient!  This is optional, but I thought it would be a nice addition, as traditional hamburger soup recipes call for a can of tomatoes. 

I covered the soup, brought it to a boil and added the small pasta or whatever cooks fast to thicken the soup.  I found some organic alphabet pasta at the store the other day but next time, I will try barley. 

I simmered it covered for 10-15 minutes and stirred it around several times to keep from sticking to the bottom.  The soup is done when the pasta is done to your liking. 

Easy Hamburger Soup with Lots of Veggies

1lb lean ground beef (thawed or frozen)
1 small onion (I used 1/2 cup frozen onion)
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2 cans  vegetable soup (I used Campbell's) plus 3 cans water
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (optional)
1 can mushrooms (optional)
2 handfuls small shaped pasta (alphabet pasta, baby shells, orzo) or barley

In a soup pot, brown hamburger over medium heat. Rinse meat or drain off fat and return to pot.  Add onions and sautee for a few minutes.                 
Continue to add vegetable soup, water, mixed frozen vegetables, mushrooms and tomato paste and bring to boil.  Reduce heat, add pasta and simmer covered for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally, until pasta is cooked and soup has thickened nicely.  

If serving hot soup to (very) anxious, hungry kiddies, add 1-2 ice cubes.  The children love seeing the ice shrink and disappear into the soup as they mix it.  By the time it has disappeared, it would be cool enough for them to eat.  This is great tip for eating out at restaurants! 

The kids would rather eat than pose for the camera! 
[Edited to add - April 12, 2013 ] I am so pleased to announce that this recipe is being featured on SayItCanada's series of recipes for "Parents Who Hate to Cook". is a rich lifestyle resource for communities across Canada.  

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