Monday, January 12, 2015

Mom's Vegetable Beef Soup

Ahh, this is a good food memory for me.  Sometimes the simplest things are the best.  And this soup is proof of that, in my opinion anyway!

As a family of 12, yes, 2 parents, and 10 kids, money was always tight.  My dad at the time was a high school dropout who signed himself into the military at at 16, and my mom had begun her young adult life as a model and then a teacher.  (lingerie, undergarments and wedding gowns, you GO girl)    Look at these two hottie parents of mine!

Back to the point at hand.  We had a HUGE garden.  We grew nearly everything we ate.  The garden was always full of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, rhubarb, corn, and lettuce, or broccoli.  It would get canned and frozen for winter, my mom had a huge canning room downstairs.  Those tomatoes would become crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, and the cucumbers would be come 200 jars of my moms famous dill pickles.  (My mouth is actually watering just thinking of pickles, HER pickles) The green beans would be canned sometimes with a little bacon, the corn would be cut off the cob and frozen, carrots would be canned, etc.  I used to look at it as a necessity, it was how we got food, now I look at it as a complete blessing, we ate all of that whole, great, homegrown, non processed food everyday.  Any fruit became jellies, or were frozen for pies, she made relish, I mean, she kind of did a lot of everything!

As hard as times would be, we never once didn't have food.  We often joke how there would be only 1 lb. of hamburger to 3lbs of pasta in the goulash,  but if there was a time when there might not be enough, my dad would just take on another job, and another job.  He was usually carrying his full time job trying to grow his insurance agency and 3 or 4 part time jobs. (sports broadcaster, carpet cleaner, jail tending, newspaper printing, school bus driver, etc.)  He believed in working hard to provide and somehow, he seemed to have time for us in between when he was home.  My mom worked full or part time most of the time and that is just how it went.  We all had our weight to pull and we just did it, no arguing, no entitlement, because we knew it was part of being a family, all for one and one for all. 

So with that bit of history comes this recipe.  The ingredients can easily be cross referenced to what we grew in our family garden.  I suppose you could add any vegetables you wanted but, this is how mom made it, and this is how we loved it.  While my mom wasn't big into spices or herbs, I do add a few to mine now.  I will write those in as optional.  My mom would also use fresh canned stock.  This is something I do still, I can't live without fresh stock, but I freeze mine instead of canning it.  The "beef" part of this recipe for us as kids would have been a marked down soup bone at the store that we always loving referred to as "used meat" and the bits of meat that were left would be the beef in our soup.  As much or little as it gave off, is as much or little that was in the soup.  I use stew meat now, and cut each chunk into really small pieces.  So while I have to use canned tomatoes now, the veggies are a collection of leftovers from evening meals, all dumped into one gallon size freezer bag.  So when I write the recipe it will be for a gallon freezer bag full of veggies.  Those can be veggies of your choice. Depending on the leftovers the soup might be corn heavy, or carrot heavy but that is just the luck of the draw and what changes it just a little bit every single time.  Maybe you don't have as many green beans in your freezer bag as you want, so add some more, no biggie at all!   So, while I can't give you exact measurements on the veggies, just use a gallon bag and pour in what you have I guess, when it gets full, that will be the right amount!  If you add any canned veggies pour their juice in as well!  Free flavor friends!  Free flavor!

Oh, and one more thing, feel free to do this in a large slow cooker.  Let it simmer on low all day.  It will be perfection!

If you are going to use a soup bone, go ahead and add a bay leaf and some peppercorns when you cook it!!  My mom just called and told me not to forget that!  I thought she cooked the soup bone IN the soup but NO!  Cook it separate in water, with the peppercorns and bay leaves.  When it is done pick off the meat and get rid of the peppercorns and bay leaf!   She put bay leaves in EVERYTHING!

You will need:
28-30 oz. plain tomato sauce
32 ounces beef stock
2-3 beef bouillon cubes
14 oz. diced tomatoes with juice
4-6 medium size potatoes, peeled and diced into a medium size
1 med-large finely diced onion (just depends on how much onion you like)
1 lb (or more if you choose) of beef stew meat cut into small pieces or a soup bone!
1 gallon freezer bag of leftover frozen veggies.
salt and pepper to taste

Seasonings (Optional) My mom would be MORTIFIED to see this list of "extras"! HAHA
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning

In your slow cooker or large soup pot, add ALL ingredients including seasonings if you are using them.  My mom would NOT have.  In a soup pot, simmer for approx. 1-2 hours.  If you do this in the morning, and then let it cool and refrigerate and then reheat for dinner it will be the BOMB.  If you simmer it and eat it, it will also be the bomb.  In a slow cooker, set on low and let it go a good 4-6 hours.  Set it on keep warm until ready to eat it.  Let those flavors soak each other up.

We would eat this with plain old store brand sliced bread and butter.  Lord have mercy when I ate this last night I was transported right back to my moms tiny 8x10 kitchen, with pink walls, peeling up linoleum, and counter tops that were probably a health hazard!  

My parents financial hardships may be a thing of years gone by, and that kitchen has been all redone, (still small) but the lessons it taught me as a child are priceless.  I wouldn't have had it any other way.  I know what hard work is,  I know how to do it, I know what it gets you and now my parents have retired, and enjoy their lives doing what they want as their health allows.  Thanks mom and dad for working hard for us, and I am so glad it paid off now, for you. 

Enjoy this pot of my childhood.  And remember, it makes a huge batch and I can promise you, it will taste even better the next day!

Love and Blessings friends..........


  1. I'd give anything for one of Aunt Marlene's dill pickles. My Mom put bay leaf in everything too

    1. They were the BEST weren't they Jane?! Thanks for reading dear cousin!