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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bugs & Hamburger Soup

The day started out with very good intentions then quickly esculated to unneeded complications. But I did finish one large batch of a hamburger soup that will give us a couple of quick meals and a few meals in the freezer to help get through the next week.

Unidentified Bugs

Because of a rodent problem 99% of my dried foods are vacuum sealed in mason jars. I had exactly 6 bags of food in an upper cabinet that I didn't bother vacuum sealing because I knew I would be using them within a very short period of time and the chances of rodents getting up there are slim to none. What I didn't bank on was bugs!

It started innocently enough as I wanted to get my beans ready for sprouting. On the very back of the cabinet was what looked like a blotch of instant yeast. So my husband looked, deemed it dust, wiped it off and there you go. Except, I pulled out the only plastic bin I have in the cabinets. It held the 7 bags of of food: rice noodles, pot barley, bulger, couscous, gourmet wild rice, adzuki beans and balsami rice. Of those only the pot barley had been opened then secured with an elastichw ile the adzuki beans were in a zipper bag. Then I saw a lot more of the dust except it was moving! I don't know what these bugs were but I was not impressed at having to clean out an entire cabinet. The only thing that appears to have been affected was the barley so I don't know if they came in with the barley but I suspect so since it is a fairly new bag. At any rate, the new rule in our house is all dried foods will be vacuum sealed in mason jars.

We really need comfort, home cooking right now so I decided to whip up a batch of this thick soup. I've been making this dish ever since the kids were knee high to a grasshopper and it is a family favourite. What to call this dish has always been a question. My family refers to it as Mommy's Surprise and they likely aren't too far off. This is one of my home made versions of hamburg helper so anything is fair game including beans and barley. I'm making a 15 quart batch as I'm typing this entry. I'll keep enough in the fridge for a couple of meals and freeze the rest.

Hamburger Soup aka Mommy's Surprise

As mentioned this is one of our favourite, most requested meal during the winter. Don't let the picture fool you, there is 15 quarts of yummy soup in that pot. This dish freezes nicely even though it has noodles in it. We like it served with grated cheddar cheese on top and homemade sourdough (recipe will be posted shortly). This really is pantry cooking at it's best. The result is awesome, family friendly and can be made with ingredients from your pantry or freezer.

This is a method rather than a recipe but you could likely formulate a recipe from it. The base is always the same:

2 lb lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 qt vegetable stock
2 med onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-3 qts stewed tomatoes

First brown the ground beef and drain. Pour that into a large stock pot and add the other ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add about 4 oz of tomato paste and 2 quarts of water.

Now here is where it gets fun and you can raid the fridge, freezer or pantry to your heart's content. Note, if using left-overs, frozen or canned vegetables proceed as following if using fresh add every thing at once.

vegetables of choice: our favourites are - corn, garden peas, green beans, potatoes, mushrooms, zucchini and carrots
beans: optional but kidney and lima beans are quite nice, use homecanned or commercial for quick cooking
herbs: chives and thyme are nice, or use a bayleaf then remove before serving
pasta*: toss in a couple of handfuls of broad egg noodles

*substitute rice or barley for the pasta or if you want add those too

Sorry I can't be more specific. I don't measure but simply toss much like many of our family favourites. For those who have read through my blog, you will immediately know that is my style.

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