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What’s For Dinner? Soup Like Mama Used To Make – Part 5

On a cold winter evening or really, just…anytime…there’s something so fulfilling about soup! Add some crusty bread and it’s a meal. But how can you prepare a delicious, satisfying soup without spending hours of prep and cook time?

Here’s how!

Do you remember cutting, slicing and dicing those veggies for the salad? While you have the knife and cutting board on the counter, cut an extra amount of every veggie you’d like to add to your soup.

Hint: The same veggies that you’ve cut for salad or soup will serve as a great beginning of your fab stir-fry, as well! The difference is the sauce and add-ons. The only caution here is that cutting the onion ahead of time will definitely add an onion perfume to all your refrigerated foods. The solution is freezing, as outlined in the article, “Get Ready…Get Set.” Simply thrust your hand in the freezer, dump some of your stored frozen onion and sliced mushrooms in the soup, and you already have a change from “store-bought” taste to “fresh!”


We will be preparing 3 kinds of soup to help give you ideas in adjusting ingredients and soup bases to take someone else’s work and make it work for you!

As you know, these are ideas to help you cook faster and smarter and are not “recipes” to be followed by purchasing special ingredients, or adding exact measurements of ingredients, to prepare a dish. My grandmother used to say, “You ‘throw’ in a little of this and a little of that!”

Pasta Faggioli (In New York we pronounced this Pasta Fagole!)

  • Use vegetable, minestrone or tomato basil, canned or boxed soup as a base
  • Add the onion and mushrooms, mentioned above; sliced cabbage; kale; sliced carrots

Hint: If you want this to include the pasta as stated in the title of this soup, it sure helps if you’ve already cooked a whole pound of elbow macaroni and had it in the freezer, all ready to pull out in handfuls to add to the vegetable or tomato basil. Any pre-cooked and frozen pasta should be thrown in last, because it continues cooking and will end up soggy or totally disappear into the liquid!


  • Rinse, drain and add a can of cannellini beans, or white navy beans, black or kidney or garbanzo beans
  • As this mixture simmers, heat bread or rolls
  • If you microwave a sweet potato (be sure to pierce the potato with a knife so it doesn’t explode) for about 6 minutes, cut and add to the soup for a mellow, full-bodied taste. If you are microwaving a sweet potato for a side, you cook it for 7 minutes. For the soup, the potato will finish cooking while you’re stirring in the other ingredients.
  • Frozen green beans are a good add-in, if you have a bag (not buttered and not in a steamer bag) in the freezer
  • Other vegetables that are at the end of their refrigerator life may be added, even Romaine or spinach
  • Spinach and lettuce, or bok choy, should be added at the end because they overcook and disintegrate

Hint: If the soup is now too thick, because of the addition of all these veggies and pasta, the simple addition of a can of chicken broth, or 1 to 2 cups of boxed broth, will make it soup again!


  • Add spices such as fresh basil or cilantro at the last minute, since these leaves loose flavor if cooked a long time
  • Consider shaking some curry, turmeric or Singapore Seasoning into the soup if you’re into an Indian flavor or Mixed Italian Spices for an Italian kick. This is a good time to experiment.

You may add a dusting of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, if you’re going Italian. Go scant with the cheese if calories and fat are an issue. If you like it hot, add a dash of cayenne pepper. Since cayenne pepper is not to be toyed with…go easy at first, and add to taste.

You are ready to ladle this delicacy into a bowl and enjoy!

Coming Soon, we’ll talk about seasonings and spices.

Quick Asian Egg Drop Soup

  • Start with canned or boxed chicken broth
  • Add sliced onion, sliced cabbage, frozen green peas, sliced mushroom, green leafy vegetable, such as kale or bok choy
  • Add a dash of powdered ginger and a swig of low-sodium soy sauce to taste
  • When the veggies are tender and the onion is transparent, heat the soup to a high temperature and, swiftly, stir in beaten egg or boxed Egg Beaters, and/or boxed egg whites

Indian Lentil Soup

  • Start with canned lentil soup or lentil/spinach soup
  • Add parboiled or microwaved white potato or sweet potato
  • Add spinach (even if it is already an ingredient in the canned soup it will add freshness to the flavor by adding a couple of handfuls of uncooked spinach to the pot)
  • Shake in turmeric and curry to taste
  • Cook until the spinach wilts and serve immediately

Try some different canned or boxed soups and see what you can come up with!

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