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19 November 2012 @ 04:08 pm
Meat Extension Monday – 1st Edition  

As food prices continue to rise I have found myself returning to the cooking tricks I learned from my Nanny. A child of the Great Depression and a new homemaker during WWII, she mastered making belly filling food out of the most basic ingredients. Nanny’s in her 80’s now and though I do not always reproduce her recipes faithfully, I am indebted to her lessons in pantry building, thrift and waste free cooking. The following recipe is an excellent example of Nanny’s cooking.

Hamburger Stew

Feeds: 8 to 10

This is one of my Nanny’s best meat extending recipes and was created to feed a growing family during WWII when many pantry staples were being rationed.  

1 lb ground meat, whatever you can get
1 onion
4 cloves garlic or 1 t garlic powder
1 cup of ketchup or one small can of tomatoes juice
15oz can of tomatoes
15oz can corn*
15oz can green beans*
15oz can carrots*
2 c uncooked rice
4 - 6 c H2O
2T cooking oil
Salt and pepper to taste

*Nanny’s recipe uses canned veggies which I honestly can’t stand. Green beans, especially (shudder)! I replace the can goods with a 32oz bag of mixed frozen veggies and up the water a bit.

One Large Stock Pot with Lid
Big Spoon
Measuring Cup
Can Opener
Large Skillet


  • Place the pot over medium heat, dump in the meat and cook until well browned.
  • While the meat is browning, chop the onion and dice the garlic and add both to the meat when cooked.
  • Open and stir in the tomato products.
  •  Add the rest of the veggies and bring soup up to a low simmer.
  • Put the skillet on another burner, turn to medium high and add oil.
  • When the oil shimmers, pour in the rice and toast it until translucent and very lightly browned.
  • When the rice is toasted, add it to the stock pot and stir in to combine.
  • Top the pot off with enough water to make the soup loose but do leave 2 to 3 inches headroom for the rice to expand.
  • Bring the soup back up to a low simmer and cook until soup the rice is tender.
  • Though the soup can be ready within an hour, it will be much tastier if left to simmer on low for 4 or more hours.
  • Be sure to check the soup occasionally and add more water if needed.
  • Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.


If you have crock pot/slow cooker in your kitchen arsenal this recipe just got even easier.  Proceed as follows.

  • In a large skillet cook meat till well browned.
  • While meat is browning, setup your crock pot in a safe place for long term cooking.
  • Prep onion and garlic
  • When the meat is browned add it, the tomatoes and all the veggies to the crock.
  • Now in the same skillet you used to brown the rice, heat the oil until it shimmers and pour in the rice.
  • Toast the rice until translucent and very lightly browned and then stir it into the crock.
  • Top the pot off with enough water to make the soup loose but do leave 2 to 3 inches headroom for the rice to expand.
  • Set the crock pot for 8 to 10 hours and cover tightly.
  • Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.


  • Meat. Like many recipes from this era almost any meat will work as long as its ground including pork, fowl or even sausage.
  • Change the veggies at will. I like chopped bell peppers, peas and additional onions.
  • To increase the “meatiness” of the soup, consider adding 1T of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce.
  • Replace the water with stock.
  • If you like spice, add up to 1 T of black pepper or 1 t of cayenne powder.

Frugally yours-


Edit: Spoke to Nanny this past Saturday 11/24 and told her about sharing this recipe here on LJ. She told me that she learned to make Hamburger Soup from a neighbor right after moving into her home in Houston, Texas as a new housewife (1942). "it was the best thing I ever tasted" she said "and I just had to learn to make it for Bob (her husband)". The neighbor it seems had  8 children and this was a regular feature  at her table. These little bits of food history make Nanny's recipes all the more special.