Mel’s Diner

Sharp Knives, Raw Meat and Fire


Cheeseburger Soup

Really? Does anyone actually think that sounds bad? Anyone? I asked my boy what he wanted for dinner and this is what he yelled out. OK, quick search for Cheeseburger Soup and I find some recipes. OK (again), I find the same recipe several times. So what the heck, let’s give this a shot.

OK, just kidding, I almost never do a recipe by the letter and this time I kept the record going. It calls for 1/2 pound of ground beef – I went with a full pound of shredded beef (the kind you make sandwiches with) and no sour cream because honestly, it didn’t need it. Oh, and I did make bacon, but I put crumbled pieces on top as a garnish so they wouldn’t get soft and mushy.


1/2 pound ground beef (I used 1 pound of shredded beef, much better)
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups diced peeled potatoes (1-3/4 pounds)
1/4 cup All-Purpose Flour
2 cups (8 ounces) process cheese (Velveeta), cubed – (Right, I used 6 ounces of
Monterrey Jack and 2 ounces of sharp Cheddar)
1-1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sour cream (I used 0 cups of sour cream. The cheddar added the flavor the
the sour cream was there for)
1/3 pound of bacon, diced

In a 3-qt. saucepan, brown beef; drain and set aside. In the same saucepan, saute the onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 1 tablespoon butter until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

At the same time, dice potatoes and cook in boiling salted water in a separate pan. Just before they are done, pull from heat and drain. If they are too close to being done, submerge in cold water to stop the cooking and drain. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt remaining butter.  Add flour; cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until bubbly.  Add to soup with beef, cheese and potatoes; bring to a low simmer. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Additionally, in another skillet, cooked diced bacon until crispy, but not burned. Set aside on paper towels.

Yeah, it’s good. Really good. Just make sure the cheese, potatoes and beef don’t come to a boil -just a simmer.  Serve and top with bacon.


April 21, 2014 Posted by | Bacon, Soup | Leave a comment


Shannon is my boss.  And frankly, if the soup wasn’t so good – I wouldn’t be writing this post right now.  You see, Shannon is on vacation this week and the rest of her team (including me, obviously) is picking up her duties and it’s been a….a week, let’s say.

A few weeks ago, I made a turkey breast over the weekend and then, because the backbone was attached, made a stock from what bones I had.  I mentioned I was going to make a turkey soup and Shannon told me about the soup she makes.  I was pretty intrigued because she uses barley (my old New England family uses macaroni) and few vegetables.  So, realizing I had everything at home, I made it.


  • 3 Tbls. Butter
  • 1 large Onion, diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3-4 Carrots, diced
  • 2/3 cup Barley
  • 7 cups of Turkey Stock
  • 1/8 tsp. Poultry Seasoning
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups diced, cooked turkey

Melt butter in a 3-4 quart pan.  Add onion, garlic and carrots and sweat over low-ish heat until onions are soft.  Add barley, stock and seasoning and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for an hour until barley is soft.  Add cooked turkey and simmer for a few minutes to warm turkey.  Serve.

Yeah, that’s it.  It’s so simple, but the flavors really came through – I was blown away.  And the barley was so much better then the pasta my family always used.  This will be my go-to-soup in the future.   

August 14, 2008 Posted by | Recipe, Soup | Leave a comment


Well, let it never be said that I welched on a marker.  Last night I made Sherry’s Alphabet Soup and it was quite good.  It takes a special kind of fun person to think of recreating a kid’s classic soup and makes me miss knowing her even more.

I made just a few changes (as you knew I would) to her wonderful recipe, but nothing Earth shattering.  I CAN’T STAND lima beans, so they were jettisoned, I didn’t have any celery (how did that happen?) and all I had was canned peas, so they were added at the very end just to warm them.  Other than that, I was true to Sherry’s recipe.


  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 4-5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 medium yukon gold potato, chopped small
  • 1 carrot, chopped small
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 of a 7 ounce package of alphabet pasta
  • Pinch of herbs, if you wish.  I used dried thyme [not me!]
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup peas

Saute the onion, thyme, and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes, over medium heat. Add the can of tomatoes, including the liquid, and the stock. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then use a hand mixer or food processor to make the broth smooth. (You don’t have to do that, if you don’t want to.[I didn’t])

Add the celery, potatoes, corn, and peas to the stock base, and cook at a low simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the pasta to the soup and cook according to package directions–about 4 minutes, usually.

I brought the leftovers to work and a few people laughed at me, but they were the losers – it was great!  Thank you, Sherry, for bringing me back to my childhood – I loved it!  Again, God Bless you – you still bring joy to this world. – MPM

July 30, 2008 Posted by | Friends, Soup | 3 Comments


I love Farmer’s Markets.  I mean, I am not an outdoors kind of guy, so you would think going outside hang out with a bunch of un-reformed hippies would be the LAST thing this guy would want to do.  But, every week I jump out of bed early to get to the market.  I even prefer the hippies over the more corporate farms that dot the market here and there – I trust and like their food more.  It’s an enigma.

So, when Michelle from Je Mange la Ville picked Farmer’s Markets for this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge, I smiled like a kid in a candy store.  I had no idea what to make, but I knew all I had to do was to go to the Farmer’s Market and let it tell me what to make.

So, on Saturday I went to the market and came home with:

  • 2 heads of lettuce
  • 1 bunch of carrots
  • 1 bunch of beets
  • 7 or 8 tomatoes
  • 4 or 5 small-ish cucumbers
  • 1 bunch of onions
  • 1 donut (OK, that didn’t make it home)

So, what to make?  Gazpacho!

For a recipe I looked through the cookbooks and settled on The Silver Palate Cookbook.  The only thing that had my head cocked was the addition of EGGS.  OK, I know where my eggs come from and I wouldn’t be scared to eat them raw, but in gazpacho?  I couldn’t do it – so I left them out; I also didn’t have fresh dill, so I used dill weed.  I cut the recipe in half because I didn’t need to serve 8-10 people.  But, here’s the recipe in it’s entirety:


  • 6 large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 sweet red peppers
  • 2 med. sized yellow onions
  • 2 large shallots
  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups canned tomato juice
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Wash & prepare the vegetables. Core & coarsely chop the tomatoes; save the juice. Core, seed and coarsely chop peppers. Peel & coarsely chop onions & shallots. Peel, seed & coarsely chop cucumbers. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, reserved tomato juice, canned tomato juice & eggs. In a blender or processor with the steel blade, puree the vegetables in small batches, adding tomato juice mixture as necessary to keep blades from clogging. Do not puree completely; the gazpacho should retain some of its crunch. Stir in cayenne, salt & pepper to taste & dill. Cover & chill for at least 4 hours.

Chilling the soup is a necessity and you won’t mind waiting the four hours after you taste how good it is.  A perfect soup for a decidedly un-perfectly hot day, which it was.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Appetizer, Local, Soup, Vegetables, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 3 Comments


As some of you remember, back in January I participated in a cookbook review with some of the darnedest, bestest people whoever participated in a cookbook thing.  That was so much fun, I rashly invited many of the same people to do much the same kind of thing with Mastering The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.  Published in 1961, it was the bible of the soon to be burgeoning food movement in America.  So, who’s part of this cookbook thing:

We thought it would be fun, forty-seven years later, to re-visit the classic, now collecting dust on so many cookbook shelves.  Remembering the book was written for American cooks at a time when so many ingredients we take for granted were unavailable for the most part, the recipes seem quaint in their use of bouillon, canned truffles and few fresh herbs other than parsley.

So, rather than strict enforcement of recipes, we can play fast and loose (within reason, of course) with the ingredients, using fresh or different ingredients where Julia and crew had no choice.

The first recipe we did was an onion soup.  We picked it because it was a recipe the three ladies had created.  While living in France, Julia, Simone and Louisette started a cooking school called L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes.  So, in recognition of these three ladies:

Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinee des Trois Gourmandes

  • 1 ½ lbs. or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 3 TB butter
  • 1 TB oil
  • A heavy bottomed, 4-quart covered saucepan

Cook the onions slowly with the butter in the saucepan, covered for 15 minutes

  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp of sugar
  • 3 Tb flour

Uncover, raise the heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

  • 2 quarts of boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon.
  • ½ cup of dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid.  Add the wine, and season to taste.  Simmer partially covered for 30-40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally.  Correct seasoning. (This is why you skim)

  • A fireproof tureen or casserole or individual onion soup pots
  • 2 ounces Swiss cheese cut into very thin slivers
  • 1 Tb grated raw onion
  • 12-16 rounds of hard-toasted French bread
  • 1 ½ cups Swiss, or Swiss and Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tb olive oil or melted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Bring the soup to a boil and pour into tureen or pots.  Stir in slivered cheese and grated onion.  Float toast rounds on top of the soup, and spread the grated cheese over it.  Sprinkle with oil or butter.  Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, then set for a minute or two under a preheated broiler to top slightly.

  • A 2-quart bowl
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 TB cognac

Beat the cornstarch into the egg yolk, then the Worcestershire and the cognac.  Just before serving the soup, lift an edge of the crust with a fork and remove a ladleful of soup.  In a thin stream of droplets, beat the soup into the egg-yolk mixture with a fork.  Gradually beat in two more ladlefuls of soup.  Again, lifting the crust, pour the mixture back into the soup.  Then reach in under the crust with the ladle and stir gently to blend the mixture into the rest of the soup.  Serve.

So, how was it?  To tell you the truth, IT WAS GREAT!!!!  The first time I made it, I used my roasted chicken stock I’m so proud of and found it didn’t hold up to the alcohol so well.  After the vermouth was added I had to cook it just over forty minutes to burn off the alcoholness and after adding the cognac at the end, the alcohol was over-powering.  Fortunately, the next day it was much better, so nothing went to waste.  The second time, I used home made beef stock and all was well.  I was surprised how much a difference there was with the beef stock – the chicken stock tasted great, but it couldn’t stand up to the alcohol.

The recipe is fussy, like a lot in the book – but, worth it.

Next time?  Sauce au Cari (Curry Sauce).  Look for the fun things we serve it with!

May 4, 2008 Posted by | Recipe, Soup, That Cookbook Thing II | 7 Comments


Tonight, I managed a two ‘fer.  I made a dish for both Presto Pasta Night and Sara’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge.  This is the one year anniversary of Presto Pasta Night (“Congratulations, Ruth!”) and this month’s Weekend Cookbook Challenge theme is All Things Nigella and I am all about Nigella.  So, this needed to be good, really good.

And it was.

Thumbing through How To Eat, I found a recipe for Butternut Squash and Pasta Soup.  Wow, what a good idea!  Beauty and brains, just like my wife.

Her recipe calls for a soup pasta, like ditalini – which makes sense, I mean, it’s a soup.  At the store while I was looking for ditalini, I came across a pasta I had never seen before.  It’s a tiny, cheese-filled ravioli called, not surprisingly, ravioletti.  I thought, “Hey, that’s gonna be great in this soup!”, so, I bought.



  • 1/2 Tbls. Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Small Onion, minced
  • 8 ounces of Butternut Squash, 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/4 cup of White Wine
  • 2 1/2 cups Vegetable Stock
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 ounces of Ravioletti
  • Salt

Put the oil in a biggish, heavy-bottomed pan on the stove and when hot add the onion. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring regularly, until soft, then add the cubes of butternut and turn well in the pan for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine, let it bubble up, then add the stock and the bay leaf. Bring to a simmering point, then leave to simmer away for about 10 minutes. Take out a ladleful, purée it, then put it back in the pan. Turn up the heat and add the ravioletti. Cook for about 15 minutes until the pasta is cooked, then taste for salt.  Ladle this thick, sweet stew of a soup into your bowl. 

The original recipe calls for grated Parmesan on the soup, but the cheese in the ravioletti is enough and it didn’t need the grated cheese.

I made my favorite Moosewood Veggie Stock for this and it was a good as always.  The final product was very good, a little sweeter than I expected, though that was balanced pretty well by the cheese in the pasta.  Maybe a touch of heavy cream wouldn’t be bad, either and hey, a little bit of fat is always good!


February 28, 2008 Posted by | Pasta, Presto Pasta Night, Soup, Weekend Cookbook Challenge | 2 Comments


I would love to say I came up with this idea and it’s all mine.  Mine, mine, mine, mine.  But it’s not.  We have a little cafe in the building next door at work and Cathy often has specials, including soup.  Asking what the special was one day, I heard it was Shepherd’s Pie Soup.  After my wonderful Shepherd’s Pie Twice Baked Potatoes, I thought I would give it a try.

It sucked.

It was in a beef broth base, with HUGE chunks of hamburger (which I found out was leftover meatloaf, not a bad thing), potatoes, corn and mushrooms(?!).  And it was bad.  I knew I could do it better, so I did.  I didn’t do better pictures, hence nothing to see how it looked.

I made mine in a cream of potato soup, with corn and hamburger.


  • Butter
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds of potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups of half and half
  • 1 pound of hamburger
  • 1 can, creamed corn
  • Salt and pepper

Melt a bit of butter in a pan and add onions.  Cook for a minute or two and add hamburger.  Cook through.  Remove to a dish.  In large 5 qt pot, cook potatoes in chicken stock until soft.  Cool slightly.  Puree in blender and add back into pot.  Add hamburg mixture, half and half and corn.  Mix and heat until warm.  Season as necessary. 

February 6, 2008 Posted by | Recipe, Soup | Leave a comment