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The Garden Sink

Posted Sep 11 2011 9:12pm

Summer vacation is done, school has started, fall is just around the corner, and I am happy about all that.  I am ready for some crisp, clean, cool days of orange and blue (orange being the leaves and blue being the color of a fall sky–duh!). Of course, I absolutely love running in the fall (who doesn’t?), and I don’t even mind that it gets dark earlier or that it will be more windy.

There’s a few things about summer that I will miss


Son...time for a hair cut.

Windblown daughter

Daughter...swimming swimming swimming with the occasional break for sand.

Sand castle masterpiece


Pictured here: Son and Daughter 1 at Kung Fu Panda 3D...such as awesome movie. I am a huge movie lover, and there are usually a lot of great movies playing during the summer.


The town's summer fair: a summer highlight!


(so slack…I hardly ever take pictures of anything other than my children and dogs)


and the way the trees sound with all those big deep-green leaves swirling around in them (can’t take a picture of a sound–but trust me, it’s beautiful).

The thing I will miss most, however, is….

(What? No pictures? No…once again, I am slack.)

My garden kept us stocked on green beans, squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, radishes, carrots, corn, and cucumbers all summer long. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

There’s just something incredibly satisfying about digging my hands in the dirt and getting the dirt to produce food (obviously I plant seedsI am not some sort of magician, you know).

My garden has wound down though. Fall is coming, and the garden is done. I picked the last of the veggies yesterday, but still ended up with a hearty amount of carrots, green beans, bell peppers, and jalapenos. And, unlike store-bought veggies, ones grown organically in the home garden only stay good 2 or 3 days max. So what do you do with a bunch of fresh veggies that you can’t eat in 2 or 3 days? You can parboil the green beans, carrots, and squash (1 min max) as soon as you pick them and then freeze them. You can give away all the surplus tomatoes and cucumbers to your friends and neighbors (they never turn them down). Or you can make soups and sauces that can be consumed now or frozen and eaten later.

And the latter is exactly what I did last night. I call it the Garden Sink Soup, because practically any vegetable can go into it in any quantity really (except maybe the cucumbers), and it’s also an excellent opportunity to clean out your refrigerator of any other veggies that are starting to look a bit sad as well as cooked leftovers from the past week. But be forwarned. This recipe, while not specific in ingredients, is time-consuming and is best when left to simmer for several hours, so I do not recommend attempting to make this on a busy week night. Save it for the weekend.

Remember…really anything can go into this. If you don’t have a garden, then clean out your veggie crispers in the fridge, or your frozen veggies rack in the freezer, or even your canned veggies in the pantry. Trust me…if something sounds like it would be good in soup, then add it.

Veggie suggestions:


Corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)

Green beans



Peppers (any kind!)








Here’s a picture of what I picked yesterday from my garden. It was the last of everything, (except for the peppers and the herbs, all of which are still producing).

Carrots, a little bell pepper, 6 jalapenos, a bunch of green beans, herbs (basil, parsley, oregano, thyme), and squash--all from my little farm. No more tomatoes or corn though...Those plants are done. :-(

See the container of frozen squash? I picked that a few weeks ago and parboiled and then froze.

Here’s a picture of everything I cleaned out from my fridge. In addition to what you see here, I also grabbed a can of chopped tomatoes, some minced garlic, and a can of cannellini beans. If you have cooked leftovers (such as any meat, pasta, grains, or veggies), put them aside until the very end.

ok so what we have here are a few potatoes, some tired celery, portions of a red onion and a white onion from earlier in the week, some diced tomatoes from taco night, some unused tomato paste from a recipe I made earlier in the week, and a bell pepper that really needed to be used. Ignore the mustard bottle...I didn't use that in my soup.

Step 1: Chop all the veggies, not finely, but not chunky either. (Hint: I deseeded and removed the inner membranes of 3 of the 5 jalapenos to keep the soup from being too spicy; Another Hint: If using more than 1 tomato, parboil them for about a minute and remove the skins before chopping.)

(Don’t forget to save your trimmings for the compost pile!)

If you don't have a compost pile in your back yard, what are you waiting for? They are super easy to make and you just add yard clippings, trimmings from your veggies and fruits, coffee grounds, and egg shells. Then, next summer when you plant your vegetable garden you have this awesome, mineral- and vitamin rich soil you made yourself to turnover into the plot when you till.

Step 2: Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and sautee your savory veggies (e.g., carrots, celery, onions, garlic, peppers, jalapenos) until just softened (about 7 mins).

This is the last picture I took of my soup while making it. Sorry but I got bored of taking the pictures...I have a short attention span.

Step 3: Add all the other veggies EXCEPT potatoes and tomatoes (e.g., fresh squash, green beans, and corn; frozen or canned veggies (do not add already cooked veggies yet) and cooked maybe 10 minutes.

Step 4: Add the fresh (or dried) herbs (chopped well if fresh), potatoes (I don’t peel mine), tomatoes (fresh and/or canned), and tomato paste (if using). Stir.

Step 5: Add about 4 cups of water and two bouillon cubes (I used chicken, but veggie or beef bouillon would be just as good).

Step 6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for a minimum of 2 hours.

Do not add salt yet.

Now, here’s the fun part. After the soup has simmered for several hours, it’s time to add whatever cooked leftovers you have in your fridge that you want to get rid of. You can do this anywhere from an hour before you are ready to serve to as little as 10 minutes before serving.

Left-over Suggestions (these are things we personally have added to this soup in the past, with great success. These things should all be already cooked):

Roasted chicken (chopped, with skin removed)



Seasoned ground beef (from taco night)



Penne pasta

Baked potatoes (cut, with skins on, into bite-sized pieces)

Green beans


If you wish to keep the soup vegetarian, then obviously just bypass adding anything meat related. If you are feeding both vegetarians and meat eaters, then simply transfer a portion of the soup to another pot and add the meat to just one of the pots.

Last night, we added two Andouille sausage links my husband had grilled the night before, about half a cup of seasoned ground beef from taco night, and about a cup of left over chili, and half a jar salsa.  I also added a can of cannellini beans (but any bean will doI have done kidney and black in the past).

After you add your cooked items and the beans, then and only then should you add salt, and only if needed. I say this because you will more than likely will find that cooked left-overs impart enough salty taste and you won’t need to add more.

I like to add about a tablespoon of parmesan cheese to my bowl. My husband likes to add graded cheddar cheese. The kids wolf it down with no cheese. And of course, a nice crusty loaf of French or Italian bread goes well with it.

It’s even better the next day. And make sure you freeze some too (you likely will have a LOT).

Sorry…so slack about taking pictures. But I will tell you…it was spectacular! And was an excellent pre-long-run meal because my 13.5 miler today was awesome!! I ran 12 miles in 1:52 (with 8:30 to 9:00 tempo miles from Miles 6 to 12). I slowed down A LOT the last mile and a half, however, because that entire mile and a half traveled up a 5% grade incline hill and it took me 21 minutes to to the last 1.5 miles. But I feel ready and confident about my half marathon race next Sunday.

So if you are stillllllllll reading this Garden Sink of a post, then I thank you. You are a good friend for listening to me ramble without interrupting once or getting angry. Blog posts are the BEST!

Hugs, Friend. :-)

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