I made this soup one night when we were broke, it was two days to go until payday, and whatever food in the house was what we had till then. I started digging around in our can cupboard for ideas and came up with this surprisingly good and easy to make soup. If you can open a can, you can make this! If chopping an onion intimidates you, skip it! Use extra onion powder!
Another note: the measurements I use for spices are approximate. I recommend putting in the amount mentioned and then stirring and tasting the soup. I usually put extra after tasting.
1Wash the zucchini, carrot, celery and potatoes. Peel the onion and dice it. Split the zucchini lengthwise and slice it (set it aside in its' own bowl) as well as the carrots and celery. The carrots and celery can go into the bowl with the onions. Cube the red potatoes and set them aside alone.
2Put 1 T. butter and 1 T. olive oil in a large frying pan and turn the heat on medium. When the butter is melted and starting to bubble, add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan. Keep an eye on this pan while you do the next step, stirring occasionally. Turn down the heat if it's sticking or burning and when the onion gets translucent turn off the heat and cover while you finish the next step.
3Brace yourself, because this is really the hard part. ;) Open ALL the cans! Pour the diced tomatoes and small can of plain tomato sauce straight into a 10-qt. soup pot. Don't turn on the heat yet. Drain the cans of beans and corn. I like to put my colander (pasta strainer) in the clean sink and just dump the kidney beans, white beans, corn, and greenbeans straight in there all together and everything, and then give them a little rinse. However you do it, drain them and dump them all in the soup pot with the tomatoes. When the onions are slightly translucent, add the onions, carrots and celery to the soup pot as well.
4Pour in the can of chicken broth and turn the burner to medium heat. Add the diced raw potatoes and stir. If the soup is thicker than you like, add water just one cup at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down as low as you can to keep it still simmering but not boiling over. Stir occasionally and check on the potatoes. After a few minutes take a fork and check to see if the potato is cooked. If you're not sure, taste one. Sometimes it's hard to tell if they're cooked when you poke them with a fork, but your mouth will know right away. If not, cover again and wait a few more minutes. If they're just right, turn the heat down a little lower and add the spices. After you measure all the spices in, stir (be careful not to break up the potatoes) and taste the broth to see how you like it. Adding more black pepper will make it spicier, adding one more teaspoon each of basil, oregano, and thyme will make it zestier and taste more authentic. Be careful with salt; your family can add more to their own bowl if they want but they can't take it out once added. When you've gotten the spices balanced to your liking, cover and simmer on very low heat for perhaps five more minutes, stirring occasionally. At the VERY END, right after you turn off the heat, put in the sliced zucchini, stir, and cover.
5Serve either in a small bowl as an appetizer or with bread-and-butter sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and a fresh garden salad for a meal. This soup reheats and freezes well if it makes more than you expected.
You can add just about any vegetable to this soup. If you want to do less washing and slicing, substitute one can of another vegetable for each veggie on the list. You can even use a couple of cans of potatoes instead of using fresh, if you'd like, and skip having to cook them.
You can slice some mushrooms and sautee them with the onions, carrots, and celery; you can boil 8 oz of dry bite-sized pasta in some water while you're doing everything else and use that instead of potatoes or in addition to them. You could substitute 2 cups of cooked rice for potatoes as well. It all tastes good.