Former BGSU cook has done it all: BGSU Cheeseburger Soup is a hearty meal


Norma Lybarger developed this soup while working as a cook at Bowling Green State University.

Hence the name.

Lybarger started at BGSU in 1989 doing prep work. In 1999 she got the job as a full-time cook.

“They didn’t know where to put me,” she said, explaining she worked in the Student Union for a while, then in Kreischer and McDonald dorms.

Lybarger retired in 2017, but for the last four years, she worked on campus part time in the Sweet Shoppe on Ridge Street making fudge, dipped Oreos and chocolate-dipped pretzels. She remembered dipping 700 strawberries in chocolate for Valentine’s Day.

While she always used BGSU recipes when she was a cook, she was allowed to create her own recipes while working in the Sweet Shoppe, including cinnamon roll fudge.

The restaurant has since closed.

She now makes made-to-order savory and sweet crepes in the Carillon Place. She does that three days a week.

Lybarger, who just turned 76, said she loves working part time.

The BGSU Cheeseburger Soup recipe was originally for four gallons, and she has cut it down to six servings.

Lybarger said she usually follows recipes but will occasionally tweak them, such as adding Frank’s hot sauce to this soup or switching out the ground beef for sirloin. She also cooks the potatoes in the microwave.

She guessed that she’s been making this soup for 30 years.

Lybarger makes soup – and especially likes beef vegetable — every Wednesday for her Bible study at First Baptist Church.

She said she had a stay-at-home-mom, so she did more prep work than actual cooking growing up.

“She thought cooking was her job and I’m sure she liked it,” Lybarger said.

When she got married, one of the first things she made was meatloaf by memory, which turned into sloppy joes.

Her husband, Ron, couldn’t cook either. He passed away 20 years ago.

“We didn’t go hungry, but I didn’t have a lot of experience,” Lybarger said.

Since then, “I’ve had six kids, so I’ve had lots of practice.”

She has entered baked goods and the cook-off at the fair and took first place with her Momwich.

This Cheeseburger Soup took second place when she entered it in the cook-off.

Lybarger said she has a bit of a sweet tooth.

“I have three times as many dessert recipes in my file as savory.”

She gets many of her recipes online, but she does have cookbooks stacked above her kitchen cabinets.

She’ll take a recipe and tweak it if she doesn’t have all the ingredients.

“I don’t think I do very good with a blank palate. I do better seeing something and say I should do it this way.”

Lybarger serves her BGSU Cheeseburger Soup with Ritz crackers.

BGSU Cheeseburger Soup


3/4 pound ground beef (use more for meatier soup)

1/4 cup diced onions

1/4 cup diced celery

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons margarine/butter

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 bay leaf

3 teaspoons dry chicken bouillon

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon each white pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper

3/4 pound shredded American cheese

4 cups milk

1/4 teaspooon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 pound diced potatoes, cooked


Brown ground beef with onions and celery. Drain and return to pot. Add margarine/butter and flour stir and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.

Add minced garlic, chicken bouillon, bay leaf, heavy cream, milk and peppers.

Stir on low heat until very warm. Do not boil.

Add cheese, Worcestershire sauce and potatoes.

Remove bay leaf.

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