Sunday, January 17, 2010

'Tis the Season for Soup

I’m a major fan of soups and stews, especially if you are trying to eat healthy and save a buck. One of my favorites is beef and barley soup. It’s full of flavorful veggies, tender meat, delicious beef stock and hearty barley, and it’s perfect to freeze in individual containers and take to work for an easy and healthy meal.

(Something you likely won’t find for less than $10 at the local café…and I guarantee you’ll be tempted with all sorts of deliciously not-good-for-you things in the process).

Another reason I love making soups and stews…

…it gives me a chance to use my new favorite kitchen item: my 7 quart porcelain Dutch oven. How bad can that be? (That was for all you BFC fans.) I L-O-V-E this thing.

Lazy Sunday afternoons are my favorite soup-making days. I start with a trip to the grocery store for all my ingredients for my weekly meals, and then the fun begins. I begin by browning chuck roast (cut into cubes for stew meat – you can buy it already cut) in a little bit of olive oil. The smell is amazing. Beef.

Once that’s done, remove the meat from the pan and add the veggies – I used onions, carrots and celery. You can use other veggies as long as they are hearty and can withstand the cooking without getting mushy (squash is probably a no-go). Beware: more amazing smells entering your kitchen.

I add some flavorings like salt and pepper – I know, crazy.

Add the meat back in and add some beef stock and a little water (until you have the desired amount of liquid you like). I usually don’t add more than a couple cups of extra water just because I don’t want the stock to lose its yumminess.

Throw in a bay leaf or two. You could add other spices or fresh herbs if you like at this point. Rosemary or thyme would be delish!

Let everything simmer for about 60-90 minutes until it all gets happy and makes your house smell divine. Add the barley during the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Pour yourself a bowl and settle in for a cozy night, and save the rest for lunches that week.

And there you have it folks. A delicious, healthy meal with plenty of leftovers for those tempting days at the office.

Easy Beef and Barley Soup
(adapted from Cooking Light's Beef-Barley Soup recipe)

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 Cup of carrots, sliced thin
1 1/2 Cup of onions, sliced thin
1 1/2 Cup of celery, sliced thin
4 Cups fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
1-2 Cups of water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1-2 bay leaves
2/3 - 1 Cup pearl barley, uncooked


Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium high-heat. Add beef to pan, cooking 3-4 minutes or until all sides are browned. Remove meat from pan.

Add carrots, onions and celery to pan. Cook 5-10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and liquid almost evapaorates.

Add the beef back to the pan; salt and pepper lightly. Add the chicken stock, water and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.

Cover, reduce to low simmer and cook for 60-90 minutes until the beef is tender, stirring every now and then.

Add the barley and cook for another 30 minutes or until barley is tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Discard the bay leaf.

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