Can I ask you guys something? … Where did 2012 go?? It’s December 2nd and I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that another year has gone by. Time seems to be going a little to fast for my liking and it’s starting to freak me out.
On the bright side, I am excited that it is the holiday season, which, let’s face it, is the best season of all. Nothing makes me happier than the first snow, lots of sweaters, a ton of time with family, and packing on a couple pounds so that I can stay warmer in the cold weather (wait, did I just say that makes me happy?). Either way, the cold weather definitely bring in new cravings for comfort food, especially hot, hearty soups that simmer on the stove for an hour and leave your kitchen smelling heavenly. Oh yes… how I love those meals.
This soup is by far one of the best soups I have made and I am pretty damn proud of it. The original recipe I based this off of was a more brothy soup. It’s not thick and it doesn’t have any barley in it. But with a few of my (fantastic) tweaks, this soup will leave anyone feeling full and satisfied after just a bowl! Which is perfect because it lasts longer and feeds more!
The recipe this is based on is from a store/restaurant/cafe in Geneva, Illinois. It’s called The Little Traveler. It’s the ultimate girl place, filled with everything from kitchen stuff to candy and tea, from kiddie toys to fancy crystal bowls, from a year round Christmas room(s) to some pretty interesting clothes… it has everything. But best of all it has a little restaurant inside that has, by far my favorite vegetable soup. When I thought the other day about making it though, I was worried that it just wouldn’t be enough for us. Sometimes I get really hungry and let’s face it, a bowl of soup just doesn’t do it for me. I remembered I had a package of barley still in the pantry from when I made beef stew about a month ago and decided I’d make some alterations to the original recipe to make it more filling.
It’s a rather simple soup to make, it does take a little time though to cut up all the veggies and simmer. But in my opinion, it’s well worth the wait. It is loaded with vegetables and has a lot of flavor that comes from beef broth. You could try to make this soup vegan by using vegetable broth, but I worry it would be quick as flavorful. You could pair this soup with fresh out of the oven cornbread or crusty bread or biscuits… or it my case, just a lot of saltine crackers. Whichever you choose, they will pair well with the soup.
This is the most perfect meal for a cold night, especially a Sunday night where you can curl up on the couch and watch football, if that’s your thing. If it’s not your thing, then just make it on any night you want, no big deal. I really think you will enjoy this soup, I hope so anyway! I’d love to hear about if you do!
Hearty Vegetable Barley Soup
Adapted from a recipe that’s not online or anywhere to be found other that in my mom’s recipe box… oh wait, yes it is, I wrote about it on my old blog!
Makes a lot… I’d say at least 8 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
4 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
14-28oz petite diced tomatoes (I don’t like a lot of tomatoes so I only used half of a 28oz can)
6-8 cups of low sodium beef broth (I used about 7 cups, almost 2 full cartons)
1 really big thinly sliced potato
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons dried parsley
3/4 cup pearl barley
1/4 of a small head of cabbage, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
Ok… heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery and onion and saute until they start to get tender. Add the tomatoes, beef broth, potatoes and the basil and parsley and bring to a boil. The stir in the barley. Add salt. Simmer this for a good 30 minutes. Next, add the cabbage and stir. Using a ladle or measuring cup, remove about 1/3 cup of the broth from the pot and stir in the flour. Poor this back into the soup and stir to combine. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Check seasonings and add any if necessary. Serve and enjoy!
Here’s the deal- Brad and I decided to try going vegan for a week…ish. It’s undecided as to how long we will be doing this, however, when it comes to food, I do best with short term goals. It’s Thursday night currently, and as far as I am aware, I have not broken this goal that we started on Monday.
Allow me to explain why we would decide to do something so crazy:
We watched a film called “Forks Over Knives“. And I’m pretty sure everyone NEEDS to watch it. You can rent it and you can also watch it on Hulu Plus. It’s a film about plant based diets and how they basically will make you disease free, cancer free, diabetes free, and essentially live an awesome, very long, healthy life. We watched it last Wednesday and it was far more of an awakening for us than we could have ever imagined. And so we decided to try to go vegan, but by taking small steps.
I’ll admit, it hasn’t been super easy because, while we eat a lot of meatless meals, we eat a lot of dairy. I do not drink milk though for 2 reasons. 1) it is so gross and 2) I’m a little bit lactose intolerant (but only for certain things, it weird. Milk bugs me, ice cream bugs me and certain amounts of cheese bug me… I’m just screwy I suppose). But we do eat a lot of meals that involve cheese. Especially the Mexican ones. Mexican is just so easy to turn into a meatless meal because all you have to do is substitute black beans for the meat and you’re done. But they are definitely not vegan meals. There, my friends, lies the problem.
I started to panic a little when I realized I was going to have to come up with some vegan meals for this week. But to my utter amazement, Whole Foods‘ website has more vegan recipes than I think I knew existed. 735 to be exact. I was so excited that I spent a good hour just surfing through some the recipes. I found some really great ones, this being one of them!
When I think of eating vegan food I think of healthy, green, earthy foods that are not entirely filling nor entirely delicious. Wrong. REALLY WRONG. This soup is awesome. So awesome that we’ve been eating it leftover… and if you know me, if I eat something leftover it has to be good. I was shocked. How could something with all plants or plant based stuff be… so good?
My first skepticism was the vegetable broth. Which is obviously not quite as flavorful as chicken broth or beef broth. I am happy to say that it does have flavor, and good flavor at that! And the kale? Well, this was the most shocking part! The kale was great!! Last time we had kale was when we tried making kale chips and learned quickly that they were NOT for us. At all. So I was scared to put it in the soup. But when it’s not baked in an oven, kale is actually pretty tasty! I think it added another level to the soup. But you could easily substitute spinach if kale isn’t you’re think. You definitely need one of the two though, because like I said, it adds a real something to this soup!
This was a very easy meal to make as well. It didn’t take very long to make at all. It reminds me almost of a minestrone with the beans and veggies and pasta. Maybe next time I’ll add some green beans to it too. I like green beans in my soups! Even if you aren’t going on a vegan diet like we are, this soup is still a great addition to your box of recipes. It’s not entirely the best meal for a 100 degree day, but I’m so sick of summer food that I couldn’t pass this soup up. I know that we will for sure be making this soup again come fall…. or in a few weeks (which will hopefully be cooler then!).
Pasta and Bean Soup with Kale
Adapted from Whole Foods website with some minor changes
Makes about 6-8 servings
2 cans no salt added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 quart of low sodium vegetable broth
1 (14.5) oz can of diced tomatoes
Salt to taste
3/4 cup small pasta, I used whole grain elbow macaroni
2/3 bunch of kale, large stems removed and leaves sliced
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery and cook, stirring every once and awhile, until everything is tender. Stir in the beans, broth and diced tomatoes. Add salt and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender (about 10 minutes). Stir in the kale and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve in bowls!