Howdy! Who’s ready for spring? To be honest, I’m going to kind of miss the cold weather. Don’t get me wrong, I love frolicking in the bluebonnets and getting all those beautiful vegetables planted in the garden, but I also love cuddling up next to a fire and slurping up delicious stews, soups, and chili. It’s just so cozy. But…time marches on.

As a farewell tribute to the cold weather-as it is already in the 60’s and higher in February here in Texas, I have another delicious and nutrient-packed soup recipe to share. It is another great crockpot meal (although you can certainly cook it over the stove too), which as a busy mom I find incredibly convenient. Beef and Barley Soup!

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My food photography needs work, but this was my dinner bowl and it was DELICIOUS.

What do you think of when you hear someone talk about barley? Beer, right?  I do too. But, barley is also a very versatile, nutrient-rich cereal grain with a delightful pasta-like consistency when used in stews. This nutrient-powerhouse grain is rich in fiber excellent for digestive health and can also greatly improve cholesterol.  It is packed with B vitamins also beneficial for heart health. It is rich in magnesium, needed in the body’s glucose and insulin secretion abilities – so great for preventing or managing diabetes. This is just to name a few benefits. Barley is great, and under-utilized. Well, if you don’t count beer.

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This soup is easy to make. The most time-consuming part is chopping up the fresh veggies. If you have a jabbering toddler hanging on your legs most of the day, his sweet face demanding your undivided attention, I find it is easier to chop them up ahead of time (like the night before), throw them in a Ziplock bag and into the fridge. Then it’s ready to dump in the pot and go. It is also great for those watching sodium, as long as you choose low-sodium broth and no-salt added canned goods. There is no added salt in this recipe.

Beef and Barley Soup (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook – one of my faves)

-12 oz extra lean beef stew meat, in 1 inch cubes
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
-4  14-oz cans low sodium beef broth
-1 large onion, chopped
-1 stalk celery, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 bay leaf
-1 teaspoon oregano
-1 cup frozen sweet yellow corn, or frozen mixed vegetables of your preference
-1 14.5 oz can no-salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
-1 cup 1/2 inch cubes of potato of your preference (I used golden so I didn’t have to peel)
-2/3 cup barley
-Black pepper, to taste

The only big difference between slow-cooking and stove-top cooking is the type of barley you want to get. If using the slow-cooker you can use regular barley, but if cooking over the stove I recommend Quick-Cooking Barley.

If you are using a slow-cooker:

  1. Brown stew meat in hot olive oil on the stove. Drain off any fat.
  2. Combine the browned meat and the rest of the ingredients  in your slow-cooker
  3. Cover, and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours or on high heat for 4-5 hours.
  4. Let your house fill up with that amazing aroma, and after discarding bay leaf, dig in. Personally LOVE with homemade corn bread.

If you are doing on the stove-top:

  1. Brown the meat in hot olive oil in a dutch oven.
  2. Stir in broth, onion, celery, potato, oregano, pepper, garlic, and bay leaf. Bring it to a boil and then reduce heat. Allow to simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Stir in frozen corn (or mixed vegetables), undrained diced tomatoes, and quick cooking barley. Return to boiling
  4. Once boiling, reduce heat and allow to simmer until all vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
  5. Enjoy!

Barley can be a great substitute for pasta when cooking soups or stews if you are wanting to pack that nutrition in. Try it and let me know how it turns out!

One last thing – if you live in the SA-New Braunfels-San Marcos area, I will be having the class, Carb Counting Made Easy at the office, on Thursday, March 3 at 6:30pm. Come join the fun and learn proper carb portioning, excellent for weight loss and managing diabetes. Just contact me to sign up! More info at www.food4success.com .

Until next time!