Pantry Raid: Mushroom Barley Soup

I’m a big fan of soup. It’s often my go-to lunch since it’s quick and easy to grab from a store or a work cafeteria. I always have a stockpile of some kind of soup or chili in the freezer for when I don’t feel like cooking when I get home in the evening, too, which I thaw overnight in the refrigerator or, if I don’t remember, quickly thaw in the microwave.

I make and eat soup year-round, even during the summer, but nothing beats the magical feeling of eating hot soup on a cold day. It just warms up your body and makes you feel instantly better — at least, for me it does.

This recipe for mushroom barley soup is one of my favorites to make in the crock pot and let cook overnight for dinner the next day. It is healthy and doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, making it a perfect recipe for using up pantry and fridge staples.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

For all of my friends, family, and visitors in the U.S., I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow and a nice holiday weekend!

This is one of my favorite holidays for cooking, of course, so I’ll be busy over the next couple of days in the kitchen. You can look forward to posts starting up again next week!

In the meantime, check out Instagram or Twitter for a few photos that I’ll snap and share of my holiday table. And if you need some last-minute inspiration for your holiday menu, check out these recipes:

  • Stuffing — 
  • Vegetable — 
  • Turkey — 
  • Vegetarian Option
  • Dessert —

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Crisp fall nights call for baking. Lots of baking. Cookies and cakes are obvious go-tos anytime I choose to bake something sweet. When it comes to savory dishes, though, the first thing that always comes to mind is pasta.

There’s just something so nice and comforting about taking a big tray of baked, bubbling, cheesy pasta out of the oven. It’s instant happiness and a whole meal without putting in a lot of effort. Sometimes, if I’m in the mood, I’ll serve a big tray of pasta with a side dish, like a green vegetable or a salad. It can help to feel a little bit better about eating all of that cheesy goodness, even if I know, deep down, that it doesn’t make a damn difference.

When it comes to naming a so-called king of baked pastas, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in my house who disagrees with the fact that it’s macaroni and cheese (baked ziti, a distant second place.) It’s one of the most versatile baked pasta dishes that I can make and everyone loves it. I’m always trying new recipes, too — adding spinach or other vegetables, bacon, or simply just loading up on different kinds of cheese because more cheese, more better. The best part is that even when a recipe doesn’t come out quite as I planned, even bad mac and cheese is good.

This is how, on a whim a few years ago, I ended up with this memorable, very orange — and, dare I say, sort-of healthy — mac.

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Butternut Squash and Carrot Puree

By this time in the Fall, butternut squash and carrots tend to be “surplus” items in my pantry. They are two of my favorite root vegetables that I love to dice up to add to a vegetable soup, roast with herbs and olive oil for a side dish, or puree after roasting to create a versatile base that can be transformed into several dishes.

When packaged in smaller containers or zip-top bags, this butternut-carrot puree can be thawed a little at a time to use as a quick sauce, soup, or side dish. The portions are flexible, so it’s perfect to use up whatever you have on hand.

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