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.

Always be sure to follow the instructions for your particular brand of slow cooker, since it is possible that yours could cook faster or slower and have different heat settings than mine.

Mushroom Barley Soup

I used 3 tablespoons of vegetable broth concentrate, Better Than Bouillon brand, combined with 2 quarts of water. You may choose to do the same or use boxed or homemade stock (homemade is my preference, when I have it). To make this non-vegetarian, you could always add cubes of beef that have been browned and diced. I always like to freeze leftover soup in quart or pint containers marked with the date.

Serves 6-8 dinner-sized portions (8-12oz servings)

Ingredients

Oil or butter, for sauteing
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
3 celery ribs, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 cups mushrooms, diced
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (if using frozen peas, don’t thaw them in advance; they will thaw as the soup cooks)
1 1/c cups barley
2 quarts vegetable broth
4-5 springs of thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 leaves sage
Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Prepare vegetables and add to a slow cooker with broth and seasonings. Cook on high, approximately 8 hours or until the barley is tender. Alternatively, cook on low overnight, or use the stove top.

For stove top cooking: saute onions, garlic, and celery in a large soup pot until tender. Add barley and cook a few minutes until lightly toasted. Add carrots, broth, seasonings, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for approximately an hour or until carrots are tender. Mid-way through cooking, add the mushrooms, and towards the end of cooking, add the frozen peas.

You may keep the soup warm on the stove or in the crockpot (depending on cooking method) until it is time to eat, at which time I would highly encourage serving with crusty bread, rolls, or cornbread. If making cornbread from scratch, try adding some of the same herbs that were used in the soup, finely chopped, and a little freshly ground pepper to the batter before baking.