A hot bowl of soup on a cold day is more than just the ingredients that make up this meal. Itís everything you need in one bowl to soothe a sore throat, warm a cold body and fill an empty belly. Soups have been around most likely as long as people have been walking the earth. Theyíve been prescribed as medicine for the sick, provided a needed meal to many when there wasnít enough food to go around and even become the main event at soup cook-offs and church socials.
Thatís a lot of importance to put on a bowl of soup. My grandmother loved soup and she told me that her mother used to be able to stretch leftovers from a Sunday dinner for herself and her 5 children to last through the week by turning it into soup. Meat, vegetables, a grain or other starch added to some broth provided a satisfying and complete meal. Soups are easy to make and can be modified depending on what you have available and what your family prefers.
One of my grandmotherís favorites is Beef Barley soup. With my busy schedule, Iíve tweaked this recipe to cook in a slow cooker. This hearty soup is even better when made in advance so the flavors have a chance to marry.
Makes about 8 full servings.
4 c water
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 c beef stock or broth
1 pound lean beef stew meat, cubed
1 c each: cut green beans, cubed potatoes, chopped onion, celery and carrots
1 clove garlic, minced
Ĺ tsp each of thyme and marjoram leaves
1 bay leaf
Ĺ c peas (fresh or thawed if frozen)
Ĺ c quick-cooking barley
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients except peas, barley, salt and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours.
Add peas and barley during last 20 minutes of cooking. Discard bay leaf and season with salt and pepper before serving.
Variations and Suggestions
Any root or starchy vegetable would be a good addition to this soup if you like the flavor: parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, squash. Use what you have available.
I also like to add a handful of washed kale or spinach when I add the peas and barley. It doesnít get overcooked that way, and adds extra nutrients.
I serve this soup with salad and a warm loaf of crusty bread. Does your family have a favorite soup?