Winter means different things to different people. Me? I'm not good with the cold. That frost on my lawn combined with the ice cold ground on my bare toes in the early morning is enough to send me straight to a steamy shower to rid the chill. Admittedly, if I had thought to put on shoes before taking the dogs out it might not have been so bad. Here in San Diego I've heard word that people know it's winter because the girls wear UGG Boots in place of flip flops with their shorts... (Note... I personally have not worn shorts in months!)
Counting my blessings that most days will bring mid-day temps into the high 60's (or maybe even the mid 70's!), our daily walks at the beach bring sights of surfers (full wet suit season), beach volley ball and soaring birds. The gardens at Magee Park are flush with the growth of new blooms on the the rose bushes, and I'm taking that as a strong signal that spring is just around the corner.
|Winter in Carlsbad, CA|
Having turned up her nose to soup for the first 12 years of her life, Liv has discovered that some soups are indeed good food. Lentil was a surprise favorite at a local restaurant recently and an Italian Ministrone has also received two thumbs up. Thinking I had another winner for her I stewed up one of my own favorites, Beef and Barley with Mushroom, and I couldn't wait to get it to the table.
Simmering the beef and mushrooms in the afternoon I had two diverse opinions to the aromas wafting through our drafty house. First appeared my son with a comment of, "Ewww!! What is that smell??". To which I responded, "Well... looks like it's not going to be your dinner."
Liv appeared moments later with a big smile on her face and an exclamation of, "Wow!! What is that awesome smell??". Describing my simmering brew, her face kept its smile and she walked away looking forward to dinner and eager to discovering barley.
Running a last minute errand, I put the soup on hold. Coming home however, I noticed a somewhat guilty look on my positively starving girl's face, and peeking into the beef and mushroom simmer I found my soup had become mostly a mushroom soup as "someone" had stolen most of the tender beef chunks which had been patiently waiting for the barley. She looked up and mentioned something about the beef being "awesome" as I added the barley for the remaining simmer.
Some 40 minutes later, the tender barley filled the pot along with tons of mushrooms and the few remaining chunks of beef. Ladling up our steaming soup we sat down to dinner and discovered that while Liv loves the beef part of Beef and Barley Soup, the barley part is not a favorite.
My husband and I on the other hand, found the soup to be a wonderful treat, and one that indeed warmed us to our chilly toes.
Beef and Barley Soup with Mushrooms
Adapted from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, Great Food/Great Beer, this is one of the recipes I return to time and again. Altering it a bit each time with different ingredients we happen to have on hand, the beef simmers to tender perfection, and if you can keep the teenager away from her beloved beef, you will be rewarded with a fabulous hearty bowl of Beef and Barley Soup.
adapted from The Anheuser-Busch Cookbook: Great Food, Great Beer
2 Tbs olive oil
3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms (About one 8 oz package)
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
12-16 ounces lean beef stew meat
2 cups beef broth***
additional sliced mushrooms - about 1 cup (optional)
1/2 cup carrots sliced into rounds
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup pearled barley
freshly ground pepper
chopped parsley for garnish
Place a large Dutch Oven on the stove and heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef, onion, and garlic, cooking until lightly browned.
Add one cup of the beef broth to the pan, scraping the pan bottom to loosen any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add the 3 cups sliced mushrooms, then add another cup of broth and the dried thyme. Add water to cover, and heat to a nice simmer. Cover, and keep an eye to make sure the soup does not boil. Simmer until the beef is very tender (we simmered ours for about 2 hours) adding water if necessary.
Stir in the barley, additional mushrooms and carrots, adding additional water or beef broth as needed for a nice soupy mixture. (As the barley cooks, you will most likely need more liquid). Cook until the barley is tender.
Ladle into bowls, top with freshly ground pepper and a sprinkle of parsley.
***Liv Life Note: For my family, I try to reduce salt, hence we only use 2 cups of beef broth in our soup. If salt is not a concern for you, you may use all beef broth in place of the water.
Additional Note - I happen to love mushrooms, and add the second batch towards the end so we have some very tender cooked mushrooms and a different texture of the not so cooked mushrooms upon serving.