8 Degrees, 14 Vegetables.

Yesterday morning I woke up, drank my coffee, and then looked at thermometer outside my bedroom window.  It read 8 degrees.  As I have said before, there’s not much that will keep me from running outside.  I thought to myself, Well, I’ll drive the girl to school in my pajamas, see if it’s really that cold.  I’ll probably run. When I stepped out the back door, I could hardly draw a breath.   It was that cold.  I returned home, put on shorts and a tee shirt, and popped in an Amy Dixon total body workout video.  I exercised in front of the pellet stove, trying hard to break a sweat as I completed the cardio section, then moved on to the strength training and core segments of the DVD.  Running is hard, I guess, harder than I think.  I found myself adding extra hops and jumps during the cardio segment to get my heart rate up.  It’s a great video, really, with some challenging core work at the end, but I was disappointed in the way I felt when I finished.  I missed my run.

On days this cold, there are really only two things I can think about— being warm and food.  Soup is my winter salad— lots of vegetables steaming hot are satisfying and healthful.  With a perfect winter day ahead to cook a pot full of hearty soup, I thought of my friend Roseann, and a lunch she once served me.  It was a thick, rich, beef barley soup.  I remember sitting at her kitchen table, embarrassed to have to request a third bowlful.  And I remember her generous hand in filling my bowl, smiling as she delicately worked on her first serving.   I have duplicated Roseann’s recipe, making  a few changes over the years (mostly adding more vegetables), and so I warmed up in the shower, went to the market, and settled into my kitchen to cook.

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup

Ingredients and Method:

Fill a large stock pot 1/2 way with vegetable or chicken stock.  Bring it to a boil, and add 3/4 cup of pearl barley.  Set the timer for 1 hour.  Reduce heat to medium, keeping the barley moving as it cooks in the pot.

While the barley is cooking, prepare the vegetables.  I cut the large ones into bite-sized pieces, and do all the chopping first.  I use about 1  cup of each vegetable, but you can use more or less of any of them.  I start adding the vegetables about 1/2 hour in.

4 cloves garlic, minced, 2 large cans diced tomatoes, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 bay leaves, ground black pepper to taste.

Vegetables:  onion, celery, red and yellow bell pepper, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, peas, corn,  spinach, summer squash.  (I use frozen spinach, peas, and corn.)

Saute the garlic, onion, celery, mushrooms, peppers, green beans, and carrots,  (in manageable batches), in a large skillet in olive oil until lightly browned.  Add to stock pot as they are done.

In same skillet, saute 1 lb pasture-finished ground beef* until browned.  Drain.  Add to stock pot.

Add tomatoes and spices.  When there are about 10 minutes left on the timer, add zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, peas, corn, and spinach.

This soup is thick— the barley swells quite a bit.  If you prefer a thinner soup, add more stock, 1/2 cup at a time until desired consistency is reached.  It freezes well, if you have any left over!

*pasture-finished beef  has many benefits for our bodies and our environment, and it tastes better, too.   Want to learn more about it?  Watch the film Food Inc. or read The Omnivore’s Dilemma or In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto, both by Michael Pollan.  He’s my non-fiction literary hero these days!

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2 Comments on “8 Degrees, 14 Vegetables.”

  1. Lisa Turk Says:

    Elizabeth, You running in 8 degrees is worse than me riding Koro (in a indoor arena) when it is in the 20’s with wind and lots of snow on the ground!! Of course first I have to clean him up so that helps to warm me up.

    Just finished making your soup recipe. Smells awesome and I can’t wait for dinner. Another winner!! I have enough to share with the whole neighborhood, but I am going to be greedy and freeze the left overs. Of course Ellen will get some.


  2. We gotta do what we gotta do, yeah? So glad you are enjoying the recipes. That soup does freeze well, but I can eat it all before it spoils… 😉

    Great to hear from you, and to know you are reading the blog. Thank you for your comments. I love to read them!


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