The bear went into the mountain; beef-barley-vegetable soup

Winter is icumen in.
Winter is icumen in.

I’m so ready for hibernation. Since my 50th high school reunion in August 2012, I’ve packed back on 30 pounds. Bring on the stinky cave — I am re-insulated and ready to live off my hips for a few months.

Some of that’s a lot of sitting in office chairs since then. Some of that’s not going to the Y (and some of that’s living 40 minutes away from the Y with my work in every direction except that one).  A lot is the psychology of food and its being my favorite friend.

So, good things: All my in-laws (who live right here) won’t have to say a word about my gaining 30 because none ever said a syllable about my losing 46. That Y membership continues. I know how to count calories and now I can do it on my Smartphone. I know how much worse I feel when I fall face-first into the sugar. I know how to turn off the TV and go to bed.

Tough thing: Not beating myself up. Again. I get so frustrated with the black lab-pit bull who can’t walk calmly on a leash after more than a year. Well, damn, I’m waaaay more than almost 2 years old (even in dog years) and I keep acting as though more food (weight) will make me feel better. Acting as though feeling better should be the goal.

Before I go to the Y for water aerobics on this gloomy gray afternoon then, I’m ready to re-launch with the best beef and vegetable soup I’ve ever eaten. I tweaked a Betty Crocker recipe when a couple of comments said the original was bland.

My version is not bland. It has a full flavor and a good “mouth feel.” The tomato sauce and beef broth blend into something like a light tomato-beef gravy. The barley is a natural thickener that keeps its crunch, even when cooked.

The recipe makes about 10 servings, each of them coming in around 200 calories. My best guess is that a serving’s around 1 cup of soup so even if you double it, the calorie count is reasonable for a snug supper.

Beef barley and vegetable soup

2 pounds good-quality stew beef in cubes

1 fresh bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3/4 cup fresh or frozen green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

3/4 cup chopped onion

2/3 cup uncooked barley

2/3 cup whole kernel corn

1-1/2 cups water

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

3-1/2 cups good-quality beef broth

2 14-1/2 ounce cans diced tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

8 ounces tomato sauce

This thick flavorful soup is like a hug in a bowl.
This thick flavorful soup is like a hug in a bowl.

Combine all ingredients and cook in slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours. Total yum!

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