A quick (and long-overdue) update–and soup!

Wow, I am really bad at this “updating my blog consistently” thing. But things have been so crazy, between getting things up and running for the new school year, and visiting family, and having emergency surgery while on vacation, and then catching up at work from the unexpected week’s extension of said vacation due to the aforementioned surgery……there just hasn’t been much time for blogging.

HOWEVER…..I did want to share this recipe. Fall is definitely in the air, and for me, that means that I switch from eating a lot of salads to eating a lot of soup. I don’t know, as much as I love salad, when it’s cold out eating a salad is about as appetizing as chewing on a block of ice. So I make a lot of hearty winter soups, filled with veggies, beans and whole grains, to try to keep getting at least a semblance of a balanced diet when so few fresh fruits and veggies are in season.

I made this mushroom, barley and French lentil soup this morning after looking in our pantry and seeing two bags of pearled barley and two bags of French lentils that were nearing their “sell-by” dates. Since I made it up as I went along, there are no precise measurements, which I think is fine when you’re making soup. It’s not like baking, where if any of the proportions are off the whole thing will turn out badly. I’ve found that creativity and trusting your intuition go a long way in cooking, especially when it comes to making soups and stews. So this turned out a soup that I really liked, but if any of the amounts seem off, or you want more or less of any flavor (for example, I like my soup REALLY garlicky, but you may not), then by all means, feel free to change it.

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MUSHROOM, BARLEY AND LENTIL SOUP WITH SPINACH

(Makes a large pot, probably 8-12 servings)

4 carrots, peeled and diced

1 large red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced (use more or less depending on your taste–as I said, I like my soup pretty garlicky so I use a lot)

1 cup dry French lentils

1 cup dry pearled barley

10 oz. baby bella or crimini mushrooms, chopped, sliced or diced (however you prefer; I like them diced)

6 cups chicken, veggie or beef broth

A splash of white wine

Several cups of fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped

Salt, black pepper and dried parsley to taste

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. butter

Heat a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and saute the onions, garlic and carrots in the butter and olive oil until softened. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and continue to saute until the mushrooms are softened and beginning to brown. Add the broth and bring everything to a rolling boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and add the barley. Cook for about 25 minutes, then add the lentils and cook for another 25 minutes or so, until the barley and lentils are soft. Add more liquid if desired (at this point, I added two cups of water to replace the liquid that had been absorbed without adding the saltiness from more broth). Add a splash of white wine if desired, season to taste, and continue to cook until barley and lentils are fully cooked and the flavors are starting to combine. At the end of the cooking period, turn off the heat and add the spinach. It will wilt on its own in the hot soup.

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