Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand Who saith "A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!" - From "Rabbi Ben Ezra" by Robert Browning

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mmm, Mmm Good!

We're having one of those cold spells again. Temperatures had dropped into the 20s by sundown yesterday, and a strong wind made it feel a whole lot colder. Today, it's been somewhere in the 40s, and tonight, it's going back down into the 20s. It will be like this through the weekend. And I love it!

I love wintertime! I find the season stimulating. In the summertime, the heat can overtake us by mid-morning, and we retreat indoors to cool down in the air conditioning. For anything that needs to be done outside, we usually do "rock, paper, scissors" to see who'll go. Sometimes, we have a sudden death round of arm wrestling to clarify who's going out into the hot Georgia sun. In such extraordinary heat, already bloated from drinking gallons of ice water in an effort to cool down, we rarely eat more than salads and sandwiches.

But when it's too cold to do anything outside, I find indoor projects to keep me busy, and my favorite project is cooking. I love to be in the kitchen cooking when it's cold outside. On a really cold day, I usually pull out my biggest pot and make a big batch of soup. Turkey and Chicken Soup are old standards. I add diced potatoes, rice, or sometimes, pasta to the meat and vegetables, a can of diced tomatoes, a few dried herbs, and maybe a secret ingredient or two! I also go through the refrigerator to see what else I can add. My soup recipes rarely repeat because there's always something new to add. The last time I made chicken soup, I added some leftover lima beans and collards, and some smoked sausage.

Over the last year or so, I've been trying to add healthy grains to our diet. Barley is one of the healthiest grains you can cook with. Since Dad, John, and I are all diabetics, barley is a much better choice than potatoes, rice, or pasta. Personally, I love the texture of barley more than that of the other choices. Of course, I'm speaking of pearl barley, not regular barley. Regular barley is cut to cook quickly, in about 20 minutes, but the texture and flavor just aren't there. Pearl barley, on the other hand, takes 45 minutes to cook, but is a natural thickener and has a much more appealing taste and texture than regular barley. So today I used pearl barley and made a simple Beef and Barley Soup.

You can add anything to any soup as long as it appeals to those who will be eating it, but some soups are meant to remain simple, and I think beef and barley soup is one of them. You can certainly spice it up to suit your individual taste. There are many ways to do that! But in its basic state, beef and barley soup is delicious, and healthy, and oh, so comforting!

Beef and Barley Soup

1-2 quarts beef or chicken broth
1 cup pearl barley
1 large carrot, diced small
1 large rib of celery, diced small
1 onion, diced small
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Start with one quart of broth and bring it to a boil. Add the pearl barley. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. While the barley is cooking, brown the ground beef over medium heat. Drain the beef well when it has finished cooking.
When the barley is ready, add the drained ground beef, the diced carrots, celery, and onion, and the seasonings. Add additional broth to desired consistency. Simmer another 30 minutes, until carrots, celery, and onion are soft.
Serve with a nice crusty bread!

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