I have fallen totally in love with my slow cooker. It’s true. I’ve not yet branched out into non-soup/stew type dishes yet, although Pinterest assures me these options are plentiful. But to be honest I LOVE soup and while it’s still chilly enough to justify a big steaming bowl of it, I see no reason to move out of the category for the time being. My six year old twins had their last swim class for this session on Tuesday and despite the slightly warmer than average temperatures last week, they still emerged from the indoor pool with blue lips, chattering teeth, and decidedly tortured dispositions. I warmed them up in the shower only to have them get cold again walking from the changing room to the car. Once again I was so very delighted to come home to a big warm Crock Pot full of yumminess. A few simple directions, and you can have one too. 🙂 The soup of the week (yes, I realize it’s not always once a week, many pardons) is a simple and insanely flavorful vegetable, bean and barley stew.
Vegetable, Bean and Barley Stew – inspired by Barley Bean Vegetable Soup on Savvy Vegetarian.
- 1.5 c garbanzo beans (canned or soaked and cooked)
- 1.5 c navy beans (canned or soaked) – the original called for kidney beans which I don’t happen to keep on hand
- 1/2 c pearl barley (soaked for at least 4 hours or cooked ahead of time)
- 6 c liquid from these sources: bean broth or soaking water, water, veggie broth (I used 4 c bean broth ad 2 c veggie broth)
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 med carrots, chopped to your preferred cooked carrot size
- 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut to soup size chunks
- 4 leaves Chinese cabbage (this was my substitution for 2 stalks celery, which I’d run out of, the sub was successful)
- 2 cloves garlic, made very small however you prefer
- 1 tsp each: basil, thyme, oregano, smoked paprika (the original called for regular paprika, but I am a slave to smoked paprika)
- 1/2 t ground fennel
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 T Bragg’s or soy sauce
- 1 c frozen peas
As with many slow cooker recipes, there is still food prep to do, it just happens WAY in advance. For this particular recipe, the most frugal approach involves using dried beans. I started with one dry cup of each of the beans called for and soaked them in twice as much water in a pot overnight. This actually yielded more than the three cups total called for I think, but I threw them in anyway. If you like THICK soup/stew, you may want to do the same. I soaked the 1/2 c barley in a mason jar with water in the fridge overnight. Measuring these out the night before took me a total of about 3 minutes. If I’d been thinking more clearly, I would have also done my chopping the night before just to make the morning extra easy. That probably would have added another 15 minutes.
At any rate, the next day I drained the beans and barley, set the beans in fresh water to boil (they were done in about 25 minutes, but times vary for beans). While they cooked, I chopped the veggies and then put the olive oil in a pan to warm. Added the carrots and let the go for about 5 minutes. I then added the potatoes, cabbage, and garlic. While the veggies were cooking I added the barley, the broth and all the spices to the slow cooker.
I added the veggies and when the beans were done, I drained and added them as well (saving the broth for future soups. Turned that puppy on low and cooked for about 4 hours. I believe it would be entirely reasonable to skip pre-cooking the veggies and put it all in the slow cooker for at least 6 hours. I was running late (shocker), so I cut the time by softening the veggies a bit. When we were ready to eat, we added the cup of frozen peas and gave it a good stir. If I’d had parsley, I would have added it to each bowl. We served ours with warm whole wheat bread and a salad. It was freaking delish. I may soak the kids with water and have them run around outside just to give them good reason to indulge my soup craving again next week…. Yes, I’m kidding.
Need a pep talk? You know you want to click it… go on. Do it.