Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Crockpot Vegetable Barley Soup

I used to think people were a little TOO in love with their crockpots. Yes, they're nice, yes, they're convenient, but why on earth would anybody use one seven days a week, have more than one, or go crazy any time a discovery was made of a new food that could be cooked in a crockpot?

Well, last week our kids started swim lessons, Little Gal started dance class, and we started a home school group. This means that Monday through Thursday, we leave in the early afternoon and we are home anywhere from 5:15-6:15.  Do you see where I'm going with this???

On Monday, I was thinking it would be nice to dust off my crockpot and use it every once in awhile. By Thursday I was clawing through the internet, looking for as many crockpot recipes as I could find that would fit our dietary style. By Sunday, I decided I needed to get a second crockpot (I have one of those huge 6 quart ones) that could be used for smaller meals and sides. Today, I'm looking for a cookbook and trying to figure out every last thing that can be thrown into the crockpot.

Yes, today I love my crockpot!

I say this humbly: I didn't "get" it! Also, these crockpot people aren't crazy, they're awesome!  Thank you, Crockpot People, for figuring out how to make hot chocolate, bread, and dessert in a crockpot!

Our first crockpot meal was this Crockpot Roasted Potatoes recipe.  I don't usually eat butter, but I wanted to make it as written the first time.  Also, my family enjoys butter very much.  They were delicious!!  I'll probably use Olive Oil in a smaller amount next time.  The seasoning was fabulous.

Last night, I made this a scrumptious Vegetable Barley Soup.  I used THIS RECIPE as my guide, but changed several things according to what I had on hand and what would suit my family.  Next time--there will definitely be a next time--I'm going to put 1.25 cups dried white beans in (maybe pre-soaked?) instead of canned.  All in all, it was very inexpensive meal and left a very substantial amount which I'll be throwing in my freezer for another night.  The whole pot was probably roughly $2.50, so $1.25 per meal.  I'll take it!  

The best part about this soup, aside from it being healthy and filling, was that my kids ate it up!  They said they liked it, and there were zero complaints.  Little Gal will dutifully eat, but she will often complain and is quite picky.  It's a little difficult to be patient sometimes.  I figure it's payback for my picky palate as a child.  Sorry, mom!  Also, my husband kept telling me how filling and good it was, and how much he liked barley.

I hope you try this healthy, filling, inexpensive, Crockpot Vegetable Barley Soup!  It's a perfect soup for fall.

8 Cups Water
3 Extra Large Vegetable Bouillon Cubes
1 Scant Cup Uncooked Pearl Barley
1 Onion, Chopped
3 Celery Stocks, Chopped
3 Carrots, Chopped
4 Large Red Potatoes, Chopped (I'm sure you could use any)
3/4 Cup *Pasta Sauce, Tomato Sauce, Chopped Tomatoes, or Canned Diced Tomatoes 
1 Can White or Navy Beans, Drained
3 Bay Leaves, discard just before serving
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Garlic Powder, Granulated
1/4 tsp Ground Pepper
2 tsp Dried Parsley
1 tsp Curry Powder
1 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

Throw everything--as called for--into the crockpot.  Cook on Low for eight hours.  Remove Bay leaves when cooking is complete.  You may need or want to add more water if it gets too thick.  Serve warm with a crust of bread or homemade rolls.

*It just needs a hint of tomato. I had some leftover Garlic-Basil Tomato Sauce, and it worked great!