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A Great Fall Soup in the Slow Cooker – Slow Cooker Bean and Barley Soup

With the cooler weather coming upon us now, that means more of an opportunity to make soups and make some good use of the slow cooker. We made a couple of different soups this week, and the first one allowed me to use some of the dried beans I had picked up that were on sale this past week. I had picked up bags of black beans, Great Northern beans, navy beans and lentils, so I had plenty to work with as I looked for a recipe where I could use different types in one soup. I came upon this recipe from the Food Network for a bean and barley soup in the slow cooker and it sounded perfect.

Slow-Cooker Bean and Barley Soup

1 cup dried multi-bean mix or Great Northern Beans, picked over and rinsed

1/2 cup pearl barley

3 cloves garlic, smashed

2 medium carrots, roughly chopped

2 ribs celery, roughly chopped

1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning herb blend

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled if large (optional)

One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, with juice

3 cups cleaned baby spinach leaves

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Put 6 cups of water, all of the beans, the barley, garlic, carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, Italian seasoning, pepper and porcini mushrooms, if using, in a slow cooker. Squeeze the tomatoes through your hands over the slow cooker to break them down, and add them with their juices. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high until the beans are tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours.

Add the spinach and Parmesan cheese, and stir until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

I love a hearty bean soup and this one, with the different beans in, has awesome flavor. It was nice and thick with very flavorful broth from all the vegetables. Adding the spinach and cheese towards the end is a great way to add flavor and make it even more flavorful, but if you wanted to leave them out and just have the bean and barley soup I think it would be just as good. Serve it with some nice crunchy bread and you have a great vegetarian or meatless meal. The soup itself tasted even better the next day after it has had a chance to set and the flavors have melded together even more than the first day, so it has made for some great lunches as well.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another soup recipe as I will go over the nice corn chowder that we made this week. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Soup Day Number Two – Moroccan Lentil Soup in the Slow Cooker

I probably don’t make good enough use of our slow cooker. I always say I am going to use it more but somehow it just seems to slip my mind. The problem I have is that our kitchen is small so it is not a piece of equipment I can keep on the counter and remember to use often. It is usually when I see a recipe I like that makes use of the slow cooker that it jogs my memory. That is exactly what happened with this soup recipe that I found from A Year of Slow Cooking. This recipes uses 3 different kinds of beans, which I love, and some interesting spices to create this one pot meal.

Moroccan Lentil Soup

1 cup dried lentils

1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained and rinsed

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped carrots

28 ounce can diced tomatoes and juice

4 cups vegetable broth, chicken broth or water

1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 inch ginger, peeled and grated

Add the chopped onion, celery and carrot to the slow cooker and sprinkle over the bottom. Drain and rinse off the lentils, garbanzo beans and pinto beans and add them on top of the vegetables. Grate the ginger on top of the beans and then add in the garam masala, cayenne pepper, cumin, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir in the broth or water and the diced tomatoes plus the juice. Stir the mixture to blend everything together.

Cover the slow cooker and cook the soup on low for 8 to 10 hours. Before serving the soup, use an immersible blender to pulse and blend some of the vegetables and beans together. This will help to give the soup a better texture and meld some of the flavors together.

This recipe makes a good bit of soup, so you will have leftovers for lunches or another dinner, or you  could even freeze some to use as an emergency dinner for another weeknight when you don’t feel much like cooking. Garam masala is a spice blend commonly used in Northern Indian cooking that mixes together pepper, cumin, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. It really adds some nice flavor and fragrance to this dish. All of the spices work well together and give great taste to this soup and using the immersible blender really helps to give it a velvety smooth texture to finish off with. If you use vegetable stock or water in this dish, you can make it vegetarian. You get plenty of protein from all of the beans in the dish and I have had some for lunch after the dinner we had of this soup and the flavor does seem to get even better. If you want to save yourself even more time with the slow cooker, chop your vegetables the night before, get everything prepped on your counter, and then you can just throw it together in the morning before you run out the door to start your day.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. I still have lots I have been working on, including a new roasted chicken dish I tried last night. I also have some other great recipes from the Cooking Channel, Food Network, Food Republic, Cook’s Country and Williams-Sonoma that I will be trying over the next few days and weeks, so check back for those. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Soup Season in Full Bloom – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

The weather has started to get a little more Fall-like around here the last few days so I had planned to make a couple of soups this week to fit the occasion. Soups make a great dinner because they are filling, delicious and nutritious all in one. I had bought a butternut squash at our friend’s farmstand this past weekend and then I found this great recipe from Michael Chiarello for a different butternut squash soup recipe than I had made before. It makes use of some different spices to give a different flavor and roasting the squash with some of these ingredients really added something to the meal.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

For the Toasted Spice Rub:

1/4 cup fennel seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon peppercorns

1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1/4 cup chili powder

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the Roasted Squash:

3 pounds butternut squash (about 1 large squash)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup dark molasses

2 teaspoons Toasted Spice Rub

For the Soup:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced celery

1/4 cup diced carrot

1 cinnamon stick

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash

1/2 cup half-and-half

For the spice rub: Toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a small, heavy pan over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, turn on the exhaust fan above your stove, add the red pepper flakes and toss the mixture vigorously. Immediately turn the mixture out into a bowl to cool.

When the mixture has cooled, place it in a blender or spice mill with the chili powder, salt and cinnamon and blend until all the spices are evenly ground. Keep the spice mix in a glass jar in a  cool, dry place.

For the squash: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, halve lengthwise and discard any of the seeds. Cut the squash into 1-inch diced pieces. Place the squash in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter stops foaming and has turned a light brown, pull the pan off the heat and add the sage, sugar, vinegar (keep your face back when you add the vinegar), molasses and the toasted spice rub. Mix well and allow it to simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes to meld the flavors.

Pour the  vinegar mixture over the squash and toss well. Transfer the squash to a heavy, rimmed baking sheet or baking dish large enough to hold the squash in a single layer. Place the squash in the oven and roast, tossing at least once, until it is very tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set the squash aside until it is cool enough to handle but still warm, so the liquids are still runny.

Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the warm squash and all the cooking liquids to a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth. You can use the squash immediately or refrigerate it for up to 5 days or freeze it for up to 2 months.

For the soup: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrot and cinnamon stick and saute until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken or vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in the squash until it is smooth, then simmer gently, allowing the flavors to meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Puree the soup in a blender, in batches if necessary, until it is smooth. Return the soup to the pan and re-heat it gently. Add the half-and-half and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until you are ready to serve.

A couple of things about this recipe. The toasted spice rub makes quite a bit of spice mix. If you think you will use it again later on, it’s great to have on hand. I cut the recipe in half and still had plenty leftover so you can do that if you don’t want a lot of spice mix. You can use the squash puree for other things as well if you didn’t want to make soup with it. I think it would be a great side dish for chicken or turkey just as it is. You could also use other winter squash if you prefer, like acorn squash, and I think it would do just as well. The soup itself has a very roasted, toasty flavor to it. You can certainly taste the spices coming through in the soup but they do not over power the dish at all. I loved the creaminess of the squash and found it to be a very hearty meal. If you use vegetable stock or water instead of the chicken stock, you can make this a vegetarian meal.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another soup recipe I just tried. This one was made in the slow cooker and can also be a vegetarian dish, so check back for that one tomorrow. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Jennifer Probst

a little bit naughty a little bit nice

Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

simple cooking recipes

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