I just returned from visiting my mother as it was her birthday on April Fool's Day. But, don't ask me how old she is as she won't tell you and I'm not supposed to either. It was actually quite a busy trip as I saw lots of relatives and I came back quite worn out. It was surprisingly cold and rainy when I left LA and I came back to the cold and rain back here in Seattle too. That means it is soup time. Nothing is cozier or more nurturing to me than a big bowl of soup. You are probably starting to notice a trend and you would be right - I make a lot of soup! When I am tired, it needs to come together all in one cooking session and shouldn't take very long to cook. That brings me back to one of my childhood favorites: Vegetable Beef Soup with Barley.
My mother didn't make what we called American soups and my sister developed quite a fondness for Campbell's Vegetable Beef Soup. So when I was about twelve, I set out to make her a homemade version. We all loved it so much that I've been making it ever since. I love cutting up all the vegetables into really small pieces so that everything is around the same size as the barley. That's a Chinese thing, but it also makes sense as you get a little bit of everything in each spoonful that way. Be sure to add that little bit of sugar as it really helps improve the taste of canned tomatoes. You can add more of less broth depending on how thick you like your soup. My father always liked his soups with a lot of broth so the bread or crackers would have something to soak up. This soup is hearty and filling and soothing at the same time. And it's fast and easy and delicious! I make this soup a lot for my apprenticeship students and is another frequently requested recipe. Serve with saltine crackers or my favorite - garlic bread.
Vegetable Beef Soup with Barley
1 pound extra lean ground beef (you can also use ground turkey)
1 large onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
7 - 8 cups beef broth (Substitute with chicken broth if using turkey)
One 14.5 oz can finely diced tomatoes
½ cup pearl barley
1 cup green beans cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Brown hamburger with onions, carrots and celery in large soup pot, breaking up the meat into small pieces. Add broth, tomatoes and barley. Bring to a boil. Add bay leaf, basil and sugar. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Five Element Analysis
As colorful as this soup is, you can guess that it is pretty balanced and here's why: Soup by its very nature is a Water Element food. But, the beef broth and hamburger bring in the Earth Element as does the barley, cooked onion and carrots. The tomatoes add the Fire Element and the herbs bring in a touch of the Metal Element. The green beans bring in a little of the Wood Element. Adding crackers would add more of the Wood Element from the wheat and if you choose garlic bread, you bring in the Wood Element plus more Metal from the garlic. That little addition makes it a very balanced meal!