Staying Warm: Barley Soup

Ok it's 20º F out. It's so beautiful. I am going. Going outside. How can I possibly not get out? So I do.

And I freeze for a second day in a row. Yesterday my feet were so cold, and I became so cold, that it took me a very long, very hot shower to get back to normal. I was exhausted by it. But... "that was running" I thought, ever so hopeful. My socks were exposed, and the snow glued to them. And became ice. I was wearing thin trail runners, also not the warmest gear for endless fresh powder snow-sinking-in-my-head-I-am-running kind of outing.

So today I strap on snow boots with Gore-Tex, wool socks, hat, undershirt… wool everything. The works.

Froze. Again.


I think that part of it is that, just as I had to acclimatize to the height… I now have to acclimatize to the cold.


Working night shifts at the hospital, I found that the best way for me to stay alert, oriented, and warm… was by eating hot soup. But not just any soup. A soup that nourishes me. Feeds me. Not just liquid or "cream of"… stuff. Which has too much fat, and too much dairy in it… which causes mucus build-up (http://www.livestrong.com/article/339269-foods-that-create-mucus/), congests the lungs and airways… and makes me more prone to colds as a result.

The best way to get centered, according to traditional cooking, is by eating grains. Whole grains (9http://macrobiotic.about.com/od/gettingstarted/a/GloriousGrains.htm). So what better dish than… barley soup of course. Add or subtract ingredients according to taste and/or how involved I feel like getting with cooking when I make it… and here it is:


1 Big Carrot- or 2 medium ones...
1 or 2 Yellow or White Onions
Cabbage- depending on taste... just a small piece, or 1/4 cabbage, cut in chunks
Broccoli stems- you know, the ones you saved from when you steamed the florets...
Celery (I don't like it, so I don't use it)

Garnish with:

Shaved Parmesan- it melts nicely
Black Pepper

1 Cup Barley- make it by cooking it for an hour in 2 to 3 cups of water (I need more water at higher altitude; 3 cups for Wyoming, 2 cups for Florida). Bring barley and water to a raging boil, lower heat to low, and simmer boringly for an hour.

Sea Salt- to taste
Olive Oil- use it generously

Chicken Stock- make it by boiling the left-overs of a roasted chicken. If you don't feel like roasting, then a store-bought roasted chicken will do. Just eat it, and boil the scraps with 1 carrot, 1 onion, and 1 or 2 pieces of celery. My ex used to call it concentration-camp stock. Oh well… it works.


Sautée the onions first. Whatever you do, always start by cutting and sautéing onions first. Maybe because it gives me yet another chance to start crying and make my beloved ones like my daughter cry as well… always start with onions.

Sautee the onions in olive oil and sea salt, in medium heat, until they are gold. Use a cast iron pan, or a stainless steel pot. Never use Teflon (http://www.freshfoodunderground.com/2010/12/what-are-you-cooking-your-food-in.html). Never. Throw that shit away. Don't use Calphalon either, or anything that ends with "lon" for that matter. It's poison.

Once the onions are golden, add the other veggies and sautée them just enough to coat them with the olive oil that you are, of course, generously using.

Once all the veggies look like they are coated with olive oil, about a minute or so… then add the cooked barley and the chicken stock to the mix. If you wish, add pieces of the roasted chicken as well, except no skin. Somehow the way skin floats in the soup never looks too good... Serve it garnished with parsley, or cilantro, or even a little arugula (if you like the bitterish taste of it)… or… and this is for my friend Roberta who puts spinach on everything: spinach.


If I use barley, I don't use potatoes- that makes the soup too starchy.

I cook barley on the side, or else it absorbs all of the chicken stock, and again… turns the soup into starchy mush.

Other veggies that may be siting around and can be included: tomatoes (a fruit of course), rutabagas (cut small), turnips (again, cut it small), cauliflower leaves (cut in chunks like cabbage)…

Two steps to make it fancier:

Add 1 bay leaf with the chicken stock

Add 2 or 3 tbps of tomato paste as you cook the onions…

Add dried mushrooms when sautéing veggies, gives it a wonderful smoky flavor/scent.

Hope this recipe helps keep you cozy and warm, wherever you may be...

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