Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Beef Barley Soup with Mushrooms

The Recipe: A hearty, meaty soup that's almost thick enough to call "stew" but remains somehow, soup, still. It's a wintery, filling soup, packed with root vegetables and earthy mushrooms and the addictive nuttiness of barley.

The Conversation: Restoring a kitchen mojo.

Beef Barley Soup with Mushrooms ♥, hearty, healthy, satisfying.

What do you do when you lose your kitchen mojo? Do you just let it go? wait for it to return? fight to get it back? order pizza? :-)

My mojo loss skews toward indecision. Like all of us, I suppose, I prefer to cook from the pantry and the freezer, with any luck, dinner will be quick and healthy. But as a blogger, there's another dimension: old recipes which need new pictures or new recipes that need work before they're ready to share. So there I am, stuck in a mire of hungry indecision, too many choices, too many limitations.

To jump start dinner, I ignore my files, knowing that sooner than later, some recipe will pop up, usually from a favorite fellow blogger or Canadian Living or Vegetarian Times. One source that appeals surprisingly often? The recipe in the New York Times' Sunday magazine.

This Beef Barley Soup recipe was in Sunday's paper, Fat Dad: Love in a Bowl of Soup. The story by author Dawn Lerman explores the complicated relationship between food and love, especially the struggle between Lerman's "fat" father and his "food pushy" mother. There's a whole series of "Fat Dad" essays, they're all fascinating.

But Sunday's recipe pushed me to the basement freezer for soup bones and back into the kitchen. On Day One as snow fell outside, I made homemade beef stock. (Yes it's important but if you're not up for that, good homemade chicken stock would work, so would a good-quality commercial paste like Better Than Bouillon.) On Day Two, I made the soup in the morning and finished it just before dinner.

For most cooks, Beef Barley Soup with Mushrooms is probably a weekend recipe. It is a project, albeit a worthy one: and nothing difficult, mind you, just not a soup that'll hit the table in Rachael Ray-time. But it feels like real cooking, sure-footed and simultaneous sustenance and satisfaction.

Is my mojo back? Well, let's just say that those first spoonfuls of soup were The.Best.Ever. So Good.

Beef Barley Soup with Mushrooms ♥, hearty, healthy, satisfying.


Hands-on time:
Day One, 30 minutes over about 6 hours
Day Two, 30 minutes over about 2 hours
Time to table: 24 hours
Makes 16 cups

  • 3 pounds meaty beef soup bones
  • 2 pounds bone-in round steak or beef chuck
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 4 carrots, trimmed and peeled, cut into rough chunks
  • 4 ribs celery, trimmed, cut into rough chunks
  • Salt to taste

  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt or to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 8 carrots, trimmed and peeled, cut into rounds or chunks
  • 8 ribs celery, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, caps broken into large chunks, stems chopped fine
  • 1 cup (200g) pearl barley
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped fine (about 2 cups)

  • Cooked beef, cut or torn into bite-size pieces
  • Additional salt and pepper, as needed
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish

DAY ONE: ROAST SOUP BONES Heat oven to 400F/200C. Place foil on a baking sheet, arrange the beef bones on the sheet and roast for about 45 minutes. Move the bones plus any juices and rendered fat to a large stock pot.

SIMMER STOCK Cut the round steak or beef chuck into large pieces, add to the stock pot. Add the water, onion, carrots and celery too. Bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 2 hours.

REMOVE THE MEAT Pull out the big pieces of round steak or beef chuck, cover and refrigerate to use on Day Two.

REDUCE THE STOCK Taste the stock. If it's watery, uncover the stock pot and continue to simmer until it reduces to about 8 cups, this took about 2 hours. (If you end up with more than 8 cups, no problem, just save it for another purpose. If you end up with less, no problem, just supplement with a little chicken stock or bouillon or even water.) Once it's reduced, pull out the bones and other solids and discard these.

REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT Cover the stockpot and refrigerate overnight so the fat will congeal on top. Pull off the fat: wow, my stock yielded a full 3/4 of a pound of fat!

DAY TWO: SEASON THE STOCK Taste the stock, season with salt and pepper.

ADD VEGETABLES, SIMMER 30 MINUTES Add the onion, carrot, celery, parsnips, mushrooms, barley, tomato paste and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes or until the barley is soft. (Stop here if making ahead of time. Return to a simmer to continue.)

ADD MEAT, SIMMER 45 MINUTES Add the meat, let the soup simmer for another 45 minutes, the broth will thicken slightly. Along the way, taste and adjust the seasoning.

SERVE To serve, ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with a little fresh parsley and enjoy, with gusto!

ALANNA's TIPS Sixteen cups is a lot of soup! Make sure your soup pot is big enough. If you already have homemade beef stock, go ahead, use it. You will want to cook the round steak or chuck ahead of time though, you could brown it in a skillet, say. So much carrot and celery? Too much, I thought! But it wasn't, it was perfect. Don't skip the parsnip, it adds a lovely underlying sweetness that's captivating. Why tear the mushrooms into pieces instead of slicing them with a knife? It's a trick I learned from from Cook's Illustrated's World's Best Green Bean Casserole. When mushroom caps are torn, the irregular shapes prove the presence of fresh mushrooms. Somehow, chopped mushrooms are just too reminiscent of canned mushroom soup. Even sliced mushrooms are just a little bit slimy and icky. Torn mushrooms? Perfect!

Per Cup: 193 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 44mg Cholesterol; 521mg Sodium; 20g Carb; 5g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 20g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 3 & PointsPlus 5 & SmartPoints 5 CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 1/2 cup (10g protein). This recipe has been "Alanna-sized" with more calorie-free flavor and protein.

Mushroom Umami

Broth for Beef Barley Soup with Mushrooms ♥, hearty, healthy, satisfying.

Why is the broth so delicious? I think there are three reasons. Good savory beef stock. The sweetness of parsnips. But most of all? There's an underlying earthiness that comes from the mushrooms.

More Hearty Soup Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
How to Make Homemade Vegetable Soup Creamy Wild Rice Soup Homemade Lentil Soup
Smoked Turkey Chowder Easy Chicken or Turkey Tortilla Soup Sausage & Kale Split Pea Soup
~ more soup recipes~

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

© Copyright 2016 Kitchen Parade

Friday, February 12, 2016

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

The Recipe: A simple chocolate shortbread cookie, tender and crisp, barely sweet.

The Conversation: A Valentine to nurses, especially the ones caring for my almost 90-year old father.

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies ♥

"Hello, it's me." No, not Adele, sorry. (Wow. Going on 1.2 billion listens on YouTube alone!)

I sure didn't plan for a long break between our Family Shortbread before Christmas to now, Chocolate Shortbread Cookies just before Valentine's. Thanks to all who noticed, who wrote to ask if everything is okay. I do thank you.

But now here it is, Valentines Day, the herald of romantic love, the love between sweethearts. But right now? For me? The love that bursts from my heart is for nurses and caregivers.

You see, in the last six weeks, I found myself living a crash course in Distant Dads and Daughters as my sister and I grapple to help our aging father from afar.

Assessing the situation with incomplete and shifting information. Crossing the country, twice already and no doubt again in the future, to be present in person. Long weeks away from home. The ups and downs of pain management prescription drugs. The inadequacy of home health care. The lure and confusion of emergency rooms. The puzzle of one physician after another, five minutes of interaction, then whoosh, gone. The well of emotion when the hospital therapy dog's name was Lady (we've had three Lady dogs in our family). The struggle between the memory of a young athletic self and the reality of today's diminished self. The tears when more of life is past than ahead. The shock of gaping holes in Medicare. The crush of paranoia. The relief of a fine, fine rehab facility. The sense of message when the welcome nurse's name was Shirley (my mom's name, long gone from this world). The slow, tedious work of regaining strength and mobility.

I could go on and on. But I won't. Versions of our situation are found in every family. As difficult as it is, I know that ours is not the worst.

But besides, oh my! Amid the anguish, what blessings, the nurses! The healing power of day-to-day, hour-to-hour and even minute-to-minute care. Such gentle hands, such very capable touch. The quiet smiles of understanding and encouragement. The skill of keeping dignity intact. Nurses: Such miracles you are!

So to Tiffany. And Takoshia, Ana, Sarah and Marcia. To Domonic. To Meeka, Chris, Cheryl and Kim. To Janet and Aleesha. To Peggy. To Denise and Jennifer. And Heather. And to all those nurse with such skill and poise and warmth.

You are my Dad's Valentine. Near or far, a daughter could be no more grateful.

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies ♥


Hands-on time: 15 minutes to mix, 30 to roll & bake
Time to table: 3 hours
Makes about 4-1/2 dozen small cookies or fewer larger cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 225g) salted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar (125g) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (40g) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
  • Coarse sugar, for sprinkling, optional
  • Raw sugar, for coating logs, optional
  • Powdered sugar, for rolling, if needed

AN HOUR BEFORE MIXING Let the butter and vanilla rest in your mixing bowl for one hour. Line baking sheets with parchment. Measure the sugar and salt into one small bowl, the flour and cocoa powder into another.

MIX THE SHORTBREAD DOUGH With a hand mixer, mix the butter and vanilla together on low speed until thoroughly combined and the butter is slightly soft; stop at least once and probably twice to use a knife to scrape the butter off the mixing blades and a spatula to scrape the mixing bowl, especially the bottom of the bowl.

Slowly pour in the sugar in a stream. At low to medium speed, combine butter and sugar until completely combined; stop to scrape at least once, maybe two or three times.

At low speed, mix in about a third of the flour-cocoa mixture, just until combined; scrape the beaters and the bowl. Add the remaining flour-cocoa mixture. At low speed, combine the mixture, it will start off floury and then sandy, keep mixing until the dough comes together.

CHILL FOR AN HOUR Separate dough into two roughly equal pieces. For Slice 'n' Bake Chocolate Shortbread Rounds, form each piece into a round log; for Chocolate Shortbread Fingers (my favorite), form each piece into a round log, then flatten the logs slightly; for Chocolate Shortbread Cutout Shapes, form each piece into a flat disk.

Wrap the logs or disks in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 - 60 minutes, less time the thinner the pieces, more time the thicker the pieces. (If the dough refrigerates longer than this, it'll need to be left out at room temperature for 30 - 60 minutes to reach a good working temperature. The dough should be firm but pliable, with firm edges and easily lifted from underneath without breaking apart or bending.)

ROLL & BAKE Set oven to 300F/150C with the rack in the center.

For Slice 'n' Bake Chocolate Shortbread Rounds, roll the log in raw sugar, gently pressing the log into the sugar to completely coat. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into rounds and transfer onto a baking sheet.

For Chocolate Shortbread Fingers, with your hands, lightly brush the dough log with powdered sugar. With a rolling pin, roll the flattened log into a much longer and slightly wider piece of dough; use the flat edge of a long knife to neaten the long edges; make sure the dough is of even thickness throughout. If you like, once the dough is the right thickness, use a fluted-edge cutting device to give a nice shape to the edges, I love this wavy crinkle cutter. First, cut off a tiny tiny bit of dough on all four sides, then cut cross-wise into "fingers". Use an offset spatula to lift each finger onto a baking sheet.

For Chocolate Shortbread Cutout Shapes, with your hands, dust the first dough disk with powdered sugar. Roll out the disk to an even thickness, use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Use an offset spatula to lift each shape onto a baking sheet. Set aside the scraps. Repeat with the second dough disk. Combine the scraps from both disks and roll again. Sprinkle the cookies with coarse sugar, if desired.

Whatever shape you choose, please know that shortbread "relaxes" more than "spreads" during baking but still, don't crowd the cookies on the baking sheet. The baking time will vary based on how thick the cookies are. Until you get to know your own oven with how thick you roll shortbread, start checking at 10 minutes; quite thick cookies can take 25 - 35 minutes. When done, the cookies should be crispy at the edges and on the bottoms but quite white in the center even though baked all the way through. Once baked, the cookies should "snap" when bitten into but shouldn't be hard.

FOR THE BEST SHORTBREAD There are so many tips included with the recipe for our Family Shortbread, they all apply to Chocolate Shortbread Cookies as well.
UNSWEETENED COCOA POWDER I am much-much partial to Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder, it's relatively easy to find but not every supermarket carries it. It's worth seeking out: it's a much deeper, darker chocolate. When I use regular cocoa powder, chocolate baked goods just don't have that chocolate "oomph" that's so crave-worthy.

Whole Recipe (for easy math for different cookie yields): 3077 Calories; 178g Tot Fat; 120g Sat Fat; 488mg Cholesterol; 2482mg Sodium; 329g Carb; 20g Fiber; 117g Sugar; 36g Protein.
Per Cookie, assumes 54 small cookies: 54 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 8mg Cholesterol; 44mg Sodium; 6g Carb; 0g Fiber; 2g Sugar; 1g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 1 & SmartPoints 2 (FYI, 2 cookies = 2.5 & 3 & 5 points, respectively)

More Chocolate for Your Valentine

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Chocolate Decadence Cake Easy-Easy Chocolate Sheet Cake Chocolate Cream Puffs Stuffed with Strawberries & Cream

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

© Copyright 2016 Kitchen Parade