Beef and barley soup

We recently changed cafeteria vendors at work and I’m definitely going through an adjustment period. The last vendor had me totally spoiled with tomato soup. Their soup station had 4 spots for soup that rotated throughout the week, but over in a separate corner, next to the crazy sandwich lady (just don’t get in line if you aren’t ready to rapid fire your order her way) there was a stand alone soup and 9 times of 10 it was tomato basil. That was my “go to” corner of the cafeteria. My happy place. 


This new vendor clearly doesn’t realize the affinity that I (and surely many others) had for that perfect tomato basil combo, because they have yet to offer tomato soup AT ALL. Now, I’m open to change and I’m sampling some of the new offerings:
Minestrone: Blah
Southwestern Chicken: Yum!
Coconut curry with chicken: Meh

Nothing compares or fills me up like the tomato. I’ve stooped so low as to order from the “hot food” line. I was lured in by the roasted cauliflower and a friend’s assurance that the catfish was awesome. It was all ok, but the $8 price tag left me wanting soup. Do you know much soup I can get for $8? (2 servings plus change, but who’s counting?)



I’ve emailed the cafeteria managers begging asking for the return of daily tomato soup, but I’m not holding my breath. It may be time to consider homemade varieties that I can make in batches and freeze. As we wind down winter, this beef and barley is at the top of my list. It landed on the menu when Hubster revealed beef and barley to be one of his favorite soups. Why I’m just now discovering this after 7 plus years of marriage is beyond me. But I’m glad I did. I know there’s a lot of renditions of b&b soup, but this one hit a lot of great notes. The leeks basically melt into the broth. The mushrooms add just a touch of extra earthiness. And I’m on such a whole grain kick right now that barley can basically do no wrong.

My soup suggestion was sent to the cafeteria chef (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) so we’ll see if tomato soup starts making an appearance. In the meantime, I’m taking suggestions for easy soup that I can let simmer on a Sunday and then eat all week long. 


Beef and barley soup
Modified from Cooking Light

2 medium leeks
2 small carrots
4 oz button or baby portabella mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
Cooking spray
1 lb beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp canola oil
2 ½ cups low sodium beef stock
1 ½ c water
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
½ cup uncooked pearl barley

Chop leeks and carrots. Quarter the mushrooms, and mince the garlic. Heat a medium pot over high heat. Coat the pot with cooking spray. Cook the beef for 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove the beef from the pot.

Add the oil to the pot and increase the lower the heat to medium-high. Saute the leek, carrot, mushrooms and garlic for 4 minutes. Return the beef to the pan. Add the stock, water and seasoning; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Add the barley; cook for 30 minutes or until beef and barley are tender. Discard bay leaves and serve.

Note: This recipe is enough for 3 hearty portions. Next time I’m doubling it and whipping out the big pot.

Lisa @ The Meaning of Me - February 15, 2013 - 4:07 pm

Making a batch of soup and having frozen single-serves after the fact is my favorite thing. That’s why I love my “Soup of the Week” habit. It’s what I take for lunch all week long with either a salad or a sandwich, depending on my mood.

Meanwhile, it’s awesome that you only discovered your Hubster’s beef and barley soup love after so many years. I love when that happens – keeps things interesting!

Christina - February 15, 2013 - 4:35 pm

I hate tomato soup in general. However, there was a version that included a little onion, maybe garlic, canned/frozen tomatoes sauteed, a can of V8, a little heavy cream, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper (pureed) and fresh basil that was I must figure out that recipe again…or maybe you could take a stab :)

ModernMealsForTwo - February 15, 2013 - 6:02 pm

I need to back track through your blog and see what you’ve made :)

Ha! I know. I love that we’re still learning things about each other.

ModernMealsForTwo - February 15, 2013 - 6:03 pm

Interesting combo. I actually don’t make tomato soup at home because Hubster hates it. I think that’s why I loved eating it on a near daily basis at work.

Jess - February 19, 2013 - 9:27 pm

Oh, I so relate to the ups and downs of the workplace cafeteria. In DC, I’d get pulled in to the salad bar only to find out that my decision to put a hard-boiled egg on the top resulted in a 10$ salad. I’d opt for tomato soup any day! Hope they bring it back!

ModernMealsForTwo - February 21, 2013 - 8:26 am

The salad bar is a dangerous place! :)

Renee - February 21, 2013 - 9:25 am

I looove Tomato Soup! I get the microwavable ones from and I could seriously eat them every day. Last time I was home, my dad made some from scratch and it was delicious!! My husband doesn’t like it either, but I plan on making a big batch and freezing most.
Enough about Tomatoes though, this Beef & Barley soup looks delicious! I wish I had seen this recipe before I went to the grocery store and got stuff for Chili. Oh well, maybe next time.

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