Meatless Monday #4: Mushroom-Barley Soup... in a crock pot!

Life got away from us last week, with extra hours at work and some household chores that just wouldn't let up. The weather has turned bitter cold here in Western Washington, and we haven't seen temps in the 40s for several days now. The winds have also picked up considerably, and they whip through our neighborhood especially fast because we are at the top of a hill very close to Puget Sound.

What this means for our dinner plates is soup, soup, soup! We love all things hot, savory, earthy and comforting during a cold snap like this, so the weekend was full of them. Perhaps our greatest weekend achievement was also the simplest (which is precisely why it is so great!) and the recipe made enough to provide leftovers for Lee's lunch on his 4th Meatless Monday!

Last week, I picked up a copy of The Simple Little Vegan Slow Cooker by Michelle A. Rivera. at the library. It's a cookbook full of main dishes, soups and desserts that are all 100% vegan, super simple to prepare and make, and delicious. In it, we found one slam-dunk recipe that will definitely be repeated on a weekly basis throughout this winter: Mushroom-Barley Soup.

This great winter soup features pearl barley, which is a good vegan source of iron and fiber. It also helps to create thickness and texture to the broth that just can't be achieved any other way. Once cooked, the barley is soft and just slightly chewy. I've always thought barley was the perfect grain to pair with mushrooms since they compliment each other so nicely without competing.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that Lee and I both LOVE mushrooms. We could eat them every day in every dish and never tire of them. If you feel even remotely as strongly about mushrooms as we do, you'll love this soup!

Mushroom-Barley Soup
Adapted from The Simple Little Vegan Slow Cooker
Yield: About 4 servings

2 cups organic low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
1-1/2 pounds fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup pearled barley, uncooked
1 Tbsp Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp grilled chicken seasoning (I used Trader Joe's 21 Season Salute)
1 tsp dark mushroom soy sauce per serving, to finish

Combine all ingredients except the soy sauce in a crock pot (slow cooker). Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Ladle into a bowl and spoon soy sauce on top. Serve with a nice crusty baguette to mop up every last drop!

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