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Vegetable Barley Simmer (Or Soup)

Did you ever eat canned vegetable soup as a kid or yesterday and fall in love with those tiny bits of something you couldn’t identify? That was barley. I bought a box of “quick cooking” barley a month ago, and only just now felt the urge to experiment. The result was a dish my hubs says tastes like name brand hearty vegetable soup, if it were condensed.

This recipe has 3 variations. (Or 300 for those with imaginations.) I hope you like it.


1 green bell pepper, diced (1 cup)

1 medium onion, diced (2/3 cup)

3 - 4 stalks celery, diced (1 cup)

10 medium mushrooms, diced (1 cup)

8 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 large carrot, sliced paper thin (1 1/2 - 2 cups)

*1 package frozen peas (optional)

Veggie broth: 1 1/3 cup + 1/2 cup for basic recipe

Veggie broth: 3 more cups to make soup variation.

Tamari aka Vegan Soy Sauce (start with 2 tablespoons, increase to taste at the end.)

Grated orange or lemon zest to taste. (About 1 tablespoon for me.)

*1/2 cup tomato paste for options 2 or 3

Tip: Read the instructions through once, before you begin.


1. Dice the veggies and mushrooms - keep the mushrooms separate.

2. Dump the veggie mixture into a great big skillet with 2 tablespoons of veggie broth and 2 tablespoons of Tamari. Cover tightly and put on high heat until it begins to simmer, then lower the heat and simmer covered, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms, orange or lemon zest, and peas if using. Again raise the heat until it’s simmering, then lower it and simmer covered for a few more minutes until the vegetables are just beginning to get tender.

4. *If you’re making Option 2, add the tomato paste now. Stir carefully to get it evenly distributed. Otherwise, skip to step 5.

Tip: Do not overcook. Veggies should not be done yet.

Tip: The carrots will take the longest to cook, so it’s important to slice them paper thin. I used the thin slicing blade on my food processor for this and it was perfect.

5. While veggies simmer, cook the barley according to package directions, but use vegetable broth instead of water. I used “Mothers” brand quick cooking barley, which took 1 and 1/3 cups of broth for 2/3 cup of the barley and made about 2 cups. Always bring the liquid to a boil before adding the barley.

Tip: Taste the barley as it cooks. You want to get it to the perfect texture for you. I tasted at 10 minutes, cooked it for another 2 minutes. Perfect texture for me. The barley should cook away or absorb most of its cooking liquid.

6. Once the vegetables are almost, but not quite done enough to eat, remove the cover to let the remaining liquid simmer away.

7. Add the cooked barley and heat another 2 minutes. Taste and add more soy sauce if you want. Stir gently. Cover and let stand 5 minutes so the flavors settle.

Option 1: Serve as a main dish as is. (No tomato paste.)

Option 2: Add tomato paste to the simmering veggies in Step 4. This changes the entire personality of this as a main dish.

Option 3: Skip the skillet. Throw all the veggies and the raw barely into a soup pan or crock pot. Mix the tomato paste into the veggie broth, then pour over the veggies. Use enough to cover them generously and simmer until done.


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