Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fast Food 4 - Barley Mushroom Soup

I've been sick. I made it through one of the worst winters in my lifetime with nary a sniffle - quite miraculous considering the previous 2 years I'd been sick from December through May - just to wake up last Saturday, the tail end of my husband's vacation week, with a full blown flu, including a few days of 101ยบ fever. I spent a lot of time this week in bed, sweating, dizzy, sleeping, and watching DVD's that I had seen in the past. My head was too messed up to watch anything new.

My son has been great during all this. He volunteered to cook any meal I wanted him to, as long as my husband did all the cleaning afterwards. This was accepted. Let the games begin!

Instead of all the meals I had planned originally, I hustled to make a much simpler menu for the week, one a clueless 30 year old male can make with the least amount of trouble. We had a few days of pasta, a rice meal made easy with Success rice, microwaved vegetables and canned beans. He tackled soup twice, using Mary McDougall's easy recipes from the McDougall Made Easy/Irresistable DVD's. He learned through trial and error how to use the immersion blender. Good thing he already knows how to do the laundry. I don't need to say any more about that. :)

By Friday I felt things had turned around and felt that by the next day I can stay out of bed a bit longer, and even do some of my own cooking. With the flu came inner ear fluid causing me to get dizzy if I stood for too long or moved my head too fast. By Jeopardy time I was able to bring my own plate to the kitchen and even offered to do dishes. I was chased away. 

But earlier in the day my son was headed to the grocery store and volunteered to pick up anything I wanted, so on the shopping list I put the ingredients for Barley Mushroom soup from Jeff Novick's Fast Food 4: Beyond the Basics DVD, one of the DVD's I had rewatched the day before. I figured it was easy enough that my son could make it if I had a relapse and couldn't do it myself.

That grocery trip was the beginning of the problem.

He calls me on his cell after he gets squeezed out of the frozen vegetable aisle to tell me there was absolutely no soup or stew mix anywhere. There were 6 workers in the already crowded aisle doing inventory. The manager puts displays of junk down the center so there's barely enough room for one cart to be pushed through from one end to the other - there's no place to stop without blocking the whole flow of traffic. So now, besides the merchandise obstacles and others trying to shop, there are the workers ignoring all the customers, preventing them from looking at or grabbing things from the displays. My son can get rude when he wants to and I believe him when he said he said he elbowed his way in and saw no soup or stew veggies. That has happened to me on a regular shopping day too many times to count. I told him not to worry about it, just put the mushrooms back and I'll find another soup to make today, one whose ingredients I already have in the house.

He didn't.

He gets home and I help unload the bags and he shows me this one bag of what is labeled "soup vegetables" that are from some unknown little company that imported them from Mexico, and instead of potatoes, carrots, onions and celery, contain peas, potatoes, celery, corn and okra. OKRA?? A sigh sneaked out of me totally by reflex and he got angry, saying he battled the inventory workers to go back into that section of the aisle to take another look and grabbed the ONLY bag of soup/stew vegetables in the entire store, why can't I be thankful! I sighed again. I AM thankful, I'm just tired, sick, and really should have been back in bed at that point. He stormed away in a huff. I put the rest of the frozen food and refrigerated stuff away and went back to bed for a few hours.

When I got up, I looked at the mushrooms. No crimini, just 2 boxes of sliced buttons, that looked to be a few days past freshness and heading into slimy mold territory. I looked around first then sighed as silently as I could. I really wish he had done as I told him, put the mushrooms back, and not continued the search for the vegetables.

Welcome to Saturday morning. I'm feeling a bit better, even showered and got dressed. Made my own oatmeal for breakfast. Actually looked at the newspapers that piled up over the past few days. Amazing how I really didn't miss anything.

Now comes time to gather the soup ingredients:
2 cups of vegetable broth
2 boxes mushrooms (again, I only have buttons, not a mix as Jeff suggests)
1 pound bag of soup veggies
1 pound bag of frozen baby lima beans
1 cup quick cooking barley

Although Jeff specifically shows in this DVD that the Pacific brand of low-sodium vegetable broth, the stuff Mary Esselstyn recommended, doesn't fit with his guidelines because of the sodium level, this is what I used. I had 2 cups left from a previous recipe that also needed only 2 cups and had this in the freezer and took it out to defrost earlier in the day.

Those mushrooms. They look even worse now. Many are totally grey, so slimy I don't even want to touch them, and the gills so big they look like shark's teeth ready to bite! Out of the 2 boxes I may have been able to salvage a cup and a half. I'm tossing a can of no-salt added mushroom stems-and-pieces into the pot.

Soup veggies. I started to pick out the okra but saw they took up a lot of volume, and if I took out more than the half cup I already did there wouldn't be many veggies left. Now slimy soup veggies on top of the slimy mushrooms. The potatoes were such a fine dice they were about half the size of frozen Southern style has browns. They're no bigger than the peas and corn. I added a handful of frozen onions from an open bag I had in the freezer.

Barley. I already mentioned this ingredient in another post. I was all ready!

Lima beans. I already had a bag of baby limas in the freezer from another recipe I was going to make but never did. Finally, something went right! The written recipe in the PDF files that is on the DVD calls for half a pound, but int he video itself he uses the whole pound, so that's what I did. That's fine, because I love lima beans.

Jeff added an additional 3 cups of water to the pot. I was going to let this simmer longer than 10 minutes to draw some more flavor out of the mushrooms so added 4 cups, instead.

A generous heap of garlic powder topped it off.

After a few minutes I was actually able to smell it cooking! I haven't been able to smell much of anything all week, so this made it all the more delightful!

As for taste? Well, remember I DO have a flu and my nose IS still stuffed up and this cough will be lingering for a few weeks, if it follows my usual pattern. It definitely would have tasted a lot better with fresher mushrooms and the right vegetable combination, but it didn't taste bad, just blander than other mushroom barley soups I've had in the past. My husband said it tasted just fine to him.

Aside from all the angst getting this from the store to table, this was one of the easiest pots of mushroom barley I've ever made. I will definitely try this again in the future, but the next time, I'll buy the ingredients, even if I have to hit multiple stores.

And as for my son? He apologized later on for his attitude. It seems he encountered a lot of crazies on the road between the house and the store, then every aisle in the store was clogged by inventory takers, and as he was walking to the store from the parking lot, a bus had just discharged a few dozen people from one of the senior housing projects. He said he didn't make it out of the produce aisle before a migraine set in. Under normal circumstances he would have grabbed the one item he went for in the first place and come home, but he didn't want to disappoint his poor sick mother and toughed it out, going above and beyond to get those veggies, even after I told him to forget it. He wanted to be a good son.


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