Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pearled Barley Vegetable Soup with White Bean and Kale

My son refuses to wear pants to school.

No, no, it's not quite as bad as that.  He will wear shorts. 

But if you're not familiar with the climate here in northern California (I'm not sure we were) it is not exactly balmy this time of year. In fact, the big news last Friday was a severe weather watch flashing a risk of snow flurries to the Bay area (???).  

And that's when I drew a line in the snow with my son.

When I sat down with our youngest to discuss (again) his steadfast desire to wear shorts to school, he looked at me and said "I have to stay tough for when we move back to Canada mom." (which strangely, made me want to cry).  Then, in his characteristic way, he left me in stitches with his follow-up line which he delivered with a measured pinch of snark "besides, I have a reputation to uphold." 

Reputation indeed.  I'm not sure I can bluff my way through another phone call with the school inquiring about whether this apparently well-mannered but clearly misguided 13-year-old child has parents (wink).

So, now that winter has firmly established itself all over the world, I thought I would share the soup that I have been making every second day or so for the past two weeks. This is one that the whole family can enjoy.

There is nothing fancy or complicated about this soup.  No unexpected ingredients or exotic seasonings. But if you're looking for comfort and warmth, it's about as good as it gets. The chewy bits of barley and tender cannellini beans are so satisfying amidst the colourful veggies and, nutrition wise, this warming bowl of goodness is a power house. A great way to amp up on antioxidants for the holiday season.

If you're new (or resistant) to kale, you may find that working it into soup like this is a great way to introduce it into your diet. The cooking process softens the kale making it easier to digest and the water-soluble nutrients are absorbed into the broth which is ideal (as opposed to being tossed out with the water you might otherwise cook kale in).

If you missed my segment last year on top strategies for building a strong immune system during the long winter months, you can find it here.

Pearled Barley Vegetable Soup with White Bean and Kale

Pearled Barley Vegetable Soup with White Bean and Kale
  • 64 oz (about 8 cups) 1.8 kg vegetable (or chicken) broth
  • 3/4 cup (132 g) uncooked pearled barley
  • 15.5 oz (about 2 cups) 439 g white beans (cannellini beans), thoroughly rinsed if using canned
  • 1 container (8 oz/227 g) sliced mushrooms of choice 
  • 6 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium size red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, washed and chopped or torn into bite sized pieces (discard thick stems and work from greenery)
  • 1 large purple onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • Handful of sprouts or shredded cabbage for topping, optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Makes 10 or so servings

Nutrition and Cooking Notes:
  1. If you are buying the vegetable/chicken broth for this recipe, try to find one without all the additives especially if you are MSG sensitive (a migraine trigger for many).  The majority of commercial soup brands contain the flavour enhancer MSG but you wouldn't necessarily be aware of this without investigating the ingredient list -- monosodium glutamate. The good news is that most grocery stores carry at least one or more natural soup brands with low-sodium, MSG free broth (they will frequently label "MSG Free" directly on the front package).
  2. You can season this soup any way you desire.  It's perfectly fine on it's own but I also like to serve it with a splash of soy, balsamic and/or worcestershire sauce before topping it with coleslaw (shredded cabbage).
  3. If you're in the mood for thermogenic heat, you can add some chopped chili peppers, chili powder/flakes, a pinch of cayenne or chipotle as desired.  Smoked paprika would also make a delicious variation.
  4. Depending on how thick you like your soup, you may wish to add more broth once the barley is cooked and you see what the consistency is.  I love broth and find it comforting to sip on so I make little adjustments as I go along. 

  1. Sauté garlic, onion and mushrooms in a skillet set to low-medium heat with some olive oil until onion is translucent and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot on stove set to medium heat, pour vegetable (or chicken) broth and add pearl barley, sliced carrots, red pepper and white beans.
  3. Add cooked garlic, onion and mushroom to the pot and stir to combine.
  4. Raise the heat and allow soup to come to a gentle boil and then cover pot and reduce to simmer until barley is cooked through (it will swell up in the pot) about 20 minutes.
  5. Add kale to soup, stirring to combine.
  6. Serve the soup in individual bowls or cups and top with sprouts or shredded cabbage, as desired.
  7. Stay warm!
© Inspired Edibles

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I have to share this little delight with you from my Christmas Pinterest Boards.

I'm completely smitten with the idea of these rosemary wreath napkins rings (or place card holders) that I found over at Spoon Fork Bacon.

How fantastic are these? A little whiff of rosemary with every wipe.

Jenny and Teri Lyn will take you through all the steps necessary to convert this gorgeous herb into a decorative place card for your holiday table (complete with stunning photos).

Rosemary Wreath Place Cards with bows
Photo Credit: Spoon Fork Bacon


  1. Haha Kelly! This made me laugh out loud. I know a few boys who are stubborn about the wardrobe choices. Who knew that pants could receive so much disfavor? This soup looks just delicious though. The perfect way to warm up after a cold day (without pants on!)

  2. Kelly!! Boys are so crazy sometimes!! My boyfriend came to my house yesterday and he was in shorts. It SNOWED yesterday. Thank God we are going back to New Zealand where it's summer and his shorts belong.

    This soup looks so yummy! A winter classic I would say, I could definitely go for a big bowl of this since there is snow on the ground and it's so chilly out! I am trying so hard to keep my immune system strong right now...the last thing I want is to get sick before I go on the plane!!

    I LOOOOVE those rosemary napkin rings. My favourite herb, and who knew they could be so rustic and beautiful on a place setting. Love ittttt!

  3. Sandra @ Kitchen ApparelDecember 11, 2013 at 9:30 PM

    You always have the best ingredient lists, Kelly. The soup sounds wonderful and I'm even a little less skeptical about the kale this time! The rosemary napkin rings are just perfect! I really want to make them at my next dinner party. And your son is too funny. It is so much fun hearing about your conversations with your boys....all the meanwhile I am getting a glimpse of what is in my future :) XOXO

  4. "I have a reputation to uphold." That's hilarious! So in just a short few weeks he has already built up a such a strong reputation. Good for him! :) Great soup for the winter months Kelly! Talk about nutritious and delicious! I don't use barley need as much as I should. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Both white beans and kale are my favourites! The soup looks warming and satisfying. It might not be fancy or exotic, but it's exactly what I need!

  6. I have to admit that I'm surprised by how chilly your weather can be Kelly. I loved hearing about your son and his shorts, I see the kids walking to the high school in the morning and I'm totally baffled that they are not freezing to death! The girls are wearing mini skirts (part of their uniform) with bare legs, I'm chilled just looking at them and I have the luxury of wearing pants.

    I made a kale and navy bean soup a couple of weeks ago and it's schedule for the 30! Great minds. The napkin rings are delightful! I'm definitely making them for Christmas Day dinner!


  7. I'm so glad I caught this post!! I love reading stories about your boys and your interactions with them...they sound like quite the pair of characters (and clever to boot just like their mama ;-) -- 'I've got a reputation to uphold' how great is that?! Too cute... they must keep you on your toes for sure. You know, I was just thinking I should be making a bigger effort on the veggie side (I'm a little shy of the daily requirement - ha!) and what better way than to toss them all into a warming, colorful soup? Sounds like a delicious option to me -- thanks Kelly!

  8. Love this rustic, hearty soup Kelly - perfect for this time of year.

  9. Haha, your son is adorable :) And this soup is my perfect winter soup- healthy,easy and comforting. I'm totally craving a bowl now, Kelly!!!

  10. Heeheeh, he seems to think he's got a tough guy image to uphold coming from the cold north!! I think he may be taking it a step too far with temperatures hovering around 0 (33 F) in the morning but boys will be boys :) xo.

  11. He comes out with some good ones for sure -- keeps me guessing (and mostly laughing!).

  12. Aren't the napkin rings the best? I think they were conceived as place card holders but I love the idea of rolling a napkin in them... can't believe you cats are off to New Zealand!! I'm thinking of you KoKo -- I hope you have a blast! xo

  13. Thanks Sandra -- it sure is an adventure parenting boys -- LOL -- they're awesome!! xo

  14. I know, I know... the funny thing is he's not fashion conscious at all in the conventional sense -- he goes to school looking like he's combed his hair with a pork chop and wears the same shirt 5 days in a row - lol! He's just got it in his head that he has to be a tough guy about the cold coming from Canada... :) too funny.

  15. Thanks Angie! I love them too.

  16. I'm surprised about the cold here too Eva... you know I was chatting with a mom at the soccer field this week, she said she has lived here all of her life and that she doesn't remember a fall/early winter this cold here -- LOL! just my luck, bringing the cold from Canada... on the other hand, with the brilliant sun shining mid-day, it can feel like mid to high teens in the sunshine which is pretty easy to take -- it's the morning and evenings in the desert climate that will get you.

    Meanwhile, I cannot believe how organized your are with your posts...scheduled for the 30th... really?? I love from post to post :) xo.

  17. Love it Elizabeth! So happy I can entertain from time to time -- haha! I credit my boys for supplying me with good material :)

    You know, you're so right about the veggies --- we are all below the recommended/ideal amount and stews, soups are such a great way to work them in there... we don't have to limit ourselves to yummy too! (truly ;-) xo

  18. Thanks Jeanette - super simple but so comforting this time of year!

  19. Gah, I was the other way... my mother would sometimes force me to wear shorts to school in "summer"... despite the fact that when I woke up it was (well... it seemed so to 7 year-old me) freezing cold! Reputation be damned, I'd have worn trousers all the time if I could!

    I like the look of the soup Kelly, mainly because it seems so familiar. It's almost exactly how I make my stews, but with more liquid (naturally, being a soup!) :)


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