I disappeared from the blogosphere this week. If you're one of those awesome people who eagerly anticipate the next recipe cooking up in my kitchen...I am sorry that I've left you hangin' since Monday!
Wanna see where I was?
Like you have a choice...
I'm an aunt...again! My husband's sister and her husband welcomed their first baby into the world early on Friday morning. She is just the cutest, sweetest, lil' thing! Here she is on her birth DAY : )
But I can't blame my absence completely on a new baby...Baby Audrey is only part of the reason I've been away from my kitchen AND computer all week. Meeting our new niece wasn't even in the plan when we hit the highway for Indiana on Wednesday morning. We weren't supposed to meet her until Thanksgiving (provided that she arrived in the window of time that we would be visiting for the holiday). This time, we were making a quick trip: in for dinner, out again after breakfast to finish the week with work and school. Wednesday was my mother-in-law's 60th birthday and we were her birthday surprise. Since we live over 5 hours away, she did not expect to see us until around Thanksgiving. We knew she wouldn't be looking for us at her birthday dinner, especially after we had called to wish her a happy day from afar that morning. We arrived early to the restaurant where the rest of my husband's family had gathered to celebrate and promptly "hid out" behind a wall. When my mother-in-law rounded the corner on the way to our reserved table, we were standing in her path. She was definitely surprised. Later, she said that she thought she was "seeing things". Don't you just love it when a surprise works out?
During dinner, the conversation turned to the most exciting upcoming family event- the arrival of our newest family member. My husband's sister was approaching her due date. We started placing bets on when baby Audrey would make her appearance. My sister-in-law's due date was just 10 days away, but as I looked at her, I thought that she looked pretty wonderful for someone so close to her due date. "She doesn't look puffy or miserable enough yet", I thought to myself. Then I threw out my guess... "She'll go 3 days past her due date. I guess the 23rd." The guesses continued around the table to my husband. His prediction: "It'll be tonight". We laughed a little...
As we were packing up to leave on Thursday morning, the telephone rang. Caller ID showed that my sister-in-law's husband was calling. "Oh. Better get that. You never know..." We joked. My father-in-law answered. My mother-in-law and I listened to his end of the conversation: "Yes. They are still here."(I guess he was talking about my husband, the kids, and I). Then he sounded surprised. "No kidding?!" This is about when my mother-in-law and I started jumping up and down, squealing with excitement. We lost track of the phone conversation after that. It turns out that around 10 pm, just a few hours after we left the birthday party, my sister-in-law's water had broken. They'd been in the hospital all night. A flurry of activity ensued soon after the phone call. My husband and I began making calls, "cancelling our day" back in Ohio. Everyone quickly dressed and headed for the hospital to meet the new baby.
Since she'd already been in the hospital overnight, we all figured that the baby would make her appearance soon. My husband and I assumed that we would offer congratulations, snuggle with the baby, and be on the road home by afternoon. Wrong. As is often the case with first babies, Miss Audrey took her time in entering into the outside world. I guess that no one had informed her about the trips to Toys R Us with grandma and afternoon hot fudge sundaes yet.
By late afternoon it was plain that we'd be spending another night in Indiana. After 11 hours in the hospital waiting room, walking the halls, and visiting the cafeteria repeatedly with our daughters...my brother-in-law came out to report that it would still be some time before we would meet the newest member of our family. I called it a night and took our girls back to the in-laws and put them to bed while I waited by my phone to hear the news. My husband stayed behind to congratulate his little sister and meet his new niece when she arrived. Sometime after 1 am on Friday morning, I went to bed...with my phone. The next thing I knew, it was nearly 3 am and my husband woke me up with a picture on his phone and some stats. Mom and baby were doing fine. Yay!
We visited the proud new parents the next morning and grabbed some lunch before we began our return trip. I am SO glad that we were back in Indiana for the birth of our niece, but I was certainly ready for my own bed...and a reunion with my laptop.
Last night, once the car was unpacked and the kids were in bed, I grabbed the computer to begin a new post. I had no sooner typed in my password when there was a loud "POP!" followed by...blackness and total silence. Our power went out. Bummer. No Internet. After discovering it could be hours until power was restored to the affected strip of houses on our street, my husband built a fire and we enjoyed a peaceful Friday night.
The lights did came on again...sometime in the early morning. I know because, I was awakened by all of the lights in our bedroom shining in my eyes, all at once, long before the sun was due to come up. Ugh.
So...I've been away from my kitchen, but luckily I created this wonderful, hearty, beef and barley soup a couple of days before the double birthday adventure began!
I based this soup on the Oxtail Soup that I made back in June. We loved the oxtail soup, but I've been craving beef and barley soup this fall AND I was looking for something a little quicker to conjure in my soup pot. I used a jar of home canned beef in this soup, which makes for an excellent short cut. Leftover pot roast would work well here too.
Here's how it went:
First, I chopped an onion, some carrots, and celery. Then I heated some oil in my soup pot and sauteed the veggies until they began to get tender. While the onion, carrots, and celery sauteed, I minced a shallot and a couple of cloves of garlic. I added them to the mix and sauteed for a minute or two longer, until fragrant.
Then I dumped in a jar of home canned beef. I love that it comes out of the jar perfectly cooked and tender. I use the stuff in everything from beef and noodles to burrito filling. If you find yourself with an abundance of beef, I highly recommend pressure canning some of it. Since most of you don't have home canned beef on hand, I'd recommend 3-4 cups of cooked, tender roast or stew meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir.
Add in beef broth and Italian seasoning. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
While the soup simmers, clean some leeks. I only used two this time. Cut off the green tops.
I like to cut mine in half. I think that they look like some sort of a filter, don't you?
Once the leeks are cut in half, you can lay them flat-side-down and julienne.
Then toss the leeks into the pot. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
While the leeks simmered, I washed and packaged the tops of the leeks to use later, for broth. The author of the Oxtail Soup recipe, which I found on Tasty Kitchen wrote, "If you’re enterprising, the green tops are great to freeze for later use in a vegetable stock." I'm all for less waste and using ingredients to their fullest potential, so I packaged the tops of the leeks in a freezer bag, labelled them, and stuck them in my freezer for the next time I make chicken broth.
Also while the soup simmers, measure out a cup of barley. After checking the nutrition stats on the "Quick" barley vs. the slower cooking barley on the boxes, I opted for the quick cooking variety. The nutritional value is the same.
Add the barley to the soup and cook for another 10-12 minutes, until the barley is tender. The barley soaked up some of the broth. Next time, I'll probably add more beef broth.
The verdict, we LOVED this soup! It's the perfect way to chase away the chill on a cold, rainy, November day. I found that this soup is an excellent way to get more grains into my kindergartener. She often "picks around" in a bowl of soup, slurping the broth and eating the ingredients that she deems acceptable. The broth and the ingredients were so flavorful in this soup that she ate the whole bowl...carrots, celery, leeks, barley, and all...without wrinkling her nose at it even once! I was proud of myself and proud of her!
I garnished ours with a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley.
Krista's Beef and Barley Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole Small Or Medium Onion, chopped
3 stalks Celery, chopped
3 whole Carrots, chopped
1 Shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart home canned beef OR 3-4 cups tender, cooked roast beef, cut up or shredded
1/2-1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning Blend
48 oz. beef broth
2 Leeks, julienned
1 cup Quick Barley
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped
1. Heat a 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat until it shimmers.
2. Saute onion, carrots, and celery until near tender. Add in shallot and garlic and cook for another minute or two until fragrant.
3. Add in beef, stir and heat through.
4. Add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and broth. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the julienned leek bottoms. Simmer for 20 minutes.
6. Stir in 1 cup of barley. Cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally for 10 to 12 minutes until the barley is tender.
7. Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley before serving.
Happy Birthday to my mother-in-law and my newest niece. Love you both! And congratulations to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I'm so excited for you guys and I know that you will be excellent parents!