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Pantry Raid: Mushroom Barley Soup

I am kicking off my list of 2015 foodie resolutions right with one of the pantry raid recipes that I promised. This one comes from last week, after we realized that the #snowmageddon was not going to be all it was cracked up to be but nonetheless could use something warm to eat, since it was still very cold outside. This recipe is healthy and doesn't require a lot of ingredients, making it a perfect recipe for using up pantry and fridge staples. Cooking guidelines are approximate, since I found that I started the slow cooker around noon and by 8:00 pm the barley was still slightly chewy, but not inedible. It could be possible that my grains were a little stale. The next time, I might even let this cook overnight. Always be sure to follow the instructions for your particular brand of slow cooker, since it is possible that yours could cook faster or slower and have different heat settings than mine. By the way, it is also National Soup Month! Follow #NationalSoupMonth on Twitter for more recipes. Here are a few that I would love to try:

Mushroom Barley Soup

I used 3 tablespoons of vegetable broth concentrate, Better Than Bouillon brand, combined with 2 quarts of water. You may choose to do the same or use boxed or homemade stock (homemade is my preference, when I have it). To make this non-vegetarian, you could always add cubes of beef that have been browned and diced. I always like to freeze leftover soup in quart or pint containers marked with the date. Serves 6-8 dinner-sized portions (8-12oz servings)


Oil or butter, for sauteing 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced 2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped 3 celery ribs, diced 3 carrots, diced 2 cups mushrooms, diced 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (if using frozen peas, don't thaw them in advance; they will thaw as the soup cooks) 1 1/c cups barley 2 quarts vegetable broth 4-5 springs of thyme 2 sprigs fresh rosemary 4 leaves sage Salt and pepper, to taste


Prepare vegetables and add to a slow cooker with broth and seasonings. Cook on high, approximately 8 hours or until the barley is tender. Alternatively, cook on low overnight, or use the stove top. For stove top cooking: saute onions, garlic, and celery in a large soup pot until tender. Add barley and cook a few minutes until lightly toasted. Add carrots, broth, seasonings, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for approximately an hour or until carrots are tender. Mid-way through cooking, add the mushrooms, and towards the end of cooking, add the frozen peas. You may keep the soup warm on the stove or in the crockpot (depending on cooking method) until it is time to eat, at which time I would highly encourage serving with crusty bread, rolls, or cornbread. If making cornbread from scratch, try adding some of the same herbs that were used in the soup, finely chopped, and a little freshly ground pepper to the batter before baking.

Let’s just get a jump-start on 2015, ok?

Funny that, 11 months ago, I just finished writing about how I was completely absent from blogging for a majority of 2013. As it turns out, my track record in 2014 wasn't much better. A solid two posts? Winning. As we're approaching the end of 2014, and considering how I am now almost two years behind in summarizing my thoughts and ideas, why don't I start with what I am looking forward to seeing for 2015? That sounds like a good place to start, for me... What I am looking forward to most in 2015 are new opportunities, as 2014 was a difficult year for a number of reasons. For the sake of not writing a novel, I'll isolate this post to summarizing, arguably, my two biggest challenges of 2014: my car and my job. For most, getting around and making a living are two crucial concerns to have. For me, neither should have been huge challenges in 2014, seeing as how they were both new in 2013 and still fresh as 2014 kicked-off. As 2014 went on, things went, let's just say, not as wonderfully as expected. My car, a 2013 Ford Focus Titanium (top line) package, which I purchased brand new in September 2013, turned out to be a total piece of trash after less than a year of ownership. For a while, I thought I was the crazy one, arguing with various Ford representatives about how what I was hearing -- a loud, metal-on-metal grinding noise coming from underneath my hood as my car shifted from 1st to 2nd and from 2nd to 3rd gears, accompanied by jerking and lagging -- was not a "normal" noise for that, or any other, properly operating vehicle to make. The saga started in July, after I was fed up of dealing with this noise for eight-plus months and after researching that this model has had some serious transmission issues. The better part of my transmission was replaced with no-to-little improvement before my family and I were able to have the entire transmission replaced -- after only 19,000 miles of owning the vehicle and a lot of intense discussions, mind you. I'll refrain from sharing the gory details and just tell you that if you happen to be in the market for a new car, buyer beware. I certainly would not put any more confidence in Ford, and even that is an understatement. While dealing with that drama, I was continuing to work full time and attend school part time, with seven classes (about a year) left to complete my MBA. I could discuss the nice travel and development opportunities that I had in continuing working at my job as a Marketing Specialist -- including participating in a CRM transition project that allowed me to learn more about the highly-regarded CRM platform and even act as co-administrator of the system for a period of time -- but that, too, was full of pros and cons. As fate would have it, one huge con was presented to me right after Thanksgiving; two days into December and after coming back from our break, to be exact. You can guess what a job-related "huge con" might entail, but to give you a hint, I'll suggest that my opportunities ended rather abruptly, to no fault or incompetence of my own. I'm presently a free agent, for anyone looking for any kick-ass marketing talent. ;) Each day is going to be different, but challenges are ultimately learning opportunities, and I've done my best in recent weeks to take these things in stride. Any moment that I spend feeling down about these situations is one that I could spend doing something productive -- reading one of the many books that I have been meaning to read, getting back into some of my hobbies like web design and crafting, researching and making myself more marketable for new opportunities, etc. So, that's my plan, and I'm sticking to it.

2013 Year in Review: Part 1

I realize that I have been completely absent in my blogging activities for most of 2013... hell, for the past couple of years. Let's not mince words here. What else is new? Well, as it turns out, a lot is new. Between starting a new job, visiting three states that I never previously visited, and continuing to work on my MBA, 2013 was quite an eventful, if not decent, year. Since it has been sufficiently long enough since I posted anything worth reading, I’ll share the who, what, where, and when -- and, of course, the food -- of the past year with you now. Sadly, you won't get the tour du monde with this post, as I didn't travel and eat my way across the world this past year (I'll promise not to cry about that alone in my room in a few minutes from now... tears are welling as we speak... no they are n-- ok, yes, they are.) Expect this post to be mostly local-regional, with a few other places thrown in for good measure based on where I had the pleasure of visiting (namely SoCal, Vegas, San Antonio, Boston, and Baltimore.) Even with the limited geography, I am going to have a hard time recounting my “adventures” in a short number of words, hence why I will break this story into parts, posted incrementally over the next week. With that said, enjoy, and hopefully this makes up for a long lapse in posting. I entered 2013 by transitioning jobs and visiting New York for my birthday. We stayed in Midtown, walked around the touristy-but-beautiful Rockefeller Center, and saw the Christmas tree, among other activities that a non-local would normally do while in the city for a long weekend. A highlight for me was when I drug Steve, kicking and screaming Steve and I ate at Pure Food and Wine, a raw vegan restaurant in Gramercy. I had a delicious Asian-inspired salad (the "spicy sesame" salad, for those currently drooling over the menu) that quickly turned out to be one of best things that I ate in a while, so much so that I went back for it when we took another trip in May for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. (More on that soon – with pictures!) I still can’t figure out how they make the crunchies that go on top of the salad or the rich wasabi aioli, although I suspect that a dehydrator and avocados are involved. I’ll need to go back and eat there a few more times to figure it out... We also took a trip to nearby One Lucky Duck, just around the corner and sharing part of a kitchen with the restaurant, where I got some goodies to take home. Coconut macaroons, rosemary “quackers”, and chocolate chip cookies, all made with raw ingredients, filled my shopping bag. The store also has take-away juice and small meals, but we passed on these, since we just ate. A trip to NY wouldn't be complete now without a visit to Bouchon Bakery for some macrons to take home. Oh, Bouchon Bakery... in an interesting juxtaposition to the last two places mentioned, this place is definitely not vegan. It is a small-chain, with five locations across the U.S., owned by the amazing Thomas Keller of French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon Bistro, etc. fame. Ugh. You should only know how much I love Bouchon Bakery. I can’t even begin to talk about the place without wanting to stuff a half dozen macrons down my gullet. And the Rockefeller Center location is just so. perfect. around the holidays. Even a Grinch like me feels in the spirit, coming out of there with a coffee in one hand and a pastry in the other to admire the tree, shoppers, and ice skaters nearby. Needless to say, all three places would be frequent – nay, daily – stops for me, if I lived or worked in the city. *heavy sigh* If only... I could go on and on about how much I love the city, how many things I have yet to see and do there, and how many different eateries I would go to, had I the money and time, so let's move on. There's a lot to cover, and I'm only just touching on January. By February, and into my second month at work, Steve and I went to Philly for the Home Show at the Convention Center. The sole motivation was discount tickets via Groupon, and quite frankly the show sucked; I wouldn’t even bother going again when it comes around in future years. Eating at Parc and making an obligatory visit to the Reading Terminal Market made the trip worth it, though. Parc is an upscale French place in Rittenhouse Square with old school decor -- think dark wood paneling, a tiled floor (small, old, tightly clustered tiles), and filigree details on the ceiling. The food was delicious, but it would be remiss of me if I didn't point out that it wasn't cheap. Fair warning, everyone! Parc is definitely a once-a-year or special occasion type of place -- unless you have deep pockets, in which case I would suggest eating there every weekend. Scallops with white bean ragout was amazing. Tuna tartare was so fresh and clean. And, of all things, the bread -- especially the good raisin-walnut bread, with its super chewy, crispy crust -- could have been a meal its self. Fortunately, a place like Parc (although not a complete substitute for Parc) opened nearby this year: Maxim's 22 in downtown Easton. For anyone that is local, you might be thinking, A French bistro-type restaurant... in Easton, of all places!?, and no, you aren't crazy. In fact, I shared the same disbelief when this restaurant, and others like it, opened this past year. The local area is definitely expanding its culinary options! The food at Maxim's 22 is good and comes without the trek to Philly and the couple hundred dollar dinner bill. Great selection of beers, too, for anyone with a taste that goes beyond the familiar domestics and imports (read: anything Anheuser Busch). Old Rasputin was on tap for a while, which is not easy to find in most places that I have been to, and for dessert they serve up "adult" floats made with vanilla ice cream dunked in raspberry lambic, chocolate stout, and the like. Yum. Keeping with the Philly theme for a second – and before we wrap up for this post, since I could go on and on and I haven't even covered my bigger trips of the year! – City Tavern was a place I got to visit for the first time while at a work-related tradeshow in March. It is a restaurant near Penn's Landing with a rich history. The atmpsphere can best be described as a step back to the founding first years of America, with costumed waiters and traditional decor. It is definitely a tasteful, old timey atmosphere, though; very quaint, nothing hokey about it. City Tavern is good for groups, if booked in advance, and has a few lots down the street for parking. The menu is not too vegetarian-friendly, though; I spotted only a few non-meat offerings, but I wasn't impacted by this too much since I eat fish. Stay tuned for part 2, covering my trip to Baltimore and the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in May! Places mentioned in this article:

In a nutshell…

In a nutshell? This has been the story of my life for just shy of two years: via "Marketoonist"... highly recommended if you need more laughs in your life. Hopefully that will change in the near future, though, as my current job winds to a close. That's right. I'm closing another chapter very soon and moving on to different things. I'm not going to say "new and better things" just yet, since who knows what the future truly holds in store for us and I don't want to jinx it; however, I am very hopeful and very excited about what is to come. Until then, I have some good stuff planned over the next two weeks, enough to unwind and relax before mass chaos starts. The beginning of the semester and a new job? I couldn't have planned it better! (By the way, I don't really like that expression, "in a nutshell". Talk about overused. In fact, not sure why I used it, but the fact that it's almost 1:00 am comes to mind as a good reason.)

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So, the question remains: what should my "safe word" be. You can definitely call me a masochist for doing this, but there is a shining light at the end of the tunnel. (Why else would I be doing this, right?)

  • I have always liked school -- all of the frustration, hard work, commuting, and money aside, Buy Motilium No Prescription. It's worth it at the end of the day to advance my career and achieve my personal goals.
  • I (thankfully!!) have a job with tuition reimbursement. There is a HUGE relief right there. (I type this as I am scheduling my next student loan payment...)
  • I'm not far off from completing my MBA, anyway. The program is 60 credits and I was fortunate enough to have 13.5 waived from my undergraduate coursework. After this semester, I will have 16.5 credits down, 43.5 to go. At 6 credits or two classes a semester, if I can swing it, I might be done in around 7 semesters. Not too bad!

With that said, here's to adopting a sí se puede mentality and taking it one day at a time. Wish me luck.

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