I don’t know if I mentioned it or not…. but my Mama is one wonderful lady. When I moved into my apartment she came up with me, spent the night, and stayed until 7 the next night with a 90 minute drive back home and early morning wake up call for work. She kicked butt at building shelving units for my closet, moving shelves in the kitchen cabinets, and hanging wall items. But my Mama’s amazingness has been going on long before I moved. Throughout the years as she has gotten new items for her house she put aside the old items for my brother and I when we moved out. I used some of them when I got an apartment my junior year of college, but had kind of forgotten about them since then. Moving reminded me just how much stuff she had for me. Allow me to list a few:
– A complete dish set including serving bowls, tea cups and saucers, coffee cups, dinner plates, small plats, big and small bowls, and a serving plate.
– Little glass bowls for pudding and the such
– A full set of glasses including tall and short glasses, Christmas mugs and glasses (my favorite!), and plastic tumblers
– A full set of silverware although a little mishmashed
– Wooden spoons, spatula, serving spoons, and other odds and ends
After my Mom went through her cabinets
Needless to say, I didn’t need to buy one thing for my kitchen. Although I couldn’t resist and bought purple cookware spoons and spatula!
Not my finest picture day
And I was lucky enough to get a Christmas present early… my avocado green Martha Stewart pots and pans set. Every time I pull one out to cook with I get so giddy.
Another item my mom gave me is an item I cannot wait to replace. My knives. They are the worst. You don’t realize just how important a good knife is until you start chopping with bad ones. Don’t worry, I’m not offending her. She knows they are bad. She admitted it to me! When she set up her first kitchen she bought the cheapest of everything, knives included. She, like me, didn’t know the quality made much of a difference. When she could afford nicer knives she bought them and set aside the old ones for her kids to have. Well, I have them. And I can’t wait to get rid of them. Making tonight’s veggie soup showed me once again how difficult a bad knife makes things. I wanted to cut my veggies into tiny lady-like pieces but quickly gave up and went for big chunks. My knife simply can’t handle tiny cuts! Fortunately for me I know that Santa is bringing me a brand new professional knife for Christmas because I was there and picked it out! I will soon be the proud owner of this bad boy.
Even though I can’t wait for my new knife, enough can’t be said for the generosity of my Mama when she thought twenty years into the future and saved all of her kitchen items for her kids. A bad knife is better than no knife!
I first made this soup as a way to give back to my Mom. This past spring she was freakishly sick with upper respiratory issues and couldn’t shake it for a few months. I say freakishly because this woman never gets sick. And here she was laid up in bed and on the couch for weeks. I took pity on her and downloaded the Netflix app onto her iPad, showed her how to use it, and let her use my Netflix account (since cancelled because of their crazy price changes!) to pass the time while she laid around the house. I also made her this veggie soup to give her the nutrients she desperately needed. The first time I made it I followed the directions exactly except for the corn (because I don’t eat corn) and the pearled barley. I searched and searched the grocery store for the pearled barley but couldn’t find it anywhere. The soup calls for chicken and when we ate it we thought there was just too much chicken. She and I both prefer more veggie and broth and less meat. So this time around I made it vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and tofu instead of chicken. Deeeelicious. I also found pearled barley in the grocery store (I found it in the bean aisle at Giant) and threw some kale in because I love kale. I love this soup. Love it. I’m not a big soup fan and normally don’t eat it as a leftover but this one I’ll eat all the time. I was thinking about my Mom as I made it and was about to text her when she called. I told her I was making the soup and she said “Mmm that soup was so yummy.” I love my Mama.
The recipe comes from my Flat Belly Diet Cookbook, one of my favorite cookbooks. I adapted it slightly.
(flat belly calls it Chicken-Barley Soup with Vegetables and Pesto)
4 c. low-sodium vegetable broth (FB calls for chicken broth)
2 c. water
1/2 c. pearled barley
1 block extra firm tofu (FB calls for 12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast halves) ** tofu how-to below
1 can (14.5 oz) no-salt added stewed tomatoes
1 large leek (white and tender portion of green), halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and cut into 1/2″ slices (I would definitely use more than 1)
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped (I did 3)
2 ribs celery, chopped (I did 4)
a few leaves of kale (this is not in the FB recipe)
Pesto (FB calls for 1tbsp per bowl)
(FB calls for 1/2 c. frozen corn kernels but I don’t eat corn so I don’t add this part)
1. Bring the broth and water to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the barley (this is also where you would add the chicken if you were having chicken), reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes or until the barley is tender, stirring several times. (If you added chicken, remove the chicken after 30 minutes and place on a cutting board. When it’s cooked, shred it.)
2. Add the tomatoes (with juice), leek, onion, carrots, celery, and kale and raise the heat to high. Reduce the heat to low when the mixture comes to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetable is tender.
3. (If you are using corn and chicken, add it now). Add tofu. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until warmed through.
4. Ladle into bowls and top each with 1 tbsp of the pesto.
Tofu can be scary to cook with when you don’t know how! To keep your tofu from falling apart when cooking, follow these simple steps.
1. Place 2 paper towels on a dinner plate.
2. Place the tofu on top of the paper towels.
3. Place 2 more paper towels on top of the tofu.
4. Place another dinner plate on top of the paper towels.
5. Top the plate with a few heavy items. I like to use cans.
6. Let it squish for about 20 minutes.
7. Transfer to a cutting board and cut as needed!