Tuesday, November 30, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 12

You've heard about him quite a bit on this blog so by now you all know know that my husband is quite the cook.

Additionally, you know that I'm working on moving from "culinary-challenged" to "kitchen-literate" and have been sharing my progress with you as Item 23: Learn to Cook 5 Meals. However, in efforts to thank my spouse for all the meals he has prepared for me over the years, I not only wanted to learn to cook a handful of dishes but also added Item 12: Learn to Cook John's Favorite Gourmet Meal to the list.

Key word here: Learn. The spouse helped me every step of the way in this challenge! He was a great teacher; I learned quite a bit and had a blast cooking with my hubby.

The first step in all of this....nailing down John's favorite fodder. Both foodies at heart, neither of us can really claim an absolute to-die-for dish. There are just too many wonderful foods out there! We talked about it quite a bit and came up with the following menu:

Appetizer: Artichoke dipped in Seasoned Butter
Main Entree: Crab Legs & Steak
Side Dish: Asparagus

To the Cooking...er...Learning!

We started by opening a bottle of wine....naturally. We also got right down to business and steamed and seasoned the artichoke. (Recipe)

LOVE Artichokes

What I learned: The most important thing when preparing an artichoke is to really clean out the inside of the 'choke. It has all these spiky thistles on the inside and to really enjoy the heart you must remove all of them prior to steaming.

Next, we marinated the steak (Recipe) and prepped the asparagus (Video Recipe). We also boiled water with lemon and salt in a large pot. We placed a steaming basket in the pot and filled it with frozen crab legs. (Crabby Info)

What I learned: Crab is ready when it turns a brilliant bright red (might already be red if purchased frozen and cooked). The other tell-tale signs are that the joints move easily and the knuckle is warm to the touch.

At around the same time that the crab went into the pot, we put the marinated steak and asparagus on grill. This particular steak is bit strange for a gourmet meal.....it is a flank steak. John had big plans to make carne asada with the leftovers so he specifically requested this piece of meat.

What I learned: Asparagus is awesome with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Also, to tell how "done" a steak is, just push down on it. The more undone, the more squishy the meat. The more done, the more firm the meat. John likes his med-rare (medium-squishy).

While the food was grilling, boiling and steaming away, I set the table.

We then sat down and enjoyed a wonderful meal! By the way, since I don't eat the beast, spouse made a little salmon for me. It was very tasty!

John's Plate :)

Although it'll probably take me few more rounds before I can make the whole meal myself, I feel as though I accomplished the task of Learning to Cook John's Favorite Gourmet Meal and can cross Item 12 off the list!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 6

I haven't eaten red meat or pork for approximately nine years. I don't miss it, I'm not gonna lie. I'm asked frequently how I can live without bacon, a good steak or burger. Every so often my brother or sister will waive a piece of sausage, slice of ham or bite of beef in front of my nose, testing me, as if it is willpower that keeps me from delving into a pile of flesh. No willpower needed people....I just don't like or want it.

However, I am not a Vegetarian or Vegan. I eat a lot of different foods that keep me from these categories including our low-flying, fowl friend, the chicken. I consume pretty much all delicacies under the sea from shellfish to cephalopods and every type of gilled, scaled swimmer. And I LOVE cheese...LOVE. love.

All this being said, I respect and encourage those who choose to live a Vegan lifestyle and have always been curious if it might be for me. I couldn't think of a better way to understand the dietary behavior and test it out than to try it myself as Item 6: Go Vegan for a Week.

To get started, I took some time to research Veganism. I recommend a couple of great blogs, including Oh She Glows and Happy Herbivore, if you're interested in checking out recipes and other FAQ's.

To quickly put the biggest Vegan myth to rest, there are a lot of options for a Vegan to get protein and calcium to meet the daily amounts recommended for a balanced diet. For example, did you know that in 100 calories of spinach there is actually MORE protein than 100 calories of steak?

Protein is plentiful in dark, leafy greens, legumes, nuts, tofu, other soy-based foods, brown rice, broccoli, potatoes, beans, lentils, and many other items. Calcium is just as prevalent, being found in a lot of the same foods, including broccoli, tofu, kale, greens, and okra. The key, for carnivore and herbivore, is to eat a variety of foods throughout the day at the caloric intake your body requires.

Vegans are not emaciated, unhealthy individuals. They simply leave out the animal products, but they take the same caution (that any person concerned with a healthy diet does) to incorporate the foods that they need, want and enjoy as part of a nutrient-balanced regime.

Okay....Week of Vegan: I had an incredible week of wonderful food!! For breakfast, I typically had a banana, organic oatmeal and a handful of nuts and dried fruit. When I bored from oatmeal, I enjoyed whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter, banana slices and a small orange.

Like my work mug?? I prefer my breakfast in cups...and at work.

For lunches, I had veggie sandwiches on whole wheat with tomato, avocado, leaf lettuce (or spinach), cucumber and balsamic dressing. On the side I had fruit, usually grapes or apples. Occasionally, I switched it up to a veggie wrap with salsa or had a bowl of vegan chili.

Veggie Sandwich....Super-Yum!

Veggie Chili , Apple & Sun Chips = Delicious Lunch!
(Sun Chips Original flavor is Vegan-approved)

For dinners, I cooked to intentionally have leftovers because, as a busy gal, I couldn't spend each night cooking for myself....and the spouse was not too keen on the whole "cooking for a Vegan" thing (although he did a couple nights anyway). I made a big pot of vegan veggie soup and had that a couple of nights. I also enjoyed tofu stir-fry, spaghetti and veggie burgers. All dinners satisfied my hunger, provided the nutrients I needed, and excited my taste buds.

Veggie Stew & Salad

Spicy Stir-Fry with Oudon Noodles...YUM!

Additionally, I couldn't go a week without ice cream, so I found this fabulous Soy Dream treat and had a scoop or two each night after dinner. :)

Surprisingly Good!

Although it is not the ongoing lifestyle choice for me (future food-posts will confirm this), I enjoyed my week of Vegan, am happy to cross it off my list and now know that being a Vegan is just as healthy as any other balanced, nutrient-rich diet.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, naturally I've been reflecting on what I'm thankful for and how lucky of a girl I really I am. And since you all know how much I LOVE to make lists...I thought I'd make a list of the top 10 things I'm grateful for. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

1. Family - I hear so many people complain of "having" to spend the holidays with family. Driving or flying from this place to that and eating more than one Thanksgiving turkey (the outrage!) but I look forward to these busy (sometimes hectic) days. To see my siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents is a special experience that I treasure deeply. I live pretty far away from my East Coast fam and don't get to see my Wyoming kin too often either so whether I'm looking over the Rocky Mountains with my dad, sis and brother or toasting wine with my cousins in Jersey, every time I get to spend with my family is truly, truly special. Also, I couldn't ask for a better person to share my life, adventures and future with than the spouse :)

2. My Friends - My friends are the most hilarious, entertaining, talented and caring people I've ever met! I am so very lucky to be surrounded by a group of people that I've known since high school, befriended in college and met in recent years.

3. Pugs - Specifically, Barley. Need I say more than show you this photo? How could you not be thankful for this sweet animal (er...plant)!??

4. Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers - I absolutely adore RCPM (especially Jim....guitar players...get me every time). Catching every concert possible on the Front Range, I attempt to meet the band every time and surprisingly they've started to remember me! (Uh, oh....here comes that crazy girl Steve Larson* warned us about). I LOVE them and if you don't know them, GO HERE to give a listen. You're Welcome.
*steve larson is their ex-guitarist

5. The FC - Rated as Money magazine's 6th Best Town to Live in, helping earn the Front Range the "Napa Valley of Beers" status, a ten minute drive to the Rocky Mountains, and a plethora of local restaurants.....it just doesn't get better than Fort Collins. I'm so grateful to live in this town. In what other town could you take your dog for a run....to a microbrewery!? (The FC is also rated in the Top 10 Active Towns to live in, has been high-ranked on the Most Pet-Friendly cities in recent years AND....AND we're the home of Odell & New Belgium Breweries).

6. Christmas - From November 1 to December 25th, I'll be the jolliest a**hole this side of the nuthouse :)

7. My Health - Recently, I've become much more appreciative of my health, something I've taken for granted in the past. As 30 quickly approaches and I start to snap, crackle and pop with every limb movement, I'm reminded to be thankful for a body that allows me to push myself to pretty extreme physical limits, learn to golf with my spouse and lets me dance, dance, dance to Ke$ha (alone, when no one is watching).

8. My Job - In these tough economic times, everyone should be thankful if they are employed! I can say I'm truly thankful for my job!! They send me awesome places like Vegas, Boston and other great locations and I get to meet and work with a lot of great people! Also, without my job I couldn't have the home I live in, enjoy all the great food I am lucky enough to get to eat (and pad myself with) and all the other things I enjoy and am so very, very thankful for.

9. Food, Coffee & Red Wine. I LOVE to eat! Who doesn't right? Between the Food Network, my spouse's culinary wizardry, the Kilted Pig, my own kitchen adventures and all of the amazing restaurants I get to go to....my world is literally controlled by what, when and where I get to eat. Add a cup of joe in the morning and good glass of red wine in the evening and that pretty much sums up what I think about all day (good thing I've got #7 to work it all off).

10. YOU!!! Blog readers, I appreciate you visiting my page, reading my sometimes incoherent ramblings and supporting me with your comments and continued visits.

Thank you & Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 14, Part 2

I absolutely had to add a Marilyn Monroe film to my Classics list...it just didn't seem right to not include at least one of her iconic movies. Some Like It Hot is number two under Item 14: Watch 5 "Classic" Movies.
Set at the end of the roaring 20's during prohibition, Some Like It Hot tells the tale of two musicians, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) who witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Desperate to get out of town fast, the duo disguise themselves as women, Josephine and Daphne, and travel with a girls-only band down to Florida.

Along the way, they meet the sultry, bombshell, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) and Joe, er...Josephine, quickly finds himself falling in love with her. As Daphne accidentally wins the heart of a millionaire with a fancy yacht, Joe woos Sugar by hiding his true identity and simultaneously befriending her as a girlfriend.

This hilarious movie included mobster fights, dancing scenes and the courtship process of two generations ago. Jack Lemmon's comedic antics and Marilyn Monroe's sweet singing combined with fairly racy content (for the time it was released) elevates this film to the classic status it holds today. I definitely recommend to anyone looking for a classic comedy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

30 Before 30: Items 3 & 15

I was sitting on the couch with the spouse thinking about how I really need to be more involved with my community and church. So I turned to John and said, "I want to volunteer at church. I think I'd like to join the choir." He stared at me silently, scrutinizing me with his eyeballs, and said nothing.

Surprised by his quiet response to my declaration of selfless songbirding, I said, "What? You don't think I should be in the choir?" He looked right at me and said a quick "No" without offering any further explanation. So, naturally I prodded him to find out why he wouldn't want me to take on this new activity. He turned to me and said, "Because you are a terrible singer."

That being said, I am now a reader at church. My first training is scheduled for December 5th, I'll be put in the lector rotation shortly after and I'm excited to cross Item 15: Volunteer at Church from my list.

Motivated further to become involved in the community, I have been attending general meetings of the Fort Collins Junior League for the last several months. I've chosen this organization because I work in Denver, CO and from home....leaving me with very little opportunity to meet people in Fort Collins. The Junior League is an organization of women who are dedicated to service and giving back to the community while building strong, long-lasting friendships. So far, its been a wonderful way to get to know women in my community and learn about all the opportunities to volunteer. I've filled out the application and mailed the check! I can officially cross Item 3: Join the FC Junior League off my list!

For more information on the Fort Collins Junior League, check it out here!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 30

Kickboxing was AWESOME!!! (high-pitched squeal)

I've wanted to try kickboxing for quite awhile. Once, in college, I participated in one of those girl's boxing matches as a fundraiser for my rugby team (I was kind of tomboy.....and apparently chose violent sports....pent up aggression? Hard to say).

Anyway, I absolutely loved boxing...I sorta enjoyed punching the other girl in the face (it sounds bad but it was for a good cause), I loved the energy, I didn't even really mind being punched back (it doesn't hurt as much as you'd think and just really motivates you to jab, jab, jab).

Today, I can't say I'm excited to hop in a ring to get pummeled in the jaw, but I have missed the exhiliration and energy I found in that one, long-ago fight. Hopeful for a similar endorphin rush in a slightly safer environment, I added Item 30: Try Kickboxing to my list.

The class was exactly what I had hoped for. We got started immediately and from the very beginning we were bouncing, punching, kicking and jumping. We did uppercuts, jump rope, side-kicks, back-kicks, and jabs. The music was intense, fast and loud; I was breathing heavy and sweating within minutes of the start.

As we moved through the motions, I felt a little like I do at weddings when I drink enough to think I can actually dance and get up during the Electric Slide. I was one step behind and not really doing the same thing as everyone else, but I didn't care! I was having a blast and getting a major workout at the same time.

I kicked, jabbed and wiggled myself through the 60 minute class, literally smiling the whole time. Being a true cardio-junkie, this class really got me excited and I can't wait to go back again! I was so distracted by the whole session, I didn't manage to snap any shots, but I did have the instructor take this lovely photo before I left.

I will definitely be at kickboxing every week going forward! Pow-POW!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 23, Part 2

For our annual viewing of Christmas Vacation, we always make the classic Cheyenne, WY school lunch, chili and cinnamon rolls (you Cheyenne people know what I'm talkin' about). This year, I signed up to make a White Bean Chicken Chili (Jess made the cinnamon rolls) and I took one step closer to crossing Item 23: Learn to Cook 5 Meals off my list.

Hope you make it and like, like, like it. (If you do make it, tell me!!!!)

You Need:
  • 1 Rotisserie Chicken
  • 1 Can of Chicken Broth
  • 2 Tomatillos
  • 1/2 of a Large Tomato
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 1-2 Jalapeno (depending heat)
  • 1 Can of White Kidney Beans
  • 1 Can of Chili Beans
  • 1/2 Can of Corn
  • 1 Can of Green Chillies
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • Cilantro
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of Sour Cream
  • 1 Avocado
  • Hot Sauce (whatever one you like best...I went with a Green Chili sauce)
  • Salt, Pepper, Paprika, Cayenne, Cumin, and Garlic Powder
And Action:

In a food processor, puree tomatillos, jalapeno, chilies, salt, pepper and other seasonings. Set aside.

In a large pot, saute chopped onions and diced garlic in olive oil (for a bigger flavor you can use several tablespoons of butter, but the olive oil is a bit healthier). Add the pureed tomatillos, jalapeno and chilies. Allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently.

After a couple of minutes, add the chicken broth and beans. Season liberally with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, cayenne and garlic powder. Allow to simmer.

Pull all of the meat off of the rotisserie chicken and break into small chunks. Side note: break the chicken against the grain so it will stay chunky and not break up in the chili.

Add the chicken chunks, tomato and hot sauce to the pot. Allow to cook for approximately one hour. Chop cilantro and avocado. Stir cilantro into the chili.

For a creamier chili, add several teaspoons of sour cream to the pot and mix in (healthier to skip this step!). Scoop a large portion of chili into your bowl, add a dollop of sour cream (unless you've already put a lot in the chili....or if you don't care about the calories). Garnish with avocado chunks, cheese and ENJOY!

Friday, November 5, 2010

What Christmas Vacation Means to Me

Born in December as Stacey Connolly, I quickly realized two things about myself; I share a birth-month with Jesus (ha…..I’m totally getting into heaven) and I have the same initials as Santa Claus.

My memories of growing up in the Connolly household are full of fond, watercolor pictures of Arizona and Saturday mornings at home, blasting musical classics such as Sloop John B and Let me Sleep on It, by the Beach Boys and Meatloaf, respectively. I also remember moving to Wyoming and being surprised to find it was not the forested wilderness I expected but a flat, treeless prairie instead.

I recall early viewings of Vacation and European Vacation; the song Holiday Road gives me goose bumps to this very day (I know cause I purposefully listen to it when I need to get excited). That being said, my appreciation for comedies and my admiration for the comedic genius of Chevy Chase sprouted at around age 8. But above all other childhood recollections, the one thing that really stands out in my early years is my father’s zealous and impassioned celebration of Christmas.

My awkward teenage years brought birthdays celebrated by blowing out the candles with Christmas lights twinkling in the background and Billy Squire’s Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You playing right after my family’s loud rendition of Happy Birthday. I learned to drive in empty parking lots next to cut-down Evergreen and Blue Spruce sales. And I received combo-gift after combo-gift from my girlfriends banking on my birthday’s proximity to December 25th.

My early associations with Jesus and the big S.C., impressionable teenage years intermixed with holiday d├ęcor and music, and my Dad’s celebratory devotion instilled within me a great love and passion for Christmas that I’ve found difficult to match. Its my most anticipated, celebrated, and hap, hap, happiest day of the year.

After this jolly childhood, I found my way off to college. My first visit to Laramie, WY landed me at the Sigma Chi house and I vividly remember the first time I met Robert Sullivan (Sully). We were playing a round of Trapped and drinking Ruby Red Squirt with Captain Morgan (well, I was drinking that, he probably was not). For those of you who haven’t tried it, it tastes just like orange sherbet going down…….and coming back up…so don’t bother. I also met my future spouse, John McBride, and later met Jesse Driscoll (future BFF and Sully's future wife). Four years of college, two weddings, and six years of living close-by in Fort Collins have cultivated a pretty strong friendship between the McBride’s and Sullivan’s.

John, a lover of Fletch and Caddyshack but not as impassioned by Christmas as I, has always agreed to watch Christmas Vacation with me (and refuses to watch any other holiday film). Sharing this movie with my spouse and reminiscing in childhood memories of the original Vacation and my Dad’s holiday dedication earned Christmas Vacation a pretty high spot on my “favorite movie” list. My excitement bubbles over just thinking about the cinematic masterpiece and did so one day while hanging out with the Sullivan’s. Over homebrew and football, Sully and I realized that we shared the same enthusiasm for the film, as well as all other things Christmas. I had met my match when it comes to Christmas cheer….we are, you might say, kindred spirits. (Cue Jesse and John eye-roll).

Well, the discovery of this shared fervor led to excited talks of reindeer, jingle bells, caroling, and naturally, watching Christmas Vacation. Alarmed by the early arrival sugarplums, holly, and ol’ St. Nick, John and Jesse quickly established the “No Christmas until November 1st” rule.

Ever since, on November 1st, John and I jump in our old front-wheel drive sleigh and head on over the Sullivan’s to watch what has become the most important of Christmas symbols to me, Christmas Vacation. In recent years, we’ve expanded to a double-feature with Elf quickly becoming a group favorite. I now look forward to November 1st with the same anticipation, zeal and excitement that I used to hold only for Christmas.

To me, Christmas Vacation means it’s the second best day of the year and I get to spend it with my best friends. Although the movie is truly an American Classic for reasons far beyond this egocentric narrative, my own appreciation for the film has quadrupled thanks to our now-traditional celebration of November 1st. I think Clark Griswold said it best, “The most enjoying traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin.”

Thith movie is a thymbol of the thpirit of the Sullivan & McBride kick-off to Chrithmath.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 10

I have always wanted to go Skydiving. It's been on my life list of things to do for years and years and I've repeatedly talked myself out of it. As with Run a Marathon, this item quickly made it on my list due to a lifetime of building up the event in my head. Thanks to a push from my little brother, I finally crossed Item 10: Go Skydiving off my list.

Prepared for me to completely bail on him, my brother, Logan, arrived at my house on Friday night, the evening before the jump. He had researched and reserved our jump with Mile High Skydiving in Longmont, CO and by the shrill of my voice when we spoke about it and my flip-flopping position on skydiving in general, he assumed he should be nearby in case I tried to escape.

We woke up on Saturday morning to cloudy skies and I thought,"Whew...maybe I don't have to go through with his!" Log called to find out if we could still throw ourselves out the door of a perfectly good plane and, sure enough, they were doing jumps that day. Log, Spouse and I hopped in the car, stopped for a delicious (and potentially final) breakfast and made our way down to the Longmont Airport. We signed in, got geared up and then had to wait.

We waited and waited while the anxiety built up in my stomach and tightened my shoulders. Nervous fear tingled all over literally making my hair stand on end. Finally, after an eternity, they called our name. I turned to my Spouse, told him that after an appropriate number of years he could re-marry, gave him a kiss and we piled into a trailer to drive out to the runway.

Boyd, my instructor, met me at the plane and told me all the things you need to know to skydive. Essentially, lean back, scream and let him do the work.

We boarded the plane and, as the last one on, I quickly realized I'd be the first one off. At the last minute, one single-diver, without an instructor, hopped on making me #2 in the line-up. The plane took off and with the engine humming, Boyd tried to make small talk to take my mind off the farmlands below us which were becoming a smaller and smaller checkerboard of far-away Earth.

We gained elevation and after only a few minutes of flight we reached our goal height of 10,000 feet. Boyd gave me a hat, gloves, and goggles and let me know that when the door opened, I might have an overwhelming sensation of fear. Really? You think that's when the fear will strike?

Sure enough, the door opened and my stomach hopped into my throat. My heart pounded in my ears and I stared out at the horizon over the Rocky Mountains silently reciting the Act of Contrition (Catholic prayer said to ask forgiveness of sins). The single-diver stood up and made his way towards the door, without a pause he lept out and disappeared over the edge. It is at this point that I apparently stopped praying silently because Log said I burst out with a, "Jesus Christ, Holy Crap, Oh My God."

Boyd, thankfully a good foot taller than me, stood up and moved the two of us to the doorway (I pretty much had no ability to move my legs). I looked down at the ground below with dizzying fear and then focused my gaze on the horizon to avoid getting sick. Boyd asked, "Ready!?" and without waiting for my response jumped from the plane.

We tumbled over in the air and I saw the underside of the plane were I had just been planted safely. We flipped again and were facing the ground. Suddenly, my fear completely left me! We were soaring through the air and I felt bits of cloud pelting my face, but LOVED it! Instead of a feeling of falling, I felt as though a strong wind was pushing me upward. Although I was well aware of the fact that I was diving towards the ground, I felt suspended in air and an overwhelming euphoria. I couldn't help but scream with delight and laugh with complete joy!!!

I've never experienced such an amazing or addictive feeling before; it seemed as though we were flying! 45 seconds after diving head first through the air, we pulled the chute and slowed down to comfortable float. Boyd, being the good instructor that he was, asked if I was okay and then proceeded to make large figure-eights with the chute to give me a full view of the mountains, farmland and neighboring cities.

Looking out over the Rocky Mountains, I could see the layers and layers of snowy peaks which are usually blocked from our ground view of the Front Range. I felt weightless and completely calm, breathing in the fresh, cold air and taking in the gold, red, and orange trees below.

As Earth neared, I started to feel the pull of gravity for the first time since jumping from the plane and quickly became saddened that my flight was almost over. We landed softly on the soil and met up with my bro. I couldn't stop smiling, giggling and thanking Boyd. Completely overjoyed, I wanted to get right back on the plane and jump again!

We rode the trailer back to the diving center, received our diving certificates (both of our names are spelled wrong) and spent the rest of the day gleefully retelling the story of our jumps to each other, my spouse and friends.

A big, huge THANK YOU to my little brother for motivating me to actually do the jump! And a big thanks to my spouse for not believing that I'd have an Acme anvil my chute or disappear in a little cloud of dust on the ground, and thus, supporting me in facing this fear. Another thanks to the spouse for all the great photos he snapped of the day.

Skydiving was truly the most amazing feeling and an activity I cannot wait to do again!!! EVERYONE should skydive at least once cause the feeling of flying is unbelievable and, as much as I've tried here, is really something that you just can't describe.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

30 Before 30: Item 23, Part 1

When the leaves change colors and football is on tv 5 out of 7 days a week, I start to crave soups, late-summer veggies and all thing warm. My first recipe for Item 23: Learn to Cook 5 Meals is Vegetable Stew.

I've made two versions, one Vegan and one with Beef. The vegan version was for me, but I needed to provide my spouse with a little roast beast to really get his tastebugs turned on for veggie soup (not exactly his favorite dish).

See below for my first recipe and some not-to-good photos (it may not look great but it sure was delicious)!!

What You Need:
  • 2-3 Carrots
  • 2-3 Potatos (or several small taters)
  • Handful of Green Beans
  • 1 Cup of Barley
  • Half an Onion
  • 2-3 Celery Stalks
  • 2 Cans Veggie Broth (and 2 Cans Beef Broth for the Meat-version)
  • 1 Can of Peeled, Whole Tomatos
  • 1 Package of Stew Beef
  • 2-4 Cloves of Garlic
  • Various Seasonings including Pepper, Salt, Garlic Salt, Oregano, Italian Seasoning Mix and anything else you like :)
And Action:

Bring 2.5 Cups of water and 1/8 Teaspoon of salt to boil in large pot. Mix in 1 Cup Barley. Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes until barley is soft but still chewy. Set aside.

Chop all veggies into bite-sized portions and dice garlic, set aside.

For Beef Veggie Stew - In a large pot, add a teaspoon of olive oil,
chopped onions, diced garlic and stew beef along with salt, pepper and other seasonings. Cook until meat is browned. Pour in 2 cans of beef broth. Crush the peeled, whole tomatos and add to broth along with all other chopped veggies. Mix in pre-cooked barley. Salt & Pepper/Season to taste (adding in a shot of Worchestaire sauce really kicks up the beef flavor). Cook for 1.5-2 hours or until meat is tender.

For Vegan Veggie Stew - In a large pot, add a teaspoon of olive oil, chopped onions, and diced garlic. Pour in two cans of Veggie Broth. Crush the can of peeeled tomatos and add to broth along with all other chopped veggies. Mix in pre-cooked barley. Salt & Pepper/Season to taste. Cook for 1-1.5 hours.

The result: Delicious stew perfect for cool fall evenings with a homebrew (or a salad...I recommend the homebrew).