When my parents reached their late seventies, I began to stock their freezer with home-made soups and casseroles. I used the excuse that it was easier to prepare a triple batch of soup or two casseroles and share with them than to make food for my family alone. One of their favorite soups was beef barley. Laden with vegetables, this nutritious soup provides a warm meal for lunch or dinner during the cool fall days or frigid wintry ones. Preparing a large batch and allocating the soup into containers that could be placed in my parents’ freezer provided them with a quick meal on those days when they felt too tired or too ill to prepare a meal for themselves.
Over the years, I’ve added specific spices and herbs known to support health to my recipes. For example, garlic, onions, and leeks rank high among the most effective foods that inhibit brain, lung, prostate, and breast cancers. Turmeric, mint, thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil, rosemary, parsley, as well as the vegetables celery, squash, and carrots, also have anti-cancer effects as described in an earlier blog post “Fighting Cancer.” I do not add salt nor do I use purchased beef collagen stock with its high salt content because a diet high in salt contributes to chronic high blood pressure, one of the causes of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and dementia.
This following recipe for beef barley soup is from the kitchen of a dear friend, Mimma Fitzgerald.
- 2-3, 1-1½ pound packages of lean stew beef, cut into cubes (½ inch)
- 1 29-ounce can of tomato puree
- 1 12-ounce can of tomato paste
- 1 large onion (or garlic)
- 7 ribs of celery and 10 medium carrots peeled chopped into bite-sized pieces
- other vegetables e.g., green beans, spinach, butternut squash, yams as desired
- 8 oz. (1/2 bag ) of pearl barley, rinsed in a colander to remove excess starch
- ½ teaspoon of any of the following herbs and spices: parsley, mint, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, or turmeric.
- Using a large sauce pan, brown prepared stew meat in 1 teaspoon hot canola oil and set aside.
- Chop the vegetables and onion as above and set aside.
- Fill a large stock pot with 26 cups of fresh water (or beef stock), add tomato puree, tomato paste, vegetables, onion, herbs, spices, and barley. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and cook on medium-heat for 30 minutes.
- Add browned beef to the soup and let the soup simmer on medium-low heat for at least 90 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let cool for 20 minutes before filling pint- or quart-sized containers. Yield is 8 quarts of soup.
Stocking my parents’ freezer with containers of frozen beef barley soup that they could simply warm on their stove top and enjoy with salt-free crackers helped ensure that they would maintain a healthy diet even on days when they didn’t feel like cooking.
Do you have favorite recipes that provide healthy, easy-to-prepare meals for an older loved one? Share one with us to receive a free copy of Don’t Give Up on Me!
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