Creamy Mushroom and Barley Soup

Yo, Vegans! This soup is amazing!

Mushroom Barley Soup

After reading a Martha Stewart recipe where she used a “bouquet garni” I’ve become obsessed with using them in my soups.  They’re so great because you put all the herbs in a little pouch, then you can remove it at the end.  No need to fish out that bay leaf anymore!  I have been using a large tea ball to make them, but you can also use cheesecloth!

I used barley in this recipe, which I think is what makes it super creamy.  I also added a 1/2 cup of milk at the end, but you can just use more stock if you’re looking for the dairy-free option!

tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds baby bella mushrooms (or any fresh mushrooms)
1/2 cup pearled barley
4 cups vegetable stock
A bouquet garni made with two bay leafs, fresh thyme and rosemary, 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns, and some hard swiss cheese (optional)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup milk or more vegetable stock (if making vegan soup)

1) Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot and add the onion. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook about 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms. Cook until they just begin to release their water and soften a bit, about 5 minutes.
2) Add the barley, vegetable stock, bouquet garni, Worcestershire sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni.
3) Add half the soup to the blender and blend until smooth and creamy.  Leave the other half in the pot to keep the soup a little chunky. Return the blended soup to the pot, and add the milk (or the vegetable stock).  Heat until just bubbly and hot. Add salt, to taste. I served this soup with a dollop of fresh, homemade yogurt, but if you want to keep it vegan, you can leave it out.  Or use some vegan sour cream.  We also had some fresh baked bread from Muelsa, which was a wonderful compliment to a delicious soup.


Adventures in Baking – Cardamom Cream Cake

In over my head…

Have I ever mentioned that, I’m a terrible baker?

I actually tried so hard to make sure that I followed the directions to a “T” this time… I wanted this New Year’s Eve cake to be perfect.  Yet still, I used 1/2 stick too much butter in the batter, decided to add ginger to the milk syrup (a good decision!), and forgot to buy heavy cream at the store and substituted milk (a poor decision!).  For 2016, I resign myself to being a terrible baker.  I just can’t keep up with the Beths and Emilys of the world.  I will just have to experiment with new and intriguing pies instead.

Anyway, I found this amazing recipe on the New York Times Cooking website this week.  It was for a Cardamom Cream Cake by Melissa Clark that was inspired by an Indian dessert called ras malai.  The photo of the cake was beautiful.  While reading the description, I could taste the elegance.  I wanted to make this cake. And I wanted it to be perfect.

I was in over my head.

Who starts with a FOUR LAYER CAKE as the first cake that they ever make?  Well, I did.

About halfway through mixing up the ricotta filling, I realized that it called for heavy cream because I was supposed to be “whipping” the filling so that it was light and fluffy, not soupy like mine.  I also realized, after it was too late, that I forgot to cut one of the sticks of butter in half, so I used 1/4 cup more butter than I needed to in the batter, making the cakes a little heavier than they were supposed to be.  And at the end, I realized the |absolute| value of a nice cake stand to ice your incredibly amazing creation.

After all that, it still turned out okay. It was fully edible. It wasn’t nearly as beautiful as the NY Times version: it actually looked more like a pile of mashed potatoes with pistachios on top. It wasn’t pretty. At all. And holy crap that was a lot of work! Another reason to stick to pies…

Either way, it was a super fun disaster! Happy New Year, Everyone!  May your next year’s adventures be full of laughter and joy!

cake collage
Leroy’s Version
Melissa Clark's Version
Melissa Clark’s Version