Superfood Soup

Andy and I made the mistake of going to Whole Foods a few weeks ago.

I say ‘mistake’ because, as someone who has a thing called a ‘budget’ for the weekly groceries, Whole Foods is not exactly an uplifting place to be.  “Hey!” it says, “Look at all this beautiful, artisan-crafted food that you cannot afford to eat!”

So we stayed near the bulk foods section which is more in our price range, and that is where we made our second mistake: reading the nutrient density rankings of various foods.  We now know that, in the grain family, oats score highest, followed by barley; sunflower seeds are the powerhouses of seeds; and lentils are the best of the beans.  We have to take this into consideration now whenever we cook or bake; we cannot choose our ingredients anymore based solely on flavor or texture, we have to wonder, ‘If I don’t substitute sunflower seeds for walnuts in this recipe, am I failing at nutrition, and thus at life?

Because of this, we’ve been eating a lot of lentils lately, and food has become slightly less fun.  Not because of lentils, but because of science.  Thanks, science!

[Curiously, Whole Foods only carries pearled barley (#6 of the grains), but not whole barley (#2 of the grains), which was the entire reason we went to Whole Foods in the first place.]

The third mistake we made was impulse-buying some frozen onion rings.  All I’m going to say about that is they made me feel sad for onion rings, and I wish I had my $3 back.

But anyway, the barley.

We were in search of whole barley (as opposed to pearled barley) to use in a soup recipe that we’ve been making a lot of lately. Whole barley, as you might suspect, retains more of its nutrients and fiber than pearled barley, and we figured if we were going to cook healthy food, we might as well cook with the healthiest of foods.  But it turns out that nobody sells it—not the grocery stores, not the food co-ops, not Whole Foods.  The Asian market carries something that is actually labeled ‘whole barley,’ but I’m suspicious that something may have been lost in translation since it looks and cooks exactly like pearled barley and the back of the package carries the following description: “Barley grains contain 16 times of fiber which rice grains have, as well as Barley grains are one of the best foods for growing children or pregnant women, people want to consume fewer calories.”

Yes, people do want to consume fewer calories!

The soup in question that has brought on our barley obsession comes from Andy’s mom, who got it from Woman’s World magazine.  I don’t have much to say about Woman’s World magazine except that it actually does contain some pretty useful information, though this information comes with the risk of explanation! point! overload! (seriously, I think there is a 2:1 ratio of explanation points to periods in there).

This soup is originally called ‘Holiday Diet Soup,’ the reason being that if you eat this soup everyday for lunch during December, it will help you lose weight.

Well, I’m here to say that Andy has lost ten pounds; the guy at work I gave the recipe to has lost ten pounds; and I have lost zero pounds (thanks, metabolism! Um, and also potato chips).

I make a big batch of this soup every Sunday and divvy it up into quart jars in the refrigerator; these will be our lunches for the entire week.  It helps me feel prepared.

We added beans to it in an effort to sneak some protein in, and upped the amount of mushrooms slightly.  We usually end up needing to add a lot (or what seems like a lot) of salt, but we use homemade stock which isn’t very salty, so adjust yours to taste.

I don’t like to use the word ‘diet’ because it makes me feel sad, so I’m renaming it ‘Superfood Soup,’ though we’ve made it so often that Andy and I now simply refer to it as ‘The Recipe.’

Superfood Soup Recipe
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
24 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups barley
6 carrots, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
8 cups stock (recipe calls for beef or veggie, we use chicken)
2 cups dried beans (optional) (we use 1 c. lentils and 1 c. black-eyed peas); you may want to pre-soak these if using any bean larger than lentil
4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 lb. chopped kale or spinach

In a very large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and sauté until beginning to soften.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.  Add the Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, barley, carrots, thyme, and stock.  Increase the heat to high.  If using dried beans, add them now, as well as 6 cups of water.  When soup starts to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until beans and barley are cooked through, adding more water if needed (about 30-40 minutes).  Add garlic and kale and cook 10-15 minutes more until kale is tender.  If using spinach instead of kale, add spinach at the very end just before serving.

The article says to eat 3 cups of this soup for lunch every day to help you lose weight.

This soup freezes well, and makes a huge amount.  Just sayin’.

2 comments to Superfood Soup

  • hmmm. I could stand to loose some weight. And my spouse can sure stand to loose even more. We just recently moved(downsized) and I actually made myself try on ALL my jeans and pants and shorts, skirts (etc) basically everything from the waist down. It was depressing. Too few things fit. And since I quit drinking wine since November, maybe I’m ready for a something else, besides omiting chips and sour cream dips from my food intake. Tell me…have you tried anything else other than the crappy mushrooms? I usually throw in zucchini instead of anything calling for mushrooms. I will definetly try this if for no other reason than to have some jarred soup in the fridge to feed the spouse.

  • Tori

    We haven’t tried substituting for the mushrooms–we’re mushroom fiends–but I imagine that zucchini would work just as well. My husband loves eating this soup (he sometimes even eats it for breakfast!) He’s down 15 pounds so far…and the guy from work is down 25! (Meanwhile I have lost 4). It’s at least convenient, and seeming to help in the weight loss department.