RECIPE: Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup

Today at my home it is a Happy Sunday!

First, a BIG Happy Birthday to my father! Today is his birthday, and even though we are officially celebrating next weekend, my daughter announced "We need to visit Nonno! We should bring brownies!" So any day visiting the P's is a good day indeed.

Secondly, it is sunny, which after our big "Thunder-Snow" incident this week, makes for a wet-yet-cheery day.

And thirdly, I get to share this lovely, hearty meal that you still have time to throw together in your slow cooker! It will make for a savory, home-spun meal this evening. I know, because we made it last Sunday. It is based off of a great cookbook from Cook's Illustrated called, The Best Slow and Easy Recipes. We love Cook's Illustrated. They really test recipes and explain the science behind cooking. It's like going to culinary school via a magazine. This book is great. I urge you to check out a copy from the library and see if you would enjoy it. So back to this recipe, I wanted to deepen the broth flavor by using "Better Than Bouillon". I also felt the recipe was light on vegetables, so I kicked up the carrots and added peas toward the end. I also kicked up the wine ' know, I'm Italian.

I love the slow cooker. You can buy inexpensive cuts and let them cook all day without a thought. And lets face it, Sundays can get busy. You have the week to prep for! Laundry, cleaning, shoveling (or gardening), errands, homework, the list is endless. Phew, I'm getting depressed thinking about it.

Good thing Nonna is cooking for us tonight!

Dust off your slow cooker and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup


1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp. canola oil
3 medium onions, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 Tbsp. minced, fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock (or see *note)
2 cups chicken stock (or see *note)
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2" pieces
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup pearl barley
2 lb. blade steak, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas


In a food processor, puree the tomatoes with their juices until smooth. In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the onions until beginning to sweat. Then add the tomato paste, thyme and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat. Once the vegetables begin to brown (about 10 minutes) add the red wine and scrape off any brown bits off the bottom as the mixture simmers.

Add the mixture to the slow cooker. Add the processed tomatoes and stir. Turn on low.

* note: If using "Better Than Bouillon", heat 4 cups of water until near boiling in the microwave. Divide water into 2 cups each. In one mix 2 tsp. of the chicken flavor until dissolved. In the other, mix 2 tsp. of the beef flavor. Add these stocks to the slow cooker. 

If using canned stock instead, add them to the tomato mixture in the slow cooker. Add the carrots, soy sauce and barley and stir.

Take the blade steaks, and trim off fat. Also, if the pieces are wide enough, cut horizontally as well to cut away the middle sinew. All pieces should be roughly around 1/2" in size. My blade steaks were cut pretty thin. So my soup was ready to eat around 7-8 hours. If your steaks are thicker, you may need more time. The meat should be fork tender, and even broken down in some cases to the point that tiny bits of meat are woven throughout the soup.

After your meat is trimmed and ready to go, add your cut up meat to the slow cooker. Nestle it deep into the liquid using a spoon. Cover and cook on low for 7 -10 hours (half the time if on high). The last hour of cooking, add the frozen peas, stir and cook until peas are tender. Serve warm with some crusty bread.



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