Lentil & Barley soup

This weather is really playing tricks on me.  One minute I want to curl up with a big bowl of stew for dinner and the next, I think it's perfect weather for an outside BBQ!  Right now it's 70 degrees with clear blue skies and the sun has never looked brighter.  It would be a great day to enjoy a BBQ, but I had already had my heart set on making a lentil & barley soup!  

I have never made anything that has required either lentils or barley, but I know they are super hearty and nutritious.  This soup was the most colorful concoction that I have made thus far in my kitchen!  I took a double take on my camera screen because the colors were just so bold and beautiful.  

My husband, Jon and I have been meeting with a nutritionist who has been helping us get a jump start on our goals to eat healthy and have more energy.  We attend a gym club called Monkey Bar Gym that is in the same realm of "Cross fit".  High intensity weight training and circuits.  It was definitely Jon's idea to join in the first place, but I have really come to enjoy the people and the workouts.  A part of the gym's practice is to consume a plant-based diet, which has never even been in our vocabulary.  It's not what you think, we are no where near becoming vegans or vegetarians!  We strive to eat 80% or more plant foods and try to stay away from processed food products.  It's been quite a learning curve, but doing it as a couple, has really helped.  We're learning how to read nutrition labels, cook without oils and how to better fuel our bodies.  

This soup fits into most of those categories, although I did add a handful of shredded chicken for added flavor, and also because we're still weaning ourselves off eating meat at every meal.  We try to only eat meat at dinner.  I love soups and stews because you can really add anything you want.  The combinations are endless.  And who doesn't love a bowl of hot soup on a 70 degree sunny day? :)  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 chopped white onion

1 cup chopped organic carrots (or you can use baby carrots)

3/4 cup lentils

3/4 cup pearled barley

1 can diced tomatoes

2 zucchinis diced

1 cup chopped frozen baby kale

4 cups organic vegetable broth (low sodium)

2 cups water

Optional: Handful of shredded chicken (I like to keep a bag of shredded rotisserie chicken in the fridge, to add protein to salads or for instances like this).

salt/pepper/garlic powder to taste

Directions:

1.   Layer zucchini, onions, carrots, kale and tomatoes on bottom of slow cooker.

2.  Season veggies with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

3.  Pour lentils and barley over the vegetables.  Add vegetable broth and water to the pot.  Stir together.

 I added another cup while it was cooking.  The lentils and barley absorb a lot of water.

I added another cup while it was cooking.  The lentils and barley absorb a lot of water.

4.  Add shredded chicken if you would like.

5.  Set slow cooker on high for 4-5 hours.  The longer the setting, the thicker the soup will be.