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!


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


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.

Homemade Crockpot Chicken Stock

I've always wanted to try to make my own chicken stock.  Canned chicken stock are composed of all sorts of preservatives and contain a lot of salt.  Even the low sodium kind has a high salt content.  By making my own chicken stock, I know exactly what goes into it and I can add/subtract to my taste.  The first step to this is to roast a chicken.  It sounds and looks harder than it actually is.  Roasting a chicken is actually one of the easiest dinners to throw together, and also very reasonable.  A whole chicken is about $4.  And if you don't want to attempt roasting your own chicken, you can use the carcass of one of those pre-cooked rotisserie chickens.  Although, be aware that the seasonings may contain a lot of salt that you may not be aware of.

To roast a chicken, I usually rinse the whole chicken really well, inside and out and pat dry.  I then take softened butter and slather the chicken skin.  This helps the browning, and crisping of the skin.  I then take my seasonings and season the skin and the inside of the chicken pretty well.  I then stuff the chicken with carrots, onions and celery, the vegetable trifecta of any stock base.  Then place the chicken along with extra veggies in the bottom of the roasting pan and bake until golden brown.   Checking the middle of the chicken breast with a thermometer until it reads 180 degrees F, and the juices should run clear.  

When you are done "feasting" on the chicken, you are left with whole lot of scrap meat and the bones.  Now you are ready to start making your chicken stock!  I use this stock for everything.  It adds a wonderful depth of flavor to cook veggies.  We have been trying to cut out oil which I used to use while doing a quick vegetable stir-fry, but now I use the chicken stock.  And it is delicious.  Not only is it healthier, it's much tastier!  You can also use chicken stock in place of water in most recipes and you will have all the wonderful richness of flavors of the chicken and vegetables.  It's great for a quick noodle soup, or even lentil/bean soups.  It's quite versatile and it's freezable so if you don't want to use it all now, you can freeze it and save it for a rainy day.  It's been a lifesaver in the kitchen.  Especially when I've racked my brain with what we should have for dinner.  And I'm sure there are many more ways to use this! Be creative!  Oh and did I mention that when I made this, I was sleeping?  Yep! You just throw it in before going to bed at night into the crockpot and when you wake up it's ready to go!


1 Chicken carcass

2 cups baby carrots

1 1/2cups chopped celery

1 1/2 cups onions

sea salt/pepper to taste

chicken seasoning (I use Adobo)

garlic powder




1.  Place veggies in the bottom of the crockpot and add your seasonings.   Next, place the chicken carcass on top of the veggies in the  crockpot.

2.  Pour enough water to fill the crockpot, leaving an inch from the top of the crockpot.

3.  Cover and put on low setting for 10 hours.

4.  Once finished, let cool and place is jars, or plastic freezer bags to freeze.  Chicken stock is good in the fridge for 1 week or the 1 month in the freezer.

Add a little twine or pretty ribbon and these would also make great gifts!  Enjoy!!

Super Squash Stir-fry

Our 30 day challenge continues!  It's becoming more difficult to find "healthy" things to eat without just eating straight raw veggies and fruit non-stop.  But I came across this recipe for a squash stir-fry that involved cinnamon and other odd ingredients that made it not so healthy…so I changed it to fit our new eating regimen.  I have never really cooked with butternut squash and I thought it would be fun to try it in a stir-fry.

It's week one at our new gym and it's become increasingly tough!  We've done two power body classes this week so far, which has involved kettle bells, climbing, and resistance bands.  My husband, Jon and I are still pretty sore the next day, but I can feel my body getting stronger and the exercises are becoming easier.  I'm looking forward to more energy and more endurance!  I'm learning that what we eat is equally as important as the workouts…and we need both to see change in the 30 days.  So here we go!

This recipe can also be cooked with chicken, we used tofu, only because we're trying to eat mainly vegetables.  But any protein would work in this simple stir-fry!

Super Squash Stir-fry


1  (2lb.)  Butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1  Red pepper

1/2 Yellow onion

2 tbs  Sesame oil

1lb Chicken breast, cut into strips or 1lb. of diced extra firm Tofu

2 tbs Raw Honey (or an organic brand)

3 tbs Low-sodium soy sauce (or dilute regular soy sauce with 1:1 of water)

2 tbs Worcestershire sauce

2 tbs Rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup Chopped green onions


1.   Place squash in a skillet.  Add water to a depth of 1/2 inch.  Cook covered on high until squash is soft (a fork can easily pierce through).  Drain and set aside.

2.  Combine ingredients for sauce, whisk together until well combined. (soy sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar & Worcestershire sauce).  Set aside.

3.  Heat sesame oil in a large skillet or wok.  Add garlic, tofu, onions and red peppers.  Pour the sauce mixture in the wok.  Sauté ingredients until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.

4.  Toss in the squash and coat evenly with sauce.  Serve over with rice or quinoa.

This colorful dish is a delicate balance of sweet and savory.  It's quick and easy and very nutritious!  We paired this with a tri-color quinoa. Delicious!