RECIPE: Beef Beet Barley Soup

I have a really fantastic husband. I mean, really.

For over twenty years, he’s had to deal with my migraines, and this is a guy who has stellar health. He rarely gets sick, I don’t think has ever had a headache, yet he is even more active in trying to help keep the bad stuff out of my diet, than I am.


Brian’s fantastic, completely from scratch enchiladas. He makes the world’s best sauce!

He’s an excellent cook. I’m a good cook, but he goes far beyond me. He doesn’t cook from a recipe, he simply makes what sounds good to him, and he’ll experiment in ways I would never think of. He makes everything from scratch, and I mean everything, including our tortillas (which we eat a lot of).


I’ve been aware of food triggers and migraines for a long, long time, and for the most part, I’m good about monitoring what I eat. For instance, I love cream cheese. Love it! But I haven’t had cream cheese in over ten years because I haven’t been able to find a “clean” one, and even a couple bites of it gives me a near instant migraine.

Around Thanksgiving 2012, I had a migraine that lasted over three weeks. I’d been slacking on my lunches because, honestly, it takes real effort to eat clean. My only New Year’s resolution this year was to help myself be as pain free as I can by monitoring my food, and I’ve been doing a great job… until yesterday.

I went to a baby shower for a couple of fellow car girls.


I did fine resisting the snacks people brought because I knew they’d give me trouble. I ate some spinach salad, dressing free, and some of the Sweedish meatballs I’d made from scratch the day before, and some hummus. But then the cake came out and I have a really hard time resisting cake. It was a grocery store kind of cake, chocolate, with some kind of chocolate pudding type layer and a whipped cream type frosting… and I knew… I KNEW… it was probably laden with chemicals, but I had some anyway. The moral of the story? I got nailed with a massive migraine today, after having felt pretty good most of the year so far.

My husband, while I was at the party, went to the Farmer’s Market in Orange, picking up our usual coffee from Steve at Drip Stop, and Grampy Pat’s 7 Grain Malty bread (which I’ll write a full post about soon), and these wonderful beets.


While I was soaking in the bathtub trying to get past the migraine, my husband… being the incredible man that he is… made me one of the best soups I’ve ever tasted, using the beets, some zuchini, barley, and some left over flank steak, all cooked in the incredibly rich broth from when he made the flank steak.



Soup is one of the easiest things in the world to make, and one of the most tainted foods you can buy in the grocery store. Even soups claiming to be MSG free still have questionable ingredients like hydrolyzed yeast and “natural flavors” which have reactions in the body like MSG to those who are sensitive. The great thing about soup is if you make a pot over the weekend, you’ll have soup for lunch during the week. (Thermoses are a great thing!)

For this soup, Brian used his own homemade broth, but if you don’t have time to make your own, there are some “clean” stocks available in the grocery store. Just read the label and if you don’t know what an ingredient is, don’t buy it. Essentially you’re just heating the broth and tossing your favorite ingredients in to cook. That’s it.

I wish I could give you exact measurements to cook by, but Brian cooks mostly by feel, so I’ll do my best to give a somewhat workable recipe according to his instructions! Hope it all makes sense.


A couple of days ago, Brian boiled about a 2 pound flank steak for tacos (he’s on a must-eat-taco-every-day-in-January challenge) and saved the broth. This was his process:

  • one sweet onion – he starts nearly everything off with browned sweet onions. Heat oil in a deep enough pan to make the soup, chop them up, and sautee until translucent and browned. (He used only about half the browned onion in this broth and put the other half in the fridge, and I used the other half a day later to make the Sweedish meetballs!)
  • one jalepeno, one poblano chile – chopped up into big chunks and tossed in the pan with the onions
  • seasoned flank steak – Brian uses dry rubs on his meats before he cooks them, so for this one, he mixed equal parts salt, pepper, and ancho chile powder (or whatever red chile you like), then about half of a part of cumin, enough to coat a patted dry flank steak.

Drop the steak in the pan with the onions and chiles and add enough water to cover it, then boil it for about two hours or until the meat flakes apart.

By the way, the tacos that night? AMAZING. And we had leftover tacos during the week too!


Fast forward a couple of days, and to this fabulous broth, Brian added:

  • one cut up zucchini,
  • one sliced and quartered beet
  • 1/2 cup (or so) of barley
  • however much chopped up flank steak you want in your soup (or in our case, what we had left)
  • water … since the broth was pretty rich, and there wasn’t a whole lot left after cooking the flank steak, he did add a little water.

Cook over medium heat until the beets are soft, probably about an hour.


Using beets instead of potatoes made for a fantastic color and flavor, plus, beets have better nutritional value than potatoes. And now I’ll have lunch for tomorrow and perhaps the next day, so that… to quote Martha… is a very good thing.

Do you have a favorite soup recipe? Share in the comments!


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