On one hand there is beef barley soup, and on the other there’s mushroom barley soup, but why choose between the two when you can have both in one soup? Heck, why not add a bunch of other vegetables—carrots, celery, tomatoes, and chard or spinach—to the mix for even more color, flavor, and nutrition? And how about a handful of fresh dill for an earthy herbal essence? It’s that kind of thinking that led me right to this wonderful, filling, meal-in-a-bowl with tender beef in every bite balanced with a bounty of whole-grain, plant-powered goodness.
Season the meat with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the meat to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate.
Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pot, then add the onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, chopped chard stems, if using (if you are using spinach, do not add it here), garlic, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes more.
Add the broth, 2 cups of water, the diced tomatoes with their juices, and the barley and return the meat with any accumulated juices to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the barley is cooked and the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Add the chard leaves or spinach and the dill and cook for 2 minutes more, then serve.
The soup will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for 3 months.
SERVING SIZE: 2 1/4 cups
PER SERVING: Calories 340; Total Fat 13 g (Sat Fat 2.5 g, Mono Fat 7 g, Poly Fat 1 g); Protein 21 g; Carb 38 g; Fiber 16 g; Cholesterol 50 mg; Sodium 860 mg; Total Sugar 9 g (Added Sugar 0 g)