When people ask me about Macheesmo, one of the first questions I get asked is how I don’t weigh approximately 400 pounds. I think I’ll save my philosophy on healthy eating for another post, but generally I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables with the occasional heavier meal.
I try to post delicious and interesting things on Macheesmo so I spare you all the boring daily salad and breakfast smoothie (although I am working on a master smoothie post). That said, I wanted to share this mushroom and barley stew because not only is it really delicious, it also happens to be very healthy.
The mushrooms and barley in this recipe produce a very filling stew. In fact, I definitely don’t miss meat when I’m eating it. Everything has a great texture to it and tons of flavor. Plus barley is hugely underrated so it’s worth posting on. I think you can find it boxed in the cereal section or definitely loose in the grain section.
1) Slice up all the veggies. Keep them in pretty large chunks because they will be cooking all day. You can do all the veggies besides the potatoes the night before!
2) The morning of chop up the potatoes. Add these and all your other ingredients to a crock pot or slow cooker.
3) Add enough extra water to the slow cooker to almost cover the ingredients.
4) Cook this on low heat for 10 hours (while you're at work!).
5) Taste the stew for salt and pepper and serve it with fun toppings. I highly recommend greek yogurt as a topping.
Adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens Recipe.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can definitely make this just like a normal stew. You could just add all your ingredients to a large stock pot and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until your barley is soft and you’d be all set.
But of course the great thing about doing this is a slow cooker is that it becomes a week night meal.
Preparing the Veggies
I made this on a random week night so the night before I prepped whatever veggies I could so I’d have them ready in the morning.
I sliced up my onion, celery, carrots, and mushrooms. You can keep them pretty large because they are going to be cooking all day. You probably don’t want to cut up your potatoes the night before or they will just turn brown. You could do it though if you kept them in water.
The Morning of…
After 15 minutes before I was leaving for work I chopped up my potatoes:
Opened a few cans of beans and tomatoes:
Got all my spices ready:
And don’t forget the stock and barley! Because I doubled the recipe when I made it I actually used about half stock and half water and I thought it was perfect.
Betsy and I got this fantastic slow cooker for a wedding gift (Thanks Matt and Julie!). I’ve named it “The Beast” in reference to one of my favorite Stones songs, Beast of Burden. If it isn’t obvious, I named it that because, well, it’s a beast of burden.
It does all the work for me!
It also happens to be enormous.
Cooking the stew
There isn’t much to say about cooking this stuff in a slow cooker. I added all my ingredients at once into The Beast and added enough extra water to almost cover the ingredients. It’s important to remember that when you’re cooking with a slow cooker, not a lot of water will escape. In fact, some of your veggies will give off water while they cook.
So it’s okay to not completely cover the veggies with water. This was what mine looked like before I left for work.
I cooked mine on low heat for 10 hours. The Beast has this nifty feature which automatically shifts to “Warm” after the programmed time is up so no matter what your dinner will be hot when you get home.
I was a bit scared to leave something hot plugged in all day while I was gone, but I shouldn’t have been. I came home to a delicious smelling apartment and this wonderful pot of stew.
I suggest tasting it for salt and pepper. Mine needed a pinch of both.
I served mine with an assortment of toppings. My favorite was Greek yogurt which gives the stew a nice creamy consistency. You could do sour cream if you wanted, but Greek yogurt is a great healthy substitute and it tastes very similar in a dish like this.
Betsy and I ate this for a few days and I was a little sad when it was gone. It was perfect heated up for lunch and just made us both feel very healthy! My biggest worry was that the veggies would be really soggy after cooking all day, but honestly they were perfect. They weren’t mushy at all.
Even if you don’t have a Beast of your own, this would be worth the time to make in my opinion!