We are finally having the kind of cool days that make me ready to bake some bread and fill the house with warmth and fragrance, so that was actually the start of my menu planning. While there would be children at our lunch, the usual macaroni and cheese or pizza choices wouldn't be good to go with the bread, so soup was the next option.
In our family, just about any soup will be almost inhaled by the kids, but other children are not always so enthusiastic. Since I was thinking about pizza, I decided on a soup that would include pizza flavors. Add in fresh fruit--black grapes, bright green honeydew and bright red and white apple slices--and the menu was set. Peanut butter and jelly would also be available for those who just weren't into soup at all.
The recipe below reflects just how I made the soup, with no sauteeing of the onions and carrots, because I ran out of time the evening before. However, I do recommend the variation noted at the end; it will provide a deeper flavor that is worth the few extra minutes. Note that this is a vegetarian recipe. If you have meat eaters who want an even more pizza-ish soup, you could add some browned Italian sausage or pepperoni slices along with the corn and seasonings.
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
8 oz baby carrots, cut in chunks
28 oz can or jar of prepared spaghetti sauce, garden vegetable variety (or your favorite)
15 oz can diced tomatoes ready for chili (this brand is mild; you could use tomatoes and chiles if you prefer a little heat)
2 to 3 c finely shredded cabbbage
1 c pearl barley
oregano, fennel seed, Italian seasoning, black pepper
10 to 12 oz frozen corn
water as needed
Optional ingredients: 1/2 c diced green or red bell pepper, 1 to 3 ribs celery, sliced, 1 6 oz can mushrooms
Garnishes: Parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese; black olives
1. Place all ingredients except the corn, seasonings, and water in a large slow cooker. Turn on HIGH and cook for about an hour or so.
2. Add seasonings--I would start with about 1 teaspoon each of dried oregano and Italian seasoning and about a teaspoon of fennel seeds that have been crushed in a mortar and pestle. Sprinkle in as much black pepper as your family might prefer; I used about one half teaspoon.
3. Stir in the corn (while still frozen) and enough water to provide the consistency you prefer. Turn the heat to LOW and cook another 6 to 7 hours, until carrots are just tender, and barley is well-cooked.
4. Taste and adjust for seasonings before serving. Serve garnishes for each person to add as desired.
Over medium high heat, saute the onions, carrots, and barley (and celery if used) in about 1 T canola or olive oil. Cook until the carrots are just beginning to soften slightly and the onions are golden. Stir often. Turn into slow cooker on LOW and continue as above. The time needed to finish cooking may be slightly less.