Creamy Barley Soup with Mushrooms and Leeks

This soup was so good, y’all. It was rich and substantive (probably because Jeanne used homemade chicken stock which make such a difference), and it triggered all my childhood memories of my mom’s barley soup. Personally, I just ate lunch, and writing this post still makes me want a bowl.

To make it gluten-free, substitute brown rice for the barley.

Creamy Barley Soup with Mushrooms and Leeks

The Soup:
6 tbsp barley, rinsed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 large leek, white part only, diced
1 large carrot, scrubbed and grated
1 large clove garlic, minced
sea salt
6-8 cups broth (chicken or mushroom stock)
1 c sour cream or thick yogurt
fresh ground pepper

1/3 c barley, rinsed
1 leek, white part only, halved crosswise then slivered lengthwise into pieces about 3″ long
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tbsp butter
6 mushrooms, sliced
fresh ground pepper


Cover barley with water, set aside while you prepare the rest. Heat oil and butter in soup pot over med heat, add onion, oregano, stir and cook 5 minutes. Add leek, carrot and garlic and cook for 10 minutes or until a glaze forms on the bottom of the pan, season with 1 1/2 tsp sea salt. Drain barley and add it to the pot along with 6 cups of broth, simmer until barley is soft, about 30 min. Remove from heat, puree until smooth, add sour cream, add pepper, thin with water if needed.

Put barley in saucepan, add water to cover generously and a pinch of salt, simmer until barley is soft, 30 min, drain and keep warm. Place leeks and water to cover in a saucepan, a few pinches of salt, simmer about 8 min and drain. Heat oil and butter in a small skillet over med-high heat, add mushrooms and a couple pinches of salt.  Sauté until golden brown, adding water if needed.

To Serve:
Ladle the soup into a bowl, add a portion of the cooked barley to each bowl, then leeks and mushrooms on top.


Butternut Squash Soup


, , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m very sad that I don’t have a photo to share of our Butternut Squash Soup. The turmeric gives it a lovely yellow color and then sprinkle some cilantro on top, and it looks amazing. It also has a lovely delicate flavor. I’m a big fan of this one.

Butternut Squash Soup


  • 1 2-lb butternut squash
  • 2T sesame oil
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1T chopped fresh ginger
  • 2t crushed Aleppo pepper (do NOT substitute red pepper flakes. Aleppo pepper has a nice delicate flavor. Red pepper flakes don’t. If you can’t find Aleppo pepper, it’s better to leave it out. Yes, I learned this lesson the hard way.)
  • 1t ground turmeric
  • 1/2c chopped cilantro, plus sprigs to finish
  • 1 15-oz can coconut milk
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2c white or brown rice
  • 2T white miso


Peel squash, dice into 1/2″ cubes. Heat oil in stock pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, diced squash and ginger for a few minutes. Add the Aleppo pepper, turmeric, cilantro, and 1.5t salt. Cook for three minutes. Add coconut milk and 3c of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes. Cook rice separately while soup simmers.

Puree 1-2c of the soup, return it to stock pot. Taste for salt and season with lime juice. Stir in miso. Add rice to each bowl, ladle soup over, garnish with cilantro.

Tagalongs Chocolate Mousse Cake


, , , , , , ,

tagalong chocolate mousse cake

At our last meeting, this recipe – the Tagalong Chocolate Mousse Cake – was the big experiment. No one had made it before, but who doesn’t love Tagalongs? It also was rich – along with the chocolate potato gratin – and it was easy to get too much. If you make it, cut it into small pieces.

Tagalongs Chocolate Mousse Cake


  • 2 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (6.5-ounce) box Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties Girl Scout cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter chips (about 9 ounces)
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (not natural, old-fashioned, or freshly ground)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons sugar


Line a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic is tucked into the corners and leaving at least a 2-inch overhang on all sides.

In a dry metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Let cool slightly.

Spread a small amount of melted chocolate on the rounded side of 9 cookies and place 3 of them, chocolate side down, on the bottom of the pan, in a row. Place another 3 cookies against each long side of the pan with the chocolate-coated sides facing the pan. Place the pan in the freezer.

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the peanut butter chips with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream. Warm, stirring frequently, until the peanut butter chips are just melted. Remove from the heat and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth. Add the peanut butter and the vanilla and stir until incorporated.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups heavy cream with the sugar and beat until the cream is very thick but not yet holding peaks. Add the whipped cream to the peanut butter mixture in 3 additions and fold in just until the mousse is streak-free.

Carefully spoon about 3/4 of the mousse into the prepared pan, being careful not to move the cookies. Insert the remaining cookies into the mousse, arranging them in a row down the center of the loaf pan. Spread the remaining mousse over the wafers and carefully smooth the top. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mousse then wrap the entire pan in a double layer of plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. DO AHEAD: The mousse cake can be made ahead, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, and chilled for up to 3 days.

To serve, take the mousse cake out of the refrigerator and remove the double layer of plastic wrap, along with the plastic wrap pressed on the surface of the mousse. Using the overhanging plastic wrap that lines the pan, carefully lift and loosen the cake from the pan without removing it. Place a large plate or platter on top of the pan then invert the cake and the plate. Remove the pan and the plastic wrap and serve immediately.

Potato Gratin with White Cheddar Cheese and White Chocolate


, , , , , , ,

chocolate potatoes

This was easily the most anticipated dish of last month’s cooking club: a potato gratin with chocolate! Susan had been to a chocolate-themed dinner a couple of years ago – every single dish had chocolate in it. There was a vinaigrette with chocolate sauce, and the meat had a mole sauce, of course. The potatoes were the thing that everyone raved about though. With good reason! These are incredibly rich, and the chocolate adds a subtle sweet flavor that compliments the richness. These are a special occasion dish – rich and fatty and sweet. More than one of us couldn’t stop eating them.

Potato Gratin with White Cheddar Cheese and White Chocolate


  • 2 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 cups (packed) grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • 3/4 cups white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Whisk cream, shallots, rosemary, salt and pepper in medium bowl to blend. Place half of potatoes in prepared baking dish, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese and chips. Top with second layer of potatoes. Pour cream mixture over potatoes in dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover gratin with foil and bake 1 hour. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes longer. Let gratin cool 10 minutes before serving.

Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon-Poppyseed Dressing


, , , , , , , , ,

winter fruit salad

We’ve had this salad before at cooking club, and no one minds the repeat! It’s a delicious tangy flavor that pairs well with a comforting winter soup.

Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing


  • 1/2 cup white sugar (try less ⅓?)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style prepared mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 4 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 apple – peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 pear – peeled, cored and sliced


In a blender or food processor, combine sugar, lemon juice, onion, mustard, and salt. Process until well blended. With machine still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream until mixture is thick and smooth. Add poppy seeds, and process just a few seconds more to mix.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the romaine lettuce, shredded Swiss cheese, cashews, dried cranberries, apple, and pear. Pour dressing over salad just before serving, and toss to coat.



, , ,


Puja made these divine bars, called Carmelitas, for our December holiday treats gathering. They are chocolate-y and oatmeal-y and fabulous.

2 cups All Purpose Flour
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups butter or margarine, softened

1 jar Caramel Ice Cream Topping
3 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 (6 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 13×9-inch pan. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In large bowl, combine all crust ingredients; mix at low speed until crumbly. Reserve half of crumb mixture (about 3 cups) for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture in bottom of greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.>
  2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine caramel topping and 3 tablespoons flour; blend well.
  3. Remove partially baked crust from oven. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts. Drizzle evenly with caramel mixture. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.
  4. Return to oven; bake an additional 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until filling is set. Cut into bars.

Tortoni Cups


, , , , ,

tortoni cupsThis is another family recipe from Carla. It was divine.

1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
0.5c slivered almonds, toasted
2 chopped Hershey’s milk chocolate bars
0.25c chopped maraschino cherries
0.5t brandy or rum flavoring
0.25t grated orange peel
0.25t grated lemon peel

Stir all ingredients together. Pile into 10 individual paper baking cups in muffin tin. Freeze till firm. Top each with a maraschino cherry.

Peanut Butter Truffles


, , , , ,


My mom used to make these when I was a kid. Her note on the recipe is “you either have to love them or love someone who does.” She was happy when I took over making them. They are delicious, and I love them.

2 sticks butter, melted
2c peanut butter
6c powdered sugar
24oz chocolate chips

  1. Mix butter, peanut butter, and sugar together. Make 1” balls. Chill for at least 2 hours.
  2. Melt chocolate. Dip peanut butter balls into chocolate until completely covered. Gently shake off excess chocolate and place on wax paper. Let sit until chocolate is hard. (May need to re-warm chocolate.)

Bird’s Nest Cookies


, , , ,

birdsnest cookiesCarla made these, a richer version of the ones her grandmother made for Christmas when she was a kid. They’re a thumbprint cookie filled with jam, and everyone loved them.

1c brown sugar
0.25c white sugar (optional)
4 eggs, separated
1c butter (2 sticks)
1c shortening
4c flour
pinch salt
1c walnuts, chopped fine
0.5c raspberry or strawberry jam

Cream sugars, salt, butter, and shortening. Add egg yolks and flour. Mix to combine until a soft dough forms.

Shape into small balls, using about a teaspoon of dough for each. Dip each in egg whites, then nuts. Make a dent in each. Turn over (nut side up) and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8 minutes at 350F.

Remove from oven and again make a dent in the center of each. Put 1/4t jam in each dent. Return to oven and bake 6 more minutes.



, , ,

snowballs croppedSnowballs are a not-too-sweet cookie for those of you who like cookies but don’t have much of a sweet tooth. They’re still not exactly good for you, but they are delicious. And less sugar means you can pretend, right?

1.5c butter (3 sticks)
0.75c powdered sugar + extra for decoration
1T vanilla extract
0.5t salt
3c all-purpose flour
12oz mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
0.5c finely chopped nuts (optional, Puja left them out)

Preheat oven to 375.

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla in bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour, stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using). Shape level tablespoons of dough into 1.25″ balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set and lightly brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle powdered sugar over hot cookies on baking sheets. Cool on sheets for 10 minutes, then move to wire racks to cool completely. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar if desired. Store in airtight containers.