Quick Mushroom Barley Soup

I was over near the Uptown Crescent City Farmers Market today and stopped in to pick up a beautiful selection of mushrooms.

Feel free to use any kind of mushrooms in this recipe but aren’t these amazing?

Cascadia, king trumpet, and oyster mushrooms

I made a quick, small batch soup recipe that is the perfect amount for me to have seconds tonight and to have enough left over for another meal. Also, remember, barley will still absorb liquid off heat, so be prepared to add more liquid when reheating.

This is a comforting soup that has a lot going for it, with minerals and vitamins in the mushrooms and a good source of nutrients and fiber in the barley. Plus it is super tasty!

Quick Mushroom Barley Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion (about ½ cup), chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 lb sliced fresh mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook 10 minutes, until soft and tender. Add butter and mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook and stir 5-6 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated. Add in minced garlic and sauté until fragrant.

Add water, chicken broth, barley, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 30-45 minutes or until barley is tender. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.


Double Chocolate Chip Brownies

I was craving chocolate and went with my old stand-by brownies that I use a hand mixer and mix in the double boiler. Not a lot of mess and comes together very quickly so you can get to eating!

Darkly chocolatey and with a dense, fudgy texture.

Double Chocolate Chip Brownies

2 cups (12-oz. package) Bittersweet Chocolate Morsels, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped nuts (I went with pecans I had lightly toasted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Melt 1 cup morsels and the stick of butter in large, heavy-duty saucepan or a double-boiler over low heat; stir until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Mix in eggs. Stir in flour, sugar, vanilla extract and baking soda. Stir in remaining morsels and nuts. Spread into prepared baking pan.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool completely in pan on wire rack before slicing and consuming.

North Carolina Food Road trip

Now that I’m back from my trip to North Carolina (that had us traveling through Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia), I’m going to post our food road trip. I hope y’all have been or will try some of the places we went and let me know what you think about them.

Bon voyage et bon appétit!

My mom and I arrived in Cherokee, North Carolina on August 23rd and had dinner at Paul’s Family Restaurant (1111 Tsali Blvd). We started with fried mushrooms – big and juicy with a nice, crunchy batter and followed that with a chili cheese covered frybread.

Almost overflowing the plate, it was loaded with beans and cheese. The fry bread was slightly sweet but good with the chili.

We spent the night at the Newfound Lodge with riverside views from the balconies.

Even better, there was a gaggle of geese and a huge elk who came to the river to feed the next morning. That’s mom on our second floor balcony, checking her phone.


We took our time getting to Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway (it ends in Cherokee, just under 2 miles from our hotel and we get off at Craven Gap, mile marker 377). We stopped at lots of overlooks to just breathe, take pictures and admire the majesty of Great Smokey Mountains.

Milepost 431

After getting groceries the next day we went to Papa’s and Beer (17 Tunnel Road, Asheville). I had one each of their tacos – beef, chicken and avocado. Enjoyed the variety of choices available at their salsa bar and the house margarita, too. The place filled up fast at lunch time so go early if you can for delicious Mexican food.

We took it easy for a few days after we arrived before heading up to see the Museum of North Carolina Minerals (Milepost 331) and Mount Mitchell. At 6,684 feet, the mountain is the highest point east of the Mississippi River with gorgeous views and a couple of easy hikes to even better ones. We had planned to have lunch there but the restaurant was closed for repairs.

Some family friends came in town from Canton, North Carolina and we went out for pizza at Barley’s Taproom (42 Biltmore Avenue). We got the All-American with pepperoni, Italian sausage, onions and bell pepper. It was a New York style pizza – came out quickly, piping hot with a crispy & chewy crust, well seasoned sauce and lots of gooey cheese. My mom was pleased with the variety of beers and I enjoyed a blackberry cider.

We drove down to Hendersonville for the North Carolina Apple Festival. We enjoyed a frozen apple cider and picked up several local apples – Carolina Crisp, Empire, Cortland and one gold – a Mutsu.

Mom by the mountain lion statue

We ran errands one day (mainly to renew Mom’s Buncombe County Library Card!) and stopped at Luella’s Bar-B-Que (501 Merrimon Avenue) for lunch. We had passed it several times on previous visits but it took a recommendation from my friend, Ayame Dinkler, for us to stop and I’m so glad we did!

Mom had the Hot Mama Wings. She really liked being able to order the number of wings she wanted (3) and to pick her sauce level.

I had the chopped pork sandwich. I liked that the sauce was in a cup for me to add as I judge barbecue on how it tastes by itself. The meat was great – smokey, tender and juicy. The sandwich was delicious without the vinegar based sauce I chose and even better with it.

We both really enjoyed the space (plus lots of places to eat outside), the friendly staff and will definitely be coming back soon.

We went to Sunday breakfast at Cornerstone Restaurant (102 Tunnel Road) – just down the mountain from Mom’s condo. The portion sizes were huge and the food very flavorful. I just wish we could have eaten more!

Mom had the blackberries and cream stuffed French toast:

I had their Breakfast bowl – a hearty (read humongous) serving of homestyle potatoes, eggs, cheese and sausage gravy

Very friendly service – especially for that early on a Sunday morning. We got there after they opened at 7:30am!

A highlight was a visit to Chai Pani (22 Battery Park Ave) with a friend of Mom’s that she’s known since kindergarten. There is a lot of construction happening on restoration of the Flatiron Building, so be prepared for noise but the food was outstanding.

Namaste, y’all!

We started with matchstick okra fries – well seasoned and, honestly, the best preparation of okra I’ve ever had. Then we had Sev Potato Dahi Puri – crispy puris that were cool and refreshing. Finally, we had Sloppy Jai sliders – very flavorful lamb hash sliders. Plus lavender lemonade as a palate cleanser.

All quite delicious! I see why they won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in June. I highly recommend.

We went to Chocolate Fetish (39 Haywood Street) and spent way too much money on incredibly decadent chocolate. Just look at these salted caramels:

We also stopped at Ben and Jerry’s (19 Haywood Street) for ice cream.

I got a large scoop of Mint Chocolate Chunk – super yum!

We picked up corned beef on rye sandwiches from Zella’s Deli (45 College Street). Lots of tasty meat on toasted bread with a large, whole sour dill pickle.

A few days later, we joined friends at Village Wayside Bar and Grille (30 Lodge Street, Biltmore Village). Had a pretty good burger and the CBR fries. (Cheddar cheese, bacon ranch fries).

We did have to send the first batch of onion rings back. When they brought the new ones out, they admitted someone left the buttermilk out of the batter. The next batch was so much better with that crucial ingredient back in!

One of mom’s friends introduced us to the White Duck Taco Shop (on the banks of the French Broad River at 388 Riverside Drive). We enjoyed beer, margaritas, red wine and chips with queso dip when we would stop there to just chill out with John and watch the river flow by.

There were the obligatory stops at Cheddar’s and Waffle House during the visit but I’ve posted about them before. I will reiterate that the honey butter croissants are mighty delicious

and that the Waffle House Scale Index is a real thing. The jump teams they send into disaster areas to get the restaurants back open and serving hot food to survivors and first responders are real heroes in my book. There is nothing like a hot meal when you’ve been cold and wet and nobody does comforting starch and protein packed meals like them.

We started the drive back home on September 27 and stopped at Native Brew Tap and Grill (1897 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee, NC) for a late lunch. Mom really enjoyed their Smokey Mountain Golden Ale and I was wowed by a pretzel bigger than her head! Great mustard and cheese dipping sauce and the loaded nachos were very good, too.

We enjoyed another night at Newfound Lodge and then drove along the Nantahala River into Georgia and then followed the interstate home.

Such a great trip!