Beef Barley Soup – It’s Snowing and It’s Cold Out There!

It’s a snowy day in Northeast Ohio with more snow predicted over the weekend.  I have a confession; I detest, despise, and dislike winter immensely!  It wasn’t always that way.  Growing up in Vermont I can remember spending the entire day outside sledding, ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling or skiing.  I’d come in from the cold to thaw out, my cheeks rosy, my mother would have some hot chocolate for me to warm me up and homemade cookies.  My feet would be so cold I could barely feel my toes, but still I spent the entire day outside having fun!  The sun was shining and the snow sparkled like diamonds covering the pine trees.  The most beautiful sight to behold was when I was skiing, riding the chairlift to the top of the mountain, where at the top all the trees were covered in snow and glistening in the sun, truly creating a winter wonderland.  It was breathtakingly beautiful! 

When did my disdain for winter materialize?  Hmmmm …. Many, many years later.  I lived in Syracuse, New York for 12 years.  Syracuse is synonymous with snow and lots of it!  As I was looking out at the snow falling this morning I was reminded of the biggest snow storm of my life – the Blizzard of 1993 in Syracuse, NY.  I was working that day and because of the projected storm we were let out of work early.  It took me over 4 hours to get home when normally it would take 20 minutes!  Snow was coming down so fast that the road crews could not keep up with it and as I was driving the snow was literally up to the window of my car.  It was pure white out conditions and as I think back now I had to be crazy to even attempt to get home!  I made it home safely, frazzled and stressed to the max.  I collapsed on the couch and put on some relaxing music and sat there for quite a while thankful to be home and safe!  That snow storm produced 42.9 inches of snow within 48 hours and Syracuse was dubbed “Snow King” in the newspaper headlines!  Winters were difficult in Syracuse, with icy roads, lots of snow and not a lot of sunshine.

Despite my dislike of winter I ended up moving to Northeast Ohio and winters are still hard to take!  We don’t get much snow, just enough to make driving slippery at times.  But the hardest part of living in Northeast Ohio is the lack of sunshine during the winter.  We can go days and sometimes weeks without seeing the sun and then wake up one morning to a bright blue sky and sunshine and feel so thankful for the sun!  What a difference the sun can make in our attitudes and outlook – everything is brighter and even the cold is bearable!

As much as I dislike winter I have found some redeeming things I love about winter!  I love sitting by the fireplace, looking at the fire, toasty and warm.  I love snuggling on the couch with a soft blanket.  I love the fresh fallen snow on the trees – it is so beautiful!  I love looking at icicles hanging from the houses.  I love winter because it makes me appreciate Spring and Summer so much more!  I love watching the dogs (my boyz) run and play in the snow.  I love seeing the bright red of cardinals at the bird feeders against the white backdrop of snow.  I love making snowballs and snow people.  Yes, snow people …. not just snowmen.  I love finally seeing sunshine and feeling its warmth.  I love the contrast of the bright blue sky against the white snow.  I love staying in on a weekend when it’s snowing and making a big batch of soup.   So … maybe I don’t quite dislike winter as much as I thought!

If you’re living in a cold climate this is a wonderful hearty soup to make that will warm you down to your toes!  Enjoy and stay warm!

Below are the ingredients I use – I usually adjust the measurements for the beef, broth, water and carrots upwards to make a larger quantity so that I can freeze the soup as well as enjoy it the day I make it!  Ahhh … the soup that keeps on giving!  What more could you want!

Instead of using canned stock I make this soup with homemade beef stock.  I have also made it with canned beef stock and it is good that way as well.

Homemade Beef Stock:


  • 2 -4 lbs beef, bones
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 leeks, white part only,sliced
  • 4 -6 carrots, scraped and sliced
  • 2 -3 celery ribs, washed and chopped
  • 1 bunch chopped parsley stems
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • thyme, to taste
  • rosemary, to taste
  • 3 quarts water


Roast the beef bones at 350° Fahrenheit for 40 minutes.

Saute the onions, carrots, and celery in a little oil until they are all turning brown.

Combine all remaining ingredients and simmer on low heat for at least 6 hours

After 3 hours, taste and adjust seasonings if desired.

Continue cooking on low heat, if desired – the longer you cook, the stronger the flavor will be.

Strain stock. Allow to cool, and skim off any fat

Ingredients for Beef Barley Soup:

  •  1 package mushrooms
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. thinly sliced beef round, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 cans (13 3/4 oz. each) reduced sodium beef broth (or homemade beef stock would be best!)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried leaf marjoram
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup barley


Sauté onion and garlic in large pot over medium-low heat until tender but not browned, 5 minutes.  Increase heat.  Add beef, brown on all sides.

Add beef stock, water, carrot, celery, marjoram, pepper and bay leaf.  Bring to boiling, lower heat, cover and simmer 1-2 hours.  Add barley and sliced mushrooms and continue to cook 20 minutes until barley is tender.

Mix a couple of tablespoons cornstarch in with water to form a paste and add, stirring to the soup to thicken.  Add more of this mixture as necessary to desired consistency.

Serve and enjoy!