Here Taste This, Polar Vortex Edition : Chicken Spinach Soup with Barley

So it's Monday, and my kids are home from school again. This is the fourth school cancellation day this month, and I feel certain day five will come tomorrow. It's not that I disagree with it so much; temps of -20 and wind chills of -45 are not to be trifled with. It's more that it's insanity. Even for Minnesota in January, this is wicked cold.

The best way to fight back - besides a trip to the Caribbean - is soup. So today, I'm breaking with my self-imposed rule to do "Here, Taste This" on Fridays, and I'm posting a Polar Vortex edition. Because this soup is perfect for these frigid days. It's fast, simple, healthy and it will fill you with warm goodness.

Chicken Spinach Soup with Barley
adapted from Everyday Food

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 carrots, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup quick-cooking barley
5 cups raw baby spinach, roughly chopped

1. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add carrots and onion. Cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Add chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until chicken turns white on the edges, about 2 minutes.
2. Add broth and and bring to a boil. Add barley. Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer the soup until barley is tender and chicken is cooked, 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Remove cover, add spinach and stir until the spinach is just wilted, about 1 minute.
4. Season to taste with more salt and pepper and serve.

1. The key to this soup is quick-cooking barley. Most grocery stores stock it, but you might have to ask where they keep it. Some keep it by the oatmeal, others in the soup aisle. Quick-cooking barley has all the nutrition of pearled barley, only it's flattened so it cooks in much less time. It should look a little like oatmeal when you pour it out of the box.
2. I like pepper, so I add lots of it just before serving. Be sure to taste the soup before you serve it and salt and pepper to your taste.
3. Serve with crusty bread and cut-up pears and apples. Eat next to a roaring fire and smile smugly at the wind howling outside. The cold can't touch you now, baby.

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