While cleaning out my pantry after the crazy holiday season, I discovered a mason jar of pearl barley buried deep on the shelf, and right away I began to look for new recipes that call for it. I love barley, chewy and nutty and substantial. Barley shines in soups and stews, where it absorbs any flavors from the broth that surrounds it, as in this barley stew with beans and herbs, from Turmeric and Saffron. A fiber-rich whole grain with many nutritional benefits, barley is an economical addition that thickens soups and stews.
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Give me chili any which way -- with or without beans, with or without meat -- and as long as it's spicy, I'm happy. Honestly, though, I'm happiest when my chili contains both meat and beans, and if the meat is turkey or chicken, that's just fine with me. This Crock Pot chicken taco chili, from Skinnytaste, hits all the high notes, and the best part is that it comes together in the slow cooker while you're busy doing something else. You can make chili on the stovetop, or in the slow cooker, and most of the recipes here can be adapted for either cooking method. With football playoffs in full swing, these recipes are perfect to make on Saturday for game day on Sunday.
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Whenever I hear the word earthy in relation to food, I think of lentils. It's not just the color; it's the meaty texture, the aroma, the "mouth feel" of lentils as they collapse into a heady broth. One of the world's healthiest foods, lentils make the best base for soup, whether seasoned with curry spices, paired with spicy sausage, or brightened with salty cheese and lemon, as in this Greek lentil soup with red pepper and feta, from The Perfect Pantry. In addition to being a nutritional powerhouse food, brown lentils are budget-friendly and available in every supermarket. I buy red lentils in large packages in Indian grocery stores, and I use the two types interchangeably in most soup recipes.
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