Vegetable Barley Soup

During the first week in January Florida, like much of the country, got hit with a cold front that left us feeling pretty miserable. I am not a fan of cold weather in general, but this was just biting. Bob wasn’t feeling well and so I decided to make soup.

One of my favorite soups as a kid was the ham and barley soup mom would make every now and then. I’m not sure if there is a recipe or not for that soup, but I remember it required simmering the ham hock for a while.  I didn’t have a ham hock (and didn’t really want one) so I just made a vegetarian version – this is a basic soup, but it really worked well.


  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup barley (I used the instant quick cooking kind)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ~1 tablespoon olive oil

Chop the onion, carrot and celery, mince the garlic. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium to medium high heat. When oil is hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until onion is soft, about 4-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes (with juices), vegetable broth, and bay leaf and stir. Season again with salt and pepper and cook, stirring every now and then, for about 15 minutes. Add the barley and cook ten minutes more. (If using regular barley, you may need to cook this longer.) Adjust seasoning and serve with crackers or some toasted bread if you like.

Quick, simple soup. It gets better the second day and made 6-8 servings – enough for Bob and I for several lunches. Best part about this soup is that I had everything on hand when I decided to make it – something that very rarely happens in this house.

Michael Pozzan – Chardonnay, 2014

  • Basic info: Michael Poznan “Annabella” Chardonnay, Napa, CA – 2014
  • Type: white
  • Price estimate: $13 (local wine store)
  • Look: Light straw colored with good legs after it warmed a little.
  • Smell: Apple, pear, lemon flower
  • Taste: Lemon, lime, vanilla and a little jasmine. Good acid with a medium finish. Tart, but pleasant.
  • Conclusions: I like this wine, especially for a Chardonnay. It has a soft texture and a silky mouthfeel, but it isn’t oily or oaky. It went well with the Thai peanut sauce I made with dinner. Is it a memorable wine? Probably not, but it is very drinkable.
  • Other notes: Ever since Kate brought over the 2009 Cakebread Chardonnay, I’ve been trying to try more chardonnay. It isn’t a varietal I gravitate to as I associate it with heavy, okay oily wines. We tasted the Annabella a few months ago and really liked it so when I needed a nice, clean white for dinner this was the one I went to open.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from the winery, “The Annabella 2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay is a bright, light straw color in the glass. Youthful but sophisticated, the wine entices with aromas of honeydew melon, juicy tangerine, and a slight hint of butterscotch. In the mouth, the wine strikes an impossible balance between voluptuous and delicate – with a silky, weighty mouth feel playing counterpoint to fine-spun flavors of citrus blossom and a hint of cinnamon. The slight structure provided by oak frames the wine’s delicacy perfectly, providing length and depth to its elegance.” 14.5% alcohol by volume.


The plant that would not die

I can’t remember when I got the Bougainvillea but it was a while ago – either right before or right after Bob and I got married. In the years since I got this plant I have pretty much neglected it, especially in the last few years. It has sat on the back patio and pretty much been ignored and it just hung on barely alive. Before Irma came through we moved it to the corner between the house and the fence – it is a REALLY heavy pot and we figured that it would be safe there. I never moved it back to its spot after Irma, so it sat in that corner, unattended for the last few months. This week, I finally got around to moving it into the sun again, watering it and cutting the dead branches off. I’m hoping that if I actually pay some attention to it, I might be rewarded with pretty peach flowers.

I also moved the mini garden to a spot where it would get a little more sun, and planted some cat grass and catnip for the kitties. I don’t know if they will play in them or not, but they are kind of pretty.

I’m hoping to get the actual garden back in the fall, but for now, I think the pots will work. The pets seem to enjoy the back yard and it is a nice place for Bob and I to have a glass of wine in the evening (weather and bugs permitting).

Vieilles Vignes – Chinon, 2014

  • Basic info: Vieilles Vignes Chinon, Cabernet Franc, Chinon, France, 2014
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: $15 (from Chamber Street Wines)
  • Look: dark red, almost blackberry in color and opaque. Legs not noticeable early, but becomes more prominent as the wine warms and opens.
  • Smell: Cherry and red candy
  • Taste: Not much of a specific taste up front, but tart with a little black cherry, spice and mineral notes after a few seconds. Medium finish, but not many layers.
  • Conclusions: I liked this wine. It was a good, drinking wine. It was easy to sip and didn’t require a lot of thinking to enjoy. It isn’t very memorable, but still a lovely wine.
  • Other notes: My first experiences with Cab Franc were not good – tree bark and dirt were the descriptions that come to mind, but a few of the recent Cab Francs have changed my mind. they can be more fruit forward (not sweet) than earthy and it is definitely worth seeking them out.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Chamber Street Wines, “The delicious Chinon Vielles Vignes of Patrick Lambert is from 55 year old vines on sandy clay soils over limestone. Hand harvested and fermented with wild yeasts, the wine gets 12 months of aging in oak barrels. The wine shows a deep red/black color and ripe blackberry and strawberry aromas with pepper, earth and citrus. The palate shows earthy blackberry and strawberry compote with prune and bitter chocolate with firm citrus acids.” 12.5% alcohol by volume.


Vacation at home

Over the last week I’ve had the chance to rest a bit and not think about work or school. Final grades are in and I did well, so now it is just waiting for the diploma and final transcript in the mail. It has been a little weird to not *have* to do anything and I’ve tried to do a little around the house – clean out the fridge and pantry, shred what needs to be shredded, attend to the garden and pets – and just read for fun and relax. It’s been nice.

So the pets … All are good and they are fairly normalized now. I will find Arthas and the kittens on the couch more and more and the kittens are going right up to Arthas and he just sniffs. He is seeking them out every now and then. Tigger is good – he needs his space and quiet time, but he plays with the kittens and curls up with them (or lets them curl up with him) so we know he likes them at least a little.

I’ve also had the chance to cook a little this week. I haven’t ventured too far into experimenting, but it has been nice to think about cooking and have the time (and energy) to make a few things.

If I like my wine, Bob is equally enamored by beer. Oh, he drinks wine with me with dinner, but in the evening, if we are sitting on the couch watching something, he tends to go for beer. He recently (thank you, John) discovered that he can get beer delivered to the house. He is a happy man – with a cat.

Just a few more days off and then it is back to reality. But, I’m enjoying the time while I have it and looking forward to cooking, hanging out with the pets, and maybe looking at a little travel.


Sparkling Wines

It is the time of year for sparkling wine and we decided to do an online wine class about different sparkling wines. It was a lot of fun and we learned a little bit about the bubbly.  Champaign is expensive (or good champaign is expensive) and there are a lot of other types of sparkling wine that are just as good and far friendlier on the budget. So, in the order we tasted them:

Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco: Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy, no vintage ($12.75 at Total Wine with coupon). Light, pale straw colored wine with a tint of green. Good bubbles that I initially thought were teeny tiny, but when compared to the other two, were a little bigger. Apple, pear and mineral on the nose. Good acidity with flavors of apple and bread. I liked this wine. It made me smile to drink it and I love the feel of the wine in my mouth.

Seguras Viudas Cava Brute: Penedes, Spain, no vintage ($8.50 at Total Wine with coupon). Very similar in looks to the prosecco with a pale straw color and tinged with green. Bubbles are much finer, but not as many visible. Was not crazy about the smell of this one – a little smoky with a little unripe apple. The bubbles were very fine when drinking with a mineral water texture. Lots of stone, granite and unripe apple in the flavors. Not my favorite, but it will make a great mimosa.

Albrecht Tradition Cremant D’Alsace: Reserve Rose from Alsace, France, no vintage. (19.50 at Total Wine with coupon). Very light, pale salmon in color with very fine bubbles – and lots of them. Strawberry and bread on the nose. Raspberry, strawberry, and bread in flavor with a nice, smooth finish. Of the three, my favorite. Easy drinking, pleasant mouthfeel with a lot of nice summer fruit.

The clear winner here for both Bob and I was the cremant. It had the best flavor, texture and finish of the three. The prosecco came in second with the cava a distant third. This was an interesting comparison, especially since we were at the local wine store’s weekly tasting the night before and they features prosecco and other sparking wines. With those wines, we liked the rose best also so it may just be that I prefer the fruity (not sweet) bubbly.


Bedrock Old Vine Zinfandel, 2016

  • Basic info:Bedrock Wine Company, Old Vine Zinfandel, California, 2016
  • Type: red
  • Price estimate: $19 (from winery)
  • Look: Dark ruby and very opaque. good legs
  • Smell: Wine, blackberry and a little hint of smoke
  • Taste: black cherry, spice and other dark fruits. Long, earthy finish with a deep cherry flavor.
  • Conclusions: So if the White Label Soter is the best Pinot Noir I’ve ever had, this is the best Zinfandel I’ve ever had. Period. The flavors and textures of the wine are in perfect balance. It has a lot of complexity but it also one of the easiest wines to drink. December has been a very good wine month for me and this wine proves two things – big red wines don’t have to be full of tannins and high alcohol to be good, and quality does not have to be super expensive.
  • Other notes: I found Bedrock Wine Company because we had The Whole Shebang – a red blend that was pretty fantastic and at less than $15 a bottle, easy on the budget. When I started looked at where it came from, it turns out, this winery produces it and I became interested in some of their more named wines, and yes, in some of their slightly more expensive wines. I was able to place an order in the summer, but with the fires and everything happening in California, we got it in December. Well worth the wait. Thankfully I picked up two of these, as well as few that are in the $30 range. We will save those for a slightly special occasion. I love this one so much, I emailed the company to see if I could order more, but have not heard anything at this point, so I’m guessing I can’t. Will just have to wait for the next vintage and hope it is as good.
  • From the bottle: “From vines averaging over 80 years in age planted throughout the diverse state of California, this wine aims to reflect the perfume, freshness, and spice that makes Zinfandel so utterly delicious. Fermented with native yeasts and minimally racked, this wine should provide great short-term drinking but will age gracefully for 5-10 years.” 14.4% alcohol by volume.