Goals, ambitions and a vegetable barley soup recipe

Don’t be confused by the blog title. I’m moving. Or trying to move. My tech skills are so limited it’s like trying to move twenty years of belongings to a new house in a VW bug. It will take a while. Not that I’ve been blogging for twenty years—though sometimes it feels like that—it’s just a slow process. Eventually I’ll be at sallypasleyvargas.com. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m too impatient to have it all sewed up before I roll it out, so I hope you’ll tolerate going on the ride with me.

My new blog title “Cooking Lessons” more accurately reflects what I like to write about. Hint: it’s not the recipes. BUT, since I cook and bake and teach and write about food, of course I’ll be throwing in recipes and I hope they will make your lives easier or inspire you to cook.

I went to a blogger camp in January and had a wonderful time. I met a lot of good people, and came away with a lot of information and even more questions: Why I am blogging? And what do I want to blog about? (I’m still chewing on that. I’ll get back to you: I promised you a ride, didn’t I?)  My fellow campers had a variety of goals and ambitions, so I was forced to consider mine. The short take-away: goals and ambitions are overrated.

The main problem with goals and ambitions is that they’re so darn future-oriented. I’m finding a lot more peace living in the present and I’m trying to stay there. So how do you achieve or accomplish things without goals? I guess I’m loosening up on that one, too. My new acronym is NOMB: None. Of. My. Business. None of my damn business. Outcomes are just not what I want to live for. They’re so unpredictable and unreliable; worrying about them really cuts into your joie de vivre.

In this vein, I kind of backed away from lot of things that were making me uncomfortable (read, crazy.) I’ve been working on another book that I am now completely revamping, but the truth? Its publication is NOMB!! And when I thought about it, the other truth is: I really don’t care! This was a revelation. Not to say that I wouldn’t be thrilled if my thoughts see the light of day, but publishing a book is, like everything else, fleeting. And will the world be that much of a better place if my name is on the cover of a book? I seriously doubt it. If you could see me now, you would see me doing a little dance of freedom!

Living without goals is a lot harder in practice than it is in theory, so I’m taking it in small bites. I’m promising myself I can drink a hot cup of coffee and daydream, instead of running around in the morning trying to get a million things done so I can meet some self imposed goals. And I’ll do more stuff I really feel inspired and excited to do, instead of straining to get something done that fits in with my sometimes ill-advised ambitions. I’ll let you know how it goes. I feel a little tingle of joy just thinking about how much more fun life could be.

Now I’ll throw in a recipe, apropos of nothing. That more or less reflects my state of mind. Life is what happens while you’re busy cooking something. And this soup will help to pass the time while the snow melts. Even though I promised myself to stay in the present, that eventuality is one I really look forward to!

Vegetable Barley Soup

Serves 4

You can never have enough warming soups in your repertoire at this time of year, and this vegetable barley soup engenders a few variations. Looking for a filling vegetarian meal? Add a little freshly grated Parmesan and use water or vegetable stock; the soup has plenty of flavor without meat. Need to satisfy the meat lovers in your family? Add some cooked and sliced sausage or shredded leftover chicken. Either way, this is a satisfying and comforting way to reward yourself at the end of a chilly day.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

3 medium carrots, cut in 3/8-inch dice

2 stalks celery, cut in 3/8-inch dice

1 leek, finely sliced

1 large thin-skinned potato such as Yukon Gold, cut in 3/8-inch dice

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 can (15 ounces) whole tomatoes with juice, crushed in a bowl

3/4 cup barley

8 cups low-salt vegetable broth, chicken broth or water

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup frozen peas

1/4 cup chopped parsley, for garnish

1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, leeks and potatoes to the pot and decrease the heat to medium low. Stir occasionally and cook the vegetables gently until they begin to soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and barley.

2. Pour in the stock and bring the soup to a simmer. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, until the barley is soft. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper. Stir in the peas and cook until they are tender, about 5 minutes. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and garnish with parsley.

Read more about goals and ambitions at zenhabits.