Archive of ‘Soups & Stews’ category

Chicken Pesto Slow Cooker Soup

This post updated October 2015 as part of the #ThrowbackThursday photography project. There are no old photos because apparently I was so embarrassed that I removed them previously and left the post without pictures. 

Delicious, healthy, comforting, and filling! This slow cooker chicken pesto soup is a hearty meal perfect for chilly weather!

Baby Girl entered our lives just under twelve weeks ago. Some things have changed dramatically, and other things have stayed the same, but the one thing that absolutely floors me is how quickly the time is passing. I saw one of her birth announcements on our living room table this weekend and then looked at the little girl in my arms and I paused as I marveled at the amount of change that has happened in such a short time. Then, as if to really emphasize this, I baked for a friend’s son’s first birthday two weeks ago and I’m baking for another friend’s son’s first birthday party this weekend. I clearly remember having cinnamon rolls and Dance Revolution parties and baking for her baby shower while she was expecting. This happened last week I’m pretty sure, but the calendar is saying something different.

Since my calendar is clearly trying to cheat me out of “living” time (maybe you too), we must devise crafty ways to fight back! Enter the slow cooker. Ya’ll know I’m a fan after discovering that not all crock pot meals have to include processed “cream of something”.

Delicious, healthy, comforting, and filling! This slow cooker chicken pesto soup is a hearty meal perfect for chilly weather!

This soup makes me happy. I love how filling it is and it makes the house smell amazing. The barley is a great substitution to rice or pasta because it doesn’t get all mushy in the slow cooker or the refrigerator if you have leftovers (we did). I’m not sure if you can freeze the leftovers with the barley. Maybe? If you’ve had experience freezing barley I’d love for you to leave a comment below and share your wisdom.

If you have an herb garden, this recipe also serves as a fabulous excuse to use up any basil you have on hand for the pesto (or try an arugula pesto for a bit of a spicier kick since really, leftover basil?). You can also just use jarred pesto, but seriously, homemade pesto is easy with a food processor. (Future blog post? Check!)

Delicious, healthy, comforting, and filling! This slow cooker chicken pesto soup is a hearty meal perfect for chilly weather!

Now go forth and reclaim that time the calendar keeps sneaking away!

Chicken Pesto Slow Cooker Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped (approx 1 cup)
  • 1½ cups celery, diced
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1.5-2 lbs chopped chicken breasts
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used a blend of three Italian hard cheeses)
  • ½ cup pesto (homemade or store bought)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Add broth, celery, onion, pepper, garlic, chicken, and barley to slow cooker. Stir.
  2. Cover and cook on LOW for about 4-6 hours until the chicken is cooked and the barley is chewy and soft.
  3. Stir in milk, cheese, and pesto. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes on HIGH.
  4. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Ladle into bowls and serve.


Make Your Own Soup Stock

I will admit to rolling my eyes a little years ago at Ina Garten when she pulled out homemade stock for the recipes on her show. “Store bought is fine” was definitely my mantra and I couldn’t understand why someone would take the time to make something purchased so easily. That is, until I realized how much easier it was to make your own! It’s also less expensive, more flavorful, and you know exactly what is in your food. Make Your Own Soup Stock 2

I make stock every few months, storing two bags in my freezer – one with chicken bones and one with vegetable scraps (washed of course). When they are full, I make stock. It’s that simple! I have yet to make beef stock, but for that, I think I’d go to my local grass-fed beef farm stand at the market and buy some bones from them. Easy to do because they’re my booth neighbors at the Vandenberg Village Farmer’s Market on Sundays! Make Your Own Soup Stock

How to Make Chicken or Vegetable Broth

  1. Empty your bag of frozen chicken bones or vegetables into a large stock pot. You can combine the chicken and vegetables, but I make them separate so I can prepare vegan dishes. 
  2. Fill the pot with water until it is about 2 inches over the vegetables or bones. Add any spices if you wish. Bay leaves, parsley and thyme are common. You may also add salt, but I would keep the quantity small so you can adjust salt as needed in the dishes you cook with the broth later, maybe a good pinch or so if you must.
  3. Bring to a rolling boil then immediately reduce the heat to barely a simmer, cover and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Check the flavor. If it’s to your liking, remove the broth from the heat. If it still tastes like water, continue to simmer longer, checking each half hour. If you over-simmer, the broth can become bitter.
  5. After the broth is ready, allow to cool either over ice, or on a hot pad in the refrigerator before transferring to your storage containers.
  6. Using a wire mesh strainer, separate the solids in your broth from the broth and discard.
  7. Ladle or pour the broth into your containers and either store in the refrigerator for immediate use or freeze. Be sure to leave a little room for expansion in the containers you plan to freeze. Make your own soup stock 3

Weeknight Matzo Ball Soup

After a few beautiful “California winter” days, the weather just turned rainy and gray and cold and ick. Even with a vacation coming up and the intoxicating smells of challah bread coming from the kitchen, I couldn’t get over the funk I was in and I really wanted some comfort food. Had those days?

Comfort food for me isn’t always about calorie-laden foods, but about smells and experiences that evoke happy memories. When the Godfather and I were students at the photo 1University of Miami (GO CANES!), there was a restaurant building about a mile away from campus that rotated through restaurants every few months. Most were unmemorable and wouldn’t survive even if they had been in a more accessible building, but there was one – The Diner – that holds a special place in our college experience. They had a few good dishes, but our favorite was the matzo ball soup. When we needed a light meal and an escape from campus later in the evening after all the delis closed, we would go and enjoy a bowl in one of their tall modern booths. Like all restaurants in that location, it closed after about 10 months and the late-night matzo soup runs ended.

After we moved away, we realized matzo ball soup wasn’t very easy to come by and so we started buying the box mixes, but it just wasn’t the same. Too salty and bland. I started my matzo soup journey by doctoring the box mixes, using less of the broth packet and adding a few vegetables. You know that kitchen voice that chimes in every once in a while and asks you “What ARE you DOING!?! You can MAKE this!”???

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It didn’t say a word to me for at least a year.

Then one day, it spoke and I went to Google. I found a few recipes for making matzo balls from scratch and read everyone’s opinion on what should and shouldn’t go into the broth, what makes a “real” matzo ball soup vs. one doctored by the culinary community or “those that don’t know better” into some unrecognizable concoction in a bowl masquerading as comfort food. So much passion over soup. I get it.

When the time is available and I have the ingredients on hand, I do enjoy making matzo ball soup entirely from scratch, but this is not that post. This post is about those days when you want something and you want it right. now.

We try not to keep many convenience foods in the pantry, but you’ll often find a box of matzo ball mix… not the soup mix!… tucked away in the back of our pantry for just such a day. A day when a bowl of comforting soup and a thick slice of homemade bread are all you need to warm your soul and make the weather blahs go away.

Weekday Matzo Ball Soup


  • 1 packet of matzo ball mix + eggs and oil as called for on the package
  • 1 ½ tbsp dry parsley (or 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley)
  • 8 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, minced (less if you insist)
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped (or in this case, 2-3 stalks of green onion)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt as needed

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1. Prep the matzo ball mix according to the package. Add the parsley to give the matzo balls some additional flavor. Place in the refrigerator to firm up before rolling into balls.

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2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in your soup pan and add the garlic and onions

. Sauté for 2 minutes until fragrant, then add the rest of

3. While the broth is coming to a boil, pull out the matzo meal mix and form the matzo balls. Drop balls one by one into the boiling soup. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes.
the vegetables and cook another 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil.

4. Adjust seasonings as desired and serve warm, preferably with fresh bread. The Godmother’s Test Kitchen was experimenting with a garlic chive challah (pictured). 

Weekday Matzo Ball Soup with Goodie Godmother Challah bread

Weekday Matzo Ball Soup with Goodie Godmother Challah bread

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