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Barley-Shiitake Mushroom Soup

What you need: 

1 1/2 cup dry shiitake mushrooms
2 large yellow onions
6 stalks celery
6 carrots
1 pkg Quaker Quick Barley
8 cup water
2 tablespoon vegetarian chicken style seasoning
1 teaspoon salt or to taste

What you do: 

Shiitake mushrooms have the perfect chewy texture to go with the barley. Even die-hard beef stock folks won't miss the meat.
Rinse the shiitake mushrooms and set them aside to soak in plenty of water. They will need about an hour to soak. Chop the onions, celery, and carrots. Put the vegetables and the seasoning in a large stock pot with the water. When the mushrooms are soft, snip them into smaller pieces (approx. a square inch each) and drop them in the pot. Bring the pot to a boil, turn down to simmer. Cook until the carrots just start to soften. Add barley and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Taste the broth occasionally while cooking, add salt to taste and more of the seasoning if needed.
Note on Shiitake mushrooms for those of you new to dried Shiitake mushrooms: These guys are sandy, so rinse them WELL in a colander to start. More sand will fall out of them as they expand. I like to soak them in a mixing bowl with lots of water to keep them floating well above the bottom. I even turn the gill sides down. Always remove them from the soak with a slotted spoon without sloshing the bowl around, don't dump them through a colander.
You can then ladle some of the soaking water into the soup, if you do it carefully and don't disturb the bottom. I'm sorry to state the obvious to people who already know, but I learned this a little at a time, and would have been nice to know the first time!

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