Adapted from Cooking Matters for Parents


  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • ¾ cup pearl barley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 (14½-ounce) can diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional


  1. Rinse, peel, and dice carrots and onions. Peel and mince garlic. Rinse and chop spinach.
  2. In a colander, rinse barley with cold water.
  3. In a large pot, add oil. Heat over medium-high heat. Add carrots and onions. Cook until slightly soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, paprika, and cayenne pepper to pot. Stir and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Add barley, water, and broth to pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Partially cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. In a colander, rinse lentils with cold water. Add lentils to pot, along with tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  7. Add spinach to soup and stir. Cover and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  8. Add salt and pepper and stir. If using Parmesan cheese, add now.

Chef’s Notes

  • If soup is too thick, add extra liquid (water or broth) to your taste.
  • Beans and grains continue to absorb water when stored in the fridge.
  • When reheating leftover soup, add water or broth as needed.
  • Use kale, chard, or collard greens in place of spinach, if you like.
  • For a more filling and healthier soup, add more colorful veggies.