I think I use my slow cooker in a backwards manner. I don’t mean that it’s physically turned around on the countertop, although it has a really short electrical cord, so sometimes. I mean that I think I use it at the wrong time of year. I know a lot of people rave about using their slow cookers in the summer, as it’s a great way to make a hot meal without heating up the house with the oven. That totally makes sense, but that’s what we use our grill for.
For me, prime slow cooker season seems to be January, when it’s frigid cold outside. I love the hearty, comforting meals that come from my slow cooker, even if it doesn’t help warm up the house at all. Other people seem to agree with me, as the Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup recipe I posted last January went on to become my most popular recipe (by FAR) of all time.
For this simple Slow Cooker Italian Barley & Sausage, just combine the barley with garlic, onion, marinara sauce, chicken stock and sundried tomatoes. Then, toward the end of cooking time, stir in smoked turkey sausage and spinach, and garnish with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. This was my first time cooking with smoked turkey sausage, and I was surprised with how much it tasted like traditional smoked sausage, but with less fat and fewer calories.
Here’s to a Happy and Healthy 2015!
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 jar (14 ounces) marinara sauce
- 1/2 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 cups chicken stock, divided
- 1-1/4 cups pearl barley, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced sundried tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 package (13 ounces) fully cooked smoked turkey sausage, thinly sliced
- 2 cups packed baby spinach
- Chopped fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
- In bowl of slow cooker, stir together garlic, marinara sauce, onion, 2 cups chicken stock, barley, sundried tomatoes, oil, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until barley is tender and most liquid is absorbed.
- Stir in sausage, spinach and remaining 1 cup stock; cover and cook on low 10 minutes longer or until sausage is warmed through and spinach is wilted.
- Serve barley and sausage mixture garnished with basil and cheese, if desired.