Anieema's Crockpot Mushroom-Barley Soup

1/4 cup corn or vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced small
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 quarts beef or chicken broth
1 cup pearl barley, rinsed under cold running water
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the onion, celery and garlic until vegetables start to turn transparent, but not browned (about 10 minutes). Transfer to crockpot. Add broth, barley, carrots and mushrooms. Cover tightly and cook on low 18-24 hours -- stirring from time to time. Season to taste.

Makes 10-12 servings. Freezes well.

NOTE: You can, if you like, substitute 1/2 cup dried mushrooms for 1 pound of fresh mushrooms. Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water to cover for 20 minutes, strain and add to soup. You can strain the mushroom soaking water through a paper coffee filter and substitute it for an equal amount of broth. Dried mushrooms add a wonderful flavor to the soup.

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