Let’s be honest: Whether it’s a stormy and rainy day, crisp fall afternoon, or snowy day, nothing makes you feel cozier than curling up on the couch and enjoying a warm cup of soup. This particular recipe for turkey barley mushroom soup is a hearty dish brought to you by recipe developer Mackenzie Ryan of Food Above Gold. It will put your leftovers to good use (while saving money in the bank), and can be savored any time of year! Now it doesn’t get much better than that.

Take some notes from Ryan. According to this recipe developer, during the holiday season, you can purchase turkeys for as little as $0.69 a pound, so she tries to stock up on as many that will fit in her freezer. "I then roast them throughout the year, because one of those turkeys feeds my family of five for a week. As a result, I’ve perfected many of the meals made with turkey leftovers," she says.

This barley mushroom soup offers a ton of possibilities. "Turkey isn’t a requirement, but it makes a great way to use up leftovers, which is where the ‘traditional’ came from. It’s a pretty standard recipe recommended for steering away from bland, basic turkey leftovers," Ryan says. You could really use any meat for the recipe. You can also easily make a vegetarian version of this soup by simply removing the turkey, adding extra cremini mushrooms, and swapping out the chicken broth for a vegetable one.

Gather the delicious, healthy ingredients to create this turkey barley mushroom soup

Dried mushrooms are a key part of this dish. They help deepen the soup’s flavor, making the mushrooms not a mere ingredient, but the star of the whole show. Ryan notes that while wild mushrooms might offer a stronger, more unique flavor, they are expensive. "Using dried mushrooms allows you to get the same meaty, nutty flavor at a fraction of the cost," she says.

The soup also requires 8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, 1 quart of warm water, 4 tablespoons oil, 1 chopped yellow onion, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 pound of peeled and chopped carrots, 6 ribs chopped celery, 1 quart chicken stock, 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, 2 cups of shredded turkey, and 1 cup of barley. In addition to being absolutely delicious, this soup is chock-full of healthy stuff, so you will feel great all around while serving and eating it.

The right way to prepare mushrooms

Now, it’s time to begin preparing your mushrooms — both the dried and cremini. In a small bowl, stir together the 1 ounce of dried mushrooms and 1 quart of warm water. Then, set the bowl aside to rest until later.

In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil, and stir in the cremini mushrooms. The less you move the mushrooms, the more likely they are to brown, so try to reduce the amount you spin that spoon. "Even as a chef of 15+ years, I still get anxious and want to move the mushrooms more than I should," Ryan says. "So it’s a real practice in patience, but it pays off in the end with both glorious color and flavor."

Cremini mushrooms help with both texture and flavor building in the dish. As you brown them in the pan, it leaves behind fond, little caramelized bits that stick to the pan that help build the broth. Once browned, remove the cremini mushrooms from the pan and add in the other 2 tablespoons of oil. When that is done, set it aside, as it will be added to the recipe later.

Adding all the herbs and veggies

Add the chopped yellow onion and the four minced garlic cloves to the pan, and cook until the onions are slightly translucent. This step will take about five minutes. You’ll start to get a scrumptious aroma in your kitchen, and your pan will begin to look very colorful in the next step!

Stir in the chopped carrots and celery, and cook for another five minutes, or until the carrots begin to soften and the celery is bright green.

Add the remaining ingredients, and simmer the soup

It’s time to revisit those soaking mushrooms. You’ll want to strain them from the water, and then chop them. Don’t throw away the liquid, though, as you’ll return the cut mushrooms to it, and then add everything into your soup.

Next, stir in the 1 quart of chicken stock, 6 sprigs of thyme, and 2 cups of shredded turkey. Bring this deliciousness to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the cup of barley, and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes, or until the barley is al dente. Pluck out the stems of the thyme sprigs, stir in the reserved browned cremini mushrooms, and you are finally ready to serve!

Save some soup for a rainy day

This delicious turkey soup should last three to five days in the fridge, or up to six months if you freeze it. If you plan on saving it, though, make sure you don’t add the cremini mushrooms and barley, Ryan advises. Mushrooms often freeze badly and end up bloated and bland after thawing.

Instead, make the standard soup base, freeze it, and then add the mushrooms and barley before you intend to eat it. "Yes, it’s more work than just throwing the frozen soup into a pot and having dinner, but the texture is far worth it," Ryan says.

When you’re ready to enjoy a hearty bowl, think about adding some crusty bread or crackers for dipping, and maybe even a freshly tossed side salad. You’ll feast on a meal that offers comfort and plenty of veggies.