1. In a pot boil water. Into the boiling water add salt and add in the barley. Give it a stir. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. For the first 5 minutes leave the lid half open, after 5 minutes cover it completely and let it cook.
2. Meanwhile chop vegetables of your choice such as onions, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms and spinach.
3. In a pot heat olive oil, add the garlic and onions. Cook the onions till they turn golden brown in color and then add the carrots, stir for a minute and add the mushrooms. Stir for another minute.
4. Add the tomatoes and stir. Cook closed for a while, then add salt, crushed pepper, dry Italian seasoning and the crushed tomatoes. Cook with the lid half covered for a few minutes.
5. Add the vegetable stock and stir. Also add the beans, cooked barley and the chopped spinach. Cook half covered.
6. Once done turn off the heat and add the sugar, which helps to balance the flavors.
7. Serve warm.
If you do not have vegetable stock you can use water instead and puree a small portion of the cooked vegetables and add it to the simmering broth to thicken it slightly.