Barley provides cardiac-friendly fiber and a novel midwinter meal option.
By Lisa James
One of the biggest obstacles to healthy eating is the “not that again” syndrome—the family outcry when yet another whole-wheat pasta or brown rice dish emerges from the kitchen. Keeping everyone happy without using nutrient-poor ingredients can put a cook in a bind. And the stakes are even higher if someone in the household is trying to avoid (or deal with) heart trouble.
One way out of this dilemma is to use grains considered exotic only because they’re not standard issue in most US pantries. Barley, best known in this country for its use in brewing beer, is an example. Used as training fuel by ancient Greco-Roman athletes, barley supplies significant amounts of niacin, also known as vitamin B3, and the mineral selenium. In addition, this hearty grain provides beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber linked to cholesterol reduction. Beta-glucan may limit the post-meal surges in blood sugar that can lead to diabetes, and it has a stick-to-the-ribs quality that helps control appetite, which plays a role in fighting obesity. All these actions promote better cardiovascular health.
Like most grains, barley has an inedible outer hull that must be removed before use. Whole-grain, or hulless, barley is the chewiest and slowest cooking type, but contains the most nutrients. Pot or Scotch barley is more refined than hulless; pearled barley, more refined than pot. Unlike most grains, however, barley contains fiber throughout the entire kernel, making even the pearled variety more nutritious than other refined grains. Barley is also available as flakes, sometimes called rolled barley; grits, kernels that have been toasted and cracked; and a quick-cooking form, which has been pre-steamed.
Need a heart-healthy change of pace at dinnertime? Barley is a tasty, nutritious option.
Baked Chicken with Apples and Barley
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 medium-sized tart green apple, chopped
1-2 tbsp curry powder
1 cup pearled barley
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp garlic salt
3 tbsp orange marmalade or apricot jam
1. Heat oil in large skillet; sauté onion, peppers and garlic 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add apple and curry powder; sauté 4 minutes longer. Stir in barley and chicken broth; bring to a boil, reduce heatand simmer 15 minutes.
2. Pour barley mixture into large baking dish or casserole. Arrange chicken breasts over the top and season with garlic salt. Cover and bake in a 350° oven for 45 minutes.
3. Remove cover, brush with marmalade or jam and continue to bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Serves 4. Analysis per serving: 431 calories, 34g protein, 8g fat,
9g fiber, 59g carbohydrate, 850 mg sodium
Reprinted with permission of the National Barley Foods Council (www.barleyfoods.org)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 cups chopped eggplant
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 lb small fresh button mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1 tbsp dried basil, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
*2 cups cooked pearl or whole-grain barley
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 tsp seasoned pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
10 drops red pepper sauce
1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until golden, stirring occasionally. Add eggplant, bell pepper, mushrooms, basil and oregano; sauté 10 minutes.
2. Stir in barley, chickpeas, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt and pepper; simmer 10 minutes. Mix in remaining ingredients; simmer 5 minutes longer.
* To cook the barley: In a medium-sized saucepan with lid, bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup pearl barley; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. If using whole-wheat barley, increase cooking time to 50-55 minutes and pour off any unabsorbed liquid. Makes 3 to 3 1/2 cups; precooked barley can be frozen in an airtight container.
Serves 8. Analysis per serving: 296 calories, 9g protein, 3g fat, 14g fiber, 60g carbohydrate, 850 mg sodium
Recipe courtesy of the National Barley Foods Council (www.barleyfoods.org)