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Barley complements winter meals

The temperatures are falling, and I know when I get home I’m going to want something warm waiting for me. I choose soup, more specifically, mushroom beef and barley soup.

While the soup part is important, the barley is the stuff I’m really looking forward to eating. It’s good and really good for you.

Before cooking your barley, rinse it thoroughly and then cook it one part barley to 3 1/2 cups boiling water or broth. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the barley, reduce to a simmer and cover and cook about an hour, until done.

The barley recipes you’ll find below are all simple to make, delicious and good for you.

Crock Pot Beef Mushroom and Barley Soup

1 1/2 to 2 pounds lean ground beef

1 large onion, chopped

1 to 2 teaspoons minced garlic

2/3 to 1 cup pearl barley

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms, washed and sliced

3 to 4 medium carrots, diced

3 to 4 ribs celery, diced

1 (28 ounce) can whole or crushed tomatoes, with liquid

3 1/2 to 4 cups beef broth

2 1/2 cups water

1 to 2 bay leaves

1/4 cup minced parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, sauté the beef with the onion and garlic. When browned, drain and then place the mixture in the crock pot. Add the barley, mushrooms, carrots, celery, tomatoes, beef broth, water and bay leaf.

Cover and cook on high for 6 to 8 hours. Just before serving, remove the bay leaf and add the parsley; mix to combine and then season with salt and pepper. Serves 6 to 8.

Barley Mushroom Risotto

6 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, minced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

3 cups mixed wild mushrooms, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups pearl barley, rinsed

1/2 cup red wine

6 cups baby arugula or spinach

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon butter

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, combine the broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they begin to release their juices, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute more.

Reduce heat to medium. Add 1/2 cup hot broth to the barley and cook, stirring until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 cup hot broth at a time and stirring until the liquid has been absorbed after each addition, adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, until the barley is tender and creamy but still somewhat firm, about 35 to 45 minutes. (You might not use all the broth.)

Stir in arugula or spinach and cook, stirring until it is wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in cheese, butter and vinegar. Season with pepper. Serves 6.

Fruit and Barley Chicken Salad

2 cups cooked pearl barley (use package directions)

1 1/2 cups cooked, cubed chicken

1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained

1/2 cup sliced celery

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/2 cup Italian or ranch salad dressing

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1 cup raspberries

1 cup toasted almonds

In a large serving bowl, combine the barley, chicken, water chestnuts, celery and onions. Drizzle the salad dressing over barley-chicken mixture and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. To serve, sprinkle the berries and almonds over the top, toss gently to coat and serve. Serves 4.

– Modified from Eating Well, May/June 2007 Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at ztlog@verizon.net or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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