Go with the grain: For variety, try barley

Eating Well

March 12, 1996|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Build your healthy eating plan on a base of grain foods that reaches beyond bagels, pretzels, pasta and popcorn. Variety is the No. 1 ingredient in your recipe for good health, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

So stretch a little. Experiment. Try something new. Or something old, like barley, which has been around since 7000 B.C. In fact, remains have been found of Stone Age cakes made of barely and wheat, according to Harold McGee, writing in "On Food and Cooking."

Barley is a grain whose kernel is captured in a tough hull. When the barley kernel is "pearled," the hull is removed and the kernel is polished. Despite that processing, regular pearled barley takes 45 minutes to cook, probably too long to be considered a convenience food on a busy work night. But that problem can be solved.

Quick-cooking barley, ready in 12 minutes, is available in some grocery stores. But healthy eaters who are mildly organized can cook regular pearled barley while eating dinner one night, for quick reheating the next night.

Barley is a good source of complex carbohydrates, and provides soluble fiber shown to lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risks.

Barley protein goes well with garbanzo beans or lentils for a fat-free, cholesterol-free protein that's as complete as meat.

The National Barley Foods Council offers these quick-fix suggestions for adding variety and a nutritional boost to your evening meals.

Add one cup of cooked pearl barley to a package of fresh or frozen stir-fry Oriental vegetables or chow mein. For added crunch, toss in a few cashews or sliced water chestnuts.

Stretch your favorite meatloaf recipe with a cup of cooked pearl barley. Don't forget to give burgers a fiber boost with cooked barley as well. Barley adds much-needed moisture and improves the texture of turkey burgers, too.

Make a good canned soup better by adding a cup of cooked pearl barley. Tomato, vegetable, split pea, beef, chicken and minestrone soups are especially good.

For a quick and hardy side dish, cook a package of frozen mixed vegetables according to package directions. Add a cup of cooked pearl barley and season with fresh or dried herbs and a light drizzle of olive oil. Serve hot.

Create a savory pot of "almost homemade" beans by adding a cup of cooked pearl barley to a large can of prepared pork and beans. Stir in 2 tablespoons molasses, 1 tablespoon prepared mustard and chopped fresh onion. Bake in a 350-degree oven for one hour.

For a quick, whole-meal salad, gently toss a cup of cooked pearl barley with 1 1/2 cups cooked and cubed chicken or turkey, 1 cup halved green grapes and 1/2 cup each sliced celery and water chestnuts. Dress with your favorite low-fat salad dressing and garnish with a few toasted sliced almonds.

For another quick, high-fiber salad treat, add a cup of cooked pearl barley to fruited cabbage slaw. Or, stir a cup of cooked barley into deli carrot raisin salad.

Barley and shrimp skillet dinner

Makes 2 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil

2/3 cup regular pearl barley

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in halves

1 1/2 cups bottled clam juice or chicken broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

6 to 8 ounces scallops or shrimp

1/2 cup frozen green peas, defrosted

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add barley, garlic and turmeric. Cook, stirring, until barley is golden -- about three minutes.

Stir in parsley, cherry tomatoes, clam juice and wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 35 minutes.

Arrange the seafood and peas over the barley. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes -- until barley is tender.

Per serving: 487 calories, 28 gm protein, 8 gm fat, 69 gm carbohydrate, 28 mg cholesterol, 15 gm fiber, 786 mg sodium.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 3/12/96

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