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Barley, a smart carbohydrate

Recipe Swap: Savory Butternut Squash Barley Pilaf, Quick Breakfast Bread, and Curried Chicken and Barley

sunny field of barley

With winter well on its way early November is when we look for those filling, satisfying foods that give us energy and comfort for coping with cold weather.

Barley recipes are especially popular during the month of November for many reasons. They’re the perfect ingredient for making the soups and stews we like to make as the weather turns chilly.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month in Canada, when registered dietitians remind us about the importance of eating smart carbohydrates — and barley is one of them. That’s because barley’s beta-glucan soluble fibre, which can help lower cholesterol, is also helpful for maintaining healthy blood sugar.

Barley is a whole grain high in fibre, and with a low glycemic index rating, explains registered dietitian Jane Dummer in an article found on this month’s Go Barley online newsletter.

“Research shows that barley’s beta-glucan soluble fibre promotes healthy blood sugar by slowing glucose absorption and maintaining glycemic control,” says Dummer. “Choosing lower-glycemic-index foods as part of a balanced diet, increasing physical activity and decreasing stress can improve blood sugar control and will assist in the prevention of the “lifestyle disease” known as Type 2 diabetes.”

You’ll get the benefits of barley no matter how you eat it too, she notes. Both whole barley grain, or barley flour provide you with lots of beta-glucan soluble fibre.

I’ve posted a few recipes from Go Barley: Modern Recipes for an Ancient Grain, with 100-plus recipes, after it was released this past June. This is a cookbook written by two home economists Pat Inglis and Linda Whitworth, who is also the market development manager with the Alberta Barley Commission. Here’s a few more from a cookbook that offers plenty of ideas for eating barley, and not just in soups and stews either.

Savory Butternut Squash Barley Pilaf

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1-1/2-inch (4-cm) pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1 c. pot or pearl barley
  • 1 (284-ml) can low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 tsp. dried summer savory
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon rind

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil. Sauté squash, onion and red pepper for three minutes. Add barley and sauté for three minutes. Add broth, water, savory and thyme; salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until barley is tender, stirring once halfway through. Stir in lemon rind.

Makes 8 servings.

Quick Breakfast Bread

This simple-to-make quick bread is packed with the whole grain goodness of barley and wheat flours and cornmeal. Cut into squares and serve warm with eggs, bacon, sausages or grilled tomatoes. I’ve made this recipe several times and it’s a winner. — Lorraine

  • 3/4 c. whole barley flour
  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. cornmeal
  • 2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 c. sweetened applesauce
  • 1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a nine-inch square pan. In a large bowl, mix barley flour, wheat flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger. In another bowl, combine egg, applesauce, and buttermilk. Stir mixture into dry ingredients, mixing well. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick inserted in the centre of the bread comes out clean.

Makes 8 servings.

Curried Chicken and Barley

The mouth-watering aroma of a mild curry greets you when you lift the lid of the slow cooker containing this combination of chicken and barley.

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 12)
  • 3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 celery stalks, coarsely diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. pot or pearl barley
  • 1 c. less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (28 oz./796 ml) diced tomatoes
  • 1 c. full-fat plain yogurt
  • Parsley for garnish (optional)

Sprinkle chicken with lemon juice; arrange at bottom of slow cooker. In a large skillet over medium, heat oil; add celery and onions. Cook, stirring for five minutes until celery is softened. Add garlic and ginger; stir and cook for one minute. Add curry powder and salt; stir and cook for one minute more. Stir in barley and then chicken broth and tomatoes, bring to a boil and pour over chicken. Cover slow cooker and cook on low for five to six hours or on high for 2-1/2 to three hours, until a food thermometer inserted into the chicken registers (165 F). Stir yogurt into chicken mixture. Cover and cook on high for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if desired and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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