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Recipe Swap: The benefits of barley

How often do you add pot or pearled barley to your soups or stews, or bake with barley flour?

Canadians don’t eat much barley — we consume it as beer, mostly — but that’s going to change as our perceptions of the food value of this crop start to shift, thanks to a new health claim for barley approved this summer by Health Canada.

Barley’s health benefit, beyond its other nutritional qualities, is that consumption on a daily basis helps lower blood cholesterol. Scientists for years have studied and documented how a type of soluble fibre in barley — called beta-glucan — does this. So this isn’t marketing hype.

We won’t see this health claim quickly, however. There are relatively few processed food products containing barley on the market right now and food companies will need time to figure out what consumer demand exists for barley-based foods.

But as home cooks and bakers you can immediately start enjoying barley and its benefits more often.

“One thing consumers can do right now is they can substitute whole barley flour for regular flour in cakes, cookies and quick breads such as loaves, muffins, biscuits with good results,” says Linda Whitworth, market development manager with the Calgary-based Alberta Barley Commission. (Just don’t try substituting barley flour for wheat flour in wheat breads; it doesn’t have enough gluten to make the bread rise.)

Pot or pearl barley is a delicious and nutritious substitute for rice in your favourite casseroles or salads too. Or cook up some barley for breakfast and serve it with a sprinkle of cinnamon or maple syrup.

You’ll be impressed with the taste and texture and you’ll be getting the health benefits from recipes you make yourself too. Linda points out that, as an example, one serving (1/2 cup) of Barley Casserole — the recipe follows — will provide you with approximately 60 per cent of the daily value (or total amount) of beta-glucan you need to get the cholesterol-lowering benefit.

The Alberta Barley Commission is getting ready to launch lots of information on barley now that its health claim is approved. Watch for its updated consumer website this fall — — which will contain a host of new recipe ideas and ways to use barley.

Whole grain barley is packed with nutrients, making it:

• A rich source of soluble and insoluble fibre; hulless barley contains fibre throughout the entire grain not just the outer portion (bran)

• Satisfying – barley’s soluble fibre slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, the resulting feeling of fullness may help control weight

• Low on the Glycemic Index (GI). Low GI foods assist in the prevention of Type 2 diabetes and assist in blood sugar and blood cholesterol control

• Rich in beta-glucan, a type of carbohydrate that plays a role in regulating glucose and cholesterol.

Source: Alberta Barley Commission

Smart Cookies

  • 1/4 c. peanut butter1/4 c. margarine1/3 c. brown sugar1/3 c. white sugar1/2 tsp. vanilla1 egg3/4 c. whole barley flour1/2 tsp. baking soda1/2 tsp. salt1/2 c. rolled oats1/2 c. corn flakes (whole)1/2 c. raisins or nuts1/2 c. chocolate chips1 tsp. water

Chocolate Cake

  • 2 c. sugar2 eggs2 tsp. vanilla2/3 c. canola oil3 c. whole barley flour2/3 c. cocoa2 tsp. baking powder2 tsp. baking soda1 tsp. salt2 c. boiling water

In a large bowl, beat sugar, eggs, vanilla and oil for four minutes. In another bowl, sift together barley flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir dry ingredients into liquid mixture alternately with boiling water starting and ending with dry ingredients. Beat until smooth. Pour into a greased 9×13-inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until centre springs back when lightly touched. Cool, then frost with favourite icing.Makes approximately 24 servings.

Beef Barley Soup

  • 1 tbsp. canola oil1/2 c. chopped carrot1/2 c. sliced celery1 small onion, chopped3 cans (284 ml) beef broth3 cans (284 ml) water2 c. chopped cooked roast beef1 can (398 ml) diced tomatoes1 c. quick cooking barley*1 tsp. salt1/2 tsp. pepper1 tsp. dried thyme1 bay leaf

In a large pot or Dutch oven heat oil. Sauté carrots, celery and onion for five minutes until onion is transparent. Add broth, water, roast beef, tomatoes, barley and seasonings. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Barley Casserole

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil1 medium onion, chopped3/4 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced1-1/2 c. pot or pearl barley3 c. beef broth or bouillon, dividedSalt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet sauté onions until transparent, about five minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking for about five minutes. Add barley and sauté until lightly browned, about five minutes. Remove barley mixture to a 1-1/2-quart (1.5-l) casserole dish. Add two cups of broth and seasonings. Cover.

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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