13. J’s Pearl Barley Casserole (and bread recipes please!)

I have an inherent trust for recipes that begin with a generous cube of butter and chopped onion in a pan, sizzling to brownness. This start, while totally not indicative of whether the rest of the recipe will be good, fills me with a trust that whatever results will be tasty and bursting with the earthy spice of onion.

Pearl Barley Casserole has this going for it – and it starts with a lot of delicious, diced veggies sizzling together before gaining an uncommon grain addition and being baked. This combo is good for me because, despite what it looks like, I’m trying to make 2016 a healthy eating year. Certainly there have been a healthy quantity of bread pudding servings and a few too many triple peanut butter cookies, but my overall goal, as perhaps iterated back when I was writing about A’s lentil soup, is to use my unbridled enthusiasm for food to also fill my home with healthy leftovers that make for easy and delicious packed lunches for work.

So far, this has been very successful indeed – and today, the already meditative stance that cutting and chopping veggies usually grants me was extra helpful as I came home from a morning meeting with a ferocious level of hunger. I knew that this level of out-of-proportion need to feel tended to result in poor consumption choices – read, I just eat everything, usually with cheese on top – so I set to work: chop the onion, chop a shallot (why not?), sautee the onion and shallot while you chop celery, then chop pepper and mushroom while those cook. My hunger pangs abated; not that I wasn’t gonna still nosh through some falafel for lunch, but it was enough to calm me, and I finished a handy side dish. While it includes butter, this dish packs so many veggies and the starchy barley that one could still call it quite healthy: per serving, it is quite low in fats. Barley, while not particularly different in nutritional content from wheat, is a nice variety – after my first experiment with farro, I am now convinced that dishes that sub a different grain in for rice are more than worth they while.


This recipe was given to me by J, one of my husband’s aunts. She’s been present for a lot of the important times that I’ve spent with Husband’s family; she is welcoming and fun. I was especially warmed to know that when my mother-in-law told her about this blog, she wanted to send me more recipes! This is the kind of enthusiasm I cherish in Husband’s family: no matter the project, I know these folks are behind me and behind the goals that Husband has as well.

J lives not too far off, and I’m excited to go visit her soon, not only because she and Husband’s uncle have a hot tub… 🙂 Since I’ve lately begun trying my hand at yeast breads, I’m hoping to be able to bring a loaf or two.

Does anyone reading this have a favorite bread recipe? It seems really fun to make my own with whatever I want to put in it, and I’ll make sure to write about the experience of making it. FullSizeRender.jpg

Pearl Barley Casserole:

3 T Butter

1 large onion, chopped (I added a shallot! Yum!)

2 ribs celery, chopped

1 cup pearl barley

1 package of mushrooms, diced

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 cups chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350` – melt butter and cook onion until browned. Add celery and cook about 5 more minutes. Mix barley into vegetables and stir until coated with butter. Fold mushrooms and green pepper into barley mix; season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour low-sodium broth into barley mixture and bring to a boil; cover dish. Bake in oven until barley is tender (approx 30 minutes); uncover and bake until barley absorbs moisture. About 15 minutes – low fat!! Enjoy!

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