Great Grains: Barley and Breakfast

In my post on Cauliflower Steaks, I alluded to making a side of barley to fill up any spaces that might be left by cauliflower steaks (there really weren’t any), and as a failsafe if the kids stonewalled and took the “required taste amount only” position on the main dish. So here I am, returning to the barley, to explain to you why it is ever so lovely to have a container of leftover barley in the fridge.

I am a firm believer in grain variety. It would be very easy for my husband to eat rice every night, and I could probably have quinoa every day without complaint; however, I think a little variety does a body, and a palate, good. One of my favorite grains is super hearty, and super versatile, barley. I bought pearl barley (more about the varieties of barley here, and am curious about other, less processed versions of the grain. Although pearl barley IS slightly processed, the polishing of the grain is reported to leave it largely nutritionally intact. Cooked pearl barley is larger than rice, and soft while not being mushy. It’s a great base for foods, traditionally used in soups, and would be great in a risotto (barsotto?).

I cooked my barley in water with a little salt in a 3 H2O to 1 barley ratio (I started with 2 c dry barley and we had PLENTY). Took about an hour, so it is not quick, but it doesn’t require any effort, so it’s a great candidate for a weekend cook to set up some grain dishes for the week. As an alternative, you could cook it in a slow cooker, which is what I think I’ll do next time.

Regardless of how you choose to cook your barley, be sure to make enough for leftovers, as barley for breakfast is a delight. It’s warm and hearty, filling and nutritious, and it is not gloppy. While I love oatmeal, there are those who’ve expressed to me that the questionable texture of oatmeal and porridge is distasteful – barley may just be answer to these hot breakfast lovers. Barley is not gloppy and is a perfect vehicle for many of the same kinds of additions that can make a steamy bowl of oatmeal so very delicious. I’ll demonstrate with three options I’ve enjoyed this week.

Barley Breakfast 1
IMG_8677
 Tradition Takes Hold: My first barley breakfast was pretty traditional in porridge terms. I added some raisins, some cinnamon, some nuts, and a little shredded coconut (I am decadent, I know).  Someone who is accustomed to a sweet breakfast could add a splash of maple syrup, although I found that the raisins and cinnamon did a nice job of convincing my palate that we were in the sweet enough zone. I also added a splash of almond milk.  Warm, filling, energizing, comforting, and delicious.  Everything a great winter breakfast bowl should be.
Barley Breakfast 2

IMG_8681A Little Lemon Lift:  For my second barley breakfast, I remembered Bigg Sis’ superb soaked oats, which feature a heavy dose of lemon zest.  While I was skeptical about this move when she first described them, I was delighted to find that the zest convinced my senses that it was simply a bowl of grains I was eating, but there was some sort of pastry situation in front of me.  I’m still not sure how that works, but it still works, and so this breakfast included raisins, walnuts, lemon zest, and a splash of almond milk.  Fantastic, and a light refreshing feel that brought a little ray of sun into the winter kitchen.

Barley Breakfast 3

IMG_8693 Gettin’ a Little Exotic:  For my final barley experiment of the week, I turned to another container of leftovers in the fridge.  last night I roasted some sweet potatoes (1 inch cubes, 450 degrees, olive oil and a little salt for about 20 minutes) and then sprinkled them with lime juice and cilantro.  They were stunning, if I do say so myself.  Know what else?  They were a great addition to breakfast.  I used some barley and the potatoes, warmed them and then added raisins, some banana, walnuts, a splash of coconut milk and a squeeze of lime.  If it hadn’t been 12 degrees here at the time, I would have sworn I was somewhere slightly tropical.  Delish!

So there you have it. Three lovely bowls of barley for YOUR breakfast enjoyment. All low in refined sugar, all cheaper than boxed cereal, and all super yum. If you’re looking for a place to start YOUR path to healthier eating, may I suggest you start right at the beginning of your day. Check out our other breakfast options and pull up a chair!

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