Apr 18, 2012

New Food Adventures: Barley

So, who has had barley before? In something other than a soup....?

Well, here's a simple breakdown of some nutritional information and then some basic ways to try adding it into your typical meals.

When it comes to choosing high-fiber grains, barley is a winner. Why? Because even if it is refined and processed (ie: pearl barley, barely flakes or barley flour), it is one grain that has fiber found in all parts of the grain, regardless of whether or not the bran layer is removed.

And fiber will help regulate all sorts of things to begin helping your body take care of itself better....

A 1/2-cup serving of pearl barley contains 3 grams of fiber. In comparison, a 1/2-cup serving of brown rice contains 1.75 grams of fiber, and a 1/2-cup serving of white rice contains less that one gram of fiber. Here is a Fiber chart comparison for you visual folk out there.
Food Fiber Content in Grams
Oatmeal, 1 cup 3.98
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice 2
Whole wheat spaghetti, 1 cup 6.3
Brown rice, 1 cup 3.5
Barley, 1 cup 13.6
Buckwheat, 1 cup 4.54
Rye, 1/3 cup 8.22
Corn, 1 cup 4.6
Apple, 1 medium with skin 5.0
Banana, 1 medium 4.0
Blueberries, 1 cup 3.92
Orange, 1 large 4.42
Pear, 1 large 5.02
Prunes, 1/4 cup 3.02
Strawberries, 1 cup 3.82
Raspberries, 1 cup 8.36

It's also a very good source of fiber and selenium, and a good source of phosphorus, copper and manganese.
Eating/Cooking Barley:
Honestly, it's so versatile, you can substitute it for lots of things, but the best way for me is to cook it in chicken broth and add a touch of butter at the end (with parmesan is delicious too!). I pressure cook it because it does take a long time to cook and I forget to presoak it overnight (like you would dry beans).

To cook pearl barley: In medium saucepan with lid, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add 1 cup pearl barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Makes about 3 to 3-1/2 cups.
In a crock pot or slow cooker: Place 2-1/2 cups boiling water, 1 cup pearl barley and 1/2 teaspoon salt in crock pot or slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
To cook whole grain ("hulled"/"Hullless") barley kernels: In medium saucepan with lid, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add 1 cup whole grain barley kernels and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook about 50 to 55 minutes. Makes about 3 cups. 

Note: Because whole grain barley retains most of the outer bran layer, the kernels tend to absorb less liquid during the cooking process. It may be necessary to pour off any remaining liquid after 50 to 55 minutes of cooking time. Compared to pearl barley, whole grain barley tends to be chewier in texture and produces a more robust flavor.

And, like other grains, it's best to store in the fridge or freeze to best maintain the grain's nutrients.

Other ideas:

• Cook up a batch of pearl barley and add to prepared soups, stews, casseroles and salads for an extra shot of flavor, texture and fiber.
• For a heart-healthy change of pace, serve your favorite stir-fry, stroganoff or curry over a bed of steaming hot pearl barley.

here's a website with tons of barley recipes to try: http://www.barleyfoods.org/recipes.html

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