Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: biscuits

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Fall is here and comfort foods are perfect for dinner. This meal is high on the list of favorites in my family. Years ago, I got the idea of combining potatoes with greens for more nutrition and who would have thought the children loved mashed potatoes prepared this way.

Tip: set aside one cup of the diced cooked potatoes and one cup of the roasted carrots to use in a beef pot pie later in the week. There is plenty of braised steak for leftovers.

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Braised Steak

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sirloin or round steak
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms

Directions

Combine the flour, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning in a shallow bowl.

Cut the steak into serving-size portions about 1/4 inch thick. Press the flour into the steak pieces with your hand. Reserve any flour that is left.

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In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet.

Brown the steak pieces thoroughly on all sides and set aside the browned pieces on a plate.

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Add the garlic, onions and mushrooms to the same skillet and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Stir in any remaining flour and mix until thoroughly absorbed.

Add the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Return the browned steak to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet.

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Simmer on low heat for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is very tender. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl.

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Mashed Potatoes With Spinach or Kale

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • Salt
  • 1 pound (1 large bunch) spinach or kale
  • 1 cup milk
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Cover the potatoes with water in a saucepan. Add the garlic clove and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan partially and cook the potatoes until very tender, about 30 minutes.

Drain off the water, return the potatoes and garlic to the pan, cover tightly and let steam over very low heat for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and mash the potatoes with a potato masher or a food mill. Add the olive oil.

While the potatoes are cooking bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the spinach or kale.

Cook the spinach for 4 minutes, kale for 6 minutes (after the water returns to the boil), until the leaves are tender but still bright green. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Chop fine.

Set the pan with the potatoes over low heat. Stir the chopped spinach into the hot mashed potatoes, add the milk and gently stir. Add salt to taste and freshly ground pepper. Serve hot.

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Roasted Carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 pound carrots, trimmed and scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 1 teaspoon (packed) finely grated orange peel
  • Sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange carrots in single layer in a baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and orange peel; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss.

Cover the dish tightly with foil. Roast until crisp-tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer carrots and any juices to a serving platter. Drizzle lightly with additional olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt.

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Easy Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) cold milk or buttermilk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place the flour in a bowl. Work in the butter just until crumbs are the size of large peas.

Add the milk and stir until the mixture holds together and leaves the sides of the bowl.

Scoop the dough onto a well-floured surface and fold it over on itself several times, using more flour if needed to prevent sticking.

Roll or pat the dough into an 8 inch rectangle about ½ inch thick.

Cut biscuits with a sharp knife into 2 inch squares.

Place the biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake the biscuits for 10 to 14 minutes or until they’re a light golden brown.

Remove them from the oven and serve hot.

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Valentine’s Day Traditions

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, US store shelves are stacked with candy hearts, chocolates and stuffed animals, but not every country turns to greeting cards and heart-shaped candies to their declare love. Some exchange wooden spoons and pressed flowers, while others hold a special holiday for the loveless to mourn their single lives over black noodles.

Italian Love Locks

Italian Love Locks

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Valentine’s Day is synonymous with love and Italians traditionally are considered to be lovers. Known in Italy as “La Festa Degli Innamorati,” Valentine’s Day is celebrated only between lovers and sweethearts. Young sweethearts in Italy profess their love for each other with a more recent tradition, attaching padlocks or “lucchetti” to bridges and railings and throwing away the key. The tradition of locking padlocks to bridges, railings and lamp posts began in Italy a little more than four years ago after the release of the best-selling book “Ho voglio di te” (I want you) by the Italian author, Federico Moccia. This was followed by the popular movie with the same name, starring Riccardo Scamarcio and Laura Chiatti. In the story, young lovers tie a chain and a padlock around a lamppost on the north side of Rome’s Ponte Milvio and inscribe their names on it, lock it and throw the key into the Tiber River below. The action suggests that the couple will be together forever.

Although Valentine’s Day is a relatively new holiday in Denmark (celebrated since the early 1990s according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark), the country has embraced February 14th with a Danish twist. Rather than roses, friends and sweethearts exchange pressed white flowers called snowdrops.

With a reputation as one of the most romantic destinations in the world, it’s little wonder France has long celebrated Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers. It’s been said that the first Valentine’s Day card originated in France when Charles, Duke of Orleans, sent love letters to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. Today, Valentine’s Day cards remain a popular tradition in France.

Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday for young couples in South Korea and variations of the holiday are celebrated monthly from February through April. The gift-giving starts on February 14th, when it’s up to women to woo their men with chocolates, candies and flowers. The tables turn on March 14th, a holiday known as White Day, when men not only shower their sweethearts with chocolates and flowers, but also with a special gift.

With Carnival held sometime in February or March each year, Brazilians skip the February 14th celebration and instead celebrate Dia dos Namorados, or “Lovers’ Day,” on June 12th. In addition to exchanges of chocolates, flowers and cards, music festivals and performances are held throughout the country. Gift giving isn’t limited to couples, either. In Brazil, they celebrate this day of love by exchanging gifts and sharing dinner with friends and relatives, too.

Like many parts of the world, South Africa celebrates Valentine’s Day with festivals, flowers and other tokens of love. It’s also customary for women in South Africa to wear their hearts on their sleeves on February 14th. Women pin the names of their love interest on their shirtsleeves, an ancient Roman tradition known as Lupercalia. In some cases, this is how South African men learn of their secret admirers.

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Dinner For Two

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Risotto with Fresh Pear Sauce

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb (12 oz) Carnaroli rice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, heated
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 oz Gorgonzola cheese

Pear Sauce

  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • 1 sprig marjoram, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 small to medium pears

Directions

To Make The Sauce:

Peel the pears and cut them into small pieces. Finely chop the garlic. Wash the marjoram and pull off the leaves.

Place a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and, once hot, add the pear. Saute for a minute. Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic and marjoram. Cover with the broth and cook until the pears are soft.

Remove the pan from the heat. Let the pears cool, then puree the pan contents using a hand blender. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste and keep the sauce warm until serving.

To Make The Risotto:

Place a saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil and, once hot, add the onion.

Cook slowly so that the onion doesn’t brown. Add the rice and toast it for a couple of minutes or until it becomes transparent. Add a pinch of salt.

Add a couple of ladlefuls of the hot broth to the rice. Once most of the liquid has evaporated, add more broth.

The rice should take about 16 to 18 minutes to cook, depending on its quality. When al dente, remove the pot from the heat and add half the Gorgonzola and butter, cut into pieces. Stir and cover. Let rest for two minutes.

Then add the remaining Gorgonzola and Parmigiano Reggiano. Stir until creamy. Pour the pear sauce into the bottom of individual serving bowls and spoon the risotto on top.

Garnish with a sprig of marjoram and a grating or fresh black pepper.

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White Sea Bass with Orange-Fennel Relish

U.S. white sea bass is a sustainable choice–not to be confused with Chilean sea bass. Other good fish choices are Gulf of Mexico caught snapper or halibut or mahimahi.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½  teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • Half of a (12-ounce) fennel bulb
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange sections
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 1 ounce halved Castelvetrano (green) olives (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 (6-ounce) white sea bass fillets
  • 2 teaspoons butter

Directions

Combine the first 4 ingredients, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Remove fronds from the fennel bulb and chop them to measure 2 tablespoons. Remove and discard fennel stalks. Cut fennel bulb in half lengthwise and save one half for another use. Discard the core. Thinly slice the fennel bulb half. Add sliced fennel, orange sections, onion and olives to the orange juice mixture; toss gently to coat. Stir in fennel fronds.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish evenly with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add butter to the pan; swirl until butter melts. Add fish and cook 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with relish.

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Cheddar Biscuits

Make the entire dozen and freeze the extras.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk; (up to 2/3 cup)

Garlic Butter

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and garlic powder. Whisk together to combine thoroughly. Add chunks of butter. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into flour until it is coarse and pea-sized (doesn’t need to be fine).

Add oil, grated cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup milk. Stir together. Keep adding milk a bit at a time, just until the dough is moistened and no longer dry and powdery. (Shouldn’t be sticky, just moist enough to hold together).

Drop approximately 1/4 cup portions of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop or large spoon. Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly golden.

While biscuits are baking, melt 3 tablespoons butter is a small bowl in your microwave. Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and the parsley.

When biscuits come out of the oven, use a brush to spread this garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits. Use up all of the garlic butter. Serve warm.

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Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Strawberries

Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 pint Strawberries; hulled, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Directions

In the top of a double boiler (not directly over heat), sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup buttermilk; let stand to soften, about 5 minutes. Place water in the bottom of the double boiler and bring to a simmer.

In a separate small pan bring cream and 3 tablespoons sugar to a boil.

Add to the gelatin mixture in the top part of the double boiler and place the pan over the simmering water; whisk until gelatin dissolves, 5 minutes. Stir in remaining buttermilk thoroughly with a whisk.

Divide mixture into two dessert bowls. Cover; refrigerate until set, 4 hours.

Meanwhile, mix strawberries with Grand Marnier and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Let stand for about 1 hour. Top panna cotta with strawberries and juice collected in the bowl..

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Tips To Make Your Baked Goods Better

Use Room-Temperature Ingredients

Many baked goods start by creaming together butter and sugar, which is made easier with warm ingredients. The exception – biscuits and pie dough need chilled butter to make a tender dough.

Invest in Quality Bakeware

Flimsy, thin pans and sheet trays won’t conduct heat efficiently, causing your cake, pie, cookies or pastries to bake unevenly.

Butter and Flour Your Pans Generously

When a recipe calls for a greased and/or floured pans, it’s for a reason: Your batter has the potential to stick to the pan and the cake will be difficult to get out of the pan in one piece.

Use Fresh Ingredients

The majority of ingredients used in baked goods—like baking soda, baking powder, yeast, and flour—have a relatively short shelf life, so if you don’t bake frequently, purchase them in small quantities so they don’t sit in your cupboard and become stale.

Measure Accurately or Weigh Ingredients

Successful baking means eliminating as much potential for error as possible and, that means, making sure your measurements are exact.

Use Salt

If you’re looking to cut down on the sodium, baked goods are not the place to do so. The half teaspoon of salt added to two dozen cookies won’t set you over your daily allotment, but leaving it out will drastically change the taste of the cookies.

Rotate Halfway Through Baking

Every oven has a hot spot, and if you don’t correct for it, you run the risk of unevenly cooked pastries—or worse, some that burn or wind up underbaked.Don’t, however, open the oven constantly to check on progress—it’ll lower the temperature and alter the baking time.

Follow Directions

Pay attention to key instructions like “cream until light and fluffy,” “mix until just combined” and “fold in gently.” Otherwise, your end result will be dense and heavy.

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Chive Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift the whole wheat flour to make sure there are no clumps.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse flour, baking powder and salt until well combined.

Add cold butter and pulse until a fine crumb is formed, about 10 pulses.

Through the feed tube of the processor, drizzle in the milk and process until a ball of dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until no longer sticky; knead in the chives.

Press dough into an oval shape about 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough into 8 equal parts and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden, 15 to 18 minutes.

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Squash Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup mashed roasted butternut squash or 1 cup frozen cooked winter squash, thawed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line sixteen 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.

In a medium bowl combine all-purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper; set aside.

In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add squash, ginger, egg and vanilla; beat until combined.

Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the squash mixture, beating on low speed after each addition, just until combined.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.

Bake in the preheated oven about 20 minutes or until muffin tops spring back when lightly touched.

Cool in the muffin pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan. Serve warm.

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Walnut-Yogurt Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 medium zucchini)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a 9-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Spread the walnut halves in a pie plate and toast them for about 8 minutes, until very lightly brown. Transfer the toasted walnuts to a cutting board and coarsely chop them; then freeze for 5 minutes to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar with the eggs, oil and yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini and toasted walnuts and stir until the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before unmolding and serving.

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Spinach Corn Muffins

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (or 3/4 cups oat flour)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 oz baby spinach, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sage leaves, minced

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a blender, blend oats to the consistency of flour.

In a large bowl, combine oat flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, honey and oil. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir. Stir in spinach and sage.

Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Fill three-quarters full with the batter. Bake muffins for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center.

Let muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Garlic Knots

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour, for shaping dough
  • 1 pound pizza dough from your supermarket or homemade and thawed if frozen
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a 16 x 10-inch rectangle; with a knife or pizza cutter, cut crosswise into 16 strips.

Tie each strip into a knot and place on a large rimmed baking sheet. Brush knots with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

While the rolls are baking, heat garlic and the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until garlic, about 5 minutes.

Pour garlic and oil over the bread knots in bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss gently. Serve.


A glass of beer, a loaf of bread, a bowl of cereal, a standard of measurement, a form of currency, a medication – they all began with Barley – an ancient grain, possibly even older than rice. Barley’s once exalted status has been redefined. No longer does it serve as a unit of monetary exchange or a unit of measurement. No physician thinks of prescribing it for an ailing patient. Now, barley is largely relegated to being a food or a key ingredient in the making of beer.

We owe much to the desert nomads and the camel caravans who endured sand storms and unrelenting heat to trade their sacks of barley with distant neighbors, who then traded with other distant neighbors. Our steaming bowl of bean and barley or mushroom barley soup is a hand-me-down recipe with roots that take us back to prehistoric man. In 2005 barley ranked fourth for cereal production. There are many types of barley, many different uses for it and a long history of its importance to mankind.

Cultivated barley is descended from wild barley, which still grows wild in the Middle East. Cultivated barley is an annual plant, but there are also many other perennial species. The exact origin of barley is debatable, possibly originating in Egypt, or Ethiopia, or the Near East or Tibet. However, we are fairly certain that barley was among the earliest cultivated grains, around the same time as the domestication of wheat. Barley was grown in the Middle East prior to 10,000 BC, but barley’s cultivation in China and India probably occurred later. Barley was grown on the Korean Peninsula by 1500-850 BC along with millet, wheat and legumes. In ancient Egypt (3200 BC to 30 BC) barley bread and beer (made from barley) was a major part of the diet.

Barley Bread

Barley Malt Beer

As one of the first cereals cultivated in the Middle East, barley was used by ancient civilizations as food for humans and animals, as well as to make alcohol. Actually, the first known recipe for barley wine dates back to 2800 B.C.E. in Babylonia. Barley water has also been used for various medicinal purposes since ancient times. The ancient Greeks relied on barley to make bread and athletes attributed much of their strength and physical growth to their barley-containing diets. Roman athletes also honored barley for the strength it gave them. The gladiators were known as hordearii, meaning “eaters of barley”.  Since the heads of barley are heavy and contain numerous seeds, barley was also honored in ancient China as a symbol of male virility.

Given the relatively high cost of wheat in the Middle Ages, many Europeans at that time made bread from a combination of barley and rye. In the 1500’s, the Spanish introduced barley to South America. The English and Dutch settlers of the 1600’s brought barley to the United States. Today, the largest commercial producers of barley are Canada, the United States, Russia, Germany, France and Spain.

Types of Barley

Barley has many different varieties and there are many ways to classify barley.

One classification identifies barley by whether there are two, four or six rows of grains on the head. Six row barley can produce 25-60 grains, while two-row barley produces 25-30 grains.Wild barley is two-row and most cultivated barley is of the six-row type.

Another way to classify barley is to describe the beards (awns) covering the kernels – as long or short.

Barley can also be described as hulled or hulless (naked), malt type, height or seed color (colorless, white, yellow, blue).

Still others classify barley into 4 types based on geography: Manchurian types, Coast types, Hannchen types or Compana-Smyrna types

Barley is grown for many purposes, but the majority of all barley is used for food or malting. High protein barleys are generally valued for food and starchy barley for malting. Most barley used for food is either pearled barley or barley flour. Prior to the 1500’s barley flour was the main ingredient for breads. The second most important use of barley is for malt and, in the US, there are price premiums for malting barley. Malt is used to produce beer, distilled alcohol, malt syrup, malted milk, malt flavoring and breakfast foods.

Hulled Barley

Hulled Barley is the most nutritious form of barley with only the outermost hull removed. With its bran still intact, it is nutrient dense and high in fiber. It’s full of important trace minerals, like iron and contains a range of B vitamins. Although the cooking time is longer than for other types of barley, the nutritional benefits are worth the effort. The added bonus is its distinct nutty flavor and brownish color. While it’s generally unavailable in most supermarkets, you’ll likely find it in health food stores.

Pearl Barley

Pearl Barley or Pearled Barley is the most common form of barley available and is sold in most supermarkets. Because the outer hulls including the bran have been removed, the grains have a pearly white color. The polishing process involves scouring the barley six times during milling to completely remove the outer hull and the bran layer. Though pearled barley cooks in less time than the whole grain hulled form, many of its nutrients are scoured away along with the bran. Still, pearl barley is rich in protein and high in fiber.

Quick Barley, or instant barley, is pearl barley that is pre-steamed then dried, shortening the cooking time considerably, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Scotch Barley, also called Pot Barley, is slightly less refined than the pearl barley and is scoured only three times, leaving part of the hull remaining. Health food markets may be the only place to find this uncommon variety.

Barley Grits are processed similar to bulghur wheat. The grain is cracked, toasted or parboiled, then dried, making it a quick-cooking product. The health food store is your best bet for locating this form of barley.

Barley Flakes

Barley Flakes, Pressed Barley or Rolled Barley have the appearance of rolled oats and are often included in muesli-type cereals. Since barley flakes are a favorite grain of the Japanese and Koreans, they can often be found at Asian markets, as well as health food markets.

Barley Flour is hulled barley that is finely ground and has a lightness and delicate sweetness. Since barley has such a low-gluten content, it is frequently blended with other flours in baking. Health food markets are likely to stock barley flour.

STORING BARLEY

It’s always best to store grains in airtight containers. Unrefrigerated, barley will keep for six to nine months. If the grains are stored in the refrigerator, they will keep several months longer.

COOKING BARLEY

Barley can be used in place of rice in almost any dish. For convenience you may want to cook a large quantity to have on hand for different recipes. Reheating takes only a few minutes.

The cooking method for all forms of barley is the same–only the cooking times vary. Combine barley, water and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat to low and simmer until grains are soft and all liquid is absorbed.

To shorten the cooking times, soak the barley overnight for cooking in the morning, or soak all day for cooking the barley at dinnertime.

SOUPS

Whole-grain hulled barley is ideal for soups that often simmer on the stovetop for a couple of hours. Add some beans, vegetables and seasonings for a hearty meal. Pearl barley will work equally as well and requires a shorter cooking time.

Barley combined with vegetables, potatoes, dill and a variety of dried mushrooms, blend together to create a richly flavored Mushroom Barley Soup. Top off this soup with a dollop of sour cream.

BREAKFAST

Barley grits make a quick breakfast that delivers a wholesome dish in practically no time. Follow the directions on the package for the barley grits, then add a topping of chopped fresh fruits, a sprinkle of cinnamon, some chopped nuts, a little milk and a sweetener, if desired.

This breakfast cereal comes together even more quickly with leftover cooked barley. Simply reheat the barley by adding 2 or 3 tablespoons of water to the pot, cover, and warm over medium heat for about 4 to 6 minutes. Then create your own toppings with a dash of cinnamon, raisins, nuts and seeds, a little maple syrup and your favorite milk.

SALADS

Leftover cooked barley, either hulled, pearl or barley flakes make the perfect base to build a salad. Add some chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced sweet onions, trimmed snap peas, sweet corn, minced garlic and chopped basil leaves. Dress it with some extra virgin olive oil, lemon or lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Other combinations work equally as well. Choose your favorite crunchy veggies or even leftover steamed or roasted vegetables, such as broccoli, peppers, zucchini or carrots.

SIDE DISHES

While the barley is simmering, saute some chopped onions and minced garlic. Simply add these along with herbs to your cooked barley and season according to taste.

MAIN DISHES

Barley Primavera: Create your own original Barley Primavera just as you would with pasta. While the barley is cooking, saute chopped vegetables, add seasonings to taste and prepare your favorite sauce. For each serving, mound the barley on the center of the plate, top with some sautéed vegetables and finish with the sauce. The sauce could be a marinara, oil and garlic or a creamy white sauce. A light sprinkle of toasted nuts or seeds adds an appealing touch.

Stuffed Vegetables: Barley is an ideal grain for stuffing vegetables. Try stuffing cabbage, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, acorn squash or even Japanese pumpkin (kabocha squash). To the barley, add sauteed chopped vegetables, nuts or chopped, browned sausage and dried herbs. Season to taste and bake about 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Barley Risotto: Pearl barley makes an excellent creamy risotto. The timing will vary with barley. For risotto, use only the pearl barley. The hulled barley will not break down into a creamy state like pearl barley.

DESSERTS

Barley Pudding: Make a barley pudding, much like you would make a rice pudding. Add sweetening, spices and dried fruits. Prepare a fruit sauce by pureeing your favorite fruits in the processor with a touch of sweetening and a squeeze of lemon and use that as a topping.

Some Springtime Barley Recipes

Barley Salad

6-8 servings

Ingredients:

For the barley:

  • 12 ounces pearl barley
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut in half
  • 2 garlic cloves, whole
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) water

For the salad:

  • 1 medium carrot, thinly julienned
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 10 baby tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro
  • Red and green leaf lettuce

For the dressing:

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 red onion, small dice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Directions:

For the barley:

Rinse barley. In a large pot, combine barley and 32 ounces fresh water. Add carrot, onion, garlic, celery, and salt. Simmer covered at medium-high heat for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Discard the vegetables and drain the barley. Let the barley cool and place in a glass bowl.

For the salad:

In a glass bowl, mix together the barley, julienned carrots, scallions, tomatoes and parsley.

For the dressing:

In a smaller glass bowl, add all ingredients for the vinaigrette, except for the oil, and mix well. Drizzle in the olive oil as you whisk. Dress the salad. This salad tastes even better if you let it rest for 1-2 hours.

Serve over red and green leaf lettuces.

Springtime Vegetable Barley

This dish makes an excellent side for grilled meats or fish. It can also be served as a vegetarian main meal.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

In a large skillet, saute onion and carrot in butter until crisp-tender. Stir in the barley; cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir n 1 cup broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover, cook and stir until liquid is absorbed.

Add asparagus. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add more broth as needed. Stir in marjoram and pepper; sprinkle with cheese. 

Barley Sausage Stuffed Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 large green peppers
  • 1/2 pound Italian Sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 3 cups cooked barley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Cut tops off peppers; remove seeds. In a large kettle, blanch peppers in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water; set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook sausage, onion and garlic until onion is tender and sausage is no longer pink; drain. Stir in tomato sauce, barley, thyme, salt and pepper; heat through.

Spoon into peppers; place in an ungreased 8-in. square baking dish. Cover and bake at 350°F. for 25-30 minutes or until peppers are tender and filling is hot.

Barley Risotto with Eggplant and Tomatoes

4 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups risotto

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups  diced (1/2-inch) eggplant
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 5 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta or cubed mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine eggplant, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl; toss to coat. Arrange mixture in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until tomatoes begin to collapse and eggplant is tender.

Combine broth and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until onion begins to brown. Stir in pearl barley and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring constantly.

Add 1 cup broth mixture to pan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook 5 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 40 minutes total).

Gently stir in eggplant mixture, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and salt. Top with cheese, basil and nuts.

Barley-Stuffed Tomatoes

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 large tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cups pearl barley
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
  • Additional pecan halves, for garnish

Directions:

Cut tops from tomatoes. Scoop out pulp and reserve to use in soups or sauces. Sprinkle centers of tomatoes with salt and pepper. Invert tomatoes on paper towels to drain.

In a medium saucepan with lid, bring water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon butter to boil. Add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed.

In a small skillet, sauté chopped pecans in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add pecans to cooked barley along with chopped bell pepper and green onion. Fill tomatoes with barley mixture.

Place filled tomatoes close together in baking pan. Add 1/4 cup water to pan. Cover with foil and bake at 375° F for 20 minutes. Garnish each tomato with a pecan half, if desired, and serve.

 

Barley Flour Drop Biscuits

Makes 10-12 biscuits depending on how large you form them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • ¼ cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 ¼ cups barley flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 beaten egg

Directions:

Soften dry yeast in lukewarm water, add honey and allow mixture to set for approximately 15 minutes, or until frothy.

Combine barley flour and salt and, with two knives or pastry blender, cut butter into the dry ingredients.

Combine buttermilk and egg and beat slightly, then stir into the flour mixture.

Add yeast mixture, mix thoroughly and let the whole mixture stand for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Drop dough by tablespoon onto a greased baking sheet.

Pat into 2-inch rounds and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until nicely browned.


They are convenient and tempting  — those mixes packaged in envelopes in the grocery store. Adding a pouch to some water and having gravy or a seasoning packet for chili is easy to pick up and makes you feel that you are saving time.

But what if you had these things in your own home and for a lot less money?

Have you ever thought about it? Have you ever made your own mixes? There are many recipes available, from Hearty Bean Soup Mix to Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk to Spice Mixes. Make a flavored coffee creamer or your own hot roll mix. With a little organization, some tightly sealed containers and labeling equipment you can have a pantry full of fabulous mixes in no time and you don’t have to run out to the store before making your favorite casserole. It’s also wonderful to have recipes for seasoning and herbs blends that may be difficult to find in some parts of the world, like Beau Monde seasoning or Herbs de Provence. 

Many consumers are concerned about fat and sodium content in many recipes that call for condensed soups and seasoning mixes. Make your own mixes and you control the sodium and fat content in the foods you eat. On a low sodium diet? Just leave out or reduce the salt or salty products. Want to eat low fat? Substitute low fat ingredients for higher fat ones. As a bonus, you can customize each mix to your taste. And you’ll save money too! You can add, subtract, or substitute for just about any herb or spice in these recipes.

All of these mixes should be stored tightly covered in a cool, dry place. I have found that large Tupperware containers or large glass jars with screw-on lids work best. Most mixes will stay fresher longer if stored in the refrigerator. Just like purchasing a commercial mix with directions on the package, you will need to have the directions (stored with the mixes) to use the mixes that you make.

Time Saving Convenience Mix Recipes

The ingredients in these recipes can be doubled or tripled.  These mixes are great to have during the busy holiday season, so that you can make a quick dinner on those nights when you have a “million” things to do.

Cream-of-Something Soup Mix

A commercial brand lists 13 ingredients including corn syrup, vegetable oil, and sugar. This version has half that number and no mystery ingredients. If your recipe calls for cream of mushroom – add sauteed mushrooms to the reconstituted mix or for cream of celery soup add celery, etc.

Makes 3 ½ cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry milk powder
  • 1 1/4 cups cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chicken bouillon granules
  • 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and store in a covered container.

For soup: combine ½ cup of the mix with 1 cup of water. Stir until smooth, then bring to a boil and cook until thickened.

For use as a condensed soup: combine 1 cup of the mix with one cup of water. Stir until smooth and bring to a boil and cook until thickened.

Note: There is no salt added; the bouillon has plenty.

Homemade Onion Soup Mix

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup instant minced onion
  • 4 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/3 cup beef-flavored bouillon powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

Mix all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To use: add two tablespoons mix to one cup boiling water. Cover and simmer for fifteen minutes.

Homemade Rice Seasoning Mix

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, recipe below
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped (optional)

Mix together and store in an airtight container.

To prepare white rice:  combine 1 cup white rice, 2 cups water, and 3 tablespoons of the seasoning. Bring water to a boil and add rice & seasoning. Reduce to simmer and cook for 18 minutes.

To prepare brown/ wild rice: combine ½ cup long grain brown rice, ½ cup wild rice, 2 cups water and 3 tablespoons seasoning mix. Bring water to a boil and add rice & seasoning. Reduce to simmer and cook for 50 minutes.

Seasoned Salt

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt or garlic powder
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt

Put all ingredients into a mini food processor or small blender container and blend on low. Store in an airtight container.

All-Purpose Biscuit Mix

Makes 12 cups

Ingredients:

  • 9 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups dry milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • 3/4 cup trans fat free solid shortening, such as Spectrum

Combine the dry ingredients and cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Store in a airtight covered container. It is not necessary to refrigerate.

To make 10 biscuits: combine 3 cups of the mix with ¾ cup water. Stir just until the dough comes together.

Pat out on a lightly floured surface and cut into rounds or squares. For soft biscuits, place in a round cake pan with the biscuits touching. For crisp biscuits, place the biscuits an inch apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees F for about 12 minutes.

Muffin Mix

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix in large bowl and store in airtight container.

To bake muffins: place 2 cups mix in a large bowl. Add 2/3 cup water, 1 slightly beaten egg and 1/4 cup canola oil and mix only until dry ingredients are moistened. Fill 12 paper lined muffin cups 1/2 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes until muffins are puffed and firm.

Taco Seasoning Mix

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup instant minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons crushed dried red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon instant minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and blend thoroughly with wire whisk. Spoon mixture into a tightly closed container and label as “Taco Seasoning Mix”. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6 months. Makes 6 packages (about 2 tablespoons each) of mix. 2 tablespoons equals 1.25-oz. pkg. purchased taco seasoning mix.

To make Taco Filling:

Brown 1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey in large skillet over medium heat; drain grease. Add 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons. Taco Seasoning Mix. Reduce heat, cover pan, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes enough filling for 8 to 10 tacos.

Brown Gravy

French's® Brown Gravy Mix - 6/.75 oz. packets

You can’t taste the coffee but it gives the sauce its dark brown color. Great money saver for frugal cooks. Low sodium bouillon can be substituted.

Yield: 11 batches gravy

Ingredients:

  • 1  2/3 cups cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoons beef bouillon cubes
  • 4 teaspoons instant coffee crystals
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To make gravy: measure 3 tablespoons mix into a saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil and simmer 1 minute.

Individual Oatmeal Packets

Homemade oatmeal packets are handy and cheaper.

For each packet: fill a sandwich bag with 1/2 cup of oats, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, a handful of dried fruit and another handful of nuts. Repeat for each bag. Store the bags in a large ziplock storage bag.

When needed, just add ½ cup hot boiling water and let sit until it’s absorbed. Add milk, if desired.

Italian Salad Dressing Mix

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 tablespoon White Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dried Oregano
  • 2 tablespoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon Celery Salt

Mix to combine. Store in an airtight container.

To make the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup Wine Vinegar
  • 2/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Water
  • 2 tablespoons Dry Mix

Place all ingredients in  a jar with a lid and shake to combine.

Quick-Fix Healthy Mix contains over 150 dry and liquid mix recipes to stock your kitchen using easy-to-find basic ingredient, allowing you to choose how much and what types of sugar, fat and flour goes into your finished food.

http://www.amazon.com/Quick-Fix-Healthy-Mix-affordable/dp/1440203857



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