Category Archives: Barley

Creamy Salmon and Double Mushroom Casserole

Salmon, broccoli, mushrooms and pasta come together in a creamy casserole

Oh, the wonders of fall. The temperatures in Phoenix are finally starting to taper off a bit and I’m hankering for some healthy casseroles. I have some standby recipes that I’ve been making for years (and some, for decades). This recipe is one of them.

The basis for this casserole, a rich homemade sauce that mimics cream of mushroom soup from a can, comes together in minutes. Low fat and tasty, you’ll never believe it was made with skim milk; you’ll definitely never miss canned “cream-o whatever.” Since I’m participating in “October Unprocessed” I’m purposely avoiding foods with added preservatives.

The ingredients are heart healthy and provide an ample amount of calcium from the salmon, broccoli and milk. Score again that broccoli is a seasonal fall food and is found abundantly (read cheaper than normal) in grocery stores today. Two different types of mushrooms lend a somewhat exotic taste to this dish making this a nice option if you’re having company too.

Although this recipe calls for pasta, I’m forever on a mushroom/barley kick so I used two cups of cooked pearl barley in place of the pasta. I may make this a permanent substitution.


  • 1/4 cup dried mushrooms (porcini or shiitake)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups cooked broccoli florets
  • 6 oz orzo, elbows, petite shells or other small pasta
  • 1 cup nonfat or lowfat milk
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (I prefer white pepper in this recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1.5 cups fresh mushrooms (I use baby bellas)
  • 7 ounce can salmon, drained
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for topping
  • Dried or finely chopped fresh parsley


  1. Measure out 1/2 cup water in a 1 or 2 cup glass or plastic measuring cup. Microwave for about a minute until boiling. Add dried mushroom and let them sit for about 15 minutes until they reconstitute. Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. (The liquid will have some grit in it from the mushrooms. I strain mine through a paper coffee filter.)
  2. In a medium to large saucepan, heat water until boiling and cook pasta according to package directions. The pasta should be al dente so it holds up to the sauce so cook for the minimum amount of time (or even a minute or two less). Drain when done.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, add the milk, cornstarch, sage, salt and pepper to a small bowl. Whisk together. Cornstarch clumps together in liquid so keep the whisk handy.
  4. In the same saucepan you previously cooked the pasta, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
  5. Add the fresh mushroom and cook for about a minute. Add the reconstituted dried mushrooms and cook for another minute. The mushrooms will soak up the small amount of oil that was in the pan so add *one or two tablespoons* of the reserved mushroom liquid to the pan.
  6. Pour the remaining mushroom liquid into the milk mixture and whisk again until the cornstarch is evenly distributed.
  7. Pour this mixture into the saucepan with the mushrooms. Increase the heat to medium high. Stir constantly as the mixture thickens considerably. This will happen quickly so be careful not to let it burn.
  8. Remove from heat and add the broccoli, salmon and pasta to the pot. Stir everything together and pour it into a 8″ x 8″ baking dish sprayed with non stick spray.
  9. Sprinkle the top with cheese and parsley. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until hot and bubbly.
  10. Optional: Place pan under broiler for 3 to 5 minutes so the top turns nice and brown. Watch this closely so it doesn’t burn.

Kat’s Tip:

Salmon from a can is a clean, safe, sustainable option to tuna. And its high on Omega-3s. Be warned that it does come with a small amount of skin and bones. These are totally edible and will disappear once you mix the salmon into the recipe.

Kat’s Second Tip:

In this recipe the milk and mushroom liquid come together with the mushrooms to make a rich sauce. If you are like me and want an easy substitution for “cream-o whatever” soup for other recipes; check out these easy to follow directions from the Once A Month Mom website.

Serves four

Nutritional information – values are approximate per serving:

Calories 308 Total Fat 5 g Cholesterol 27 mg Sodium 570 mg Total Carbohydrate 45 g Protein 20 g

Inspiration: Weight Watchers Smart Choice Recipe Collection – 1995


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A Summer of Salads

A summer's worth of salads

An endless variety of ingredients to keep you satisfied all summer long

There’s something about 100+ degrees that makes me want to avoid the kitchen altogether. Alas, a gal has to eat. So, when summer hits I start getting creative with salads. Salads are healthy, cheap to make and can be quite filling.

Variety is the spice of life. You’ll often find me in the kitchen re-creating flavors and food combinations from cold-weather dishes into cool combos for summer salads. If it works in a soup or stew, it’ll work in a salad. Adding protein in the form of eggs, meat, poultry, fish or beans to your salad can change it from a side dish to main dish in a flash. Adding grains like wheatberries, barley or rice means you have a complete meal in a bowl that will sustain you for hours. Bon Appétit!

Here are some salads that are easy to pull together to help you get started:

Black & bleu salad
Steak strips
Bleu cheese crumbles
Red onion
Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
Blue cheese dressing
Greek salad
Canned tuna – white beans
Feta cheese
Artichoke hearts
Sundried tomatoes
Caesar dressing
Honey mustard chicken salad
Chicken breast strips
Cheddar cheese
Crispy bacon
Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
Honey mustard dressing
Mexican salad
Taco chicken
Tortilla chips
Beans – red or black
Ranch dressing
Grilled Shrimp and Spinach
Grilled shrimp
Hard boiled egg
Red onion
Warm bacon dressing
Mediterranean Salmon
Wheat berries
Artichoke hearts / red peppers / grape tomatoes
Feta cheese
Italian Dressing

Photo credit: Fotoosvanrobin on Flickr. CC Licensed. A much better picture than I could ever take!


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Greek Chicken and Barley Salad

I love the medley of bright color and flavors in this salad

I’m constantly trolling the internet trying to find recipes to incorporate different grains into my diet. I could very well be addicted to this salad. It’s so healthy and chock full of so many subtle flavors. It makes a great and filling lunch. Since I first found the recipe on, its been a go-to recipe of mine.

I love the addition of fresh herbs to this salad but I wasn’t wild about the dressing called for in the original recipe. Be warned that barley will soak the dressing up. So, if you’re not eating this in one sitting (um, this single girl certainly isn’t) you’ll want to add the dressing just prior to serving. I’ve had this with a Caesar type dressing and an Asian-style dressing and both were yummy.

Kat’s version:

  • 3 cups water or chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup pearl barley
  • 12 oz pre-cooked and diced chicken
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced and seeded
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil or 1 tsp fresh
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh (lemon thyme rocks in this salad)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
  • Fresh mint for garnish (optional)
  • 1/2 cup green onion, diced (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup diced olives

Cook barley and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients. Add dressing of choice; I typically use store bought Lite Caesar or this Asian-style dressing when I want a change of pace.

Serves four

Nutritional information – values per serving are approximate (does not include dressing):

Calories 321.5 Total Fat 6.5 g Cholesterol 66.0 mg Sodium 367.9 mg Potassium 557.3 mg Total Carbohydrate 40.2 g Protein 26.1 g


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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Barley, Chicken, Feta cheese, Grains, Salads


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White Bean, Spinach, and Barley Pilaf (er, soup)

Pretty barley pilaf. Tasty, too!

I love grains and I’m really trying to find more ways to get more barley into my diet. I have high hopes for this recipe. I made this “stew” as is today. However, based on the reviews from, it may taste better tomorrow. Also, calling it a stew is a little misleading; its more like a pilaf so I’ve retitled it. I did end up adding a cup of homemade chicken broth to one serving and ate it as a soup with some crusty French bread.

The person who submitted the original recipe also recommended pairing it with a dry Chardonnay. Being a wine lover, who am I to argue?


  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 3 cups water or broth
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 3/4 cup small fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons white wine, broth or sherry
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Bring the barley and water to a boil in a pot. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, and cook the onion and garlic until tender. Season with rosemary. Mix the mushrooms, yellow bell pepper, and wine into the pot, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked barley, beans, tomatoes, and spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking 10 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.

Optional: Add diced chicken and some broth to turn this dish into a hearty soup. Here’s my recipe for homemade chicken soup.

Serves six

Nutritional information – values per serving are approximate (not including extra broth):

Calories 188.6 Total Fat 1.4g  Cholesterol 0.0mg  Sodium 96.8mg  Potassium 378.6mg  Total Carbohydrate 37.3g   Protein 5.9g



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Mushroom Barley Quiche

Versatile Quiche

I frequently cook based on which ingredients in my refrigerator have reached the tipping point and need to be used immediately or risk being thrown out. Hence, the birth of this recipe was the impending demise of some baby bella mushrooms that were on the edge. At the time, I was also investigating different grains and ways to incorporate more of them into my diet.

Mushroom and barley pair well together and are frequently seen cohabitating in soups and stews. I couldn’t really find what I was looking for online so I morphed this recipe off my favorite quiche recipe in an attempt to springboard off this pairing. I was so pleased with the results I almost couldn’t stand myself. The Swiss cheese adds just the right note of sharpness to balance out this dish.


  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup package frozen chopped spinach – thawed
  • 1/4 cup diced red, yellow or orange bell pepper
  • 1 cup sliced baby bella or other mushrooms
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1/4 Tsp ground pepper (I prefer white pepper)
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 2 cups cooked pearl barley
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup egg beaters
  • 1/3 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan
  3. On medium heat, sauté onion, garlic and spices, cooking until onions are slightly browned
  4. Add spinach and bell pepper cook until most of the water is removed
  5. Add mushroom and cook one to two minutes
  6. Add flour and stir until combined
  7. Slowly add milk; Cook to a simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened slightly (usually 2-3 minutes)
  8. Remove pan from heat and blend in barley, eggs and Swiss cheese
  9. Pour mixture into 9″ x 9″ The Pampered Chef® Square Baker
  10. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top
  11. Bake at 400 degrees for about 35-40 minutes or until set. Broil 2 minutes until top is golden brown

Serves six

Nutritional information – values per serving are approximate:

Calories 245.3 Total Fat 10.0 g  Cholesterol 53.1 mg Sodium 245.4 mg Potassium 411.7 mg Total Carbohydrate 22.8 g Protein 15.9 g

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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Barley, For the love of Quiche, Grains


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How to cook barley

Barley, broth and tall(er) saucepan

Similar to rice, barley comes in various forms of readiness. Quick barley has been cooked down already. While it takes less time to cook, like minute rice its nutritional value has been decreased. Pearl barley or medium barley (shown in photo) will take longer to cook but are better for you.

I typically buy my barley in bulk at Sprouts. The box on the right was “donated” from a friend who wouldn’t eat it. Although the directions on the box call for adding 4 cups of liquid, I found that was too much and the cooked barley was gummier than I like. I have never found a need to soak barley prior to cooking and I usually don’t even rinse it either.


  • Add 3 cups of water or broth to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. In the photo you can actually see the broth that was left in the bottom of the baker when I cooked my last whole chicken. I didn’t even skim the particles, I just added enough water to measure 3 cups.
  • Add one cup pearl barley. Bring back to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Adding salt to the water may cause the barley not to cook right.
  • Remove from heat and let barley sit about 5 minutes. Makes about 3 cups.

Word to the wise, Barley can be gooey when it cooks so if you use a tall saucepan you’ll have less mess to clean up. I once tried to make it in the rice cooker. I won’t do that again as I’m still finding what I think is gluten residue in small places in my kitchen.


Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Barley, Grains, Kitchen Basics



Black Bean and Barley Chili

I love buffets and I loved themed dinners. So, when I agreed to host the dinner following the family holiday picture day last December, I decided to make a variety of chili recipes figuring that way there would be something for everyone. Everyone that is, except my vegan sister. Catering to her dietary needs had me searching high and low for a vegan chili recipe that looked palatable for everyone else in the family too.

There are a few side notes to this story. First, my sister is a vegetarian, not vegan. She told me, after I spent $3.99 on vegetable broth, that chicken broth would have been fine. Second, this dish is very forgiving considering I accidentally left the burner on low after it was done cooking (I’m not really sure for how long) and it still tasted great. Even the carnivores in the group liked it.
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles
2/3 cup pearled barley
1/2 cup water
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can vegetable broth


  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes.
  2. Add chili powder and next 4 ingredients (chili powder through green chiles); cook 1 minute.
  3. Stir in barley and next 4 ingredients (barley through broth); bring to a boil.
  4. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes or until barley is tender.

Good served with chopped cilantro, avocado, sour cream and cheese.

Recipe source:

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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in Barley, Bean Mausoleum, Chili fest


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