Are You Bored of Oatmeal? Try Barley… The New Power Grain!

July 28, 2010 in Breakfast by Heba

The past few weeks have been extremely busy: with family visiting from out of town, I barely had time to check my email (and definitely had no time to write any posts!). A few of the fun things we did around Chicago:

In terms of food, I wanted my family to experience eating out at some of Chicago’s restaurants (Carmine’s in the Gold Coast was great!), but I also wanted them to taste some of my food. Before they arrived, I made stuffed grape leaves, stuffed green peppers, tzatziki, coleslaw and salad for dinner on the day they got to Chicago. For dessert, I made rice pudding and brownies. For breakfast, I made ful medames (fava beans) and barley in advance. You’re probably thinking… that’s a ton of food! Believe it or not, it only lasted 2 days! ;-)

Barley is something we never had growing up…

I remember my family eating oatmeal or millet (bileela in Arabic) from time to time for breakfast. But barley wasn’t as popular in my household. That’s really a shame because barley has a lot of nutritional benefits:

  • Barley’s Fiber improve Regularity, Lower Cholesterol, & protect the intestines
  • Niacin in Barley Protects Against Atherosclerosis
  • Barley Has Significant Cardiovascular Benefits for Postmenopausal Women
  • Barley and Other Whole Grains Substantially Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
  • Barley Can Help Prevent Gallstones
  • Barley’s Fiber and Selenium Protects Against Colon Cancer
  • Barley’s Copper Can Benefit Arthritis Sufferers

If that’s not enough to get you excited about trying barley, then I don’t know what to tell you… :-) It is important to note that just like other grains, barley should be bought in whole form (not crushed or rolled flat or steamed, and with the outer shell intact) in order to glean as much nutritional benefit as possible from it. The barley should also be soaked overnight in an acidic medium (filtered water with a few tablespoons of liquid whey will do) – in order to make it more digestible. This whole barley is called hulled barley:

Like the name suggests, the outermost hull of the grain is all that gets removed in this form of barley. While this makes for a chewier grain that requires more soaking and cooking, it also makes for a more nutritious food. Hulled barley is also sometimes called “dehulled barley,” and it is the one form of barley what would be considered whole grain (WH Foods).

Cooking Directions:

Making barley is really simple in terms of the effort required to make it, but it does require some time to soak and cook. Make sure to rinse the barley first, and to reduce cooking time and to make it more digestible, I suggest overnight soaking for the outer shell to soften a bit.  Use 3 cups water to each cup of dried barley. After bringing to a boil, throw out the water and heat some water separately to pour on the barley. Then, reduce to simmer and cook for about 50 minutes, until the grains are easy to chew. To reduce bloating that may occur for people who don’t usually eat a fiber-rich diet, I add a small bit of fresh ginger in the water as it boils.

There are many ways to add barley to your diet – sometimes it’s made with broth, added into hearty soups, or tossed into a cool summer salad. Personally, I like to have it sweet (gotta blame that sweet tooth!) as a sort of homemade fiber-rich cereal for breakfast. When I made it for my family, I set up a mini “station” on the kitchen counter with the plain cooked barley and the following ingredients for them to pick and choose what to add: milk, yogurt, raisins, dates, maple syrup, walnuts, chia seeds, shaved coconut, rose water, fresh fruit, cinnamon, ground cloves, and fresh ginger…

Of course, there are unlimited possibilities for the combinations you can make, but that’s how to keep breakfast interesting, right!? Here are just two ideas to get you started:

Milky Dessert Rose Barley

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 cup hulled barley (soaked overnight)
  • 3 cups filtered water
  • whole milk from grass-fed cows, preferably raw
  • raw honey, to taste
  • cinnamon, to taste
  • sliced almonds, to taste
  • raisins, to taste
  • rosewater (add only half a teaspoon and taste before adding more – it has a distinct flavor)

After cooking the barley, add the other ingredients in amounts that are suitable to your taste, and voila – you now have made a tasty sweet treat for breakfast! By the way, this can be served hot, cold or lukewarm – it’s up to your mood in the morning!

Sweet Potato Barley Parfait

Another way to enjoy barley in the morning is to have it in a parfait! Adding fresh fruit is always a great option, but a few weeks ago, I had some leftover baked sweet potato and became inspired to add it to barley and yogurt. Half awake, I somehow came up with the ideal spices to add to this recipe: ground cloves and cinnamon! It was absolutely delicious!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 cup hulled barley (soaked overnight)
  • 3 cups filtered water
  • organic whole yogurt, preferably raw
  • organic baked sweet potato, diced
  • 100% pure Grade B maple syrup
  • ground cloves, to taste
  • sliced almonds, to taste
  • cinnamon, to taste

This recipe works better with leftover barley that is cold. Just add the other ingredients in quantities you like, and enjoy!

How delicious does that look on a scale from 1 to 10!? ;-)

Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to cook barley every day. You can make a batch for the week, and then heat or eat cold in the morning depending on the recipe you feel like putting together in 3 minutes!