Mediterranean Barley Salad

My  renewed quest to eat healthier begun a few months ago when I realized that I only had 3 months to prepare for a beach wedding. Eeks! Luckily, the wedding was fabulous and I didn’t gain 12 pounds right before it, so everything went swimmingly, so to speak. However, it did encourage me to start looking for healthier options for grains. I have blogged about the wonder-grain quinoa, which I love, but I needed to mix things up a bit.

I recently discovered pearled barley, which *technically* is not a whole grain (because the husk of the barley grain is removed), but still pretty delicious and good for you. Because the husk of barley requires very little processing to get rid off, and takes very little nutritional value from the barley, your body treats pearled barley like a whole grain!

You can use it as a substitute for other, not-so-healthy grains like rice. And it makes a mean cold salad. You can buy pearled barley in most grocery stores in the bulk food section for VERY cheap. This is a good starter recipe if you are new to pearled barley.

This dish was inspired by a friend’s Mediterranean salad. She brought it to a party once and I was smitten.  I really like the light, earthy flavors of mediterranean cuisine. This cold salad is a crowd pleaser and great to bring to a potluck on a hot summer day.

A Delectable Endeavors Original

01 cup of dry pearled barley

2 cups of water

2 Tbl lemon juice

3 Tbl olive oil

salt and pepper

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 can of chickpeas, rinsed

1/2 cup of chopped, roasted red pepper

1/8 cup chopped parsley

feta

Bring 2 cups of water with 1/2 tsp salt to a boil. Add dry pearled barley. Let sit for approximately 40 – 45 minutes until water is completely absorbed. It is important not to stir the barley while it cooks.

Mix lemon juice and oil with garlic and salt and pepper. Once barley is cooked, while still warm, pour oil and lemon mixture over the barley and toss with a fork. Toss in red pepper, chickpeas, parsley and feta to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Then, enjoy!

Vegetable Fried Rice

Wow!  This dish is already famous and I haven’t even posted it yet.  A little while ago, I posted a picture of my vegetable fried rice and almost immediately people started asking me for the recipe.  Well everyone, the wait is over.  Here it is!

As I have previously discussed, I love Asian food.  I was craving Chinese food the other night, so I decided to take a stab at making fried rice.  Now, I would like to preface this post by saying I have never made fried rice before.  I am somewhat intimidated by Indian and Chinese food.  I keep thinking someone’s grandmother would be insulted by my creation.  But, I decided to try it anyway.

I looked all over the internet for recipes.  I watched videos of men cracking eggs into pans.  I scoured pictures of shimmering bowls full of beautiful combinations.  But in the end, I decided to just make a simple, home-grown version of fried rice.  I know this is bold.  But I didn’t I didn’t stray far from the basic combination of rice, vegetables, and egg.

Just to make the process clear, I took step-by-step photographs.  And I have a couple of tricks of the trade.  Firstly, I noticed that most people advise using leftover rice.  I would agree with this, but only if its sticky, already somewhat moist.  I used brown rice that had gotten nice and sticky while cooking and it worked well.  Secondly, the key to making good fried rice is all in the timing.  I tried to give the approximate times for everything.  However, it is important to note that the times will not help if the food is not evenly chopped.  Plus, this recipe takes very little time to cook, so take care to properly prepare the ingredients ahead of time.

A Delectable Endeavors Original:

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

3 scallions, sliced lengthwise and chopped

2 Tbls of oil

2 1/2 cups cooked rice

2 Tbls of soy sauce

2 tsp garlic salt

Like I said, make sure to prepare all your veggies ahead of time.  See all the nicely chopped vegetables?  They are evenly cut so each piece is approximately the same size.  This way they all cook evenly.

Heat oil in a large pan on medium-high.  Start by cooking the carrots.

Take about 3 minutes to cook the carrots.  Or, until they are slightly darker.  However, make sure they are not fully cooked.  They will be in the pan a bit longer.  Add onions.

Cook onions until they are begin to turn transucelnt.  This should only take a couple of minutes.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Crack an egg into the pan.  Use a spatula to vigorously break up egg into small pieces while it cooks.  Only spend about a minute or two doing this, then add scallions.  Cook scallions in mixture for a minute, then add rice.

Mmmm now its starting to look like fried rice.  Cook this mixture for a minute while breaking up rice and evenly distributing the ingredients.  Then add soy sauce.

You can add this to taste, adding as much as you would like.  I added about 2 Tablespoons.  Mix this in, then add garlic salt.

Mix up this delicious mixture while you salivate.  It is ready to serve!  As you can tell, this is a very basic, simple version.  But, I think it tastes fairly authentic.

Obviously, this makes a LOT of rice.  It would easily feed 4 people plus.  But leftovers are delicious!  You can make some as a side for dinner and save the leftovers for a delicious lunch the next day.  At least thats what I did.  🙂

Cheddar Chive Biscuits

The other day I was craving something salty and delicious.  My stomach had been bothering me and I wanted something that was easy on the tummy and tasty at the same time.  I also wanted that was quick and easy to make, since I wasn’t feeling too well.

I spent some time online looking for recipes.  I browsed my favorite website for recipes, foodgawker.com.  Page, after page, there were lots of different options.   However, a recipe for cheese biscuits caught my eye.  I had some leftover jambalaya in the fridge, and I thought the leftover biscuits would be delicious with it.

However, as usual, I didn’t have exactly the same ingredients.  I ended up doing what I always do, working with what I have!  I added a good amount of cheese and some fresh chives from my small garden.  I also didn’t have any buttermilk on hand, so I made some at home!  If you don’t have buttermilk at home, here’s an easy way to make your own at home.  Just mix one Tablespoon of vinegar per cup of milk.  Let this mixture sit for approximately 5 minutes.  Viola!  Buttermilk!

Adapted from Thibeault’s Table recipe

1 cup of flour

1 1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/4 tsp of salt

1/4 cup of butter

1/2 cup of buttermilk

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 Tbl chopped chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

Mix flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the butter.  To see directions on how to do this, see my post on Raspberry Rhubarb Crumble.  Add salt and pepper.  Stir in milk, cheese, and chives with a fork.  Pat together dough with hands.  Do not over mix batter.  It should still be slightly lumpy.

Drop batter into 1 1/2 inch rounds on prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Zucchini Bites

I just made the most delicious snack ever.  I’m calling them zucchini bites.  I had recently bought quite a bit of squash at the market.  It was on sale and screaming, “eat me”!  Cut to me at home, scratching my head thinking, what am I going to do with 2 lbs of squash . . .

Luckily, I whipped up a tasty batch of this darling recipe.  I love vegetables, but I imagine anyone who doesn’t, would even like these.  They are magical!  They are essentially zucchini fries.  The outside is salty and crunchy.  The inside is warm and melty.  I don’t know how it happened, but I’m very happy it did.  And they are so easy to make too!  Only a couple of ingredients!  Try these on your picky eaters and tell me if you got them to eat their veggies.

Zucchini Bites

2 cups of zucchini, cut into 1 inch “cubes”

2/3 cup panko bread crumbs

1/3 cup of grated parmesan

1 egg

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425.  Beat egg in a bowl.  Mix the bread crumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper on a plate.  Dredge zucchini in egg.  Coat the zucchini in the bread crumb mixture.  Place the zucchini on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Cook for approximately 25 mintues or until outside is brown and crispy.

Moroccan Spiced Carrots

I’ve been experimenting with different ways to incorporate more vegetables into my diet lately.  After all, we are supposed to have 4-5 servings a day and I’m not sure I’m getting that.  After searching on the internet for some recipe ideas I stumbled across a recipe for Moroccan-style carrots that intruiged me.

Firstly, let it be known that I love carrots.  Back when I was a picky eater, and vegetables were a four-letter word to me, I was introduced to carrots.  They were one of the first vegetables I instantly liked.  They can be cool and crisp; a refreshing treat with a creamy dip.  Or they can be roasted, tender and complex.  Plus, carrots are one of the vegetables that can actually be better for you after they are cooked.

Now, I know some of you currently picky eaters are out there thinking, “Gross, cooked veggies.  I don’t like mushy, stinky cooked carrots.”  And this is where I say you are WRONG!  There are a couple of main reasons I have found some people claim they don’t like cooked vegetables.  1) They have only had badly cooked vegetables (ie: overcooked, dry, or mushy) or 2) They have not tried seasoning their vegetables.  Well, here’s my tips to ensure you will have delicious, healthy, nutritious carrots for dinner.

Step 1:  Cutting the vegetables.  It is very important that all of your vegetable pieces are approximately the same size.  Do not skip this step or you will have some mushy, overdone carrots, and some hard, underdone carrots.  If you cut them up so they are all approximately the same size, everything will cook evenly and they will all be done at approximately the same time.

Step 2:  Do not cook vegetables for long!  Veggies (unless very starchy) rarely take longer than 20 minutes to cook.  You should be watching vegetables carefully anytime you cook them because they will go from almost done to overdone fast.  Make sure to keep an eye on them and test them with a fork for tenderness.  Take your vegetables off the heat the second BEFORE you think they are done.  This is because all food cooks for a short while after you remove it from the heat.

Adapted from Pikelet & Pie

Approximately 2 cups of carrots, trimmed, washed and peeled.

1 1/2 Tbl olive oil

1 Tbl butter

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp corriander

1/4 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter in a pan over medium heat.  While the oil and butter are heating through, combine all of the spices together in a bowl.  Once the butter is completely melted, add carrots.  Cook until almost fork tender, approximately 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your carrots.   Add the spice mixture to the carrots and cook for a couple of minutes are coated and the spices are slightly toasted.  Turn heat off and splash lemon juice over carrots.  Cover with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Mix well and serve warm.

Garlic Fries

During the icy grips of a Midwestern winter, a person needs comfort food. The end of January usually conjurs up dreams of warm soup, creamy macaroni and cheese, and piping hot cocoa.  These are the foods that warm the soul and the belly.

For me, one of the staple comfort foods are fries.  And I’m not talking about those wimpy, shoestring, fast food fries.  I’m talking steak fries.  Fries the size of half a potato.  I want a fry I can crunch into and get a mouthful of warm, soft spud.

Luckily, the internet covered in fantastic recipes for such types of tasty fries.  My personal favorite this recipe, which also douses the tubers in a healthy dose of garlic.  Ahhhh, I’m already smiling just thinking about them . . .

6 garlic cloves, minced

6 tablespoons canola oil

3 potatoes (about 8oz each), each cut into 12 wedges (I use red potatoes)

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 475° F. Combine garlic and oil in a large bowl and microwave until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour 5 tablespoons of the oil (leaving the garlic in the bowl) to a rimmed baking sheet, tilting the sheet to coat.

Add the potatoes to the bowl with the remaining oil mixture and toss to coat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and microwave on high power until the potatoes are translucent around the edges, 3 to 6 minutes, shaking the bowl to redistribute the potatoes halfway through cooking.

Combine the cornstarch, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the hot potatoes and toss well to coat. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake, turning once, until deep golden brown and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve.