Sweet Musings with a Bitterly Sharp Wit

Stuff It


Thanksgiving is just around the corner now, approaching with alarming speed. Everywhere you look there’s another helpful suggestion about what to serve, how to lay out the table with coordinating colors, and even who to invite. There’s a whole lot of pressure here to sneak these ideas in under the gun, before plans are set and put into motion. Hopefully I’m not too late to hop on this train, as some people I know have been planning this event for weeks already, and others who have even begun to cook and freeze their desserts in advance, since the real cooking will be such an ordeal. Yikes, I never thought that such a humble holiday would become this huge production!

So any way, here I am, trying to be helpful, giving you this recipe that quite frankly, isn’t great. It’s a healthy, whole-grain alternative to what is usually a starchy carb-fest with pieces of stale bread, but I’ll admit it straight away- It’s lacking in the flavor department. I wouldn’t want any of you to serve it as is to Uncle Bob or Aunt Helen, who are already suspicious of your vegan ways. Instead, I thought I would offer you this recipe as a challenge; What would you do to remedy this sad stuffing?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to modify the following recipe so that it’s vastly improved from this original state. The only restriction is that you may not change the grain (I will make exceptions for quick-cooking barley though. I would have used it myself if there was any on hand!) Just do me a favor and link back to this post on your blog, and email me directly to let me know that you’re entering this contest. You have until November 20th to submit your variation, and I’ll do a round up that same day. The winner will be awarded a prize, to be announced later since I have no idea what it will be right now. Just trust me, it’ll be good, so get to work and turn this wreck into an awesome Thanksgiving side dish!

Lack-Luster Barley Stuffing

1/2 Cup Pearled Barley
1 1/2 Cups Vegetable Stock
1 Bay Leaf
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, Diced
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary
1/2 Cup Chopped Mushrooms
1 Zucchini, Diced
1/2 Cup Frozen Peas
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts
Salt and Pepper

Rinse and drain your barley, and set aside. Place the stock in a medium pot, and bring it to a boil. Add in the washed barley and bay leaf, and let simmer for 30 – 45 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and the barley is al dente. Remove the bay leaf.

While the barley is cooking, you can start on the other components so that it comes together quickly. In a saute pan, heat up the oil over medium-low and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the onions start to take on a golden brown color, and add in the garlic. Saute for an additional 3 minutes or so to get some color on the garlic, and then toss in the rosemary, mushrooms, and zucchini. Mix everything around and cook just until the zucchini look somewhat translucent and are tender. Add in the peas at the last minute just so that they can defrost.

Toss the barley and veggies together in a large bowl, and mix in the nuts, plus salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to get a good distribution of everything, and serve warm.

Now tell me, what will you do differently?


Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

24 thoughts on “Stuff It

  1. NOT lack-luster-looking to me!! But how about adding some dried cranberries or sundried tomatoes, for a “flavor kick” and color?? :-)


  2. I’m with VeggieGirl – I think it sounds great, but what I would do is toss in some toasted pine nuts, some diced green onion and maybe a hint of a maple vinagrette (a little maple syrup, apple cider vin., oilive oil, s & p, and mustard). I agree that some dried cranberries would be yum, too.


  3. I don’ think it looks boring at all!!! I think it sounds fabulous…well everything you make is fabulous anyways =)


  4. I agree with veggie girl… some colorful dried goodness would go great! I also think that you should add alot of spices, and celery. Celery usually goes in stuffing and helps get that special taste.


  5. P.S. I would make it myself and submit the recipe, but I can’t get barley in grocery stores and I wouldn’t know where to look here in Brazil!


  6. I don ‘t like reinventing the wheel, but I have been using barley with wheat berries for a salad using this recipe:

    All my family loves it and requests it now. Maybe the problem is trying to use the barley as a stuffing. I think it might have too much bite for that. I would probably prefer rice for a stuffing. But what do I know. Just a thought.


  7. It actually looks very good to me.


  8. Hi,

    Here’s my suggestions to add to your recipe:

    1. toast the barley and walnuts before cooking
    2. replacing about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of some of the stock with white wine
    3. add 1 teaspoon each of dried sage and dried parsley
    4. add 2 teaspoons of nutritional yeast
    5. marinate the mushrooms at least 30 min. ahead of time in 1/4 balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbls of olive oil, 1 Tbls of dried rosemary
    6. instead of zucchini, use a green pepper
    7. instead of sauteeing, roast the onion, pepper, and mushrooms on a sheet pan for about 20 min (keep an eye on them after 10 min.) at 400 degrees.
    8. optional: add 1 or 2 finely chopped and sauteed Field Roast brand “Apple and Sage” sausages.
    9. also optional: 2 oz of unsweetened dried cherries


  9. Ooh I’d love to have a go at this, unfortunately I just don’t have time right now! =(


  10. big fat juicy soaked sultanas. and for a special kick for drinkers, soak in port.


  11. I second the suggestions for toasting the walnuts and using a little white wine. I would substitute edamame for the peas and then add pomegranate seeds.


  12. Hey love, I’m sorry I’m not doing this properly and making this a post on my blog. Hope you consider my alterations anyway! This is based heavily (notice the wording even) on yours! heh

    Barley Chestnut Stuffing

    2/3 Cup Pearled Barley
    2 Cups Vegetable Stock
    a few leaves fresh sage (or a pinch if dried)
    1/2 tsp dried thyme
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 medium onion, diced
    1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
    1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
    1/2 cup roasted chestnuts, chopped
    1/4 cup chopped walnuts

    Rinse and drain barley, set aside.
    Place the stock in a medium pot and bring to a boil (if low sodium, add salt to taste either now or at the end). Add in the washed barley and the herbs and let simmer 30-45 minute s until the liquid has been absorbed and the barley is al dente. Remove the sage leaves.

    While the barley is cooking, you can start on the other components so it comes together quickly. In a big wok heat up the oil over medium low and fry the garlic. Once golden remove and reserve. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are a translucent golden brown. Add the mushrooms, chestnuts, walnuts and barley and mix everything around until the mushrooms have shrunk down and the nuts are thoroughly warmed.


  13. ooops, forgot to mention to add back in the garlic when adding the rest, lol…


  14. Why don’t you try to cook it as you would a risotto? Sautee your ingredients until carmized, add the barley and get them coated, add stock in small amounts until absorbed then add your herbs. But do add the rosemary at the beginning. The barley will soak up all the flavours of the veggies.


  15. I would definitely add more seasonings! Sage for sure!!


  16. Definitely sage (or poultry seasoning). Cranberries sound great as well. And celery – I always put celery in my stuffing.


  17. Before reading the comments, I was thinking SAGE, so I couldn’t agree more with the others. Also, definitely toast the barley before cooking and try baking rather than stovetop to get more of the stuffing vibe. I would use pine nuts rather than walnuts, I just find it is a better combo with barley and sage. Rosemary just doesn’t quite sound right with this dish. I really don’t like cranberries in stuffing, so I can’t agree with that change … personal taste … I think Amanda has an excellent go of it.

    Oh yes, and even though you use vegetable stock, I find that the sodium in stock doesn’t make herbs pop, just a pinch or two of salt may do the trick.


  18. Hm….. I definitely want to play around with this recipe! But now I just have to find some pearled barley around here….


  19. I agree with the people that said it sounded great as is! I liked veggiegirl’s idea of adding the cranberries. You could replace the zucchini with avocado.


  20. i might be up for the challenge, Hannah (if i can find some time!)- although i think the stuffing sounds pretty darn yummy as it stands right now! i’ll try & give it a go and see what i can do!

    isn’t it nuts how big of a production thanksgiving can be?! fun, but crazy and the same time! yay!


  21. what kind of mushrooms did you use??


  22. Wish I had more time to participate in the challenge… but can’t wait to see what others come up with!


  23. That looks delicious!! Maybe add a little color? I agree, cranberries might be nice.


  24. Hi! I saw this challenge a bit late, but am up for some experimenting-is it too late to submit a variation??

    Make it a Christmas/Hanukkah challenge.

    Let me know!



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