For young scholars across the globe, going back to school undoubtedly looks a bit different this year. Having a sharp new haircut, the freshest pair of shoes, or the coolest backpack on the block may not mean as much when classes take place just a few feet from where you woke up. Packed lunches aren’t going anywhere outside the home when lessons take place over Zoom, within arm’s reach of the fridge. However, that doesn’t negate the importance of meal planning! In fact, even greater emphasis should be placed on advanced prep, when easily accessible snacks beckon at all times.
Even under stay-at-home orders or quarantine conditions, the show must go on. Weekdays are still busy as ever, and the last thing you want to do is waste precious time wondering what to eat. Don’t stress yourself out by try to cobble together a passable meal out of cold leftovers while the clock is ticking. Prep ahead, divide, and conquer your day.
From this point forward, barley will be your new best friend. Unlike plain white rice, pearl barley is an excellent source of fiber and protein, to keep you full and energized longer. Plus, it’s toothsome, chewy texture holds up to reheat much better than more fragile starchy grains, which makes it the perfect base for advance prep.
Traditional risotto is finicky, demanding constant attention while cooking and immediate service the minute it’s done. Let it cool, and the whole pot of silky, al dente rice will turn into a gooey, over-cooked mess. Perish the though of saving leftovers, unless you plan to deep fry them the next day.
Barley risotto, or barlotto as I like to call it, offers an endlessly adaptable foundation to build any seasonal meal around. Mix and match based on what’s in the fridge, what’s in the market, or what’s on your mind. My default approach is to riff off classic barley soup, complete with some hearty meatless beef and bold aromatics. I would argue that mushrooms are essential for their meaty texture and umami essence, but there are no hard and fast rules here. Let’s save those for the school teachers, shall we?
Designed to stay creamy yet toothsome over the coarse of subsequent re-heating opportunities, there’s no reason to get locked into the same eating experience, meal after meal. Get younger kids (or the young at heart) on board by transforming the leftovers into finger food! Think of hearty, baked arancini, and you wouldn’t be too far off. Anything you can pick up and dip has an added fun factor, making it a painless way to explore new whole grains. Plus, you can justify a bowlful (or a more measured cup) of marinara on the side, you know it’s going to be a good day.
Let’s spoon and dip our way into the next chapter of this strange true story. Stay at home or take it to go; stay safe, and always well-fed.
- 2 Tablespoons Vegan Butter or Olive Oil
- 1/2 Cup Diced Shallot, Leeks, or Red Onion
- 6 - 8 Ounces Diced Seitan, Meatless Ground Beef, or Cubed Tempeh
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 Cup Diced Carrots, Parsnips, Kabocha Squash, or Sweet Potatoes
- 8 - 10 Ounces Cremini, Button, Portobello, Shiitake, and/or Oyster Mushrooms, Sliced
- 1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried, Crushed Rosemary
- 1/4 Teaspoon Dried Rubbed Sage
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Cup Pearl Barley
- 4 - 4 1/2 Cups Mushrooms or Vegetable Stock
- 2 Tablespoons Balsamic, Apple Cider, or Red Wine Vinegar
- 1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
- 1/2 Cup Frozen Peas or Corn
- 1/4 Cup Vegan Sour Cream, Unsweetened Plain Yogurt, or Vegan Cream Cheese
- OPTIONAL: Ground Flaxseeds
- Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter or olive oil. Once melted or shimmering, add your allium of choice and saute until softened and translucent; about 5 - 6 minutes.
- Add your protein of choice and cook for 5 - 8 minutes, stirring periodically, until lightly browned. Incorporate the garlic, root vegetables, and mushrooms next, mixing well. Cook for 5 minutes to lightly soften the mushrooms.
- Mix in all the herbs and seasonings, followed by the barley. Stir thoroughly and saute for 4 - 5 minutes longer to gently toast the grains. Gently pour 4 cups of the stock in, followed by the vinegar. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let cook for 30 - 35 minutes, until the grains are tender and the liquid has almost entirely been absorbed.
- Add the nutritional yeast and frozen vegetables, cooking for just a minute or two longer for the vegetables to thaw and warm all the way through. Add more stock if needed; it shouldn't be as dry as a pilaf, but not as wet as soup.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the creamy finish of your choice. Serve hot, warm, at room temperature, or even cold.
- To make risotto balls, let cool completely. Add 2 ground flaxseeds for every cup of leftover barley risotto and mix well. Let sit for about 10 minutes for the mixture to thicken, and use an ice cream or cookie scoop to portion out 3 - 4 tablespoon balls onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown all over. Serve hot, with marinara sauce on the side.
If preparing the barley risotto in advance, let cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
To reheat, add a few tablespoons of water and microwave for 1 - 3 minutes, stirring halfway through, until piping hot.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 653Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 417mgCarbohydrates: 78gFiber: 21gSugar: 29gProtein: 70g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.