By Marla Schultz
A few months ago we faced some financial challenges. Reluctant to go to the grocery store to replenish the rapidly dwindling contents of my pantry, I chose to exercise creativity in the kitchen instead. After I used the remainder of the wheat and spelt flours, I started eying the grains and beans purchased months before while on a quest to integrate more whole foods into our diet. Pushed aside for more familiar fare at times, I now eyed them with interest. Which grain—or perhaps bean—would produce the best flour for rolls or muffins?
In my containers I discovered pearl barley and a quick search on the Internet produced a barley muffin recipe that included barley flour, almond meal, canned pumpkin, and flax meal. I had the almond flour, surprisingly, but not the flax seeds. Chia seeds replaced the flax and I whipped up a delicious batch of muffins. They were slightly crumbly, but the kids loved them. The best part? They kept my children full for longer than normal.
The other day I decided to make another batch from this recipe. Out of curiosity I researched the health benefits of barley. The results stunned me; I had no idea there were so many.
This ancient grain has been used for thousands of years in many different areas of the world. It has a low to moderate glycemic index depending on the type of barley, and helps control blood sugar levels—great news for me. Generally, even after eating organic whole wheat pasta with a healthy, vegetable-heavy pasta sauce, I still experience a major sugar low and can barely function. Definitely not a good thing when you have six children and the two youngest—5 and 7-year-old boys—have an endless supply of energy.
I also discovered that barley helps control diabetes; lowers cholesterol; aids in maintaining a healthy colon and intestines; prevents gallstones; reduces blood pressure; helps protect against osteoporosis; combats heart disease and cancer; and helps preserve skin elasticity. Barley, when made into barley water, can be used to help cure urinary tract infections and kidney issues.
Did you know it also supports the immune system? It contains iron, zinc, copper, and almost double the amount of the Vitamin C found in oranges! Iron prevents anemia, zinc can speed healing after an injury, copper forms red blood cells and hemoglobin, and Vitamin C decreases the chances of catching a cold or the flu.
Based off all of the information I found, adding barley to your meals will keep your family healthier. Try making it into a breakfast cereal, baking some yummy, barley muffins, or adding it to your soups this fall and winter.
Here are a couple of recipes to get you started:
Barley Pumpkin Muffins
1 cup freshly milled barley flour (I used my Vitamix blender and the dry container to grind the barley)
1 cup almond meal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or substitute 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/3 tsp. ginger, 1/3 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. cloves)
2 Tbsp. flax meal
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled (salted butter can be used, just decrease the salt to 1/4 tsp. You can also substitute oil for the butter, but don’t change the amount of salt.)
3/4 cup turbinado, sucanat, or rapadura (brown sugar can be substituted)
1-15 oz. can pumpkin (regular or organic)*
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin with a mixer. Slowly add in the milk and beat until well blended. In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and stir until blended. Spoon the batter into a prepared muffin pan and bake for 22-25 minutes.
Makes 1 dozen.
* I have also exchanged 1 to 2 ripe bananas (depending on size) for the pumpkin. Omit the pumpkin pie spice and add 1/2 cup of walnuts. You can also add some semi-sweet chocolate chips. Yum!
Beef and Barley Soup for the Crockpot
1 1/2 lbs. stew meat
2 large onions, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 clove garlic, mined
10 cups beef broth
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbsp. dried parsley, or 2 Tbsp. fresh
2 bay leaves
To add later:
1 cup cooked pearl barley (follow directions on package)
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. brown sugar
Salt and pepper
Place all of the first ten ingredients into the crock pot. Cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Add barley, peas, tomato paste, and sugar during the last hour of cooking. Taste before serving and add salt and pepper as needed.
Marla Schultz is married to Rick and the mother of six children, ages sixteen to five. She lives in California where she writes, homeschools, works from home, and creates delicious and healthy (most of the time) meals.