Week 3

We chose barley as our grain to work with this week.    We made up 6 cooked cups worth.

The first thing we did was try it as our “oatmeal” one morning.  I read that it makes a really good substitute for oatmeal, which we eat at least 300 mornings a year!  We used all of our typical add-ins…raspberries (just Mike), walnuts, cinnamon & soy milk and were really happy with the result.  The texture was not as “mushy” as oatmeal, but that was a fine change of pace.  I can see us using this grain on a regular basis for our hot cereal breakfast.barley1

Soup was the next use for our barley.  We used the following recipe, but since the barley was already cooked we omitted 2 cups of the water and only heated it through after adding it.  Our concern that the barley would get kind of mushy from cooking it more didn’t happen, and making it ahead cut about 15 minutes off from the cooking time, so that was a plus.  This soup really filled us up and had great flavor (the taco seasoning was probably the key and it doesn’t end up with a taco taste.)  This recipe is going to become a regular for us.

Turkey Barley Soup (from Taste of Home)

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 3/4 cup sliced or baby carrots
  • 1 med onion
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning, divided
  • 3 1/2 cups water (we used 1  1/2 with our precooked barley)
  • 1 (28oz) can Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking barley (we used 2 cooked cups)
  • 1/8 tsp dried oregano

In Dutch oven, cook the turkey, carrots, onion, celery, garlic and 1 T. taco seasoning over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.  Stir in the water, tomatoes and remaining taco seasoning; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add barley; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes longer (we did only 5) or until barley is tender.  Stir in oregano.

Our last plan is to use up the remaining barley in Barley Stuffed Acorn Squash (from makingthymeforhealth.com)

  • 2 medium-size acorn squash
  • 1 cup dry pearled barley, rinsed (we have 2 1/2 cooked cups left)
  • 3 c vegetable broth (will omit but may regret its absence)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 8 0z shittake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 10 ounces green beans, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped leafy greens (kale, swiss chard, etc)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash the squash then slice off the stem and a small piece of the pointy bottom so it is able to sit on an even surface on both sides.  Cut it in 2 separate halves down the center.  Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and any loose pieces of flesh.

Lightly rub the flesh with oil and transfer to the baking sheet facing down.  Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  The outer skin should be pliable when squeezed with an oven mitt.

In medium size pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil and add the barley.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes, until tender.  (We won’t be using the broth since our barley is already cooked.  We’ll probably have to season with salt and pepper a little heavier to compensate.)

In separate large pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat  Add the shallot and a sprinkle of salt and cook for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.  Add the greens, mushrooms, carrots and green beans; sprinkle with salt and garlic powder; cover with a lid and cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables are slightly tender.

Once barley is tender add it to the larger pot with any remaining broth and stir to combine.  Spoon the filling inside the cooked squash, sprinkle the tops with parmesan cheese.  Serve warm.

This meal won’t happen until Wednesday (after post time) so we have no results to  remark on.  It sounds good though, doesn’t it!barley2

Week 2 assignment

Hitting the internet for recipes to tackle this week’s assignment drew us to two that used veggies in ways we have not before.  They were both “stretch” foods for us in that we wouldn’t even think of ordering such a thing in a restaurant.  This week’s choices were to make 1) veggie burgers 2) cauliflower “potatoes”, and 3) to be determined after perusing the produce section for something we hadn’t cooked with before.  We picked turnips, after reading on the sign next to them they were good to use in stirfries, something both of us like.

Meal 1:

Portobello Veggie Burgers (From 12Tomatoes.com)

  • 2 1/2 c portobello mushrooms, gills removed, chopped
  • 2 1/2 c cooked black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
  • 1 1/4 c fresh broccoli, finely chopped
  • 3/4 c parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2/3 c seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 c red onion, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T. Montreal steak seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • olive or vegetable oil, as needed
  1. Mash 1 c beans in a large bowl until semi-smooth.  Add remaining beans, mushrooms, broccoli, onion and garlic, and stir to combine.
  2. Add parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs into mixture, then add egg.  Stir well to combine, making sure that everything is fully incorporated.
  3. Season veggie mixture with salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning and red pepper flakes, then mix everything to combine.
  4. Heat 3 T olive oil in a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat and use dampened hands to start forming your veggie patties.
  5. Once oil is hot, place 2-3 patties in skillet and cook for 3-5 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
  6. Transfer patties to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, then serve hot.

We both really liked the flavor of these “burgers”, although I have to admit that I’m resigned to the likelihood that the texture just has to be lived with in the name of healthy eating.  We’d make these again.

Meal 2:

“Mock” Garlic Mashed Potatoes (From foodnetwork.com)

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1 T. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 t. minced garlic
  • 1/8 t. straight chicken base or bullion
  • 1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t. chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  1. Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces.  Cook in boiling water for about 6 minutes, or until well done.  Drain well; do not let cool.  Pat cooked cauliflower very dry between several layers of paper towels.
  2. In a bowl with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, puree the hot cauliflower with the cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic, chicken base, and pepper until almost smooth.
  3. Garnish with chives, and serve hot with pats of butter.

Again, we liked the taste, but the texture wasn’t ideal.  It may have been our own fault though (the cauliflower was perhaps a bit under-cooked and had cooled a titch before we got it pureed) so we need to try this again before final judgement.  We considered the meal a success anyway, due to an enjoyable flavor matched with the tasty steak and green beans ( yeah, they were canned…baby steps) that we paired it with.

Meal #3:

Stirfry with turnips.  We were going to use the Sesame Ginger Sauce from our first week of class because we LOVED it.  But, note to self:  Ingredients found in class don’t automatically exist in my cupboard.

Impromptu sauce became:

  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1/4 c honey
  • fresh ginger root
  • 3 cloves garlic

Along with the cut up turnips, our fry included some onions, carrots and the extra cauliflower, mushrooms and broccoli bought for the above meals.  We fried it in Toasted Sesame Oil and while the end result was a little lacking in color, the flavor was very good.  And truthfully, we didn’t even notice the turnips as we were eating it.

We definitely are eating more vegetables as a result of our last 2 weeks’ assignments.  We are used to consuming more fruits that average, having a dish of apples, oranges, bananas (pears, peaches, etc when they are in season) on the counter to grab from at anytime.  But veggies aren’t as habitual for us.  Meal planning around them is a new concept for us too, hopefully to become a new habit.

As for buying more in bulk, I’m afraid of the waste.  I have a couple of Tupperware containers designed specifically to extend their life, but have still thrown so much away in the past.  I think if we just plan a meal or two each week with veggies as the center, and then buy accordingly, we will do better getting more in us without increasing our contribution too much to the compost.

Week 1

After taking a good inventory of our pantry, we were pleasantly surprised to find we are quite well stocked, and with some pretty healthy stuff, too.  But the truth is, most of that stuff has been on the shelf for a while, as our busy schedules keep us using and replenishing the easy boxed or frozen dinners (or cold cereal) each week.  (Those items are omitted from our pantry itemization below.)

We are truly hoping this class jumps starts us on a path of using the good stuff we aren’t even quite sure what to do with sometimes.  (And the inventory precipitated a good cleaning out of the expired ones this class didn’t come in time to rescue.)

Our pantry pre-shopping looked like this:

Dry & Canned goods:Flour (Wheat, White, Bread, Cake), Sugar (Brown, White), Baking Powder, Baking Sugar, Cornstarch, Oatmeal, Various Pastas (White & Wheat), Rices (White, Brown, White & Brown Basmati, & a Brown Jasmine, Farro Wheat & Red Quinoa blend), Quinoa, Corn Meal, Quick Barley, Lentils, Canned Beans (White, Garbanzo, Kidney, White Kidney, & Chili), Tomato Paste, Tomato Sauce,  Italian Seasoned Diced Tomatoes, Canned Mushrooms, Soup (Tomato, Cream of Potato, Mushroom & Chicken), Canned Pineapple, Evaporated Milk, Corn Flakes, Ritz & Graham Crackers, Bisquick, Walnuts, Various spices

Oils, Vinegars, Condiments & Sauces: Oils (Olive, Vegetable, Coconut, Shortening), Vinegars (Rice, White Wine, Apple Cider), Worchestershire sauce, Soy Sauce, Cooking Wine, Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, Ketchup, Mustards (Yellow, Honey), Mayonnaise, Honey, Peanut Butter, Corn Syrup, Maple Syrup, Jam, BBQ sauce, Chicken Bouillon Cubes

Refrigerated items: Skim milk, Soy milk, Vanilla Yogurt, Cheese (Cheddar, Monteray Jack, Mozzarella, Provolone, Shredded Parmesan, Cream), Butter, Eggs, Minced Garlic

Freezer items: Fruits (Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Bananas, Cranberries), Vegetables (Peas, Corn, Green Beans, Mixed), Meats (Venison, Ground beef, Beef Steaks & Roasts, Pork Tenderloin, Chicken Breasts, Bacon)

Fresh Produce we always have on hand: Carrots, White Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Onions, Apples, Oranges, Bananas

I found this recipe in a stack of ones I’d clipped a few years ago and was glad to see we had enough of the ingredients to give it a good try.

Recipe #1

Healthy Winter Gratin

(From The Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookbook by Stephanie Pedersen)

Serves 6

  • 2 med parsnips (or 4 small) ~didn’t have
  • 1/2 med celery root ~didn’t have
  • 1/2 lb sweet potatoes
  • 3/4 lb russet (baking) potatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 c. heavy cream~didn’t have
  • optional garnish: chopped parsley or chives
  1. Place oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel vegetables and cut into 0ne-inch cubes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add salt, garlic, pepper, pumpkin pie spice, broth and cream, tossing to combine.
  4. Transfer to gratin dish or casserole dish, spreading evenly.
  5. Cover gratin with a lid, parchment or foil. Bake until gratin is bubbling all over and vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife, about 30-40 min.
  6. Uncover gratin and cook for 5 – 10 minutes more to create a golden brown surface.

Because we didn’t have the parsnips or celery root we added carrots and white onion. And we substituted evaporated milk for the heavy cream.


We both LOVED it!  The pumpkin pie spice & pepper really made a great combination. And we enjoyed cooking together. 🙂  (So much more than wallpapering together on our 1st anniversary.) It was helpful to use the “setting it up ahead” and chopping technique tips we learned in class. They definitely made a difference in how stressful and time consuming the experience was.  Hopefully this will help us get beyond the grab, microwave and go style of eating.

Recipe #2

After spending the last couple of days fighting a bug, soup sounded especially good.  I found this Tasty & EASY soup in Fast Fixes with Mixes by Taste of Home.  I didn’t have the “mix” on hand, but it was just as easy to substitute egg noodles & McCormick powdered brown gravy for what would have been in the prepackaged pasta dinner mix.  Next will be to learn how to make that soup base without McCormick’s help. 🙂  I also substituted ground venison for the beef and only used 1 lb.  It was plenty.

Here’s the recipe: