Weeknight meal planning can be a royal pain but if you’re a busy person, it all makes good economic sense. My daughter does her meal prep religiously and usually sends me a snapchat of what she’s made. She spends a couple of hours in an evening and that saves her time for the rest of the week. It’s also a perfect way to stay on a food budget and not be tempted to eat out when you have a meal already to go in the fridge. I’m not as busy as she is but I do like to make use of my time. If I need to boil a couple of eggs, I add 6 to 8 and then use them throughout the week for a mid morning snack. When I was making this, I cooked enough barley for 2 more meals. Barley is a favorite grain I like to use; it’s chewy, pasta-like texture, is a perfect substitute for rice. On its own, barley is non-nondescript (in my opinion) but toss in sautéed vegetables, a splash of balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, and this simple cereal grain becomes a super star. Barley pilaf makes lovely use of veggies you might have in the refrigerator.
- 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
- ½ cup sliced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup sliced Brussels sprouts
- 1 to 2 slices of bacon, chopped
- ½ red bell pepper, chopped
- ½ orange bell pepper, chopped
- large handful of baby spinach or rocket
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
- feta cheese, crumbled
- In a medium-sized saucepan, add 3 cups of water and barley. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for at least 25 minutes (stirring occasionally).
- While the barley is cooking, grab a large frying pan and place over medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil and bacon. Cook bacon then remove from pan. Toss in onions and Brussels spouts and cook until soft. Move to one side of the pan and add peppers and garlic. Cook until soft. Stir to combine onions and sprouts and toss in cooked bacon. Then add spinach and allow to wilt.
- In a large bowl add cooked barley along with veggies. Add balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top with crumbled feta cheese.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: This can be served hot or at room temperature. The barley is cooked when it feels soft to the touch but is al dente in the center. If there’s still water left in the pot even though the barley is cooked, just drain it. Enjoy!