Barley and tomato risotto

Last week, I was sidetracked by a special young girl and good friend of the family, Josie, and made macaroons instead of focusing on fiber in our diets for my article. It was a nice change from the usual. I liked getting to know how to make another sweet treat since I am lacking in that category.

My kids were pretty pleased with that change too. They don’t get to eat too many sweets around here. The macaroons were a big hit with everyone in the family and some other friends who came over after they were made. I even ate quite a few. The macaroons didn’t last long.

This week, I am bringing back the idea of fiber and good health consciousness. The Heart of New Ulm Project’s newsletter reminded me of the importance of fiber this month. There are so many good reasons to include fiber in our diets. Fiber may help to lower blood pressure. My blood pressure was high for a while and I started incorporating more soluble fiber into my diet. Magically, over some time, it lowered my blood pressure to a healthy level. So, I know from experience that foods rich in fiber help your health. High fiber diets also help reduce cholesterol levels and help to control blood sugar. These are good enough reasons for any one to add more fiber into their diets.

Foods rich in fiber can also benefit a person by helping them to reach a healthy weight. I know that a lot of people are struggling with this dilemma. Fiber fills you up. When you are full, you have less of a chance to reach for high fat snacks. Foods rich in fiber include beans, peas, other vegetables, fruits and whole grains. I have read that it is important to increase fiber slowly if you aren’t used to eating it too much. This allows your stomach to adjust to the increase and decreases the risk of stomach upset and gas. That sounds pretty important.

Barley is a whole grain that is an excellent source of soluble fiber. It is a healthy high-fiber and high protein whole grain with a chewy texture and a nutty flavor. Barley has been known to decrease the risk of heart disease, type two diabetes and colon cancer. It is similar to rice and can be used to replace rice in most dishes. Often times, Barley is used to make a soup heartier but it can also be used to make a stir-fry or a delicious curry dish or anything else you usually make with rice.

I decided to make barley as a replacement for aborrio rice this week into a risotto dish. I made it exactly as I would make any risotto but just substituted the barley. In order to maintain the creamy texture that makes risotto so delicious I used almond milk. You could also use regular milk or add cheese to this recipe for extra creaminess. This, of course, will add calories, too. So, be careful with the substitutions. You don’t want to counteract the goodness of the barley.

I had never before used barley this way. In the past, I only added it to soups. It turned out amazingly well. I loved the nutty flavor combined with the southwest style chipotle seasoning and tomatoes. If I were to add any cheese to this dish, I would recommend some freshly grated Parmesan or maybe a little goat cheese. I think either of those would be the perfect complement. Otherwise, it tasted pretty impressive as is.

When I served it to my family, everyone seemed to like it. Yes, even Jack. I was pretty surprised. That guy is coming around and trying a lot of new things lately. I knew it would happen some day. Thank goodness that day has come.

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