Easy Barley Stuffed Peppers

We're all pressed for time now that school has started, right? What's better than a quick, simple and money-saving dinner recipe? Nothing. Except one that's also incredibly healthy and tasty.

I've got you covered, friends.

Here's the breakdown:

TIME: 

30-45 minutes

Some NUTRITION FACTS:

Peppers: Ever hear of carotenoids? They're basically a mixture of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene and other plant pigments that are thought to provide health benefits in decreasing the risk of cancer and certain eye diseases.

Barley: Revered as one of the world's healthiest foods, this cereal grain is an excellent source of dietary fiber.

COST:  Less than $15 bucks to feed 4-6 if you can believe it. The trick is to use pantry ingredients, like barley, vegetable and/or chicken stock, beans and other herbs/seasonings. If you're not in the habit of stocking up on these things, think about getting started. Once you get a good base of items, it will cut your prep and shopping time almost in half. 

Okay, I know some of you are thinking veggies always have the potential to run you more money, but keep in mind, there are several community farms right here in Kingston that offer fresh, chemical-free produce at affordable prices. If you don't already belong to a CSA or have a reliable produce supplier, check them out. Their prices are very fair and the produce is beautiful.

 

INGREDIENTS

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2 onion chopped
    • 1 carrot chopped
    • 1 cup cooked red kidney beans
    • 1 tsp. oregano
    • 1 tsp thyme
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro -- to garnish
    • 1 green bell pepper, seeded
    • 1 red bell pepper, seeded
    • 1 cup bread crumbs -- optional
    • 2 cups of vegetable stock
    • homemade tomato puree*
    • We're primarily dairy-free over here but if you'd like to add cheese, a Feta, Goat or other full-fat clean cheese is recommended as a garnish. I'm well aware that sometimes the only way to a child's stomach is by garnishing a dish with cheese, so I feel your pain, believe me.

PREPARATION

* Tomato puree can be made by boiling tomatoes, removing skin, sautéing with two cloves of garlic and basil and then blending to desired consistency. Variations of this can include tomato paste and stock. For this recipe a thicker/chunkier consistency is desirable.

Heat olive oil on medium heat and then add onion. Cook until slightly brown and fragrant.

Add garlic, carrot oregano and thyme for another minute until incorporated then add barley, beans and tomato puree.

Add vegetable stock.

Simmer all ingredients until barley is fully cooked. This may take about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat oven to  375°F. 

Cut off tops of peppers and remove seeds.

Scoop filling into peppers and place in the center of the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the peppers are to your liking. Everyone's taste varies here; I tend to undercook them just a bit. I like them firm and full of nutrients.

Optional: Sprinkle the peppers with the bread crumbs and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the bread crumbs are golden brown.

Take out and sprinkle cheese according to preferences.

 

Three Bean Salad to the Rescue.

What is it with kids and their sandwiches? How many of you are forced to remove crusts on a daily basis? The insanity needs to stop!

My daughter has become sandwich-obsessed, so much so, that this is all she wants for lunch anymore. In an effort to get her thinking outside the bread (and to preserve my sanity, of course), I've come up with a plan; side dishes and salads that serve up a generous helping of protein, potassium and other essential nutrients.

Beans are packed with protein, potassium, antioxidants, folate -- I could go on and on here. For these reasons, they should take center stage at lunchtime. Here is a simple, tasty new recipe I've just developed using some very basic pantry ingredients. You will find variations of this all over the internet. I've simply taken the basics and tweaked it according to my preferences. 

Listen, try not to eat it before your kid gets to sample it or you'll be back to cutting off crusts faster than you can say; "Check, please!

 

Three Bean Salad

I often work with cooked dried beans, but sometimes it's just easier to grab some canned beans. 

1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 15 oz can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 celery stalk, chopped

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1 tsp honey

2 tbsp lime juice

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

Whisk all liquids together and then incorporate into solids. Cover and place in fridge for 1-2 hours prior to serving.

*Some are sensitive to the smell and taste of cilantro, so you can always use parsley.

I'll let you know how things go on my end. Wish me luck!

Feast on, my friends!

Looking to raise the next American Ninja Warrior? It's all about Cucumber- Watermelon Salad.


A happy summer to you, reader!

If you're like me, you're probably scrambling a bit these days trying to figure out lunch and/or side dish/snack ideas for your child during the summer months. My five-year-old keeps me on my toes, but I must admit, the extreme heat as of late here in the Hudson Valley drains me of any desire to cook.

So, what now?

Enter the Cucumber-Watermelon Salad.

Guess what? Cucumbers are in season right now in the Hudson Valley and watermelons will be very shortly! Both are inexpensive options for nutritious summer (and all year round, really) eating. 

Not only is the CW salad easy to prepare, it's cold and refreshing and chances are your kid will eat it. Cucumber and watermelon are both excellent sources of potassium. Which is important because you're trying to raise the next American Ninja Warrior, right? All kidding aside, potassium plays a pivotal role in skeletal and muscle function. And you might be interested to know that cucumber peel is a decent source of dietary fiber, and we all could use more fiber in our lives.

Interested in a recipe? Of course you are. There are quite a few out there, but if you're looking for the Ancient Chinese secret, look no further:

http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1013208-cucumber-watermelon-salad

If your kid is an adventurous eater, prepare as is. Otherwise, I'd leave out the hoisin and jalepeño. If you omit these ingredients, try adding a small red onion and maybe even some fresh mint. And if you're looking for the sweetness the hoisin provides, an alternative might be a sweet and sour sauce -- low sugar, of course.

Let us know what works for you!

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times  

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times