Monthly Archives: August 2013

Baked Pearl Barley

P1040953If you are wanting to eat healthier- you might want to try out pearl barley.

What is it? Well…

Pearl barley (or “pearled barley”) is barley processed to remove its hull and bran. Barley must have its fibrous outer hull removed before it can be eaten; pearl barley is taken a step further, polished to remove the bran layer.

Pearl barley is the most common form of barley for human consumption, probably because it cooks faster and is less chewy than other, less-processed forms of barley. (source: wikipedia).

…..Because pearl barley undergoes more processing, some insoluble fiber, trace minerals and micronutrients may be lost. Pearl barley is not considered whole grain. However it’s important to note that pearl barley (even heavily pearled barley) retains significant amounts of fiber, particularly heart-healthy soluble fiber. This is because, unlike some other grains, barley contains fiber throughout the entire kernel and not just in the outer bran layer. (source:

Read about the many health benefits of barley, here.

Not only is barley a great way to add fiber, vitamins and antioxidants- it tastes good, too! The texture is comparable to brown rice- just a little plumper and maybe a tiny bit chewier. This makes it easy to substitute in the place of rice in some of your dishes.

My kids loved it and said they actually liked it better than rice. If you wonder where to find it in the grocery store, I found it with the dry beans.

Here is a simple, easy way you can prepare Pearl Barley to serve with your other dishes. The ingredients are almost the same as my Baked Brown Rice recipe, and the method is exactly the same. Only the measurements are different.

You could also branch off into many different versions of this basic recipe. Use chicken broth instead of water or add different spices in addition to the salt and pepper. Lots of options!

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Beans for Dinner (slow cooker-nothing canned)

P1040954Are beans a common dish at your table?

It used to be that when I thought of beans, I would think of old westerns, tin plates, and the solitary food that cowboys ate on the range. Who still eats beans? Isn’t that even the old joke- “Money’s getting so tight, we’ll be down to eating beans for dinner” ?

Well, I think beans are underrated. They may not be a trendy food, but they are SO nutritious. Beans are filled with iron, protein, vitamins and fiber. They are low in cholesterol (in fact they help lower cholesterol!), very low in fat, and very heart -healthy! (Check out the nutrition of Pinto beans, and black eyed peas for starters. Both are found in this recipe)

And let’s not forget, beans are also cheap!

Maybe good’ ol beans deserve another look!

This recipe, prepared in the slow cooker, begins with dry beans- nothing canned. This allows you to control the sodium and start with no preservatives. Added to the beans are onion, garlic, and peppers- which are also fresh and healthy choices. (Have you ever researched all the benefits of garlic? It’s truly an amazing food.)

These beans could be your main dish or side. I like to serve them along with brown rice or cornbread. Having beans for dinner is also a great option if you are looking for something  meatless since beans tend to be very hearty and filling.

Feel free, too, to play around with your combination of beans. There are so many varieties.

I’ve included my favorite combo in this recipe.

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Honey Nut Granola (no added sugar)

P1040839Granola is such a wonderfully versatile food. You can use it in so many ways- like on top of yogurt for a little crunch, as a cereal topped with fruit (which is my favorite!), or as a snack by the handful!

This particular recipe uses only whole ingredients, and no refined sugars. Though I do use sugar in many recipes, I like to reduce or eliminate it when possible. I knew that I did not want it added to my granola since I was really looking for a very healthy granola option. So honey is P1040901the only sweetener used. \

Here are a few reasons I like to make my own granola:

1. It is so easy to pack in a lot of nutrition in a very tasty way. Ingredients like, whole oats, pecans, flax, wheat bran are all used in this particular recipe- making each bite very heart healthy, high in monounsaturated fats (that’s the good kind!) and filled with fiber.

2. I know exactly what is in it! I have been less than impressed with the laundry list of ingredients found in most cereals and ready-made granola found in the stores. (that are “supposedly” healthy. The controversial BHT preservative is a common ingredient in these). Homemade Granola uses only a few whole ingredients.

3. It is easy and quick to make.

4. You can mix and match. Swap almonds for pecans. Use maple syrup instead of honey. Add cranberries or raisins. In other words- it’s so simple to make it how you like it!

5. As an added bonus- it makes my house smell divine!

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Meat Sauce (made with fresh tomatoes)

P1040767I love Italian food! In fact, spaghetti with my mom’s homemade sauce is still what I ask Mom to make every year for my birthday dinner- and that has been my request almost every year since I was a little girl.

So, imagine my dilemma when I found out that my husband, Tim, really did not care for Italian dishes- particularly red sauce. He’s not a picky eater. But, he’s fairly adamant about this.

Well, for the first half of our marriage, I really did not fix very much “red sauce” meals other than the occasional lasagna or homemade sauce when I just really really craved some beloved Italian, but I knew he wasn’t enjoying those meals.

But then, a year or two ago, I decided that I was going to try to come up with a sauce that he enjoyed- so we could both be happy. Surely I could change his mind with the right recipe!

So, after playing with it a little bit, I came up with this fresh sauce. Tim now ASKS me to make it and loves eating it! Woo-Hoo!!!! Welcome back to the table, Spaghetti!

I either use tomatoes directly from our garden, or in the fall and winter, I use tomatoes that I have preserved by freezing. (you could also use canned, if that’s all you have available.) This sauce is not a thick sauce like you might find in the bottled variety. It is much thinner, due to the fact that I only use tomatoes- no prepackaged tomato sauce or paste. It is also very full of meat- ground beef in our case, though you could also use sausage, if that’s what your prefer. Other fresh ingredients like peppers, fresh herbs, garlic and onion also add delicious flavor.

Every now and then, I might play around with a different sauce, like this Roasted Tomato Sauce, but this one here is definitely my go-to and favorite. It also makes great left-overs, since the flavors have all that time to meld together even more.

Please note, too, that sauces are one of those things that might take different amounts of ingredients each time- and you can add more or less of something to make it better fit your tastes. But the amounts I’ve included here on the blog, are a good standard to start with. Add as you see fit for your family!

A homemade sauce is a labor of love. It does take more than 20 minutes to whip together. Allow at least an hour to let it simmer. And depending on where you are starting in the process with the tomatoes, allow another 30 minutes-1 hour to put it together.


Here’s what you need:

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Fresh Peach Cobbler

P1040897Fresh Peaches from the orchard have to be one of my favorite parts of summer. And though I really love a red ripe strawberry, a sweet and juicy cantaloupe, or a crunchy crispy apple, I think a perfectly ripe peach that just drips with its sweet juice when I slice it, just might win as my very favorite fruit. I love to eat tpeaches over vanilla ice cream, topping my cereal, in a pie, or my favorite- peach cobbler!

I’m a big cobbler lover anyway. I was just telling my hubby how cobblers remind me of after-church potlucks that we used to have when I was a little girl in the small fellowship hall of our church. It was always filled with many people, loud from laughter and talking, and the tables were brimming with all sorts of wonderful things to eat. Of course the dessert table was my favorite- and I could always find many delicious cobblers to choose from among the goodies. Sweet memories.

This peach cobbler is purely peaches. What I mean is, peaches are the main flavor. I don’t add extra spices or flavorings to compete with the fruit. It just doesn’t need it! Keep it simple.

The topping is exactly how I like my cobbler topping to turn out. It’s kinda crispy on top, but soft underneath- almost biscuit-like in texture, but not as dry.

Peach cobbler is truly one of those simple joys of summer. Why not surprise your family and make one to enjoy after dinner one night. Go sit on the porch and enjoy the summer warmth while you soak in the sweetness of a few quiet moments with the ones you love and a delicious fresh peach cobbler!

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Cool & Creamy Taco Dip

P1040868This is an addicting dip- I must say.

Growing up, we always just called it “Taco Dip” due to the taco seasoning flavors that are in it. (weren’t we creative?) And that’s the name that stuck.

Originally we made it using a packet of ready-made seasoning. But those packets no longer make it in my cart. I mean- if you really want the MSG, etc. version– go the packet route. But, I prefer something a little cleaner, not to mention cheaper. This do-your-own seasoning version tastes just as good as the original, using spices I always keep in my cabinets. (It’s also similar to my DIY taco meat seasoning)

The dip is nice and thick, cool, creamy, easy, and always a party-pleaser. Serve with Tortilla chips or veggies.

This makes enough dip for a big party.

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