Helping families eat healthier for less

Helping families eat healthier for less

Monday, November 21, 2011

Roasted Carrot Barley Soup

The theme for Recipe Redux this month is "a whole new grain." I wanted to do something with barley. Although barley has been around for eons, it really isn’t eaten often in this country. I did a little research and learned that a majority of the barley grown in this country is used for animal feed (65%) or malt and alcohol production (35%); only 1.5% is consumed as food. The countries that eat the most barley as food include Morocco, China, India, and Ethiopia.
Barley has a good nutritional profile. I compared the nutrition facts label of two different Quaker Oats pearl barley products: quick and medium. There was no difference between the two products in terms of their nutritional profile. They both had the same amount of fiber, macronutrients, vitamins and minerals for a 48 gram serving. The only differences are the cooking times (45 to 50 minutes for the medium and 10 minutes for the quick) and the texture (the medium is chewier). "Pearled" means that the barley has been polished and the hull removed.
The chart below compares barley with several other common grains.  You can see that one serving of barley is an excellent source of fiber and it is sodium free and lowfat. Quinoa is often touted for its high protein, but you can see that barley isn’t far behind. Costs are compared at the bottom of the chart and you can see that barley is inexpensive and can usually be found at your local supermarket. Many of the more exotic grains (such as faro, kamut, etc.) can only be found at health/natural foods stores or online and are much more expensive.

Pearl Barley
(quick or medium)
(1/4 cup medium or 1/3 cup quick, dry)
(1/4 cup, dry)
Brown Jasmine Rice
(1/4 cup dry)
Bulgur Wheat
(1/4 cup, dry)
Total Fat
0.5 g
2 g
1 g
0.5 g
0 mg
1 mg
0 mg
0 mg
Dietary Fiber
5 g
3 g
2 g
6 g
5 g
6 g
3 g
5 g

Total Cost
No. svgs/pkg
Cost per svg

Note: for comparison purposes, all of the grains listed in the chart are for 48 grams of dry (uncooked) product which is 1/4 cup for all products except the quick barley in which 48 grams is 1/3 of a cup.
Next, I needed to decide what to do with the barley. I thought about a carrot rice soup I have had in the past but wanted to replace the rice with barley.
I began by coating carrot pieces with olive oil and then roasting themto bring out their sweetness. The roasted carrots are then cooked with onions, garlic, low sodium chicken broth, barley, and seasonings. Then the mixture gets pureed in a blender.

The final soup is topped with a few dabs of plain yogurt and dusted with cumin.

Here is the complete recipe.
Roasted Carrot Barley Soup
2 pounds carrots, peeled & trimmed
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & minced
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons quick cooking pearl barley
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt, stirred
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin powder
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut carrots into 1-1/2-inch pieces. If thick, cut in half lengthwise so that all the carrot slices are about the same size. Coat cut carrots with olive oil. Roast in 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes, turning once halfway through baking.
Heat canola oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for about 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 additional minute. Add carrots, broth, barley, pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 12 minutes or until barley is tender. Remove soup from heat. Carefully puree soup in blender in batches until smooth. Don’t overfill blender container. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over top. Sprinkle with cumin.
Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition Information per Serving:
116 calories, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g dietary fiber, 5 g protein, and 197 mg sodium. One serving of this low cost recipe provides an excellent source of vitamin A and K and a good serving of fiber and niacin.

Cost per Serving: $0.73
Pricing Note: all ingredients were at “regular” prices.

Be sure to check out these other blogs for more whole grain recipes.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Healthy Entertaining on a Budget

The holidays are approaching. It’s time for getting together with family, friends, and others. Here are my 10 tips for entertaining, keeping both budget and nutrition in mind.
1. Planning is Key

Think about and write out your menu in advance. Look for supermarket specials, coupons, and promotions on the foods you will need. Take advantage of foods in season. Get recipe ideas for menus from magazines, friends, TV programs or websites.

2. Invite Guests for Brunch

Suggest that guests come for brunch or breakfast. These meals are usually more budget-friendly than a full-course dinner, especially if there are appetizers & drinks involved. Egg dishes are more economical than meat or seafood entrees. Think about omelets, French toast,  quiche, crepes, pancakes, waffles, and other breakfast favorites that are good any time of day.
3. Keep Healthy Appetizer Ingredients on Hand

For pop-in guests, keep a supply of healthy ingredients on hand to make appetizers on short notice. Include items such as whole grain crackers, hummus, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, raw vegetables for crudités, and reduced-fat cottage cheese, cream cheese, or salad dressings.
Think about combining red, white and green foods for a festive presentation. And, hard boiled eggs are always welcome. Try stuffing them with hummus  or canned salmon for something different.
4. Double Up on Turkeys

There are many deals on turkeys and turkey parts this time of year. Whether you find turkeys for free or at a big discount, buy two or three, if freezer space allows. You can freeze the turkey whole, in parts or cook it first and freeze it in family-sized portions. Find turkey breasts on sale? Pound it flat, top it with stuffing or vegetables, roll it up jellyroll-style, and roast for a fancy presentation.
5. Think Beans & Grains

Beans and whole grains (such as brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, and whole grain pasta) are inexpensive yet add fiber, nutrients, texture, and flavor to a meal.

Find ways to include whole grains and beans in your meal or, better yet, make them the centerpiece of the meal. Examples include chili, lasagna, baked ziti, pasta with sauce, enchiladas, jambalaya, meatloaf, stews, and soups. Meats, seafood, or poultry can add flavoring, but let the beans, grains and veggies be the stars of the dish. Use a whole grain bread in your stuffing recipe or serve quinoa or other whole grains.

6. Simmer in a Slow Cooker

Less expensive cuts of meat can be successfully prepared in a slow cooker that tenderizes the meat as it cooks. Once assembled, you can forget about this dish and spend your time on other dishes or with guests and family.
7. Serve Extra Veggies

This time of year, there are plenty of vegetables to choose from, including turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, onions, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes. Buying veggies in season should offer the best prices and flavors. Serve one or two extra sides of vegetables than normal. This will allow guests to fill half their plate with fruits and veggies, the recommendation given by USDA in their new MyPlate graphic. Roasting adds a lot of flavor to vegetables. Or, combine two or more vegetables in a puree for a new flavor treat.
8. Budget-Friendly Beverages

Fill a large punch bowl with assorted 100% fruit juices, with or without the alcohol, for adults and children. Or, add club soda to juices or wine to add carbonation without adding calories, fat, or sugar. Or, combine an inexpensive sparkling wine with orange juice for mimosas or with other fruit juices. Make your own eggnog with fewer egg yolks and more egg white and skim milk.
9. Flip the Dessert

Flipping the dessert means that instead of having a large slice of decadent cheesecake, for example, with a just a garnish of half a strawberry, you have a serving of berries with just a small cube of cheesecake.  Decadence, but with portion control.
Or, how about some cranberry or wine poached pears or a mango sorbet? Serve desserts in individual dishes, such as tarts, custards, puddings, or lowfat ice cream. You can serve them in glass dishes on a doily, sprinkled with powdered sugar or cocoa or garnished with a piece of fruit. Add a swirl of fruit puree or dark chocolate sauce to a plate around a piece of angel food cake, apple cake, or gingerbread.
10. Presentation is Everything

You cake turn “everyday” foods into something special simply by paying more attention to how the food is presented. Use fancy plates, bowls, and platters. White or glass plates let the food take the spotlight. Take a few extra minutes during the prep stage to cut your vegetables so they are all the same size. Make an extra effort to garnish food dishes with parsley, greens, spices, fruit slices, or cut up raw vegetables. Little touches can add a lot of pizzazz and eye appeal to a dish.
Also, music helps set a festive mood, as do candles. It’s okay to mix and match dinner plates. Portion control is easier with smaller plates. Consider using 8 or 9-inch plates instead of ones that are 10 or 12 inches in diameter. Use real or silk flowers for a centerpiece or even a small houseplant can do the job. Lastly, remember to relax and enjoy the time with your guests.