Healthy Cooking: Brawny Barley, Spring Cleanser, by Val Wilson

Spring is the time of year when we become more active, go outside, and reawaken after the more sedentary winter energy phase. Our bodies go through a natural cleansing at this time of year. It is easy to see how the organs associated with this phase are the liver, gallbladder, and nervous system, the organs associated with detoxing the body. The liver and gallbladder are primarily responsible for purifying the blood. When these organs are working properly, they neutralize poisons and toxins and remove them from the blood. The liver also regulates the release of sugars into the body for fuel. If the liver is overtaxed from the over-consumption of dense fatty foods such as dairy foods, it cannot properly give the body energy. To make sure these important organs are working properly, we can incorporate the signature whole grain for spring, barley.

Barley is the whole grain known for cleansing the body. It is one of the oldest grains, originating in Southwest Asia around 8500 B.C. Roasted barley was one of the main foods of the gladiators because of its strength-building properties. Known for strengthening the blood and intestines, barley contains potassium, iron, calcium, protein, and fiber. When buying barley, look for whole barley. Pearl barley has the bran polished off, losing the fiber and other nutrients. Barley is excellent in soups, stews, salads, and vegetable dishes. It has a chewy, creamy texture, and a nice sweet taste. If you have gluten sensitivities, substitute brown rice for any recipe using barley.

Barley Vegetable Stew

9 cups water
1 cup barley
4 inch piece kombu
1 onion (diced)
5 garlic cloves (minced)
3 carrots (diced)
2 yellow summer squash (cut in small cubes)
2 celery stalks (diced)
2 cups mushrooms (cut up)
1 (15 oz.) can white beans (drained)
1/3 cup dark miso
1 tsp. sea salt

Bring the water to a boil in a soup pot. Add the kombu and cook for a couple minutes until kombu is soft. Remove from water, cut into small pieces, and add back to pot. Add the barley and reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, yellow summer squash, celery, and mushrooms. Continue simmering with cover on for 20 minutes more. Add the beans and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Take some of the hot broth and dissolve the miso and sea salt in it. Add back to the pot, turn off heat, and mix all together.

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her new cookbook, Perceptions in Healthy Cooking Revised Edition, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, Facebook, Macro Val Food.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue, copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

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