Food & Recipes

Great Grains

by Patricia Carolan

Great Grains

Rice is nice, and so is pasta, but why not widen your family’s culinary world by exploring other delicious grain options? Chewy barley, nutty bulgur, and versatile couscous, among others, are easy to cook, and appeal to kids and grown-ups alike. Grains can streamline dinnertime, too, since you can prepare the rest of the meal while they simmer.


Vegetarian Chili Sloppy Joes

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

COOKING TIME: 20 minutes

YIELD: 6 servings

The robust toasted flavor of kasha pairs perfectly with chili’s spiciness. Serve with a crisp green salad.

  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth

  • 1 egg

  • 1/2 cup kasha

  • 1 Tbs olive oil

  • 2/3 cup chopped celery

  • 2/3 cup chopped green pepper

  • 1 cup chopped onion

  • 2 cans red kidney beans (15 ounces), undrained

  • 2/3 cup whole-kernel corn, fresh or frozen

  • 1 cup tomato sauce

  • 1 package chili seasoning mix (1 1/4 ounces)

  • 6 whole-grain hamburger buns, lightly toasted

Optional toppings: 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup chopped onion

1. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the broth to a simmer; remove from heat and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, lightly whisk the egg in a small bowl and stir in the kasha, coating all of the kernels. In an ungreased medium-size skillet with a cover, cook the kasha over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly until the egg has dried and the kernels are separated.

3. Reduce heat to low; carefully add the hot broth, cover, and simmer for 7 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the kasha is tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Heat the olive oil in a large covered pot over medium heat; add the celery, the pepper, and the onion, and cook until softened. Add the beans, corn, tomato sauce, chili seasoning, and kasha; stir to mix.

5. Cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are done. Spoon over the buns, then top with cheese and onions, if desired.


Measure the ingredients, whisk the egg and stir the kasha into it.

PER SERVING (1 heaping cup on bun): 423 calories, 10 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 1,212 mg sodium, 35 mg cholesterol. Beans make this dish a good source of fiber, as well as calcium and iron.


Lemony Chicken With Bulgur

PREP TIME: 20 minutes

COOKING TIME: 30 minutes

YIELD: 4 servings

Crunchy bulgur adds a nutty flavor to this Middle Eastern-style dish. Delicious with fruit salsa or chutney.

  • 6 sundried tomato halves (not oil-packed)

  • 1/2 cup boiling water

  • 2 Tbs olive oil

  • 1 pound chicken tenderloin pieces

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1 cup bulgur

  • 1/2 tsp cumin

  • 1/8 tsp allspice

  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 4 tablespoons) or 4 Tbs of bottled lemon juice

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1. In a small heat-safe bowl, cover the tomatoes with the boiling water; set aside for about 15 minutes to rehydrate. Remove the tomatoes from the water, pat dry with paper towels, and chop.

2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken, and brown for approximately 1 minute per side. Reduce heat to medium and cook for another 5 minutes, turning once or twice, until the chicken is nicely browned and cooked through. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels; set aside.

3. In the remaining oil, cook the onion over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients  — except for the broth  — and stir. Return the chicken to the skillet.

4. Add the broth and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes over low heat, until the bulgur is tender but still crunchy.


Measure the ingredients.

PER SERVING (1 1/2 cups): 364 calories, 9 g fat (1.6 g saturated), 478 mg sodium, 66 mg cholesterol. This dish is a great source of fiber and the B vitamin niacin, which is critical for converting carbohydrates, fat, and protein into energy.


Cheesy Barley and Vegetable Casserole

PREP TIME: 20 minutes

COOKING TIME: 35 minutes

YIELD: 6 servings

In this colorful spin on a classic comfort food, vegetables get a kid-friendly boost with a topping of melted cheese. Serve with a crisp green salad.

  • Nonstick cooking spray or olive oil to grease the casserole dish

  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking or regular pearl barley

  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow squash

  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced zucchini

  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme

  • 2 cups shredded low-fat cheese, such as cheddar, provolone, or jack with jalapenos

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a large ovenproof casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil.

2. In a 3-quart covered pot, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the barley, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until tender but firm. (If using regular pearl barley, you’ll need to add about 30 minutes to the cooking time.) Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a greased, medium-size skillet, saute the red pepper and the onion over medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until soft. Remove from heat and add to the cooked barley. Stir in the yellow squash, zucchini, thyme, 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, and the pepper.

4. Transfer the barley mixture to the prepared casserole dish; sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.


Measure the ingredients; stir the vegetables, cheese, and thyme into the barley; sprinkle the cheese on top of the casserole.

PER SERVING (fl recipe, about 1 1/2 cups): 330 calories, 10 g fat (0.7 g saturated), 551 mg sodium, 19 mg cholesterol. The barley makes this dish a great source of fiber.


Fruity Chicken Couscous Salad

PREP TIME: 20 minutes

COOKING TIME: 8 minutes

YIELD: 6 servings

A lighter take on traditional chicken salad. To reduce the prep time, pick up some ready-made fresh fruit salad at the market.

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • 1 1/2 cups plain couscous

  • 3 cups cubed, cooked skinless chicken breast

  • 4 cups mixed fruit of your choosing, cut into bite-size pieces, such as oranges, cantaloupe, peaches, berries, pineapple, apples, and grapes*

  • 1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt

  • 1 Tbs olive oil

  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/4 cup orange juice

  • 1 tsp lemon juice

  • Leaf lettuce for serving

*Grapes and apples can be a choking hazard for children under 4.

1. In a medium-size saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes, then remove the saucepan lid, fluff with a fork, and transfer couscous to a large bowl. Chill, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

2. Remove the couscous from the refrigerator, and add the chicken and fruit; toss to mix.

3. In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, olive oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange juice, and lemon juice. Add the yogurt mixture to the chicken mixture and stir gently. Serve each portion on a bed of leaf lettuce.


Measure ingredients, help make dressing, and stir it into chicken salad.

PER SERVING (about 1 cup): 359 calories, 4 g fat (0.9 g saturated), 332 mg sodium, and 49 mg cholesterol. The fruit makes this dish a good source of vitamin C.


Barley and Shrimp Creole

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

COOKING TIME: 25 minutes

YIELD: 4 servings

This tangy seafood dish has a New Orleans flair. If you like a little spice, add a dash of cayenne pepper to the seasonings.

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth

  • 1 cup quick-cooking pearl barley

  • 1 Tbs olive oil

  • 2 stalks celery, chopped

  • 1/2 large green pepper, chopped

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or diced canned tomatoes

  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme

  • 1/2 tsp chili powder

  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp (shelled and cleaned)

1. In a medium-size saucepan with a lid, bring 2 cups of the broth to a boil. Add the barley, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, let stand covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet with a cover, saute the celery, pepper, onion, and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the tomatoes, the remaining broth, and the seasonings; simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

3. Add the shrimp; simmer, covered, for another 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through (pink and opaque) and the sauce has thickened. Serve over the barley.


Measure the ingredients.

PER SERVING (1 heaping cup shrimp creole over 3/4 cup barley): 353 calories, 7 g fat (1.1 g saturated), 631 mg sodium, 114 mg cholesterol. Barley makes this dish an excellent source of fiber.


Apple Cranberry Crisp
PREP TIME: 20 minutes

BAKING TIME: 45 minutes

YIELD: 8 servings

The combination of sweet, tart, and savory flavors in this dessert makes it a perfect fall treat.

Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil to grease the pie plate


  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 4 Tbs cold butter, cut in small pieces

  • 1/2 cup oatmeal


  • 4 Tbs seedless raspberry jam

  • 1 Tbs flour

  • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries

  • 1 Tbs sugar

  • 4 1/4 cups sliced baking apples (such as Granny Smith)

  • Whipped cream, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and grease a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray or oil.

2. In a small bowl, mix the flour and the light brown sugar. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in the butter until the mixture gets crumbly. Add the oatmeal and stir until the mixture becomes pebbly.

3. Melt the raspberry jam in a small pot over low heat. Stir the flour into the jam until blended.

4. In a medium-size bowl, toss the cranberries with the sugar, then combine the coated cranberries with the apple slices in the prepared pie plate. Drizzle the jam mixture over the fruit and top evenly with the oatmeal mixture.

5. Bake on the center rack for 40 to 45 minutes, until the apples are tender and the topping is nicely browned. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.


Measure ingredients, toss cranberries in sugar, combine berries and apples in the baking pan, and sprinkle on topping.

PER SERVING ( 3/4 cup): 225 calories, 6 g fat (3.6 g saturated), 35 mg sodium, 15 mg cholesterol.