During the winter I work from about 7:30 in the morning to 6 at night, with a long lunch in between. While I love being outside, unfortunately the long hours and cold weather seem to make my body think that in my spare time I need to hibernate and/or eat as much food as humanly possible to compensate.
While I would love to eat macaroni and cheese everyday, my pants would probably not thank me for it. Not to mention that the other day I made these cookies and ate at least 10 of them. Whatever….
Anyways, cue the recipe for comfort food (risotto) with healthy substitutions (barley and veggies)!!
2 medium sweet potatoes
3/4 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 c pearl barley *pearl barley is barley with the outer hull removed, and is much quicker at cooking!
4- 4 1/2 cups chicken stock, warm
3 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel and dice sweet potatoes into 1″ cubes, and spread over a baking sheet with the Brussels sprouts. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, or until veggies can be easily pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock until just simmering.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, drizzle in enough olive oil to cook onions until transparent and soft. Add in garlic and cook one minute. Add thyme and barley and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add in your first round of chicken stock, just enough to barely cover the barley, and turn down the heat so the risotto is juuuust simmering- you want the liquid to be absorbed by the barley, not evaporate. The secret to a successful risotto is to create the creamy texture through almost constant stirring. A barley risotto will be slightly less creamy than a traditional rice risotto, and will maintain it’s chewy texture, but it needs the continual stirring to achieve the desired creaminess.
Once almost all of the liquid is absorbed, add in approximately a cup of chicken stock, continuing to stir. Continue this process until the barley is done, which will take 4 to 4 1/2 cups of stock and anywhere from 30-40 minutes.
When the barley is cooked, fold in the spinach until wilted down, and add Parmesan cheese and pepper to taste (taste for salt and add if necessary too, but BE CAREFUL!! Boxed and canned stocks are pretty high in sodium and when combined with salty cheese you can easily over salt this dish).
Stir in roasted veggies and toasted pine nuts and serve immediately. Congratulate yourself for slimming down a traditional comfort dish, and reward yourself by making those cookies I mentioned earlier… After all, it’s cold outside, and you probably need it.