BARLEY CASSEROLE IN THE INSTANT POT

I’ve had a recipe that I clipped from Prevention Magazine ages ago. It was a baked vegetarian barley casserole which I really enjoyed…when I was vegetarian. I like to cook faster now (enter my trusty Instant Pot) and I also like to use no animal products at all. I’ve modified the original recipe substantially so I feel comfortable in calling it my own, but I do say thanks to the folks at Prevention for the original inspiration.

BARLEY CASSEROLE

(4 Servings)

Combine the following in the liner of the Instant Pot:

1/2 cup pearl barley

1-1/4 cup water or vegetable broth (if not using bouillon)

1/2 teaspoon dried, minced onion

1/2 teaspoon dried, minced garlic

1 vegetable bouillon cube (I use a recipe by Kathy Hester)

Stir the above together and then pop the lid on the Instant Pot. Push manual and cook for 20 minutes, natural pressure release (this took about 16 minutes in my unit).

Once the float valve has gone down, open and add the following, one on top of the other (do not stir):

1 can of green beans (drained), or use 1-1/4 cups frozen green beans

1 small can mushroom slices, drained, or use 1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1/4 cup green pimento-stuffed olives, sliced (black olives are good, too)

1/2 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

1/2 – 1 bag of fresh baby spinach leaves

1 jar marinated artichoke pieces

Put the lid back on, select manual, and cook an additional 3 minutes. When cooking is finished, do a quick release.

To serve: I put some of the casserole into a bowl and topped with cut up Roma tomatoes and some blanched slivered almonds. Salt and pepper to taste.

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Use any vegetables you’d like in this; just layer them as above. The marinated artichokes are what really make the dish so, unless you do absolutely no oil ever, use them. I haven’t tried using un-marinated artichoke hearts, but if you use those, I would add a considerable amount of Italian Seasoning to this.

As for barley…substitute brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries or another grain of your choosing. The initial cook time will need to be adjusted based on the grain.

Questions? Post them in the reply section and I’ll try to answer. If you cook this, please let me know what you think.

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FACING THE SQUIRRELS

Life has gotten rather squirrelly lately. Squirrelly? Is that really a word? I hear it used but am not sure whether it has two “Ls” or not…hopefully you understand.

Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I really don’t want to give squirrels a bad rap. I like them. I feed them peanuts. I enjoy their antics. I had one that visited my doorstep when we lived up north. Whenever he saw me, he flattened himself on the deck, so I named him “Pancake.” (He didn’t answer to the name, but that was his name just the same.) The squirrels also kept stealing all of the food from the bird feeders, so I finally gave up and fed the squirrels instead. They did seem to enjoy that. Of course, one day I also came home to a decapitated squirrel in my front yard; that was left for the hubby to take care of so we won’t discuss that anymore.

Squirrels are just a little bit crazy, though. You know how they dart out in front of you as you drive down the street? They stop, sit up on their haunches, look right at you, and seem to say, “Go ahead…HIT ME! I DARE YOU!” And if you are like me, you slam on your brakes, and then check to make sure you didn’t just have a heart attack. It’s scary. Killing animals isn’t my thing. The thing about squirrels is that you never know what they will do…run across the road; run half way, look at you, and run back the way they came; do the “Hit me!” routine; or speed completely across to the other side.

Well, my life has been like that lately. I have no idea what to expect, no idea what’s coming, and certainly no idea how to handle it when it comes. Thankfully, I am at peace with that. Even if it is crazy, I still wake up each morning with a new chance at a new day. Because the eye issues haven’t fully gone away, I’m avoiding the gym (don’t judge! It seems like every time I go, I wind up getting sick), so I’ve begun spending time each morning stretching (yoga type stretches) and using some of my Leslie Sansone “Walk at Home” DVDs. I’m spending time in prayer (if you don’t pray, try it!). I’m getting my calm on so when a squirrel jumps out at me like the one in Chevy Chase’s “Christmas Vacation,” I’m prepared. I may not know exactly how to handle it, but that will come.

I imagine life is squirrelly for most of us. How do you handle your squirrels?

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

TO WHET YOUR APPETITE

My friend and cookbook author, Kathy Hester (The Great Vegan Bean Book, The Easy Vegan Cookbook. among others) is currently working on a Halloween e-book. I have the pleasure of being a tester for the e-book and, no matter whether you are omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, you are going to love her collection of recipes.

A few goodies to whet your appetite (more will be coming!)

Ghoulishly Green Potato Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons

Ghoulishly Green Potato Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons

The Ghoulishly Green Potato Soup called for Pumpernickel croutons. I only had Silver Hills Bakery’s Flax Seed Bread on hand, so that’s what I used. I also had no ghoulish cookie cutters so I made basic squares. Verdict? Delicious! And so simple to make.

Black of Night Black Bean Soup with Flame Tortilla garnish

Black of Night Black Bean Soup with Flame Tortilla garnish

I had to do another bit of improvising with the Black of Night Black Bean Soup…I didn’t have a red tortilla. I did have organic blue corn chips…so I have a blue flame. ūüôā

Pecan Pumpkin Spice No Ice Cream Needed Shake

Pecan Pumpkin Spice No Ice Cream Needed Shake

Love pumpkin? How about dessert? The Pecan Pumpkin Spice No Ice Cream Needed Shake is amazing! It’s planned for 4 servings…I drank half of it and put the remainder in the fridge for breakfast. It was still rich and creamy. By the way, there is a nut-free option!

So…start saving your pennies or add some to your Paypal account. This ebook is going to be great for any party, not just Halloween!

Be sure to check out Kathy’s web page here:¬†http://healthyslowcooking.com/

In Memoriam

September 11, 2001

Do you remember?

Our world changed that day.

Terrorism had a new face

And a new method.

Life had a new normal…

Increased airport security,

Wariness of anyone

Who looked Middle Eastern

(Muslim),

Polarization of our country

(If you are not for my ideas,

You are against ME).

FEAR

MULTIPLIED.

War,

Military,

Heroes,

Death.

Questions.

WHY?

I do not know

What drove men

to this.

I do know

that

I FORGIVE!

I WILL NOT WALK IN FEAR!

I WILL REMEMBER!

And

I WILL STILL LOVE!

In Memory 

of those who lost their lives 

at the World Trade Center,

at The Pentagon,

and in a field in Pennsylvania.

WE ARE ALL BROKEN PEOPLE, PART 3

Last Friday I discussed¬†Shalom, that wholeness and balance that we all want pervading our lives. But how can we have¬†Shalom when we live in such a polarized world? It seems that there are two sides pulling on a giant rope in a game of Tug of War. Each side wants to win…no one does.

GOD’s design is wholistic. He wants to restore each of us in all dimensions of life: economic, social, physical, psychological and emotional, political, and spiritual. The problem is we are so busy pointing out the problems with others (whether its a political system or a spiritual fault) that we neglect one thing. IT’S NOT OUR JOB!

Our job is to be peacemakers and restorers. Our job is to draw people to the ONE who can right the wrongs, correct the faults and sins, and bring complete wholeness. Our job is to light the way to the LIGHT SOURCE. And we do that not by finding fault or building walls around ourselves; we do it by building relationships with other people, in spite of who they are, what they’ve done, where they’ve been, what they believe, or who they vote for.

This quote from the author, Madeleine L’Engle, sums it up so well….

We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe,

by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are,

but by showing them a light that is so lovely 

that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.

Let your Lights shine!

WE ARE ALL BROKEN PEOPLE…PART 2

Sorry for the delay in posting today. It’s been a crazy week…but here I am…Finally!

On Tuesday I wrote about GOD’s desire to restore His creation to its rightful state. Jesus was the instrument for bringing that about. Jesus was all about restoration. He also had a lot to say about peace…shalom..

The Hebrew word¬†shalom is about more than peace, the word we use in English. Shalom is about wholeness, unity, harmony, completeness, and soundness. Each time it is spoken it announces to the world “this is how it should be but is not yet.” Shalom is about reconciliation between/among people and reconciliation between GOD and humanity.

In the Beatitudes, as Jesus talked with the crowd, He said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” according to most¬†Bible¬†translations. The deeper meaning, though, is “Blessed are the shalom-makers.” In other words, those who seek to create wholeness, unity, harmony, completeness, and soundness in their relationships and in the world around them are blessed and will also find wholeness, unity, harmony, completeness, and soundness in their relationship with GOD.

I lost my¬†shalom this past week. I had a problem with a tooth and tried several times to reach the dentist’s office during office hours. I kept getting a recording to call back during office hours…duh… I became more and more agitated and finally drove to the dentist’s office and managed to crash a staff meeting they were having. It was not a pretty sight; let’s just say, they saw me right away, listened to and changed their message, treated me gently, and bent over backwards to help me. (Maybe it was all of my tears?) The real hero in this was the technician who calmly took me to the dental chair, spoke gently, took x-rays, and as I was leaving, gave me a hug. She showed¬†shalom;¬†I had none…until she gave me hers.

In the midst of all of the above scenario, I had no shalom with GOD, either. I was angry, unhappy, and a melting mess. Yet, when I received shalom from another person, I also regained my shalom with GOD.

I believe GOD gave me a living parable this week to communicate His message. I can give shalom or I can withhold it. When I give it, it sets things right between people. When I withhold it, I suffer for it and so do those around me.

How’s your¬†SHALOM?¬†

(Part 3 next Tuesday!)

WE ARE ALL BROKEN PEOPLE

We had a guest speaker at our worship service this past Sunday. He said a couple of things that resonated with me. As a result, I want to share those and then my thoughts on them…but not in one post. This will take at least two, possibly 3 posts, so hang in there.

For today: “We are all broken people, just broken in different places.”

Isn’t that the truth? The problem is we enjoy pointing out what another’s broken place is without looking at our own broken spots. Our brokenness is painful. It’s hard to deal with. Pointing things out for someone else comes easily…we don’t have to do the work.

Brokenness first appeared in the Garden of Eden. GOD made a perfect world, designed to work in a perfect way. His creation was complicated by His desire to have people who responded to Him rather than humans who acted like robots. The poor choice of those first humans led to a break in the perfect design; our poor choices continue to skew the design into even more imperfection.

Despite the imperfections, GOD sought and still seeks to set everything right, to restore us and this world to its rightful place. He began that work with the one person who remained “unbroken” … Jesus. Everything Jesus said and did was about restoring the relationship between GOD and Man, between Creator and Creation. The process is ongoing.

The thing most of us forget is that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s not just about GOD setting things right; He desires also that we would want Him to set it right and to cooperate in His efforts. Example: We cannot expect GOD to wave a magic wand and immediately we have a world living in harmony; we have to be involved in the process. We have to come face-to-face with our own brokenness and become reconciled to GOD individually so that we can help¬†bring our circle of influence into harmony. It’s a partnership.

On Friday, we’ll delve a bit more into what that means…

Until then, spend some time considering your own broken places rather than focusing on anyone else’s brokenness.