Sunday, February 24, 2013

Barley, Quinoa, and Butternut Stir Fry

As I mentioned in my last post, I like to cook butternut in bulk, and then have the rest in the fridge for easy meals later in the week. I also like to do this when I cook grains, like rice, quinoa, and barley. This quick dinner was born of having three of those things in my fridge at the same time. Obviously, if you didn't have leftovers in the fridge, you could make this all the day of, it would just take awhile longer, and would take some planning ahead. Barley takes a loong time to an hour. I simplify the process by tossing it in my rice cooker (I also do quinoa in the rice cooker...I love that thing, and will be forever indebted to the friend that both introduced me to it and bought one for me!) This meal is most convenient when you plan ahead with your meals that week and make some extras. Then it really is a breeze! 
This dish has a wonderful, comforting warmth. I think a meal can be just as toasty from spices as a hot bowl of brothy soup, and this accomplishes just that with the chili and cumin. I adore the warmth from the spices contrasted with the brightness from the cumin and lime (warm and bright at the same time, isn't cumin a fabulous spice?), the nutty heartiness from the barley and protein from the quinoa, and the sweet, tender butternut, bursting with healthy vitamins. We enjoyed this as a simple, one-bowl Sunday night dinner, but it could also function as a side or have some chicken or beans added for a bulkier main dish. It can also easily have other veggies added. I think mushrooms would be so great in this, and I imagine my husband would love it with peppers and onions.You could also use rice instead of the barley or quinoa if you prefer.

Heart Health

Garlic- Garlic has anticlotting properties, possibly due to the ajoenes present. Also, the sulfur phytochemicals may help protect against heart disease.

Winter Squash- The bright orange color of these squash is a dead giveaway of its biggest nutrient- beta carotene. One cup of cooked squash alone provides 107% of the recommended daily intake. Beta carotene is thought to help prevent cancer, as well as maintaining eye health. The great amount of soluble fiber is helpful in lowering bad cholesterol, and the magnesium helps with heart health and preventing high blood pressure. They also contain vitamin B6, linked to a reduction in heart disease risk, and vitamin C, an antioxidant.

Quinoa- Considered a "super grain", Quinoa is an excellent source of heart-healthy magnesium and vitamin E, as well as cholesterol-reducing plant sterols, saponins, and rutin.

Whole Grains- The complex carbohydrates in whole grains (barley, oats, rye, and wheat) contain indigestible oligosaccharide carbohydrates, which are linked to helping prevent cardiovascular disease. They also contain flavonoids, which are antioxidants also linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and help bolster blood vessels. Lignans and plant sterols may help lower cholesterol, and vitamin E is an antioxidant that may also help prevent heart disease. Make sure to cook them only until tender, as overcooking can cause them to lose nutrients. 

Olive Oil- This healthy oil contains disease-fighting phytochemicals, vitamin E, and monounsaturated fat. All these help keep arteries clear of cholesterol. The monousaturated fat may also help raise good cholesterol, and a diet rich in this fat may help lower your chance of heart disease.
Cumin - this tasty spice is thought to be cardio protective and have antioxidant properties. 

Source: Fight Back with Food: Use Nutrition to Heal What Ails You,  The Reader's Digest Association


Barley, Quinoa, and Butternut Stir Fry

2 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups cooked barley
2 cups cubed, cooked butternut squash
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbs. olive oil 
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
Salt to taste
Hearty squeeze of lime juice

Add 2 tbs of olive oil to a skillet over medium heat, then add grains and squash. Stir fry for 5-10 minutes, until everything is warmed through and slightly toasty. Make a spot in the middle and one more tablespoon of olive oil and the minced garlic. Allow to soften for a minute, then stir to combine. Sprinkle on spices and salt, and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Remove from heat and add the last tablespoon of olive oil and a hearty squeeze of lime juice. Taste for seasoning one last time, then enjoy.