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When the fall hits us on the West Coast, I think we all look for comfort foods. Those options can be healthy or not and everyday we are faced to with the option to choose. The food choices we make every day effect not only the way we look but the way we feel. The good news is that these choices are easy when you’re armed with an arsenal of healthy comfort food recipes!

Do you have a basket of healthy comfort food recipes that you can choose from when you walk in the door?

If not here are a few that just might peak your interest. Print these off and they’re ready to go for the next time it’s down pouring rain, blowing sideways, or you simply just had a bad day and want to settle in by the fire.

Autumn Beef Stew at The Nourishing Gourmet

Mushroom Stew and Polenta Gnocchi yours truly

Farro and Fiery Red Bean Chili chez Jeanette’s Healthy Living

Caramelized Onion, Cabbage and Sweet Potato Chowder chez Eats Well With Others

Vegetarian Pho, a soup that eats like a meal – chez Healthy Green Kitchen

Espresso and Paprika Braised Short Ribs me again!

Pearl barley is more refined, as seen above, but quicker to cook.

Why Barley and not Arborio? Because I am flat out lazy!

I am. I don’t want to be adding a ladle of broth at a time to a dish, stirring until the liquid is absorbed and repeating, repeating and repeating for 45 minutes. That’s lame if you ask me.

Yes, I know if done properly the results are worth it. I’ve done it the old fashion way and it’s true. But there are some days when you just want to turn on the stove and walk away. I work on my feet, the last thing I want to do when I get home is stand in front of a stove for 45 minutes.

And that’s when I turn to my old friend Barley. Not the kids television show, purple monster, Barney, who is quite scary frankly even for adults, but Barley the wholegrain.

You could cook it the way you do a traditional risotto, one scoop of simmering broth at a time, or you could do it my way. My way involves throwing everything in a pot and then jumping in the tub and having a hot bubble bath. Not exactly the martyrs way, but far more satisfying.

There is a garnish of blue cheese or feta, but that is optional if you’re vegan, as is the bacon. If you’re into the cheese, any stinky cheese will do. Parmesan, Granna Padano, or goat cheese are a few examples. No bacon? Add a little coconut oil or olive oil to fry up the leeks and garlic. Why all the changes? Because who wants to run to the store because of a missing ingredient? Not moi!

Beet and Walnut Barley Risotto

  • 3 strip of bacon (optional – 2 Tbsp preferred oil if not using bacon)
  • 1 leek (a small onion diced would work in a pinch)
  • 2 medium sized beets
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 4 cups of Vegetable stock or Chicken stock
  • 1 cup barley
  • 1 Tbsp of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Crumbled blue cheese or feta and walnuts for garnish

Chop the bacon into smallish chunks. In a large pot over medium high heat, fry up the bacon until the fat starts to render and the bacon starts to firm up. Meanwhile clean and slice the white part of the leek and mince the garlic. Wash the beets (I use a vegetable brush to get it nice and clean so no peeling is necessary) and cut into 1 inch cubes. Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot except the balsamic, cheese and nuts. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until barley and beets are tender. The cooking time will depend on the type of barley (pot barley versus pearl barley) you are using. Check the package for cooking times.  Add the balsamic vinegar and stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with walnuts, cheese and fresh thyme.

The one on the left with Feta for my husband and the one on the right with blue cheese for me.

I’m sharing this with What’s cooking Wednesdays, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday and Full Plate Thursdays and Real Food Wednesdays.

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