Southwest Barley Chicken Risotto

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Dinnertime cooking fatigue + Food Rut = cooking the same old thing over and over. Don’t think you’re in a rut just yet?  Let me ask you.. is the most common side dishes you serve with chicken or fish pasta and potatoes…throwing in rice on occasion?  Yes?  I’d say that has R.U.T. written all over it. 

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Most of us know that grains, in particular the whole versions, are good for us but have difficulty naming more than two or three.  Take for example, barley. Creamy and  neutral in flavor when cooked, pearl barley ismust more than a background ingredient in beer and soup. This whole grain is easy to serve in place of rice- thank goodness, something different..but to challenge you a bit further pearl barley is quite starchy and can be treated just like Arborio rice for risotto. Other great characteristics of this unique grain?

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**A great source of fiber!  Just 1/2 cup of pearl barley offers more than 12 grams. Studies show that a diet high in soluble fiber helps lower blood LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported a 6 percent and 8 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol following consumption of diets containing barley with 3 grams and 6 grams of soluble fiber. 
**Barley (brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains, too!) deliver a good helping of protein with a lot less fat than meat.
**Barley may also help stabilize blood glucose levels, which may benefit people with diabetes.

Don’t be intimidated by the classic rice dish. Risottos are a great way to incorporate vegetables into a meal- but get such a bad rap for being labor intensive- which hopefully after preparing this recipe can prove false! Plus, Any leftovers make great risotto cakes for tomorrow’s lunch. Round out the meal with a salad of fresh sliced tomato, red onion, and avocado, seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with about 2 tablespoons low fat Ranch dressing.

Southwest Barley Chicken Risotto


1 3/4 cups water
4 cups organic vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup uncooked pearl barley or other short-grain rice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn
3/4 cup chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers
2/3 cup cilantro, chopped

Combine water and broth in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer (do not boil). Keep broth mixture warm over low heat.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 4 minutes, until onions are golden brown. Add in rice and next 4 ingredients (rice through jalapenos); saute 1 minute more.  Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of liquid is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes total). Stir in the green onions, cheese, hot sauce, salt, chicken, corn, bell peppers; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle with cilantro.

Nutrition Information
Serves 6 (about 1 1/4 cup each)
Calories: 371
Fat: 11.6 g
Carbohydrate: 38.7 g
Fiber: 7.7 g
Protein: 26.9 g

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