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Barley Pilaf with Sweet Potato and Black Beans

I don’t want my husband to go to Wawa every day for lunch, but I also can’t be bothered to put together a lunch for him every night (maybe you’re shaking your head at this because you have a husband who is cognizant of his own well-being – mine is not and I love him and want him to stay alive and healthy). With a little work on Sunday afternoon I put together a giant bag of food that lasts him all week; a vegetarian pilaf is a main staple in his bag’o’food.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that whole grains are good for you. While oats, wheat and now quinoa have become major players in our everyday diet, you may be overlooking one awfully delicious, nutritious whole grain without even knowing it. Hopefully you’ve realized by now, from reading the title, that I’m talking about barley.

With twice the fiber of brown rice, this ancient grain has a chewy texture and nutty flavor. Like many whole grains, barley is basically a blank canvas, ready for you to transform it into something spectacular. The best pilafs combine a variety of color, flavor and texture. In this case, the sweet potatoes add a creamy element along with a hint of sweetness, which complements the fresh scallions, cilantro and lime.

I topped this dish with a beautiful piece of grilled salmon, but since it made so many servings I put the rest in an airtight container (kept in the fridge) and had the perfect lunch on hand for the next few days. Filling, tasty and bursting with nutrition, this particular concoction has become one of my husband’s favorites!

A tip on the prep – the first two steps take about 40 minutes, but that’s 40 unattended minutes! Put some wash in, watch a DVR’d show, whatever. The “hands on” time for this dish is very short.

Barley Pilaf with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans
Serves eight

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 in. pieces
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
¼ tsp. kosher salt
3 cup chicken broth
1 ½ cup pearled barley
¾ cup sliced scallions
½ cup drained and rinsed black beans
Juice of 1 lime
¼ tsp. garlic salt
¼ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and toss potatoes with 1 tbsp. olive oil and salt. Spread on pan and bake for 40 minutes, stirring once.

2. Meanwhile, bring chicken broth to boil in a large saucepan. Add barley and reduce heat to low – simmer with lid on for 30-40 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

3. Transfer cooked barley to a large mixing bowl and add sweet potatoes, scallions, black beans, lime juice, garlic salt, cumin, pepper and cilantro. Stir gently to combine. Serve immediately or allow to cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Per serving: 244 calories, 4.7 grams fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 367 milligrams sodium, 43.1 grams carbs, 8.7 grams dietary fiber, 8.7 grams protein.