Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chicken vegetable barley stew - new recipe for the win!

I like to cook. I'm not a fancy cook, but I do like experimenting with different flavors and trying to find new recipes that my family will all enjoy. Cooking for my zoo isn't always easy. My husband is on the picky side, although he's the first to admit when something is good even if he was reluctant to try it. He's definitely a good sport. And feeding young kids is trickier than I would have thought. D has inherited some of hubby's pickiness, at least in that he's not a big fan of a lot of different types of foods. G eats more like me - he loves his fruits and veggies, which is awesome. And Miss E, well, she's still drinking from the tap, so her eating style remains to be seen.

In any case, I get bored cooking the same old thing over and over, so I like it when I find recipes that are easy, healthy and liked by everyone. And when they can be made in the crockpot - so much the better.

That's the case with my latest dinner creation - chicken vegetable barley stew. I've been working on feeding all of us healthier things, and barley is a great grain. I was excited to find a recipe on my favorite recipe website for a barley soup that wasn't beef. Not that I have anything against beef, but I already make beef barley soup, so something different sounded promising.

I changed things up, as I'm prone to do, to reflect what I had on hand, as well as the tastes of my eaters. And what I came up with was a big win all around - and I love it when that happens!

Here's the recipe I came up with. You'll have to forgive me, but I don't usually measure things, especially when it comes to soups and stews. I just eyeball it.

3(ish) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (I used frozen chicken tenderloins, so I'm not sure how much chicken it actually was - about 8 tenderloins, but chicken breasts would work just as well)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups (give or take - again, I eyeball this stuff) chicken stock (it probably needs more)
1 cup pearled barley
salt and pepper to taste (I always use sea salt)
1 cup (give or take) sliced almonds
olive oil

I chopped the veggies, cut up the chicken and threw it all in the crockpot. I added the cup of barley and enough chicken stock to cover (I had to add more liquid later, so more is probably good). I seasoned with just salt and pepper. I cooked it on high for about 4 1/2 hours. Shortly before dinner time, I sauteed the sliced almonds in olive oil right on the stove top (the recipe called for baking them, but I didn't have time). Mmmm, they smelled good! I stirred them into the stew before serving.

I had thought it was going to come out more soup like, but it was quite thick. The barley soaks up a LOT of liquid. Like I said, I added some more liquid when I put in the almonds. But it turned out really hearty, like a thick stew - nice and filling, full of fiber and it had great flavor. The almonds really added a layer of flavor - soooo good. The original recipe called for mushrooms as well, but I didn't have any, so I omitted them - but if you like mushrooms, you sure could add them.

Overall, a new winner! Hubby loved it, and even my picky five year old ate some without us having to twist his arm to try it. Good times.

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