Eating healthy doesn't have to be that complicated. It can be as painful or painless as you make it and finding small, simple steps to take is key. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by all the diets out there right now, but find what works for you and stick with it. This super simple recipe offers all the health benefits of nutritious vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains. Plus it is absolutely delicious!
Before starting grad school, cooking dinner each night was one of my favorite parts of the day. For me its relaxing to turn off my brain from everything else and just dive into a good recipe. I used to live only 30 minutes from my office which meant getting home early enough to unwind, cook up a nice meal and actually eat at a normal hour. After which, of course, I’d enjoy an episode of Wheel of Fortune and complain about “kids these days.” Just kidding. Well, kind of. I never joke about Wheel of Fortune.
I digress…Ahh, those were the days.
Nowadays that’s far from the case. I have a much longer commute and often have class after work which means getting home well after dinner time a few nights per week. Normally, by this point I’m far too hangry to patiently cook a meal and savor each bite by the time it is on my plate. Let’s be honest, I’m too hangry to even function as a normal human being which my husband will happily attest to. More likely, I’d frantically throw something together then scarf it down and the experience would be totally lost. If you read my post about my 2017 goals you know that one of my goals for this year is more mindful eating so inhaling my food just isn’t going to cut it.
This recipe has saved me on more than one occasion. I don’t love a lot of reheated food, though it’ll do in a pinch, so for this one I find that having the barley cooked in advance is enough of a time saver for me. That said, chopping the veggies or even going as far as making the whole recipe in advance would work just fine. Honestly, it tastes delicious cold (which I may or may not have discovered on one particularly lazy evening). I’d only suggest not putting the dressing on until you’re ready to eat.
Start by prepping your veggies for a quick stir-fry. I tend to shred the carrots myself, not because there is anything wrong with buying them already shredded, but because I eat more baby carrots as a snack than I do shredded. It’s just easier to buy baby carrots and repurpose them.
For the chicken, I like the Nature’s Promise brand single-serve boneless chicken breasts. They’re great for making meals for me and my husband so we can just pull what we need from the bag and leave the rest in the freezer for later. Whichever you choose, make sure to dice the breasts into bite size pieces so they cook faster in the stir-fry with the veggies.
Next, heat olive oil in a large pan and toss in the chicken and veggies. I usually find that two tablespoons are enough to coat the mixture but if it seems a little dry to you, feel free to add another tablespoon to prevent the vegetables from drying out while cooking. Season everything with salt and pepper to your liking. I love black pepper on my brussel sprouts so I use a little more than most might like.
Let the chicken and vegetable mixture cook until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender. Be sure to toss frequently to prevent burning.
The dressing for this is super simple. Just throw all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until evenly combined. The trick is not to skip the mustard, it acts as an emulsifier keeping your oil and lemon juice evenly mixed without separating.
Top the barley with the chicken and vegetable mixture and pour dressing on top. Garnish with a lemon slice and enjoy!
Note: You’ll most likely have more dressing than is needed for the two servings that you’ll be making with this recipe. I find that 1-2 tablespoons of dressing per bowl works perfectly. The rest will keep well in the fridge for a few days.
My favorite part about this recipe is how versatile it is. Virtually every ingredient can be subbed for your preference. Don’t like barley? Try it with some brown rice or your whole grain of choice. Toss in whatever veggies you have on hand. Maybe even sub the chicken for some wild caught fish. Get creative! I’d love to hear the different combinations you come up with.
So the next time you’re in a pinch for a quick meal, give this a try and let me know what you think!
1 cup pearl barley, cooked
2 T olive oil
½ cup shredded carrots
1 cup fresh brussel sprouts, cut into quarters (broccoli works well here too)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 chicken breasts (4 oz each), cut into bite size pieces
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
FOR THE DRESSING:
¼ cup olive oil
Juice from ½ lemon
1 ½ T apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 ½ tsp plain Greek yogurt (I use Fage 0%)
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan.
2. Season vegetables and chicken pieces with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add vegetables and chicken pieces to pan with hot oil and stir until evenly coated. If the veggies seem too dry, add an extra tablespoon of oil to the mixture and toss to coat.
4. Stir-fry chicken and veggie mixture until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
5. While chicken and vegetables are cooking, prepare the dressing (see below).
6. Add ½ cup cooked barley to a bowl and top with ½ of the chicken and vegetable mixed.
7. Top with lemon vinaigrette dressing and enjoy!
TO PREPARE THE DRESSING: Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk together until evenly combined.