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Vegan Mushroom Barley Pilaf with Roasted Squash & Rosemary

There's a lot to be said for the the words we use and the power they wield every time we open our mouths to speak. I've a friend who reminds me of this almost every time we see each other, as he catches me in a way that no one else really does. Sure, we all say things we wish we didn't, or find ourselves talking when maybe we don't need to, but how many of us forget that what we say is as important as what we do? That the connection (or lack thereof) between our words and our actions is the great indicator of just what we are really made of as people?

For instance, how would you describe in the best way you can the state of your life today, right now? I'm sure most of us might use that common term, the one we call 'busy', that all too easy catch word. We're all busy, as my husband has been saying for years. So you're busy…..what else is new, right?

As we start the new year, I was so pleased to come across this article (and this great blog too!) by Tyler Ward, that very clearly lays out the case for being extremely careful with that word. In fact, the article lays out a clear and compelling case for why, as intelligent people, we should consider 'fasting' from the word entirely. I highly recommend you read the article and consider the challenge at hand: to better honour ourselves and our lives (my take) by getting rid of that cop-out word (I wholeheartedly agree with his stance). What particularly resonated was the notion that we commonly claim that we are 'too busy' to exercise, or 'too busy' to cook for ourselves, 'too busy' to get that sleep we so desperately need. Duh, don't we make the choices we make by our own wills? Do we not then have the power to un-choose an unfavourable situation and then choose one that is more to our benefit and well being? Instead, we choose busy as a way to avoid stuff, or worse, busy could be an indicator of our inability to manage our time, and ultimately, our priorities. What we do is what we are, just like what we say is also who we are.

Well I for one, am into this challenge, as this year will present all kinds of pulling priorities for me. I'm determined as I indicated in my last post to draw clear lines in my time, and to better choose just how I want to spend it. Busy-ness in its own right won't rule my life. It's just stuff I choose to do after all, right? Whether it means turning the phone off at night, or creating rituals for certain tasks, division of time seems to be our biggest challenge. To just call it 'busy' just doesn't seem to honour it all that well. I'm in, no more busy work for me. Just real life, and all the goodness that comes with it.

Today's recipe is a long time coming, as I love barley for it's hearty texture and ability to fill me up for a satisfyingly long time. It's not too commonly used, which is a shame, since its one of BC's main grain crops and it also happens to be a powerhouse of energy and has a lovely chewy, nutty texture. Add to that it was the Greek's choice of grain and they were the ones who brought us the marathon…… :) Combined here with nutrient rich squash and delicious mushrooms, this super filling meal will have you attacking your to-do list with fervour! Here's to time filled with choices. The stuff we want is ours, if we choose it. Just the like the stuff we don't want too. Nothing complicated here, right?

Vegan Mushroom Barley Pilaf with Roasted Squash & Rosemary:

  • (1) cup pearled barley
  • (3) cups water

The Squash:

  • (1) kabocha or red Kurri squash
  • (2-3) tbsp olive oil for the squash
  • (1/2) tsp salt for the squash

The Rosemary Garlic Mushrooms:

  • (2-3) tbsp olive oil
  • (2) small onions, chopped
  • (1/2#) brown mushrooms, about 4 cups washed & sliced
  • (2) tsp balsamic vinegar, divided
  • (1/2) tsp salt
  • (1) tsp sugar
  • (1) tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • (1-2) cloves minced fresh garlic

Optional add-ons

  • Optional parmesan or grated white cheddar
  • Optional, 1 bunch of steamed broccoli or broccolini (or plain steamed green of your choice)

First, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Next, put up the barley to cook by combining the water & barley in a pot covered with a lid. Just like rice or any grain, simply bring it to a boil and once boiling, cook the barley with the lid on for 40 minutes, checking here and there to ensure there is still plenty of water.

The water to barley ratio here is not quite the science it is with other grains, as the barley will be drained of the water like pasta at the end of cooking.

While the barley cooks, trim & peel the squash and cut it into bite-size pieces, about 1-2 inches wide. you should have all together about 5-6 cups of cut raw squash to roast. In a large bowl, toss the cut squash with 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and toss in (1/2) tsp salt. Place on a flat baking tray or two and cook for 30 minutes or so, tossing gently to turn at the halfway point. The Squash should be growing and soft when it's ready, at which point remove it and allow to cool a little directly on its baking tray.

While the squash and barley cook, wash, trim the ends, and slice the mushrooms into slices about 1/3 of an inch thick. When ready to cook, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the chopped onions, balsamic vinegar, sugar & (1/2) teaspoon of salt. Cook this mixture over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring here and there, until the onions are dark & soft. Next, add the sliced mushrooms, rosemary, and garlic and cook together on medium heat for a further 15 minutes, adding the second teaspoon of balsamic vinegar in during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Make sure to stir the mushrooms well during the process to keep them from sticking and to ensure even cooking.

Once the barley is cooked, drain in a colander to release extra cooking water and allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool and drain. When all the components are ready and the squash has cooled a little, add the cooked barley to the mushroom mixture, and stir to mix. Keep the temperature at a medium-high to warm everything through. Once the barley mushroom mixture is evenly heated together, fold in the roasted squash, stirring carefully to avoid mushing the squash pieces too much (as much as you can anyway!).

Serve hot topped with optional steamed & cut broccoli along with optional parmesan or grated sharp cheddar cheese. This dish is a hearty meal in itself and refrigerated will keep very well too. It makes a good-sized portion - leftovers can be baked in a casserole with grated cheese (or with this vegan cashew cheese sauce poured over top) for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with a lightly dressed raw green salad and you are set!

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