I made this wonderful side dish for Thanksgiving dinner this year! It’s one of my all-time favourite recipes from Lucy Waverman’s cookbook Dinner Tonight.
Barley contains a unique fibre called beta-glucan. This type of fibre has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Butternut squash is filled with beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A, and important for vision and a healthy immune system.
5 cups chicken stock or water (I use lower sodium chicken stock)
2 T olive oil or canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups diced butternut squash (about 1/2 small butternut squash)
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
salt and pepper to taste
2 T chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat stock in pot until simmering.
2. Heat oil in heavy pot on medium heat. Add onion and cook for 1 minute. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until onion is soft.
3. Add squash and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in barley and sauté for 1 minute or until barley is coated with oil.
4. Add 1 cup stock, bring to boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, until barley absorbs most of stock. Add 2 more cups stock and cook for 20 minutes or until most of stock has been absorbed.
5. Stir in 1 cup more stock and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until stock is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add remaining stock and cook and stir until barley is tender, about 10 minutes longer. Season well with salt and pepper.
6. Beat in parsley and cheese. Serve immediately. Risotto thickens as it sits, but it can be reheated by beating in more stock or water.
Feeling sleepy after your Thanksgiving meal? Don’t blame it all on the turkey.
Like all protein-containing foods, turkey is made up of amino acids. The amino acid of particular interest in turkey is called tryptophan. Tryptophan is a component of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that helps us feel calm and relaxed. Serotonin is also used to make the sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin.
As we digest foods containing protein, the amino acids enter the bloodstream and make their way over to the brain. The problem is that tryptophan is a big, bulky amino acid. So it has to compete with other amino acids to get into the brain. Imagine this as a long lineup of people waiting to get into a concert.
Enter carbs. The carbs you eat from the stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and other typical Thanksgiving fare stuffing actually triggers the release of insulin. This action removes most of the amino acids from our bloodstream, but not the tryptophan. It’s as if all of the people in line for that concert have been pulled away, except for tryptophan. This of course makes it easier for tryptophan to enter the brain and start it’s effect on serotonin and melatonin to create that sleepy effect.
So if you’d like to avoid the ZZZ’s after your Thanksgiving meal, try to ease up on the servings of carbs on your dinner plate. It doesn’t hurt to go easy on the alcohol too. Otherwise, grab a pillow for a Thanksgiving ticket to nap land!