It’s funny, when I get swept up in weeks and months of eating poorly – too much grazing on too much junk (I really am more lowbrow than people think I am) – how quickly I forget how much I love grainy salads like this. Quinoa with black beans and mango, wild rice and lentils, brown rice with barley and chickpeas – all jumbles of good things that make me feel and function so much better (and far wider awake) than a diet of toast, Cheezies, coffee and wine. Funny, that.
Funny too how my body never seems to forget how much it adores Cheezies and chocolate.
I do need to wean myself off of a few things. I’ve been dancing around the subject of the new year here – I haven’t quite embraced it with as much chutzpah (yet) as I usually do, but I suppose I should go ahead and address the obvious before it turns into February. Apologies in advance for the rant.
I’m so tired of the same old new year, new YOU! message we’re all inundated with every January. (Although, admittedly, the old me is in need of a bit of an overhaul. Emphasis on the haul.) Post-holiday, everyone talks about a need to detox – yet I don’t think of Christmas and all the wonderful things that came with it as a toxin we need to cleanse ourselves of. It’s like the idea that food is sinful and dieting and exercise is our penance. Although I can certainly appreciate the concept of self-improvement, I despise the (first-world) message that comes every January: that we’re not good enough and we’d better get working on becoming the very best we should be, that version of ourselves that we’re all capable of achieving if we just work harder at it. No pressure.
What’s wrong with the old me? The old of all of us? Whatever happened to being happy with what we have, and who we are? And really, is a constant reminder that we all need to be improved upon the best motivation? No wonder so many of us wind up unhappy, defeated and discouraged, annoyed with ourselves that we can’t be all that, do all that, and pull off a bikini by summertime.
I’m almost done. Feel free to skip all this and scroll down to the recipe.
Of course this new year, new you season does act as a catalyst, the tipping point where our environment changes, encouraging a collective jump onto the healthy bandwagon.
And yes, it will come as no surprise that I too need to lose weight. Confession: I’m up almost 50 pounds from this time last year. 50! Pounds! I could cite various and myriad injuries (to my foot, knee, back, psyche) of 2010 that slowed me down, physically and motivationally, but I don’t want to excuse it away. Because really it was all that Salted Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (I see a trend here), more time spent in front of the computer, an increasing number of food events and a higher than average love (obsession?) of it all. I’m a food writer. I spend my days thinking about, writing about, researching, preparing and photographing food. Case in point: I leave for Vancouver first thing in the morning for a few days touring restaurants and checking out other food-related events and locales. Please don’t hate me. The point is, I need to ensure my hobby, passion and job, while paying the bills doesn’t also cause my physical ruin.
I also need more sleep. It’s the most fun thing on my to-do list.
Which is all to say you’ll likely see more of this sort of thing around here in the coming weeks, and also – I may be cranky. Don’t worry, we won’t go without brownies and the occasional waffle. I’m trying to remind myself of all the good-for-you stuff I do love – beany, grainy salads keep well and travel well, so they’re easy to stash away in the fridge for security reasons (defense against take-out) or bring with you when you need something good to go. Nutty, chewy wheat berries (the entire kernel of wheat, minus the hull) are well worth seeking out; they make a great foundation for a salad – similar to barley but mahogany-coloured and smooth. Great for breakfast, too.
Barley & Wheat Berry Salad with Chickpeas and Feta
of course the measurements here are approximate – add as much or as little of everything as you like.
1/2 cup wheat berries
1/2 cup pearl or pot barley
1/4-1/2 cup golden raisins or chopped dates
1 19 oz (540 mL) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2 celery stalks, chopped
a big handful of Italian parsley, chopped or torn
1/4 purple onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive or canola oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or lemon juice (or to taste)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a medium saucepan, cover wheat berries with a few inches of water; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for an hour. (Alternatively, soak them in water overnight.)
Pour off most of the water from the wheat berries, add the barley to the pot and cover with water by a few inches; bring to a boil and cook for 40 minutes, until both barley and wheat berries are tender. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop them from cooking; drain well and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the dates and let cool completely.
Add the chickpeas, feta, celery, parsley, onion and walnuts; drizzle with oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed. Makes lots.