Emily Ramsey is Shoestring Austin’s newest contributor. She’s got some great recipes she plans to share, to balance out our sometimes decadent lifestyle and help you stay healthy on a budget—without sucking. Bon appétit!
As Americans, we are all too aware of our country’s love affair with mammoth food portions and a disregard for nutrition, both of which easily place us near the bottom of the “world’s healthiest” lists.
Approximately 27 percent of Americans are obese. Honestly, I was expecting that percentage to be much higher, but, once I pulled out my calculator and did the math, I found that 27 percent of America’s population—300 million—is 81 million.
81 million Americans are “abnormally or excessively fat,” as defined by the World Health Organization.
That’s a lot of people.
This is not a figure I can hear without losing my appetite, nor without reflecting on my own health and how desperately I do not want to become part of that number.
Now, I know that’s not why you’re reading this. You didn’t come here to read about health; you came to read about frugality. But I’m here to tell you that you can eat cheap and healthy.
“Not possible,” you say?
Well, my mission is to prove otherwise. Starting now!
My recipe for this month fits perfectly with that “farewell to summer” dinner party that we’re all planning. Or, perhaps you’re not the party type. Maybe instead you’re more into an evening consisting of the back patio, a mojito, your dog and a sunset. Either way, this dish will deliver.
Many of the ingredients listed below can be currently found at Austin farmers markets, meaning they’re being locally and organically grown right now.
And, if you endeavor to prove me wrong and scour a farmers market next weekend and don’t find these items, feel free to experiment, buy what you can find and use that instead! It may even one-up this recipe—that is, unless we’re talkin’ eggplant. I’m still stumped as to how to make a good dish out of that darn purple plant. (Feel free to leave a comment if you’ve found a way.)
Sautéed Vegetables with Barley, Basil and Feta
The prep time is quick: only 15-25 minutes (varies according to agility). Makes 4-5 servings (that number will also vary, depending on your guests’ appetites).
- 1 c. barley (barley expands in water, so this amount won’t appear small for long!)
- 2 ½ T. lime juice
- 1 ½ T. honey
- 4 garlic cloves (a food processor would come in super handy here)
- ¾ tsp. ground pepper
- ¼ tsp. chili powder
- ½ c. extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ c. organic vinegar
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 12 whole mushrooms (this may look like a whole lotta ‘shrooms but don’t worry, they shrink when cooked)
- 2 medium-size carrots
- 3 ripe tomatoes
- 3 purple potatoes
- 3 T. chopped basil (use fresh, if you’re up for a small amount of extra chopping)
- ½ c. crumbled feta
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Sprinkle some salt in for flavor. Then add barley and boil until tender but slightly chewy—this will take 45 minutes to an hour. Take this window of opportunity to prepare your other ingredients—and maybe do some laundry.
- Bring a second pot of water to boil. This one will house the potatoes and carrots. Cover and keep a rolling boil until they meet desired tenderness. Most likely, they will take as long as the barley.
- In a bowl, combine lime juice, honey, garlic, a dash of salt, black pepper, chili powder, vinegar and olive oil. Taste and add more as your palate desires.
- Cover tomatoes, bell peppers and mushrooms with the dressing. Leave 1/3 of the dressing for the finished barley.
- Next, sauté veggies in a pan on medium heat. Turn over regularly to attain an even cooking.
- When the barley is done, toss it with 1 tablespoon of basil and the reserved dressing. Add veggies on top of the barley and sprinkle with feta and remaining basil.
- Eat, and savor the delicious goodness that came straight from the ground!
As a final note: I repeat, this recipe is not a recipe to end all recipes. If you need to add additional spices or a buttery potato on the side to make it fanciful to your taste buds, go ahead! That’s your call. You can follow my nudgings and make it the healthy way, or you can take the dirty route and rebel.
Just remember: the simpler the ingredients, the cheaper—and more nutritional—the dish.
Here’s to a happy, and healthy, tummy!