One of the things that I did last week-end, besides eating ice cream and brownies, was spend some well needed quiet time alone with my flowers. This means no weeding, no digging, no dead flower removal or anything that’s closely related to working.

This was real quality time shared between me, the flowers and a geat macro lens that was lent to me by one of my co-workers. Now, that’s super nice of him indeed!Β  The only problem is, he’s got me completely hooked and I HAVE to get me one of those.

Hey, how’s about I take you for a little tour? I’ll be nice and spare you: I won’t show you ALL the pictures that I took that day, but if you don’t mind, I sure would love to share one or two… dozens!

We have to be quiet, though… we wouldn’t want to disturb the bugs, especially since there seems to be a lot of, ahem… activity going on! πŸ˜‰

Ready? Let’s go!

From a distance

A bit closer…

See what I mean?

Closer still…

Up close and personal!

That one’s had enough of me! She just took off! (too bad the picture is a tad out of focus…)

Too close to comfort… wow, I love this thing!

I must’ve taken close to 200 pictures that day. It did me a world of good… and it was such a gorgeous day, too!

But hey, that’s not why you came here, now, is it? I bet you’d much rather I invited you to sit at my table instead of taking you on a tour of my garden. πŸ˜‰

Well, in that case, what would you say to a beautiful bowl of Creamy and Cheesy Spinach Barley Risotto?

If you’re anything like me, you will say YES PLEASE, and ask that I give you both a fork and a spoon.

Why? Quite simply because I can never seem to choose between the two. Sometimes, I like to eat my risotto with a spoon, others, I prefer a fork. Same goes for macaroni.

Please, someone tell me they’re the exact same and that I’m not the only weirdo on this planet! πŸ˜‰

If you’ve never tried barley risotto before, I strongly suggest that you try it at once! It is absolutely insane. I personally much prefer it to the original arborio rice version. It’s just as creamy, but I find it has so much more substance!

Plus, it’s much better for you, from a nutritional standpoint.

While pearl barley isn’t considered a whole grain because its hull has been removed and it’s been further processed to polish the grains, it still is a lot better for you than white rice is. Also, if you can, try and get your hands on pot or scotch barley, as opposed to pearl, you will get a grain that is a lot more nutrient dense. Plus, I find that it results in a better, creamier risotto. Bonus!

The only thing is, it’s a little harder to come across.

Harder, but not impossible…

INGREDIENTS
(serves 2-3)

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup barley
  • ΒΌ cup wild rice
  • 1 tsp salted herbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 – 6 cups hot water
  • 200g soft tofu, diced
  • 225g fresh spinach
  • 40g sharp cheddar cheese
  • 40g low fat cream cheese

Instructions

  1. In a skillet over medium heat a little bit of olive oil. Add the onions and cook until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add barley, wild rice, salt and pepper and stir to coat. Continue cooking to develop fragrance for about 5 minutes,Β  stirring frequently.
  3. Meanwhile, bring at least 6 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan or kettle. When water starts to boil, add about 1 cup to barley and stir in salted herbs.
  4. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until almost all the water is absorbed. For the next 45 minutes to an hour, you will have to repeat this process many times, adding about a half a cup of water at a time.
  5. After each addition of water, simmer / stir until water is almost completely absorbed then add more water, until barley has reached the desired level of doneness / creaminess.
  6. When your risotto is almost where you want it, start to wilt your spinach in a separate skillet. Simply drop your spinach in the skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing them around until completely wilted. Remove excess liquid, transfer to cutting board and chop coarsely.
  7. Add both cheeses to the risotto and stir until melted. Toss in spinach (save a little bit for garnish, if you want) and tofu cubes. Give everything aΒ  final stir and transfer to serving plate.
  8. Garnish with saved spinach if desired.