Do single girls really have all the fun? There’s a popular song or two implying this, but I have to disagree. When I go out with my girlfriends, married, it’s not unusual for me to be having the most fun.  Maybe that’s a stretch, but I definitely have more fun going out now that I’m married than I did when I was single.

Maybe my best friends, love them, will tell you it’s because I’m hot. But I think it has more to do with the fact that I’ve got nothing to lose, Or that I’ve evolved into a more confident and friendly person, comfortable in my own skin, and I genuinely enjoy talking to new people. And believe me, I leave no questions about my marital status, making it clear from the get-go that I’m just there and happy to chat. Maybe it’s that simple fact that men feel safe talking to me about almost anything.

Even barley.

Yes, it’s true, while out for my dear friend Andrea’s bachelorette party a few weekends ago, I found myself standing in the middle of a bar listening to a tall, handsome dude tell me all about his new found love of barley. Ladies, I would have taken his number for you, except for the fact that he claimed, “Every time I go to Whole Foods my cart looks more and more feminine because I keep buying so much barley.”

That’s not the word he used. I’m sure you can guess what it was, and that I changed it because it’s not a word I like to throw around out of context. Whatever, you all know there are plenty of gay men who don’t know how to cook barley and tons of straight men that probably do! I handed him my card (yes, I regularly carry around Cara’s Cravings business cards) and told him I was making barley the next day.

Dude, if you’re reading this, now you know why I didn’t try harder to set you up with one of my friends, even though I’m sure they’d love to have you cook them some barley.

So here’s that barley recipe I was talking about. A lot of people are intimidated by both barley (a grain) and risotto (a cooking method) because both traditionally require a good deal of standing over the stove and stirring. Using a slow cooker is the perfect way to avoid this. With minimal effort, you can have a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs bowl of risotto. Traditionally, risotto is made with Arborio rice, and you can use that here too, if you like. But I prefer barley for it’s wonderful chewy texture and superior nutritional value. This grain is packed with a high concentration of fiber, which slows glucose absorption and thus promotes healthy blood sugar levels. In other words, it keeps you fuller longer and can even help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The inspiration for this recipe came from a jar of Better than Bouillon Lobster Base which the folks at Superior Touch Brand kindly provided to me. Their line of concentrated based include traditional flavors like chicken and beef, as well as more gourmet varieties such as the lobster and mushroom base. There are organic, reduced sodium, and kosher-for-Passover products to choose from as well. To make 1 cup of broth, you simply need to mix 1 teaspoon of bouillon with 1 cup of hot water. Keeping these jars of high-quality, concentrated bases around makes it easy to have just the amount of broth you need, without opening cans or cartons. The Better than Bouillon Lobster Base added an extra dimension of seafood flavor to my shrimp risotto that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Thank you, Superior Touch, for supplying it!

I’d also like to give a shout out to my pal AJ, 14-month old son of my good friend Kate. AJ, I love that I got to cook you shrimp for the very first time and that you gobbled it up so well! (The rest of us loved it, too.)

2/14/12: Thought you might like to know that this recipe is featured on Bon Appetit’s “8 Surprising Meals You Can Make in Your Slow Cooker“!


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Slow Cooker Shrimp and Artichoke Barley Risotto

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

3 cups of water*
3 teaspoons Better than Bouillon Lobster Base*
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 9oz package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and quartered
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup (200gm) pearl barley
1lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2oz parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, grated
2 tsp grated lemon zest
4 oz baby spinach

Directions:

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Whisk in the lobster base and set aside.

In a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, saute the onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, stirring. Transfer to the slow cooker and add the artichoke hearts, black pepper, and barley. Stir in the lobster broth. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours, or until barley is tender and the liquid is just about all absorbed.

About 15 minutes before serving, stir in the shrimp and grated cheese. Cover and continue to cook on high for another 10 minutes, or until shrimp are opaque. Add the lemon zest and fold in the baby spinach, stirring until it's wilted. Divide among serving bowls and serve immediately.

*In place of the lobster base and water, you can use 3 cups of seafood or chicken broth.

Nutrition Facts:

Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 406.6
Total Fat 7.0 g
Saturated Fat 3.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 184.8 mg
Sodium 917.9 mg
Potassium 677.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 52.3 g
Dietary Fiber 11.3 g
Sugars 0.2 g
Protein 35.6 g

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com

 

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