Creamy Barley Risotto

This is one of my favorite recipes to make when I’m also feeding a first-time eater. It’s relatively low in fat, high in whole grain fiber and nutrients, packed with veggies, spiked with quality protein, and has some tangy, calcium-rich dairy for good measure. This is truly a one-pot wonder for all ages, and easy to make, too. Scoop a big bowl for yourself and eaters over 12-months-old and whiz smaller portions to an age-appropriate consistency for babies.

Creamy Barley Risotto with Chickpeas and Spring Vegetables

 by One Hungry Mama

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 5 ½ cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme (or dried)
  • 1 ½ c pearled barley
  • ¼ cup white wine (optional; the alcohol will cook off, but you may want to skip if sharing with babies or anyone who does not drink alcohol)
  • One 15-oz can chickpeas
  • 1 ½ cup finely diced zucchini (about 2 small)
  • One 14-oz can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese (pasteurized if sharing with young children)
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ fresh lemon

Instructions

  1. Pour broth into a medium pot and place over medium heat. As soon as it begins to simmer, lower the heat to medium-low. You want to keep the broth warm through the cooking process, but prevent it from cooking off.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot or deep skillet. Add the onion and thyme and cook until the onion is translucent, about 4 or 5 minutes.
  3. Add the barley. Stir to coat all of the grains and cook, continuing to stir, for 3 minutes. Add the wine, if using, and allow it to cook off.
  4. Add 1 cup of warm broth and cook, stirring until it is nearly absorbed. Repeat one more time.
  5. After the 2nd cup of broth has nearly cooked off, add the chickpeas and zucchini. Stir to combine and add the 3rd cup of hot broth.
  6. Continue adding the stock, 1 cup at a time, making sure each cup is nearly cooked off before adding the next. Right before the last cup of broth (which may be more like ¾ cup at this point), add the artichokes. Stir to combine and then, finally, add the last bit of broth.
  7. The risotto should be done by the time the last amount of broth is nearly absorbed. The barley should be al dente. If it requires more cooking time, add just a little bit of water or broth, cook until absorbed and test again. When done, take the risotto off of the heat and stir in half of the feta cheese, 1 chopped scallion, half of the parsley and freshly squeezed juice from your half lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste (you may want to remove baby’s portion before adding salt, as the feta is salty enough for little ones). In a side bowl, combine remaining feta, scallion and parsley to use as garnish.

*Always consult your pediatrician regarding nutrition and the feeding of your child. (more info)

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About Stacie Billis

Stacie Billis is a food writer, child-development expert and blogger at One Hungry Mama who fancies herself a cross between SuperNanny and Jamie Oliver. As a mother of two hungry boys, she knows that kids change the way we cook, but they don't have to change how well we eat. Selfish? Sure, but it turns out that feeding kids the good foods we enjoy—along with a little food parenting—is the best way to inspire healthy habits for life. Knowing this, Stacie is putting her MA in child development, experience developing an organic family food brand and passion for delicious food to good use in her kitchen and yours. You can also find Stacie as One Hungry Mama on Twitter and Facebook.

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