Greens, Beans & Barley Bowl

In the April issue of Life Extension Magazine ( there was an interesting article entitled “Foods that Safely Reduce Blood Glucose.” The first sentence caught my attention: “As we age, one of the priorities is maintaining optimal glucose levels to avoid heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  So, of course, I read the article and found out that barley lowers blood sugar and insulin levels.

Since too many carbs such as white rice and potatoes trigger surges in blood glucose that can lead to Type II diabetes (which my mother had), I immediately remembered I had made a recipe called Bean & Barley Bowl in my very first cookbook*, back in the late 1970s. (*Beginner’s Guide to Meatless Casseroles, available from

The article also mentioned that black beans (as well as other beans) also target blood sugar and were found to prevent damage to out DNA. Additionally, both these foods, barley and beans, are good sources of fiber.

Photo from

Finally, with St. Patrick’s Day here, I feel comfortable reminding you to eat your greens! And the best green I can  recommend is KALE. I have written before about kale, but for those who are still not convinced, you can Google Kale and find lots of good info. For example, notes that kale has a very high anti-inflammatory factor (257) and a low glycemic index load. It is also high in Vitamins A & Vitamin K, two important nutrients. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Commercially, kale chips are now available, so I guess even the food industry is convinced of its vale.

So I bought some organic kale and also checked my pantry and saw that I had both dried black beans and canned (organic with no BPA). I also checked my recipe from my first cookbook and made changes on the first recipe below, changing it to  make in less time. I combined the barley with beans in one soup, with the squash bisque in the variation and with kale for St. Patrick’s Day.  Here are the results.

Note: All of the soup recipes use one or two 2 quart pots, a cutting board and knife, and all but the first uses a blender or food processor. All are vegan, but not all are gluten-free (the St. Pat’s Soup uses barley, but you can substitute rice.)

Black Bean & Barley Bowl


1/2 cup hulled or pearl barley, rinsed (hulled barley is more nutritious but takes longer to cook)
4-5 cups water or stock
1 garlic clove
1/2-1/2 c. chopped onion
1 org, carrot, scrubbed and sliced into circles
1/2 c. peas (fresh or frozen)
1/2-1 cup black beans (I used organic canned with no BPA)
Salt 7 Pepper to taste
Herbs of choice: oregano, parsley, etc.


1. Place barley in water or stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and add garlic, onion, carrot & herbs and cook about 25 minutes or until barley is soft. (If using hulled barley, you will need about 15 minutes more. A crock pot would work.)
2. Add peas and drained black beans and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Or try a dash of tamari.)  Serve warm.

Variation: I had about one cup squash bisque leftover I made two days before the recipe above (See recipe by scrolling to the precious posting) and about 1 1/2 cups of the barley/bean soup, so I decided to combine them. I also bought kale for a St. Pat’s Soup (below)  and cooked one leaf for garnish. Here is what this soup looks like–very tasty and colorful!

For St. Patrick’s Day I decided to combine the barley with the kale I had just purchased. This soup came out even better tasting than I expected. I think it was the texture and taste of the barley.

St. Pat’s Day Kale & Barley Soup


1/2 cup barley
3-5 cups water or stock (to start)
2-3 loosely packed cups organic kale, washed and torn into small pieces
1 garlic close, chopped
1 leek, sliced (save some for garnish)
1-2 cups water or stock for blender
herbs to taste: I used more parsley, dill and celery seed since I used water instead of stock


1. Cook 1/2 cup barley with garlic, leek,and herbs with 3 cups water for about 20 minutes.
2. While the barley cooks, simmer washed and torn organic kale in about 2 cups water. (This water is bitter, so I cool it & feed it to my plants.)
3. When barley, garlic and leek are done, place one cup water in the bottom of the blender. Add the barley mix & drained kale and puree to desired consistency, adding another cup or so of water as needed. (For a stew consistency, use less liquid; for soup, more.)
4. Serve hot; garnish with sliced leek.

Note: All these soups make enough for 3 or 4 servings, but since I often use it as a meal, the soup may only last for 2 servings, since I usually have two bowls with some crackers as a meal.

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