Barley Salad with Feta and Orange Shallot Vinaigrette

Barley Salad With Feta and Orange Shallot Vinaigrette Served in a Large Bowl

The transition between summer and fall is one of the most fun to play with in the kitchen.

You can still find delicious summer tomatoes and herbs, but hints of fall begin to creep in. Succulently sweet figs, juicy persimmons, freshly picked walnuts, and everyone’s favorite, pumpkin.

So what does the logical cook do?

Throw it all together in a bowl, of course!

Simply follow the formula: grain + nut + cheese + vegetables + vinaigrette.

You can’t go wrong. And it works at any time of year.

This particular weekend, I chose the following:

  • Pearled Barley. It’s relatively quick cooking & doesn’t require a pre-soak, holds it shape & texture well, and absorbs the flavors of whatever vinaigrette you pour over it.
  • Walnuts. California’s first walnut harvest just took place, so, you know, I had to.
  • Feta Cheese. Probably my #1 go-to. I’m sort of obsessed with the mild tang it provides.
  • Cherry Tomatoes. For a juicy pop of freshness in each bite, extra color, and a hint of sweetness.
  • Baby Spinach. Perfect for lightening up a grain-based salad & adding extra nutrients.
  • Orange. Because… I haven’t made an orange vinaigrette in awhile, and it gives the salad a little more of a fall/winter vibe.
  • Shallot. More mild than an onion & perfect for some extra bite without being overpowering.

I love giant salads like these, because they’re just so easy. 

Prep all the individual components (which is pretty easy here- just boil the barley, zest & juice some citrus, quarter some cherry tomatoes, roughly chop baby spinach, and mince a shallot), and toss it all together.

Goes great with some fresh fish (we served it with tuna), grilled shrimp, or any other light protein you enjoy.

Barley Salad With Feta and Homemade Vinaigrette

Barley Salad with Feta and Orange Shallot Vinaigrette
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 25 mins
 
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8
Author: Erica Julson
Ingredients
  • 2 cups uncooked pearled barley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of 1 cara cara orange
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning to taste
  • 5 oz baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
Instructions
  1. Place the barley in a large saucepan and fill the pot with water. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until al dente. Drain, place in a large serving bowl, and set aside to cool.
  2. While the barley cools, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the orange zest and juice, lemon juice, shallot, olive oil, and kosher salt and pepper.
  3. When the barley is room temperature, add the spinach, walnuts, feta cheese, and cherry tomatoes to the serving bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, and enjoy! Goes great with a high quality piece of seafood.
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Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal Close Up Shot

It’s official, fall is upon us.

[The first day is today!]

I don’t know about you, but for me, the summer flew by in a snap. Between traveling, beginning new business ventures, and the everyday hustle and bustle, I feel like I looked up, and summer was gone.

But truth be told, I’m ready for the slower seasons of fall and winter. When the atmosphere gets cozy, the leaves turn a beautiful rainbow of red, orange, and yellow, and the faint hint of fireplace smoke is in the air.

Days begin to shorten, people spend more time indoors with the family, and dinner gets served a little earlier. As the weather cools, the meals start to heat up. Braising, stewing, roasting, simmering, or even crockpot-ing take hold. Slow food… comfort food… become our cravings.

And I am here to fully oblige those cravings.

 

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal Fresh Out of the Oven

Starting with this warm breakfast deliciousness- Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal.

If you like instant packets of Apple Cinnamon flavored oatmeal, you’re going to flip over this one.

It has all the same sweet and satisfying cinnamon sugar flavor, with generous chunks of juicy baked apple and crunchy walnuts. Plus, since it’s baked, it’s a little heartier.

I swear, it’s almost like eating pie for breakfast.

I don’t know anyone who will turn that down!

I love making baked oatmeal on Sunday mornings, when the pace is slow and you can relax before a busy week ahead. Pop it in the oven, enjoy a scoop when it’s warm and gooey, fresh out of the oven (maybe with a dollop of yogurt), and save the rest in the fridge for breakfasts later that week.

And even though this oatmeal tastes almost like dessert, the whole dish only has 1/3 cup of brown sugar!

The rest of the sweetness comes from the natural sugar in milk and the immensely tasty flavor of honeycrisp apples (everyone’s favorite apple these days).

I also added some egg to help bind the baked oatmeal together increase the protein content, and a generous amount of ground flaxseed for a boost of fiber.

The process for baked oatmeal is pretty simple.

Separately mix together the wet and dry ingredients, then combine in a large bowl and stir well. Spread the apple slices on the bottom of a greased baking dish, pour the oatmeal mixture over the top, and bake for about 45 minutes until firm.

That’s seriously it!

Don’t skip the part about putting the apples on the bottom of the baking dish, either. Some of them will end up floating towards the top of the oatmeal, but the majority will remain buried in the moist oatmeal interior, steaming and softening into melt-in-your-mouth juicy morsels that take this oatmeal to the next level.

Enjoy.

 

Warm Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6
Author: Erica Julson
Ingredients
  • Cooking spray, butter, or oil for greasing the baking dish
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 large honey crisp apples, cored and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 2 cups)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the interior bottom and sides of an 8x8 pyrex baking dish with cooking spray, butter, or oil and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the oats, brown sugar, walnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, flax, and salt. Stir until well combined.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and melted butter. Pour this mixture into the bowl that contains the dry ingredients, and stir to combine.
  4. Spread the chopped apples on the bottom of the greased baking dish and pour the oatmeal mixture over the top. Use a spatula to spread the oatmeal evenly throughout the baking dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the oats have firmed up but still have a moist creamy texture. Let cool slightly, then scoop your portion into a bowl and enjoy.

Rice Cooker Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice in the Rice Cooker!

Restaurant style Mexican rice has been an ongoing struggle for me.

I loooove ordering it at restaurants, but every time I’ve tried to make it at home, it completely flops.

Instead of the delicious, fluffy, salty, chewy rice of my dreams, I get a gloppy, sticky, overly tomato-y mess. More like sticky Spanish rice… Which I love, but not as a side to fajitas or enchiladas!

What was I doing wrong???

Restaurant Style Mexican Rice in the Rice Cooker

Well, as it turns out, pretty much everything.

  1. I didn’t rinse my rice. Although I was already choosing the right type of rice (long grain white rice), I missed the all important step of rinsing it. Rice naturally has a powdery coating of starch on each grain, which dissolves into the cooking liquid, thickening it and creating a stickier batch of rice. If you rinse the rice before cooking, you wash away the starchy coating, and the rice grains don’t stick together as much while cooking. It makes it easier to get that fluffy texture you’re looking for.
  2. I skipped the saute. THIS is probably the number one tip. By sauteing the rinsed rice in a generous amount of oil, each grain develops a golden crust. This crust keeps each grain intact and gives the cooked rice a chewy, toothsome feel. Browning the rice is the secret to rice with plump, distinct grains, instead of a mushy pot with globs of rice.
  3. I forgot about the fresh mix-ins. Even if you follow all the steps, rinse the rice, saute the grains until golden, add delicious spices, and cook it in a flavorful broth…. Mexican rice just isn’t complete without a few extra mix-ins. Fresh lime juice and cilantro give the rice a fresh zing, and deepen the layers of flavor. Without the fresh ingredients, the rice can feel a little one-note. Don’t skip the fresh stuff!

These, my friends, are the secrets to amazing restaurant-style mexican rice.

And guess what? I raise you one.

I made it in a rice cooker!

Yep, that means that once you’ve toasted the rice & pureed your tomato/onion/garlic mixture, you combine everything in the rice cooker & set it and forget it. Leaving you tons of time to finish the rest of dinner, and you never have to worry about burnt rice.

Enjoy this one. It’s a keeper!

Amazingly Delicious Mexican Rice Recipe

Rice Cooker Mexican Rice
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 
Servings: 8
Author: Erica Julson
Ingredients
  • 2 cups roughly chopped fresh tomatoes, about 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup roughly chopped yellow onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup high-heat safe oil, like grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic cloves in a blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Put the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cool water under the faucet until the water runs clear. Shake dry and set aside.
  3. Pour the oil into a large nonstick skillet and warm over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until the rice turns a light golden brown. When the rice is golden, add the cumin, coriander, salt, and tomato paste to the pan. Stir with a spatula to combine, and cook for just 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant.
  4. Use the spatula to remove the rice from the pan to and transfer it to a rice cooker. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of the tomato mixture from the blender and 2 cups of chicken broth. Stir to combine, close the rice cooker, and cook on the white rice setting until done.

  5. When the rice is done cooking, remove from the rice cooker and transfer to a large bowl. Fluff with a fork and stir in the minced cilantro and fresh lime juice. Add more salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.

Goes great with Salsa Verde Chicken Fajitas or Pork Chile Verde.

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