Flipping through the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, I noticed a call for recipes featuring whole grains. A recipe contest? Me? No. I doubt that real people actually win those things. It would probably be a waste of time entering. I tucked the magazine away in my storage basket, out of sight, but not out of mind. My thoughts kept going back to its pages.
“I’ve got a good barley recipe in my arsenal. It can’t hurt to try. What’s the worst thing that could happen…nothing. Life would go on as normal.”
And with the conclusion of that conversation with myself, I decided to enter my first recipe contest.
I remember that it took me a very long time to type out my recipe. See, I usually don’t cook with recipes, and I never write out any recipes that I create. My method of cooking is adding a “little of this and a little of that” until a smile comes across my face with the last bite. Easy for me. Not so easy to translate that process to written form. After several attempts, my entry was ready. Off in the mail it went.
Several months elapsed, and I never gave another thought to my entry. Then one day an envelope from Better Homes and Gardens was tucked into my stack of mail. I tore open the envelope, and as I read, I could feel my mouth opening wider and wider in awe. I had won. Seriously? Seriously! My recipe would be featured in an upcoming issue of the magazine, and to boot, I would be paid four hundred dollars. I was stunned. Then I was hooked. I had been searching for a way to earn a bit of money while I was at home raising my children. The Lord had certainly opened the door for me!
A few weeks later I received an advanced copy of the magazine featuring my recipe. The boys frantically flipped through the pages looking for the recipe. There it was. There was my name (that was really, really strange to see). We all looked at the recipe, then looked at each other. The picture didn’t look anything like what I had made at home. They also changed my recipe a bit, which now I know is commonplace. Nevertheless, changes and all, I was very thankful, not only for the cash prize, but for a new direction.
That first win came in 2010. As time allows I’ve been entering other cooking contests. More times than not nothing comes of those entries. But, there are those times, usually when you least expect it and most need it, that the Lord allows success to come.
Although the rights to this recipe belong to Better Homes and Gardens, I have included my original, unrevised recipe below. It is super easy to make and oh so good for you. It is also an extremely versatile recipe. You can swap out the spinach and add your favorite greens such as kale or arugula. Try adding in dried cranberries or cherries. Add a crunch with your favorite nut. This is a recipe that you can make your own!
Sweet Potato Barley Salad
1 cup uncooked pearled barley, rinsed
8 cups water
1/2 cup finely diced red onion, packed
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
2 cups roughly chopped baby spinach leaves
1 cup shredded carrot
2 cups peeled, diced, cooked sweet potato
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Rinse the barley. Bring the barley and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium/low to produce a low boil. Cook the barley for 20-25 minutes until tender, but not mushy. Drain. Rinse the barley under cold water. Allow to drain for 5 minutes before transferring to a large bowl.
Stir in the onions, peas, spinach, carrots, and raisins. Add in the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir until well combined.
Fold in the cooked sweet potatoes. When cooking the potatoes be sure to leave them a bit firm. Overcooked potatoes will fall apart when incorporated into the barley.
This can be served immediately or chilled for an hour.