Whole grains…. what are they and why incorporate them in our diets?! I’m glad you asked! Whole grains, such as whole wheat, brown and wild rice, quinoa, corn, oats, barley, and millet, are comprised of the entire grain kernel. This means the bran, germ, and endosperm are intact. Opposed to refined grains, such as white flour, white bread, and white rice, which have been processed to remove the bran and germ. Along with the bran and germ, the nutritional value decreases due to the loss of dietary fiber, iron, B vitamins and other minerals. Fortunately, most refined products are enriched with B vitamins and iron, which means the nutrients are added back after processing. Unfortunately, fiber is not added back, so you lose all the really magical benefits fiber offers. Next time you’re in a grocery store, compare the nutrition facts of white and brown rice, you’ll see what I mean!

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends varying amounts per day of grains depending on age and gender. It is also recommended to consume at least half of total grains as whole grains, opposed to all refined grains. The nutrients found in whole grains contribute to sustaining metabolic functions. For example, B vitamins aid in the metabolism of energy from fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Iron is essential for blood production, and magnesium is important for the structure of bones. Selenium protects cells from harmful toxins and increases immune function. Earlier I mentioned how magical fiber is. Well, it just so happens the fiber from whole grains and other foods, such as fruits and vegetables, may aid in lowering blood cholesterol levels, as well as lowering risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Fiber also plays a role in healthy bowel movements. Truly, magical.

So, if you’re like me, you may stick to some basic whole grains— oats, whole wheat, brown rice, popcorn… It’s easy to get caught up in routine. Well, I propose we spread our wings a little— let’s go against the grain! Yes, pun intended 😉. Here I have a recipe for Vegetable Barley Stew. It’s honestly delicious. Although rice will always hold a special place in my heart, barley adds a satisfying chewiness that I’m really digging. Other than barley, this recipe includes a base of carrots, onions, celery, garlic and mushrooms. It’s relatively quick to make and is extremely satiating.


Sources: All about the Grains Group. Choose MyPlate. Published November 3, 2017. Accessed January 23, 2019.

Nutrients and health benefits. Choose MyPlate. Published June 12, 2015. Accessed January 23, 2019.


Yield: 3-4 servings 

Time: 45 minutes 


  •  1 cup diced yellow onion 

  • ½ cup diced carrot 

  • ½ cup diced celery 

  • 8 oz (1 package) cremini mushrooms

  • 4 cloves minced garlic 

  • ¾ cup rinsed barley 

  • 4 cups vegetable broth + extra for sautéing

  • 2 tsp tamari 

  • 1 tsp rice vinegar

  • 1 tsp thyme

  • 1 tsp oregano 

  • 2 bay leaves  


  1. Begin by dicing the onion, celery, carrot, mincing the garlic, and slicing the mushrooms. In a saucepan on low/medium health, sauté the onions in vegetable broth or oil for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Then add minced garlic and heat for another 2 minutes. 

  2. Next, add the celery, carrots, rinsed barley, sliced mushrooms, and spices. Add more vegetable broth or oil as needed. After 3 minutes, incorporate 4 cups of vegetable broth, tamari, and rice vinegar. 

  3. Bring the stew to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 30-40 minutes. Serve alone or with desired pairing… I suggest baked potato wedges! 




Yield: 4 Servings 

Time: About 1 Hour 


 For the Noodles: 

  • 1 package Soba Noodles, 9.5 oz 

  • 1 package Extra Firm Tofu (14 oz)

  • 1 tsp corn starch

  • 1/2 Red Onion, sliced

  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced

  • 2 Broccoli Crowns, about 5-6 cups sliced 

  • 3-6+ cloves of Garlic (personal preference), minced 

  • Sesame oil, to coat large skillet

 For the Sauce: 

  • 1/2 cup Cashews, Peanuts, or Sesame Seeds + More for Topping 

  • 1/2 cup Water

  • 2 tsp Tamari or Soy Sauce

  • 1 tsp Chili Garlic Sauce

  • 1 tsp Sesame Oil 

  • 1.5 tsp Ground Ginger

  • 2 tsp Rice Vinegar

  • 1-2 Tsp Agave or Maple Syrup 

  • 1/2 Juiced Lime, about 1 tsp 


  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees F, and then cut up your tofu into cubes. On a baking sheet with parchment, transfer the cubes and sprinkle + thoroughly coat the tofu with 1 tsp of cornstarch. I find it easier to pick up both sides of parchment and sort of jumble the cubes around. Cook the tofu for 30 minutes. 

  2. While your tofu is cooking, start slicing the red onion, red bell pepper, broccoli and mince the garlic. Bring water to a boil as instructed by soba noodle package. Cook, drain, rinse and set aside the noodles.  

  3. Heat a large skillet to low/medium heat and coat with sesame oil. Add your red onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add minced garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Then incorporate red bell pepper and broccoli. Cook for 5-7 minutes, so that veggies are not overcooked and still appear colorful. 

  4. Set veggies aside and make the sauce. In a food processor or high-speed blender, blend your nuts or seeds of choice until a nut/seed butter forms. Then add 1/2 cup water and blend well. Incorporate tamari, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, agave or maple syrup, and lime juice. Blend again until a smooth. 

  5. When it’s been 30 minutes, take the tofu out of the oven. Heat another skillet on low/medium heat, or transfer veggies to a bowl, and coat lightly in sesame oil. Transfer the tofu to the skillet and fry for 8-10 minutes, flipping every 2 minutes. 

  6. In a large serving bowl combine all components. It might be easier to first mix the veggies and noodles, then coat in sauce. 

  7. Finally, serve with your favorite toppings!

 Note: For a gluten-free option you could definitely replace the Soba Noodles with Rice Noodles— just cook by package instructions!