Vegetable-Barley Casserole

When I was younger -- in middle school and high school, mostly -- my mom was known amongst my friends for making casseroles. Every time I had people over, she would come up with some new concoction that would inevitably be a hit. I remember she had a pizza casserole that was popular, and her breakfast casseroles are famous amongst our family members (we still eat one every Christmas morning).

I can't say I love casseroles quite as much as my mom does, but I do enjoy a good one from time to time. Of course, my casseroles don't involve as much meat as hers used to, and they're certainly more healthy than I remember hers being. (Coincidentally, or not, my casseroles are also usually less delicious than hers.) But they're still pretty good. This one, for example, has lots of chewy barley, tomatoes, greens, corn, spices, and of course, some cheese to add the comfort factor. It's not my mom's recipe, but it'll do in a pinch.

Vegetable-Barley Casserole
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups corn kernels, thawed and drained if frozen
  • 3 cups Swiss chard, thick stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups cooked barley
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (low-fat if you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, corn and Swiss chard; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and chard is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, barley, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Heat through.

Coat a 2 1/2 to 3 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon barley mixture into prepared dish in an even layer; sprinkle with cheese. Bake until cheese melts and mixture is hot, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing into 4 to 6 pieces.

Variations: Add some canned black beans to this to make it even more filling.