I often find myself stuck in a weird food dichotomy in the early weeks of January. On the one hand, in a desire to undo some of the excesses of the holiday season, I want salads and soups and fresh green things. But on the other, it’s COLD. “Feels like 5 degrees” cold. “Chill me to the bone” cold, where the only things that can warm me up are cheese-laden carbs, braised meats and fleece-lined tights.
There’s not a ton of overlap between those two categories, which makes it hard to maintain a “healthy eating” goal at the beginning of the year. But I like to think that there can be some middle ground, something that’s more satisfying than a plate full of greens but less artery-clogging than mac and cheese.
Enter this beef and barley stew. While it may not be the most healthful recipe in the world, it is laden with whole grains (barley) and vegetables (carrots, celery, mushrooms), and the added protein (beef) makes it a complete meal in one bowl. (This is also a huge plus if you, like me, promised to cook more often this year and are looking for more one-pot meals that can feed an army. This is DEFINITELY one of those.) It was excellent as a stew, and still extremely delicious even when the barley had absorbed most of the liquid by leftover day 3.*
This stew certainly kept me warm during a cold, snowy weekend, and didn’t leave me feeling comatose afterwards. It’s a compromise between healthy and hearty that tastes way better than any compromise ever should.