. . . you take a big pile of whole grains and veggies, cover them in a gorgeous cheesy bechamel, and then bake the whole thing in the oven?
DINNER! Rachel Ray's recipe for Tex Mex Barley Bake caught my eye not too long ago, and I threw it together for dinner last night.
To start, let's just say that I wasn't sure about this recipe . . . barley? In a cheese sauce? With sugar snap peas? Yeah. It seemed too weird to be good. So I swapped out the sugar snap peas for a couple of chopped bell peppers, and I think this was a good choice. I think the snap peas would have gotten overcooked in the casserole, and the bell peppers fit better with the Tex Mex theme, in my opinion. Eating more barley has been a goal of late, though, so I left that alone, especially since that was what originally caught my eye about the recipe. And cheese? Well, I like cheese. :) (A lot!)
Other things I did? I cooked the barley up ahead of time so I could get the casserole into the oven much more quickly last night, and I also didn't bother pre-sauteing any of the veggies -- just threw everything in a big bowl, combined it with the cheese sauce, and baked away! Simple enough, right? (P.S. I drained a can of diced tomatoes, instead of using fresh ones -- just seemed to make sense, given the season.)
Result? This was FANTASTIC!!!!! I was shocked by how beautifully the barley translated to a cheesy casserole, and Dan loved the crunchy, cheese-n-chips topping. We enjoyed this for dinner last night and for lunches today, and there's still plenty left for at least one more meal for us. (This reheated beautifully, too, which has not been my experience with most cheese-sauce based things.)
What pleasant surprises have you discovered lately? Unusual ingredients that went well together that you wouldn't expect? Recipes that you weren't sure about that were a huge hit? Do tell!
And, happy Friday night to all!