Sweet Potato Mushroom Barley Bowls

January 15, 2019
Sweet Potato Mushroom Barley Bowls

When Mike got home from work last Wednesday, he stumbled across a miniature photo studio in our entryway: lights, cords, a camera, a baking sheet I was using as a backdrop.  "What have you been up to today?" he asked.

"Taking photos of dinner," I replied, as I tasted the barley and gave the pan of mushrooms another stir.

"Why?  Isn't this one on the blog already?"

It wasn't.  I've been making these sweet potato, mushroom, and barley bowls for a couple of years now—they're partially inspired by this barley bowl with roasted broccoli and tofu, with the technique I use for my savory roasted sweet potatoes.  As much as I love the sweet potato/mushroom/barley combination, it didn't seem quite elaborate or innovative enough to be blog worthy.  Also, a bowl of earth-toned food is not terribly photogenic.  This is not the sort of recipe that will do well on Instagram.

But even though this blog is increasingly a part of my professional life rather than solely a passion project, I've been making more of an effort to keep it personal (partially inspired by this excellent post on Jeni Eats).  Yes, I do some sponsored posts for companies and organizations I'm proud to work with.  Much of my travel coverage stems from hosted stays.  However, this blog is still a much more personal than anything else I write.  It's where I go to reflect (like in this post about last summer).  It's where I get to tell whatever stories I want to, without first needing to convince an editor that they're worthwhile.

And you know what?  I think that this particular recipe is worthwhile.  It's the sort of vegetable-heavy comfort food that I've been turning to this winter, when everything feels so uncertain and staying on an even keel is enough.  A bowl of barley with roasted sweet potatoes and sauteed mushrooms might not be pretty or trendy or earth-shattering, but right now, it's me.

I use butter to saute the mushrooms because I like the flavor, but you could easily substitute another tablespoon of olive oil to make this recipe vegan.

Serves 4


Sweet Potato Mushroom Barley Bowls Ingredients
  • 6 cups sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup dry pearled barley
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages baby portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • sriracha sauce, to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Spread into a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet and roast until sweet potatoes are lightly browned and tender, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine barley and 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until chewy-tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain excess water.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are browned and have given up their juices, about 10 minutes.

Serve sweet potatoes and mushrooms over prepared barley.  Drizzle with sriracha sauce to taste, if desired.

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