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Root Veggie Barley Risotto from Vegan Slow Cooking for Two

Kathy Hester has done it again with Vegan Slow Cooking for Two or Just You. She combines international flavors with wildly inventive cooking techniques that take slow cookers where they've never been before. In The Vegan Slow Cooker, she taught us that propping open the slow-cooker's lid with a wooden spoon would let us bake bread without heating up the oven. Here, she uses 1.5 quart or 1.5-liter slow cookers to make petite Blueberry Lemon Cake and Chocolate Chip Cookies for Two. I'm honored to be kicking off her latest blog tour with this review and the recipe for Root Veggie Barley Risotto. (Win your own copy in the giveaway!)

The gorgeous photographs by Kate Lewis and Kathy's friendly, you-can-do-it style make me want to try her exotic Pear Rose Cardamom Oatmeal and Moroccan Lentil Vegetable Soup. My favorite chapter is Vegan Squares: Full Meals Layered in the Slow Cooker. Some recipes layer food right in the slow cooker. Others use parchment paper to keep the different parts of the meal separate. I'm grateful just at the thought of All-in-One Thanksgiving Dinner, with tempeh and gravy, stuffing, and candied sweet potatoes. I won't wait until November to try her other Vegan Squares, such as Indian Stuffed Eggplant and Tempeh Tandoori.

I scored the slow cooker I used to test this recipe at a yard sale for three dollars. Now I'm hooked. It takes less counter space and sheer muscle than my big ones do. The crock and lid are dishwasher safe. Although I usually cook in big batches, even just for the two of us, Kathy's idea of cooking Small Batch Dried Beans seems more do-able on a busy day. Pop just a cup of dried beans in the slow cooker in the morning with water and perhaps a few flavorings. By dinner time, you have three cups of tender cooked beans ready to jumpstart a meal.

She also continues the helpful technique of dividing many recipes into steps for "the night before" and "in the morning" or "in the morning" and "N minutes before serving."

Root Veggie Barley Risotto from Kathy Hester's Vegan Slow Cooker for Two or Just for You photograph by Linda Watson of (c) 2013

Root Veggie Barley Risotto from Vegan Slow Cooking for Two or Just For You

By Kathy Hester. Copyright 2013 by Fair Winds Press. Used by permission.

Active time: 15 minutes. Total time: 7 3/4 to 9 3/4 hours. Makes about 3 cups.

For the morning ingredients:

2 cups (475 ml) water
1/2 cup (92 g) barley
1/2 cup (65 g) diced carrots
1/2 cup (75 g) diced turnips or rutabagas, peeled [I used parsnips]
1/2 cup (67 g) dices sweet potatoes or (70 g) winter squash
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried sage

For the evening ingredients:

1 cup (56 g) minced greens (such as turnips, collards, kale, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper, to taste


  • In the morning, add all the morning ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours.
  • Thirty minutes before serving, add the greens and lemon zest. Right before serving, add salt and pepper to taste. Also add more oregano and/or sage if needed.

cutting up carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes for Root Veggie Barley Risotto from Kathy Hester's Vegan Slow Cooker for Two or Just for You. Photograph by Linda Watson of (c) 2013

I used a half a parsnip instead of turnip (which was vetoed by a the resident turnipophobe) or rutabaga (which I couldn't find at the market or at the grocery store this week). The greens were two leaves of curly kale, with the stems saved for another recipe.

The verdict? Creamy, risotto-like barley with no stirring, worth having regularly in the cold months. This dish was too pretty to hide under black beans, so I served them side-by-side, yin-yang style. The parsnip turned out to be a good choice, worth considering for super tasters and others who find turnips and greens to be unpleasantly bitter.

Vegan Slow Cooking for Two or Just for You by Kathy Hester book coverWin a copy of Vegan Slow Cooking for Two or Just for You!

Winner to be announced on October 1st. Just fill out the entry form here. Get extra chances by liking us on Facebook, etc., but those are strictly optional. No purchase necessary.

Disclosure as required by law: Thanks to Fair Winds Press for providing a copy of the book to review.

Disclosure as required by my heart: Thanks to Kathy for having lunch with me nearly every week, talking about the cookbook biz, making me laugh, and for wanting everyone to be happy and do well. You are a peach!

If you liked this post, check out the other blogs on the Vegan Slow Cooking blog tour and my review of Kathy's first book, The Vegan Slow Cooker. Slow is hot!

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