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Barley & Wheat Berry Salad with Chickpeas and Feta


It’s funny, when I get swept up in weeks and months of eating poorly – too much grazing on too much junk (I really am more lowbrow than people think I am) – how quickly I forget how much I love grainy salads like this. Quinoa with black beans and mango, wild rice and lentils, brown rice with barley and chickpeas – all jumbles of good things that make me feel and function so much better (and far wider awake) than a diet of toast, Cheezies, coffee and wine. Funny, that.

Funny too how my body never seems to forget how much it adores Cheezies and chocolate.

I do need to wean myself off of a few things. I’ve been dancing around the subject of the new year here – I haven’t quite embraced it with as much chutzpah (yet) as I usually do, but I suppose I should go ahead and address the obvious before it turns into February. Apologies in advance for the rant.

I’m so tired of the same old new year, new YOU! message we’re all inundated with every January. (Although, admittedly, the old me is in need of a bit of an overhaul. Emphasis on the haul.) Post-holiday, everyone talks about a need to detox – yet I don’t think of Christmas and all the wonderful things that came with it as a toxin we need to cleanse ourselves of. It’s like the idea that food is sinful and dieting and exercise is our penance. Although I can certainly appreciate the concept of self-improvement, I despise the (first-world) message that comes every January: that we’re not good enough and we’d better get working on becoming the very best we should be, that version of ourselves that we’re all capable of achieving if we just work harder at it. No pressure.

What’s wrong with the old me? The old of all of us? Whatever happened to being happy with what we have, and who we are? And really, is a constant reminder that we all need to be improved upon the best motivation? No wonder so many of us wind up unhappy, defeated and discouraged, annoyed with ourselves that we can’t be all that, do all that, and pull off a bikini by summertime.

I’m almost done. Feel free to skip all this and scroll down to the recipe.

Of course this new year, new you season does act as a catalyst, the tipping point where our environment changes, encouraging a collective jump onto the healthy bandwagon.

And yes, it will come as no surprise that I too need to lose weight. Confession: I’m up almost 50 pounds from this time last year. 50! Pounds! I could cite various and myriad injuries (to my foot, knee, back, psyche) of 2010 that slowed me down, physically and motivationally, but I don’t want to excuse it away. Because really it was all that Salted Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (I see a trend here), more time spent in front of the computer, an increasing number of food events and a higher than average love (obsession?) of it all. I’m a food writer. I spend my days thinking about, writing about, researching, preparing and photographing food. Case in point: I leave for Vancouver first thing in the morning for a few days touring restaurants and checking out other food-related events and locales. Please don’t hate me. The point is, I need to ensure my hobby, passion and job, while paying the bills doesn’t also cause my physical ruin.

I also need more sleep. It’s the most fun thing on my to-do list.

Which is all to say you’ll likely see more of this sort of thing around here in the coming weeks, and also – I may be cranky. Don’t worry, we won’t go without brownies and the occasional waffle. I’m trying to remind myself of all the good-for-you stuff I do love – beany, grainy salads keep well and travel well, so they’re easy to stash away in the fridge for security reasons (defense against take-out) or bring with you when you need something good to go. Nutty, chewy wheat berries (the entire kernel of wheat, minus the hull) are well worth seeking out; they make a great foundation for a salad – similar to barley but mahogany-coloured and smooth. Great for breakfast, too.

Barley & Wheat Berry Salad with Chickpeas and Feta


Yields1 Serving

1/2 cup wheat berries
1/2 cup pearl or pot barley
1/4-1/2 cup golden raisins or chopped dates
1 19 oz (540 mL) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2 celery stalks, chopped
a big handful of Italian parsley, chopped or torn
1/4 purple onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive or canola oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or lemon juice (or to taste)
salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a medium saucepan, cover wheat berries with a few inches of water; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for an hour. (Alternatively, soak them in water overnight.)


Pour off most of the water from the wheat berries, add the barley to the pot and cover with water by a few inches; bring to a boil and cook for 40 minutes, until both barley and wheat berries are tender. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop them from cooking; drain well and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the dates and let cool completely.


Add the chickpeas, feta, celery, parsley, onion and walnuts; drizzle with oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed.


 1/2 cup wheat berries
 1/2 cup pearl or pot barley
 1/4-1/2 cup golden raisins or chopped dates
 1 19 oz (540 mL) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
 1/2 cup crumbled feta
 2 celery stalks, chopped
 a big handful of Italian parsley, chopped or torn
 1/4 purple onion, finely chopped
 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive or canola oil
 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or lemon juice (or to taste)
 salt and freshly ground black pepper



In a medium saucepan, cover wheat berries with a few inches of water; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for an hour. (Alternatively, soak them in water overnight.)


Pour off most of the water from the wheat berries, add the barley to the pot and cover with water by a few inches; bring to a boil and cook for 40 minutes, until both barley and wheat berries are tender. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop them from cooking; drain well and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the dates and let cool completely.


Add the chickpeas, feta, celery, parsley, onion and walnuts; drizzle with oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed.

Barley & Wheat Berry Salad with Chickpeas and Feta

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42 comments on “Barley & Wheat Berry Salad with Chickpeas and Feta

  1. Lindsay
    January 9, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Ugh me too, Julie, me too! Thanks for the rant.
    Have fun in Van! Oh I love it there. Naam on 4th is open 24 hours, just so you know…

  2. thepinkpeppercorn
    January 9, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    In with the veggies and the beans I say! But I still can’t not have dessert….. Just perhaps a little less BEFORE it! Happy New Year Julie!

  3. Cathy
    January 9, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Oh, this looks so healthy and delicious! Frankly, I couldn’t look at that Mac and Cheese pic anymore.
    I am still in California, where they are all skinny and nipped and tucked. Very hard to justify chocolate anything!
    Happy New Year Julie!

  4. Carrie
    January 10, 2011 at 4:27 am

    Hooray for nourishing yourself with truly good food – and the occasional piece of chocolate! I needed this post this morning.

  5. bellini
    January 10, 2011 at 4:53 am

    Very well said Julie, and Amen to being happy with a healthier you and not a “new you”.

  6. Lorraine T
    January 10, 2011 at 5:29 am

    Julie, thank you for articulating how I have been feeling about this “new year/ new you” mantra. I dread this time of year, only because we are bombarded with this message and like you, feel pressured into doing something about improving “me”. Do I need to lose weight? Yes. But, how about we all focus on adjusting our life styles to something healthier instead. The weight will take care of itself, and dare I say, we will be happier in the end.

    Hang in there, and feel free to rant anytime. Enjoy Vancouver!

  7. Koek
    January 10, 2011 at 5:42 am

    I have also just posted a barley salad recipe… Yours look way better though!

  8. Jennifer Jo
    January 10, 2011 at 5:54 am

    An excellent rant.

  9. Jan @ Family Bites
    January 10, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Well said, Julie. So well said!

  10. Jaya
    January 10, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Amen! I couldn’t agree more. Self-improvement (I believe) ought to stem from a place of self-love and not self-loathing. Sure, my jeans feel a lot tighter, but the whole experience of spending time with family and partaking in holiday traditions – and slowing down- was so nourishing! I can’t help but eschew all of that post-holiday guilt trap empire. I really agree with so much of you said! It’s so exhausting/unrealistic to shift from ultimate enjoyment mode to ultimate denial mode. This salad, though, looks like a perfect compromise! Happy New year to you and yours, Julie!

  11. Lana in South Mountain (ON)
    January 10, 2011 at 7:11 am

    You ranted exactly as I was to my husband on Saturday night. I was watching some TV before bed and EVERY ad was for Herbal Magic, Bow-flex, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, etc. and wondered what it would be like to have ads that were all about how beautiful we already are? How spiritually and emotionally well-fed we’d been over the holidays? About how wonderful it was to GIVE?
    It was all about feeling nasty about ourselves for being “naughty” and overindulgent.
    I agree with Jaya: self-improvement should come from a place of self-love.
    I love myself.
    And I love YOU!

  12. Kathy @ Chronicinthekitchen
    January 10, 2011 at 7:34 am

    I could not agree more. My word for 2011 is “contentment.” Harder to achieve when we are constantly being told we’ve either got too much of one thing (or things) and not enough of the others.

    Julie would you be open to adding Chronic In the Kitchen to your blog roll?


  13. Robyn
    January 10, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Hi Julie! Last month I was reading your archives from January/February 2009 and the posts really struck a chord with me. Your perspectives on health, nutrition and weight loss are so sensible and motivating. The one think that resonated with me the most was that it’s what you do most of the time that matters – and indulging in your favourite foods isn’t anything to feel guilty over.

  14. Robyn
    January 10, 2011 at 7:57 am

    p.s. i also hate how all magazines have january as their ‘LIGHT’ issues. it’s winter! we want comfort food!

  15. Michelle
    January 10, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Very well put. My pants are tight – it is okay. I love my life. I am happy. I actually feel balanced for the first time in my life and it is this new discovered food writing that has me head over heels and plopped in front of a computer. It is okay.

    Go to NAAM in Van if you have the chance. I dream about the place. Seriously good eats

  16. jess
    January 10, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I’m also having some trouble showing myself some grace in all of this new year new you lingo. I’m also feeling polluted after the holidays. Thanks for railing against that language, despite knowing that there’s change to be made.

  17. Christine
    January 10, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Funny I should read this at this moment. I over ate and had one too many glasses of wine last night and have been hating myself since I got up. Maybe if I found a way to be kind, well, that might be a nice change! I have lots to be thankful for and lots that makes me really happy. I don’t regret any indulgences over the holidays, I loved the whole thing. There was a great talk on TED.com about vulnerability and in it she showed a photo of a woman with the words “I am enough” on her chest. That is really what your words today are saying…”I am enough”. Doesn’t that feel peaceful? Have fun in Vancouver!

  18. Stacey
    January 10, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I totally couldn’t agree more! Why start a new year off feeling crappy and not good enough? I didn’t make a resolution this year, I made a wish:

    Here’s to a wonderful 2011, friends, filled only with good things. Health, wealth, love, happiness, success, opportunity, safety, not necessarily in that order. May every wish you make come true, and every goal you set be accomplished. May your ties with family and friends grow stronger. May your success at work be bigger and better than ever before. May opportunity knock at your door and may you have the courage to peek through the peekhole and let it in. May you be positive and have that positivity reciprocated ten-fold back into your life. 2011 is the year of good things.

    I am making only one big change this year. I plan to be better. Eat better, sleep better, move better, think better, work better, act better, live better, Be Better. Better is the stepping stone between good and best. (good, better, best – you see it a lot in the pet industry as well as kitchen appliances, LOL.) At the risk of sounding Oprah-y, I’m working my way to living my Best Life. (she’s done it and it hasn’t worked out all that bad…)

    I might also suggest that while you are here in Vancouver, you stop at Granville Island at the bagel shop, and have a warm farmer’s cheese filled bagel. Or smoked meat. they are to die for.

  19. Sharon
    January 10, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I’ve never found it a problem that people try to improve themselves in the New Year. Nor am I surprised that most don’t succeed for long. Better a little than not at all, I think.

    I’d like to recommend this book to you Julie, and the other readers because I think we’re all as you’ve described: our lives are wrapped around food, in some way, professional or personal interest that is beyond average.

    The End of Overeating
    David A. Kessler, MD (former head of the U.S. FDA)

    It pretty much explains what the food industry is doing to keep us reaching for that salty, sweet, crunchy, high fat, high sugar, caramelized “thing”.

    It’s called ‘superstimuli’. The best thinking and book I’ve read on food since Michael Pollan’s work.

  20. Rachel
    January 10, 2011 at 11:05 am

    I feel the same way – I don’t bother making resolutions…if something is so deeply wrong with me, I don’t need the new year as a reason to ‘fix’ it. That said, I did find myself, during 2 weeks visiting my cousin in California, having at least 1 drink a day (but usually 2), eating meat at least once a day (but usually twice) and eating far too many things that don’t normally fall under my definition of ‘food’. So I have been ‘detoxing’ on grated beet & carrot salad with chèvre and pumpkin seeds, as well as butternut squash and vanilla bean soup. But it’s more about how I feel physically than mentally – this past week is a return back to normal. And it hasn’t been difficult – it’s all delicious, and just what I need. And I’ve still put away a fair amount of chocolate, which is also pretty normal 😉

  21. Susan
    January 10, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Happy New Year, Julie!

    I loved this post. I love your honesty and your willingness to treat yourself better. I also love grainy salads and healthy food get I gravite towards the chocolate and carbs when given a choice.
    May this year be a good one for us both, one full of loving those close to us, doing a job that we love and most importantly treating ourselves with love and care!

  22. Anonymous
    January 10, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I heard something really great yesterday . . . “Become who you are.”

    You are wonderful, Julie.

  23. CathyD
    January 10, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Great post! Enjoy Vancouver.

  24. Laurie from Burnaby
    January 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Great post! I’ve lost 2 kilos of Christmas indulgence in only two weeks, which makes me feel great. I’m well into ‘after the season’ cooking – pea and ham soup from the ham, for instance. It’s great, and I feel better. Much as I loved the indulgence, I’m loving getting away from it, too. I’ll be glad to see your posts get back to the way they were. There seemed to be lots and lots of deserts and baking with few meat dishes in between. I welcome the more balanced output.

  25. Bonnie Vox
    January 10, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Hi Julie,

    I too forget about how much I love grainy salads. I have unopened boxes of quinoa, bulgur wheat and Israeli couscous. I better get cracking. A good place to try while in Vancouver is Romer’s Burger Bar. The salads look so good but alas, the fries always win. Next time I’ll have both. http://romersburgerbar.com/
    Enjoy the green!

  26. Erica B.
    January 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    It’s all about balance. I don’t need an MD to tell me eating patterns are hard wired and hard to break. Anyone who’s tried to lose a few knows it’s more complicated than willpower.

    There’s also nothing wrong with being interested in what you’re eating…or jetting off to Vancouver to check out new eats so long as most of the time it’s healthy.

    Thanks for the salad recipe – just what I need to offset Holiday treats. 🙂

  27. Jenn
    January 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm


    Kudos for your bravery about posting what we all fear: weight gain. Like you, I’ve gained a lot of weight and denied its existence for much of 2010 (and 2009… and 2008). Something clicked with this turn of the year and I’ve decided to change how I feel and what I weigh. I’m feeling both relaxed and incredibly driven about. Weird combo.

    I normally resolve not to have New Year’s resolutions but this year was different. I actually set forth some ambitious ones and then blogged about them. Talk about airing my dirty laundry.(http://pintsizedpioneering.blogspot.com/2011/01/new-years-resolutions.html)

    I don’t want my blog to become a “look at all the healthy crap I eat” recap but I do want it to reflect a healthier lifestyle that hubbie and I are striving to attain.

    Good luck with 2011. I so enjoy your blog and will continue to follow your journey!


  28. Carolyn B
    January 10, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you. I’m trying to lose 10 lbs of my size 8 body. 2 weeks now of lots of discipline and no movement on the scale or tightness of my waistband. It is so hard to not get down on myself when I’m doing everything “right”. My trainer told me I need to do 300 minutes of intense cardio a week to lose the 10 lbs I guess I’ll just have to accept myself as I just can’t fit in anymore than the 175 minutes I already do. I am going to remember your message and work hard at giving myself positive messages. Also, or your weight gain, don’t underestimate turning 40. It does nasty things to our metabolisms.

    I look so forward to lots of new healthy recipes..

  29. kickpleat
    January 10, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    This is my kind of salad! I’ve got some farro on hand, so I might try it with that – farro and wheat berries must be similar! And I hear you on the weight front, I’m trying to get out and move more since my job is so sedentary. And if you want to go for a brisk walk while in Vancouver, hit me up!

  30. miss v
    January 10, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    i just ate a brownie… but it’s ok!
    great post!!

  31. Sharon
    January 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Hi Erica. I don’t think it is *all* about balance although that certainly is a start. This book shows us we can attempt “balance” until we’re blue in the face, but it’s not all in our control. The food industry has the ball and their taking it down the field.

    This is not a diet book, it’s a book about the science of food manufacturing and our brains.

    “In “The End of Overeating,” Dr. Kessler finds some similarities in the food industry, which has combined and created foods in a way that taps into our brain circuitry and stimulates our desire for more.

    When it comes to stimulating our brains, Dr. Kessler noted, individual ingredients aren’t particularly potent. But by combining fats, sugar and salt in innumerable ways, food makers have essentially tapped into the brain’s reward system, creating a feedback loop that stimulates our desire to eat and leaves us wanting more and more even when we’re full.”

    I found it fascinating. I love to read books on the science of food and the intersection of food and culture: such as Harold McGee’s work, and Michael Pollan’s.

  32. molly
    January 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Hey Julie?

    You rock.

    Happy New Year’s to you, lovely lady. You are in good company, and I (for one) can’t wait to more of this same.

  33. Natalie (ga)
    January 10, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Julie ~ Over the last three years I have “known” you, you have offered sensible, delicious and fun tastes of life. I greatly appreciate your life-style view point of moderation.

    BTW: I am really enjoying “Good to the Grain ~ baking with whole grain flours” by Kim Boyce. I had never used spelt before. I made your biscuits from Grazing with it. They were SO good.

  34. eprairiegrrl
    January 10, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Yum! I love salads with feta and some kind of bean/legume! Now where do I find wheat berries?

  35. Susan
    January 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    This was might tasty. I tweaked based on what I had with red rice instead of wheat berries and a diced apple for the raisins. Perfect lunch with great texture and flavor. Thanks!

  36. Dana
    January 11, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    I really can’t add anything here that hasn’t already been said but wanted you to know that you’ve got a lot of support from your blog followers like me. You are one of the most capable and determined people I know. I have faith that you will do what is best for you and you will achieve your goals. You’ve done it before!!

  37. Terry
    May 12, 2011 at 10:17 am

    OMG – I just made this one – delicious! I made another batch and played around with some balsamic which I like as well. Thanks!

  38. Canadian eh
    July 15, 2011 at 8:09 am

    I think I must have been living under a rock or by the freeway. I only recently learned about quinoa and now wheat berry. I am sure I have eaten both of them, but you know we won’t eat it if you tell us what it is syndrome, so I think people haven’t told me what I’m eating. The one thing I know what I’m eating is calamari – it’s like chewing on a rubberband for awhile. I know I have just insulted the gourmands.

  39. Kerri
    August 18, 2011 at 11:50 am

    OMG. This is absolutely delicious. Ummmm

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