Expecting turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie at the table this Thanksgiving? Super-charge Thanksgiving dinner this year by updating the menu with nutrient dense foods like kale, barley and wild mushrooms. Phytonutrients in kale are powerful in protecting cells from cancer and preventing heart disease. As with all leafy greens, kale is packed with anti-oxidant rich vitamin A and fiber.

When it comes to potatoes, skip them and serve whole grain barley instead. Barley contains beta-glucan fiber, which helps reduce cholesterol, improve the immune system and regulate blood sugar. Barley is also known to lower blood pressure and reduce visceral fat. With barley’s slow-releasing carbs, the body feels satiated for a longer period of time, which will also help stave off that late night craving for more pumpkin pie.

Here, barley pilaf is enriched with fresh kale, green onion and wild mushrooms and served with flavorful protein and iron-rich lamb chops instead of turkey, which promote healthy kidneys and muscle. This holiday season, leave the table feeling super-charged, not super-stuffed.

Spiced Lamb Chops with Barley and Kale Pilaf
(Serves 4)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 rib lamb chops (about 2 pounds)
½ cup fresh wild mushrooms such as morel, cremini, and porcini
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup barley
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
½ cup chopped fresh kale
¼ teaspoon fine lemon zest
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

1. Whisk together garlic, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cilantro, lime juice, orange juice, ¼ teaspoon sea salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil.

2. Transfer to a large, sealable plastic bag, add lamb, seal bag and massage until lamb is evenly coated. Marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.

3. Begin making the barley by heating 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, shallots, and barley and saute about 3 minutes. Add vegetable broth, and green onion. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside. Just before serving, stir in kale, lemon zest, remaining sea salt, remaining black pepper and parmesan cheese.

4. While barley is cooking, finish the lamb chops. Heat remaining olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb and sear for 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and sear an additional 3 to 4 minutes for medium-rare or until desired doneness. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve over barley.

Nutritional Information Per Serving
Serving size: 2 lamb chops with 1 cup barley
Calories: 741
Fat: 30.9g
Saturated Fat: 9g
Carbohydrates: 38.2g
Protein: 76.2g
Fiber: 8.4g
Sodium: 1055mg

Susan Irby, the Bikini Chef, is a radio host for Bikini Lifestyles on 790 KABC, an author and specialist in healthy “bikini” cuisine. Follow her at or visit her online at

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