There are a whole range of grains that have been and can be used as food but are not commonly consumed in the US. Barley is one of those grains. Historically is was grown worldwide but was especially important in northern climates with short growing seasons (such as Iceland) as it doesn’t need a lot of heat to grow. Today it is grown in the US but nearly all of the production goes into animal feed and malted barley for beer making.

Last March my son, Scott, and I went to a convention and did some touring in Iceland. The hotel restaurant served a barley dish for breakfast. It was right next to skyr, a traditional Icelandic yogurt/cheese, and served in the same style container but I never determined if this breakfast barley was considered a traditional dish or not (like several places we visited in Iceland, the staff was seasonal help from elsewhere in Europe and didn’t know). It was the first time I remember eating barley other than those little bits in Campbell’s vegetable beef soup.

The only real challenge to this recipe was finding a source for barley and learning how to cook it. This recipe uses whole grain barley which may also called hulled or hulless barley depending on the variety grown. I can buy barley at my local natural foods store in the bulk bin section. It is also available by mail order from Bob’s Red Mill. Whole grain barley takes a long time to cook and is always chewy even when fully cooked.

We’d like to thank Bob’s Red Mill for providing the barley, dried apples and black currants for this recipe.

Icelandic Breakfast Barley

four 1 cup servings


  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill hulless barley
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon butter or margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill diced, dried apples
  • 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill black currants
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel (optional)
  1. Place barley, water, butter or margarine, and salt in a 2 quart saucepan for stove top or 3 quart bowl for microwave. (The butter or margarine keeps the water when mixed with small amounts of starch from the grain from boiling over.) Cover. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 90 minutes. Ideally all of the water should just be absorbed as the barley finishes cooking. Check near the end of cooking time and add boiling water if the barley is too dry or remove the lid if the barley is too wet. When cooking barley in the future, adjust water and/or cooking time as needed.
  2. While still hot, stir in dried apples, currants, honey and cinnamon. If there is a layer of starch on top of the barley when cooking it in the microwave, just stir it in with the apples and currants. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve hot or cold.




Raw Apple Cake

by Nancy on September 21, 2010

in Breads,Breakfasts,Cakes,Desserts

Raw Apple Cake

Raw apple cake is another old recipe handed down from my Grandma Brink that I make regularly. I like it better than applesauce cake for a couple of reasons. Bits of apple, along with the raisins and nuts, give this cake more texture than applesauce cake which I find too smooth. Also, most people use store bought applesauce which usually has very little flavor hence the cake has very little flavor.

I only make this cake in the summer from sweet, fully ripe summer or fall apples. Jonathan apples are my favorite. They rarely appear in the markets so I planted my own tree (did I say Jonathan is my favorite apple?).

This is a heavy, moist cake. Don’t try to tip the whole cake out of the pan, it’s likely to fall apart. Cut it into serving pieces and move the pieces to a serving plate or serve on individual plates.

Raw Apple Cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening (butter or margarine)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped raw apple (1 large apple)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  1. Cream sugar and shortening.
  2. Add egg, spices, soda, raisins, apple, and nuts.
  3. Mix in water and flour.
  4. Pour in greased pan and bake at 350 degrees; 8″ square pan for 40 minutes, 15 cupcakes for 20 minutes.



by Nancy on September 18, 2010

in Breads,Breakfasts,Desserts

Streusel Kuchen

Kuchen is one of my all time favorite foods. It’s like a pan-sized cinnamon roll with the filling on top. It was a specialty of my Grandma Brink. I didn’t start collecting old family recipes until several years after she passed away and I was sure the recipe was lost forever. Then one day my mother asked me if I would like an old church cookbook from my grandmother’s home town that she didn’t want anymore. In it was a recipe for kuchen that had been submitted by Grandma Brink’s best friend! I’m sure they traded the recipe.

But the story has another twist. During the time my kuchen recipe was “lost”, I kept an eye out for other kuchen recipes. I found one I liked in a cookbook called “Amana Colony Recipes”, another of those church cookbooks. This one was based on recipes used in the communal kitchens of the Amana Villages (Iowa). When I compared the two recipes the only difference was that my grandmother’s recipe included an egg. The Amana recipe also had a second version with fruit topping.

I make two versions of kuchen – streusel kuchen most of time but fruit kuchen when the apples on our tree are ripe. The dough is the same for each, only the topping changes.

And one last thing. The original recipes called for 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of water. That milk would have been whole milk. Since I only have lowfat milk in the house, I use all milk.


  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 T or 1 package dry yeast
  • 6 T shortening (butter or margarine)
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  1. Place shortening and milk in glass container. I just add the shortening to the measuring cup that I measure the milk in. Microwave milk and shortening for 2 minutes. This heats up the milk so the yeast will grow faster and softens/melts the shortening so it disperses as the dough is kneaded. You should be able to hold your finger in the milk indefinitely or it is too hot and will kill the yeast. Let it cool if it is too hot.
  2. Pour milk and shortening into mixing bowl and add sugar, salt and yeast.
  3. Wait 5 minutes. You should see froth or bubbles forming in the milk. The yeast is starting to grow. If the yeast is not growing, wait 5 more minutes. If it is still not growing, the milk was probably too hot and killed the yeast. If so, add another tablespoon or package of yeast and wait until it starts to grow. This is called proofing the yeast. You are proofing or proving that the yeast will grow.
  4. Add egg and 5 cups of flour. Mix.
  5. If you are using a machine to knead the dough, add more flour until the dough forms a mass around the dough hook and does not stick to the sides of the bowl. If kneading by hand, pour on floured counter and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky, is smooth and begins to “pop back” as you knead it.
  6. Divide dough in half. Place each half in a greased 9″ square pan. Press it out to the edges of the pan with floured fingers.
  7. Add one of the two toppings below.
  8. Let rise until tripled, about 1 hour depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If you are in a hurry or your kitchen is cold, heat oven to lowest temperature possible. Turn oven off, place kuchen in oven and let rise there (remove from oven before heating oven to baking temperature).
  9. Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes.

Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 cup shortening (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  1. Place sugar, flour and cinnamon in bowl and mix together.
  2. Add shortening. Cut into dry mixture with pastry blender or fork.
  3. Sprinkle evenly over kuchen.

Apple Kuchen

Fruit Topping

  • 2 small apples
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnanom
  1. Peel, core and slice apples.
  2. Arrange on top of kuchen.
  3. Sprinkle sugar then cinnamon over apples.

Other fresh or dried fruits can be used such as sliced peaches, dried apricots, sliced rhubarb or pitted cherries.