Sugar Snap and Barley Salad with Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Sugar Snap and Barley Salad with Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Let’s chat for a moment, you and me.

Let’s talk about diets and binges, too much birthday cake, and climbing back on the wagon.

We could also talk about how, even though I am not dieting, I am desperately trying to avoid malted chocolate Robin’s Eggs because they puff up my muffin top and make my jeans too tight.

We could expound on that and talk about how I behaved myself all day long yesterday until 9 pm; then, like a ravage beast, I chowed through 30 of those little mini-sized suckers.

Instead though, let’s talk about crazy-healthy grains and spices, high fiber and protein.

Let’s talk about how you might have the willpower to do extreme dieting, but I don’t.

Because I don’t like torture.

But because you are dieting, and maybe that birthday cake I made caused you a slight downward spiral, I’m making a peace-offering with this salad.

Here’s the heaping scoop of benefits for you to enjoy:

Barley is pretty much a rock star. It’s lower calorie than whole-grain brown rice, with way more fiber and protein; it’s low fat, it cleans out your colon, and can help reduce cholesterol. Plus, pearled barley is pretty.

Spinach is a super food. It’s dark, it’s green, and it tastes way better than, say, algae-coated sea weed or grass. It’s high fiber, it’s packed with antioxidants, it might help fight cancer, and it wields anti-inflammatory agents. It can help lower blood pressure, protect your eyes, boost the immune system, improve your skin, strengthen your bones, and make your nervous system and brain function like nicely paired, well-oiled machines. You can read about it here.

Sugar snap peas? They’re crunchy, sweet, high in fiber, and their water content makes them ultra-refreshing and filling. Vitamins K, A, B6, and C hang out in there, pretty much throwing a vita-party. It’s a fun diet veggie.

Shrimp, contrary to the connotation that comes with their name, are sort of huge big healthy deals. Loaded with protein, they’re carb-free, low fat, low-calorie, can help increase thyroid health, and yup – again – they’re packed with vitamins.

Now let’s get down to my favorite part. The spices. According to the article, “Think Spice”, by Jessica Girdwain in Fitness magazine this month, cayenne pepper “helps crank up your body’s thermostat, firing up your metabolism and helping you burn off extra calories and fat”. Cumin helps keep your energy level high and your immune system in fighting shape, and oregano can help fend off the flu.

And lemon? Yeah. He’s all over this salad. Everywhere. He’s kind of an oldster to the antioxidant game – like an oxidant warrior.

Go on now. Climb back onto that wagon, or – better yet – push your hubby on up from behind.

And, (waving my hands like a Jedi in front of your face) that birthday cake never happened. . . .

Sugar Snap and Barley Salad with Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

374 calories

This salad is packed full of fiber (10 g per serving), protein (26 g per serving), and brain/body boosting spices. It's healthy to the bone. One mental note I made to myself was that next time I would try adding the heated oil and spice mixture to the barley alone - toss it well so it absorbs more flavor, then toss the coated barley with the greens and add the lemon. It's worth considering . I also stepped away from standard cooking instructions on the barley. By cooking it like a pasta instead of how you might cook rice, the individual grains are encouraged to say intact and mildly firm - almost al dente. In my opinion, whole grains can't get much worse than a warm bowl of mush.

To make best use of your cooking time, I would slice the peas and prepare the oil while the barley boils, then when the barley steams in the pot after draining, skewer the shrimp, then toss the salad together- including the barley, plate the salad, then grill. That way, the shrimp are hot when you serve.


  • 1 Cup dry pearled barley
  • 4 Cups fresh sliced sugar snap peas, (sliced on the diagonal)
  • 2 Cups baby spinach
  • 1 Pound white shrimp, shells and vein removed
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 - 8 lemon wedges, for serving
  • for the dressing:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic(depending on your preference), pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, rubbed between palms
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons coarse salt (depending on your taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon (start with juice from half, then add more if needed)
  • for the marinade:
  • 1 tablespoon Lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped cilantro
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (ramp this up if you like spice)
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt


First, prepare the marinade:

In a large zip-top bag, add all marinade ingredients. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Cook the barley:

set a large pot of water to boil as you would for cooking pasta - the barley needs plenty of room to float around freely as it cooks.

Once water is boiling, add the barley. Cook for 30 minutes at a low, rolling boil. Drain in a strainer or colander. Set colander over pot, cover. Allow to stand for 15 minutes, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Meanwhile, prepare your olive oil:

In a small pan, add olive oil, garlic, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. Heat until fragrant, but do not brown garlic. Remove from heat and set aside.

Assemble the salad:

In a LARGE bowl, combine barley, sliced peas, and spinach. Drizzle oil mixture over the top. Toss until well coated. Add lemon juice, (starting with half, then adding more if desired) and toss well again. Taste for salt and pepper, and toss a final time.

Divide salad evenly over 4 plates. Sprinkle red pepper flakes over the top if desired, and add a wedge or two of lemon for garnish.

Grill the shrimp:

For ease of turning the shrimp while grilling, skewer 5-6 shrimp each with double skewers set at least 1/4" apart. (to be sure your skewers don't catch fire, soak them in water for 15 minutes before grilling).

Grill shrimp over medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side until pink and cooked through (they will be opaque).

Add shrimp skewers to plates and serve while shrimp is warm.

Store any leftovers immediately in the fridge.


Sara | Home is Where The Cookies Are

13 thoughts on “Sugar Snap and Barley Salad with Spicy Grilled Shrimp

  1. Birthday cake? There was cake? I don’t remember a thing!

    I love this–barley was such a staple for me growing up, and I need to go buy some now! Thanks for the reminder.

    Also! I totally have one of those placemats too. So that makes three of us.

  2. Can’t wait to make this. Will probably substitute a bag of Trader Joe’s baby spinach/kale/Swiss chard for the plain spinach.

  3. Made this last night…well, more accurately a version of this…I hate spinach. And I ran out of lemon juice part way through even though it was on my grocery list, but, well, with Little C incessantly chanting “I want a cookie” as soon as we stepped into Publix, I apparently have lost the ability to read and shop at the same time. ANYWAY, loved the marinade, loved the dressing, discovered a love of never tried before barley and replaced the spinach with some edible veggies and ate the whole thing hot instead of cold. Now just waiting for that fiber to kick in as I sit here finishing my morning coffee 🙂

    • Nice! Well, glad you found good stuff to sub for the spinach, and I’m glad you have a new-found barley love! My job here is done. 🙂

  4. Pingback: A Pea for your Thoughts | potsoup

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