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Erin Go Bragh!

Cabbage and Barley with Turkey MeatballsSpring is just around the corner and that means St. Patrick's Day can't be far behind. You may be planning to hoist a few green beers, but before you do, why not fortify yourself with a modern take on that Irish favorite, corned beef and cabbage. This time though, think turkey meatballs and cabbage. The combination of cabbage, barley, and turkey is consistent with both the season and the American Institute for Cancer Research's New American Plate, a guide that promotes meals for a healthy weight and a healthy life.

Cultivated for more than 4,000 years in Asia, the Irish brought cabbage to Europe around 600 B.C. Cabbage is low in calories, packed with cancer-fighting phytochemicals, and rich in vitamins C and K.

Native Americans hunted wild turkey as early as 1000 A.D. Domesticated in Mexico and brought to Europe in the 16th century, it was the first bird on the moon when astronaut Neil Armstrong ate turkey in a foil packet for his first lunar meal.

The caraway seeds, which are actually the fruit of a biennial herb of the parsley family, provide a somewhat sweet and tangy flavor. The fennel, native to the Mediterranean region, is more aromatic and less pungent. Its name comes from the Greek word for marathon because the famous battle at Marathon in 490 B.C. against the Persians was fought on a field of fennel. The addition of barley makes this a satisfying dish that suits the transition of winter to spring. Add a dollop or two of Tabasco sauce if you prefer some zest!

Cabbage and Barley with Turkey Meatballs


  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. whole-wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. low-fat Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. ground turkey meat

Cabbage and Barley

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 cups coarsely shredded cabbage
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup barley
  • Salt, to taste (optional)
  • Tabasco sauce, to taste, (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium mixing bowl add garlic, onion, egg, bread crumbs, ketchup, cheese, parsley, and pepper, and blend. Mix in turkey. Shape mixture into 1-inch diameter meatballs.

Place meatballs in glass baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Cabbage and Barley:

In deep skillet, over medium-high heat, add oil, cabbage, onion, garlic, caraway, and fennel. Cook, stirring until cabbage has wilted slightly, about 3 minutes.

In medium mixing bowl, whisk together broth, mustard, and vinegar. Add to skillet along with barley and stir. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 40 minutes or until barley is tender. Gently stir occasionally and add water if too dry.

Optional: Salt to taste. Add a dash of Tabasco, to taste, for some zest.

Add meatballs to skillet. Gently stir to combine all ingredients. Let mixture stand for about 2 minutes, garnish with parsley and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Per serving: 360 calories, 11 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 45 g carbohydrate,
20 g protein, 9 g dietary fiber, 480 mg sodium.

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