1 tablespoon olive oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each), lightly pounded to flatten
¼ cup plus 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1½ cups diced carrots
1 cup diced red bell pepper
¾ cup diced celery
½ cup diced onion
4 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1½ cups uncooked pearl barley
1 cup peeled and diced zucchini
¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
½ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
3 ounces Cabot Sharp Lite50 Cheddar, grated (about ¾ cup)
HEAT oil in large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook until browned on both sides.
Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool.
ADD ¼ cup of broth to pot; bring to simmer and add carrots, bell pepper, celery, onion and thyme. Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.
ADD remaining 6 cups broth and barley and bring to a boil. Cover pot, reduce heat to maintain gentle simmer and let cook for 20 minutes.
DICE cooled chicken and stir into pot, along with zucchini. Cover pot again and cook risotto for about 15 minutes longer or until liquid is absorbed, barley is cooked and mixture is creamy. (Add more broth if needed.)
Remove from heat, discarding thyme sprigs if used. Stir in parsley, ground red pepper and cheese.