what is living?

The author, Joyce Maynard, says she feels most at home at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.  It is there she engages in those activities that define what living is to her.  And, more importantly, I am surmising she has also found a way of being.
Ponte Vedra Beach
What is living?  Maynard has prompted me to, once again, think about this question.  I’ve rolled this question around in my mind frequently over the past five years or so.  It has rolled in and out of consciousness.  But, this time around the idea of living has collided with me differently.  Why?  For the first time, I believe I am developing the ability to define what living is to me.  Am I a late bloomer?  Very likely.
Jasmine

The question deserves to be asked at different stages in life.  Maybe during those times when we feel like we are not doing what we want to do with our lives. Or, a need is perceived to make a significant change regardless of how we feel about the way we are currently choosing to live. Or, maybe you feel a small tug to make just a little change in your world.  Yet, you are not sure what that change should be.

I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for help when I make decisions throughout life.  So, in any form this question is used, if we ask it of ourselves, intentions begin to cultivate and grow.  Even if an audible answer does not arise (lucky you if one does!)  after we whisper to ourselves, “what does living mean to me?” the mind will take note of whatever the felt experience is.  Try not to need or expect an answer.  If you do get one, it does not have to be or need to be verbal.  In fact, I’ve found I do not get any audible answers or thoughts. I get a feeling. If the question brings up confusion, that is ok.  Let it bring up confusion.  It did for me for many years.  And, I am sure it will again in years to come.

(This is not to say I do not have confusion and anxiety with some areas of my life.  I do.  But, I am saying that some aspects of my life have been smoothed out and have lost their rough edges where confusion and indecisiveness used to reside.  I use myself as an example to, hopefully, create a rough guide for someone else who may want to gain a better understanding around their individual way of being.)

Asking the question, “what is living to me?” is similar to setting an intention at the beginning of a yoga class.  It prompts an energy and begins to sketch a blueprint that establishes a framework.  Yes, it is a blueprint that is in pencil because our lives are constantly in flux.  But, nevertheless, it is your blueprint.  This blueprint and framework will create a spaciousness allowing you to make changes, however large or small.  Some past fears may fall away.  It is your awareness that will take you there and shape your life’s path as time moves on just as Joyce Maynard did when she found Guatemala is where she feels most at home. It has become her way of being.

Nava Atlas' Vegan Sloppy Joes

A vegan treat, Nava Atlas’ sloppy joes.  Here I’ve posted her recipe verbatim.  But, when I made them I took the technique and subbed ingredients.  One addition I added that I’ll throw out there if you’d like to try, add 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and baking cocoa powder. It really brings a depth of flavor to the dish that I enjoyed.  Another thing I enjoyed was chili sauce rather than tomato sauce.   Either way, these are fun to make and are a really good, substantial dinner.  I dressed the bread with sharp dijon mustard, sweet pickle relish, and refreshing red leaf lettuce.

Nava Atlas’ Pinto Bean and Quinoa Sloppy Joes    

Serves: 4 to 6

  • 1/2 cup raw quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1/2 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 15- to 16-ounce can pinto or red beans,
    drained, rinsed, and coarsely mashed (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 medium tomato, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar or natural granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, or more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, plus more for topping, optional
  • Shredded lettuce, baby spinach leaves, or green sprouts
  • 6 whole grain rolls, English muffins, or mini-pitas

Combine the quinoa with 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a slow boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the bell pepper and sauté until both are golden.

Add the remaining ingredients except the last two, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook over medium-low heat, loosely covered, for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let the skillet stand off the heat for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle further and for the quinoa to absorb the tomatoey flavors.

For each serving, spoon some of the filling onto the bottoms of whole-grain rolls and cover with the tops. Or, you can serve these open-faced.

just washing the ceiling

Three rags in hand, standing on a tall step stool in our screened-in porch with a bucket of dirty, soapy water by my side, I was (ready for this?) washing the ceiling.  Yes, the ceiling.  As I wiped down the beadboard, board by board, I eventually gained a rhythm to the project.

Ollie watching the street scene -age 5

First, I tried a mop.  The end result was a wet head coupled with dirt, grime, and mold smeared on the ceiling.  After replacing the carpeting I had moved out of the way to use the mop, I tried using a rag rubbing back and forth to remove the black grime.  Although it wasn’t quite as messy, the rag quickly became dark with dirt and had to be rinsed too frequently.

I then moved on to using three rags.  Three because I could hold three in one hand and I had enough material to wipe down each board without having to rinse out the rags quite as much. Less steps to climb as I went up and down the stool to refresh each rag.

Varigeted Ginger

If I got ahead of myself, I found I had to redo something. If I skipped a board or did not wipe it down well, I was met with the idea of having a dingy gray ceiling instead of having the shiny, white beadboard ceiling back.  If I tried to reach further than where I comfortably could from the step stool, I became off-balance and my attention was drawn more to not losing my footing than the work I was doing above me.

As I painstakingly cleaned, I thought about how this experience was analogous to many of my life’s experiences. How often have I gotten ahead of myself?  Or, how often had I so badly wanted to get ahead of where I needed to be (or where I was) that I never started what I wanted to start?

Spider Lilly Blooms

Baby steps.  That ceiling took baby steps.  Aside from the fact it may seem crazy to clean a ceiling…I am quite thankful to have been reminded of that lesson.  The lesson that sometimes the only way to reach a goal or go through a process (so many things in life are a process) is one small step followed by another small step.

There is a saying in the yoga world, “meet yourself where you are.”    In other words, become mindful of who you are in the present and your surroundings without wanting something to be different than it is.  Take stock and go from there.  This provides a great jumping off platform…solid footing from which to work.

In that four hours, life was framed.  Life was taught.  Life was as is.

Savory Whole Grain Dish

Quinoa and Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Garbanzo Beans

The sweet sun-dried tomatoes play off the salty olives well.  Substance comes from quinoa, brown rice, and garbanzo beans. Nice finishing touches are a big squeeze of lemon, as much parsley as you like, and a slub of yogurt. If you don’t have quinoa, using all brown rice or farro in this dish would be fine rather than a combination of grains. The yogurt can be made into a sauce to serve on the side.  Add salt, a touch of raw garlic and a squeeze of lemon.  Stir to combine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. brown rice, cooked
  • 1/2 c. quinoa, cooked
  • 1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed, drained or cooked dried beans
  • 1 large leek, well cleaned, sliced thinly (about 2/3 c.)
  • 1/2 c. julienned oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 T. oil from tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. (heaping) pitted black olives, thinly sliced
  • vegetable broth, optional
  • chopped parsley
  • lemon wedges
  • T. or two of plain yogurt or prepared sauce, omit for vegans
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  1. Set aside prepared grains and beans.  In a large skillet heat 2 T of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Once heated, add the leeks and pinch of salt.  Increase heat slightly and begin to sauté the leeks.  Once the leeks have softened, about 5 –  7 minutes, stir in the prepared grains, beans, tomatoes, oil from tomatoes, and olives.  Warm through.  Salt to taste.  Add a splash or two of broth if dish needs moistening.
  2. Plate each serving.  Garnish with parsley, lemon wedge, and yogurt.   Serve immediately.  Serves 3 generously.

since when is dependency…good?

Dependency is good, when it is interdependence.  When we are connected by a need that two parties fulfill, such as in the relationship between farmer and consumer, interdependence can shine.  Whether is it the government buying surplus crop from a farmer or a woman purchasing corn from a produce stand to feed her family, consumer and farmer are dependent upon each other.  This links us together.  In this example, we are connected by a need for nourishment and sustenance. Interdependence is a link of unending dependence.

In the past several months, I’ve circled the idea of mutual dependency like a wolf circling its prey.  It was both intriguing and confusing to me.  It was intriguing because I didn’t actively embrace mutual reliances.  (Yes, this is foolish.)  It is not necessarily that I shun being dependent upon others, but my off-handed reaction was driven more by an uneducated indifference and a lack of awareness.  My confusion was driven by its application in some meditation traditions.

When I think of dependency, my mind immediately bounces as quickly as a tennis ball bounces off of a racquet to codependency.  Without skipping a beat, emotionally I begin to back away.  So, I had to put in the time to retrain my mind that dependency can be something that is to be welcomed.

Now, I understand the vibe of mutual reliance can be virtuous.  Going forward, I hope that I think more often of the farmer’s hands who planted all of the root vegetables in the soup my husband and I enjoy.  Hands stained black with dirt and hard work as I saw at a dinner I recently attended honoring food and cooking.  Or, I hope I remember that my favorite plant in the front yard was started by Rick in his nursery.  Had he not started the plant from seed, I would not be able to enjoy looking at it everyday.

So, when is dependency good?  It is good when a link of unending dependence answers mutual needs.  If you are interested in reading more about this topic, as a starting point I suggest visiting The Interdependence Project at theidproject.org.

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Parsnips and Beans

I keep coming back to this soup.  I’ve made it at least twice in the past week.  I’ve eaten it for dinner and lunch.  While it is not pretty or fancy, it is just the sort of thing I crave in a soup.  Tender, chunky vegetables that have retained a bit of bite.  A good dose of onion, lots of beans, a grain, and a little bit of seasoning to pull it all together.

Cook’s Notes:  *Vidalia green onions are typically found in markets the months of February, March, and early April.  They have a large white bulb and are the length of leeks. I love them and use them for the months they are available in place of sweet onions.  (If you cannot find them, simply substitute a sweet onion. I would not substitute the smaller, thinner green onion.)

Chunky Parsnip and Bean Soup

  • 2 lg. or 3 small carrots, rinsed, diced, (peel on)
  • 2 lg. or 3 small parsnips, rinsed, diced, (peel on)
  • 2 lg. *Vidalia spring onions with green tops, rinsed, slice thinly including the green tops
  • or 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 to 2 t. ground thyme
  • 2 t. oregano
  • 2 – 3 T. tomato paste
  • 1 15 oz. can cannelini beans, rinsed, and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed, and drained
  • 4 + c. vegetable broth, preferably low-sodium and water as desired
  • 2 + c. cooked brown rice
  • salt to taste
  1. In a medium saucepan, cook 1 c. brown rice according to package directions.  Set aside.
  2. In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat 1 – 2 T. extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Add the diced carrots and parsnips with a pinch of salt.  Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently as they begin to soften, about 8 or so minutes.  Add the onion and continue to cook over medium heat about another 8 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary.
  3. When the vegetables are fork tender and the onion has become translucent, push the veg to the side and add 2 or 3 T. of tomato paste.  Stir continuously as the paste loses its raw flavor, about 1 – 2 minutes.
  4. Add the spices.  Stir continuously about 1 – 2 minutes to bloom the spices.  Add 3 c. of broth, half of each dish of drained and rinsed beans, and half of the rice.  Stir to combine.  Now add the remaining broth, rice, and beans to your liking.  Substitute 1 c. water for broth, if desired.  (I ended up using about 2/3 of each can of beans, 2 1/2 c. of broth, 1c. of water, and 2 1/2 c. of the cooked rice.)  Simmer for 5 or so minutes until the flavors begin to come together.  Serve hot.  Dress each bowl of soup with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, if desired.

the sweetness of allowing

Do you have a situation(s) in your life you’d like to change? The past several months have found me wrestling and wrangling with circumstances in my life I wanted to learn how to approach differently.  I simply couldn’t find a way to do it, until recently.  About a week ago, I came up with an idea I thought may help.  I would try to be with these situations differently; and, I would try to allow them.

My first attempts in handling these aspects of my life were to work on changing my reactions to them.  While not altogether a bad idea, I wasn’t making any headway.  It became a battle.  Perhaps I developed an expectation that I had to alter my responses. I don’t know.  But, I subscribe to Aristotle’s theory “we are what we repeatedly do.”  So, my thinking was if I could modify my responses to these circumstances, I’d step off of the circular mental train track I was on.  Even though I would find myself back on the same track at times, once I had the opportunity to get off the track, I was pretty confident I could do it more and more often.  Yet, something about it wasn’t a fit for me with these situations.

One morning while doing household tasks, I had a feeling. Not a thought, but a feeling that I could be with these aspects of my life differently.  I could allow them.  I could allow them to be as they are.  In doing so, my presence around each circumstance changed.  (If that makes sense.) With this change, I was afforded the opportunity of approaching the situations with less emotion. In turn, equipping myself to more readily allow them.

I can’t emphasize enough the significance around my changed presence in each situation.  For me, that seemed to be a key.  Not for solving a problem or fixing it, but for being with it.

Possibly this led to a change in reaction as well?  I don’t think it did.  My reactions, although softened, are about the same.  But in modifying my presence around each circumstance, I’ve been granted space.  Breathing room.

Approaching and allowing the situations rather than changing my reactions reminds me of the difference between a Meyer lemon and a regular lemon. While both are lemons, the Meyer lemon is sweeter and less acidic than a standard lemon.  It has less bite.  Less zing. In like manner, I noticed less bite and zing when approaching each situation and allowing it.

Most likely, we could all use a little less bite and zing in our lives.  Maybe by changing our presence around a difficult situation, a little more sweetness can emerge out of the most challenging areas of our lives.  I hope so.  And, for the record, I think it can.  Scratch that.  I know it can.
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How about a dinner idea for a substantial vegan meal? Chunks of roasted butternut squash combined with coconut milk soaked quinoa and garbanzo beans brightened with wilted baby spinach leaves.  This is a good meal to use the proportions of vegetable, grain (although quinoa is technically a seed, any whole grain could be substituted), and bean you enjoy.  The following is a blueprint to follow.
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Here’s how I did it:
  • I medium butternut squash, cubed and *roasted at 350 degrees until softened and lightly browned, about 35 – 40 minutes
  • 1 c. or so white or red quinoa, or combo, cooked, set aside
  • 1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, set aside
  • 1/2 med. yellow or sweet onion, diced, sautéed in large skillet with coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil and large pinch salt
  • 2 t. curry powder
  • 1 t. each, turmeric and coriander
  • 1/2 c. or so full fat or lite coconut milk
  • 2 – 3 c. baby spinach, rinsed and drained
  • salt to taste
  1. Once squash and quinoa are prepared and the onion has softened, add beans and spices to the skillet.  Bloom the spices by allowing them to heat while stirring constantly, about 1- 2 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut milk and the spinach, stir to combine, put the lid on and steam the spinach over medium heat to medium low heat until it wilts, about 3 – 5 minutes.
  3. After the spinach is wilted, stir in the amounts of quinoa and squash you’d prefer.  Adjust with more coconut milk if necessary.  Salt to taste.  Warm through and serve.

Cook’s Notes:  Many cooks prefer full-fat coconut milk for the flavor and texture.  Although I do use it, sometimes it tends to be a bit too heavy for me.  I found in this recipe the light coconut milk lends enough of a subtle coconut flavor so the full-fat is not needed.  It is purely preference.

Roasted Squash:  Remove the tough outer skin of the squash by halving the squash.  Then, with two shorter pieces to work with, slice off the bulb of each piece where it narrows resulting in a stable cutting surface.  Next, cut straight down the side of the squash with your hand on the top of the vegetable stabilizing it.  Scrape out the seeds as necessary.  Cut the vegetable into bite-size cubes.  On a large baking sheet, toss the squash with salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.  Spread into an even layer.  Roast at 350 degrees for 35- 40 minutes until the squash is soft and barely beginning to brown.

to tend or to dog paddle

I am dog paddling.  A softer way to put it may be to say I am running in place. Either way, I can attribute it to two things when I start to feel like this:

1) Charged emotion is present.

2) Most likely, fear is involved.

As I mentioned in December’s post, identifying charged events can be helpful in releasing some of the power within them.  Similarly, identifying the charged emotion(s) beneath those events is also helpful in loosening up the stronghold emotion sometimes seems to have in our lives.

January Orchid

Of course, emotions are a part of being human.  Though some may be more difficult than others to handle, both positive and negative emotions can lead us to areas of our life that may need a little tending, if you will.  They need a little care and thought.

I’ve come to think of those aspects of my life simply as being a bit neglected.  Neglected because unprocessed emotions will typically stick around.  And, they are, in effect, neglected because had they been tended to they most likely wouldn’t be sticking around weighing on us, causing us to repeat behavior patterns that we just can’t seem to shake.

January Orchids

I very well may be making this too simplistic, but I think of a main character in a children’s book, a girl about eight years old.  Perhaps this little girl is a sullen friendless child moping around from day to day.  She sees other children playing outside and gets very angry that she does not have a friend.  She experiences jealousy while peering out her bedroom window at the trio of girls playing hopscotch in front of her home.  This goes on for months.

White Rose

But, soon she begins to venture out of her home.  She introduces herself to the group of hopscotcher’s and befriends them.

This little girl was running in place as she moped around from day to day in her home.  She was feeling charged emotion and, possibly, fear was present.  Acknowledging the desire for change, she stepped outside to introduce herself to the group of girls playing outside her home.  Now, she no longer feels anger or jealousy when she sees a group of kids playing together.  She (inadvertently) tended to her emotions.   Seeing the same situation now draws a different response from her.

We too can dissolve tightly held emotions around certain situations in our lives and begin to experience the same situations differently.  Where charged emotion is present if we bring time and attention to it, rather then busy ourselves with whatever method we use for distraction, it may loosen up and begin to dissolve.  The edges of those emotions may begin to soften.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Curry

A friend of mine often reminds me to look under and around emotion.  To soften, loosen up, and eventually dissolve strong emotional reactions, we may ask ourselves what underlies a particular event or situation?  If we are angry, why are we angry?  Might fear be hiding under that anger?  If it is fear, what are we afraid of and is it a realistic fear?

These are just some simple ways to address charged emotion in our lives.  I know I have areas in my life I’d like to tend to a bit more.  If I can, I’ll gently bring time and attention to them.  Maybe, then, the future will find me dog paddling just a little bit less.

Some of my favorite dishes lately have involved curry, coconut milk, and coconut oil.  I found combining many of these traditional curry elements with sweet potatoes, quinoa, and black beans makes for an enjoyable, substantial meal.  The potatoes lend sweetness, the curry is pleasantly pungent, and the quinoa soaks up all of the flavors of the sauce.

Black Bean, Quinoa, and Sweet Potato Curry

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, rinsed, cut into bite-sized pieces, and roasted
  • 1 c. quinoa (white or “regular”), rinsed, cooked according to package directions, set aside
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed, drained, set aside
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed, drained, set aside
  • 2 T. coconut oil
  • 1 thick slice (about 1/2″ thick) yellow or sweet onion, diced
  • 2 scallions, rinsed, diced, reserving a handful of green tops for garnish, if desired
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1″ knob fresh ginger, skin removed, minced or 1 T. jarred minced ginger
  • 1/2 c. full-fat coconut milk, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine or good quality *vegetable broth
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1 1/2 t. turmeric
  • 1/2 t. coriander
  • salt

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Clean and cut the sweet potatoes (leaving the skin on) into bite-size pieces.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.  Bake until they are fork tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa according to the package directions.  Cook until the translucent ring around the seed becomes visible, about 15 minutes.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, add 2 T. coconut oil, warm gently over medium heat, add onion and scallions with a pinch of salt, cook until soft, 3 – 5 min.

Add the spices, stirring constantly until fragrant, about one minute.  Add the garlic and ginger stirring constantly until fragrant, about one minute.

Add the wine or broth.  Deglaze the pan and stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Add the coconut milk, black beans, 1/2 of the cooked quinoa, and a pinch of salt.  Stir and warm through for a few minutes.

Add the roasted sweet potatoes and the pinto beans to desired bean to grain ratio (I used almost all of the pintos.) If desired, add more quinoa.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more coconut milk for a looser consistency.

Once warmed through, about 3 – 5 minutes, serve.  To reheat, add a splash or two of coconut milk before warming.

Serves 2 – 3 generously.

change with color

In the movie, The Magic of Belle Isle, starring Morgan Freeman, Freeman moves to a small town for a summer and ends up mentoring a young girl, Finnigan, who is almost ten years old.  She wants to be a writer.  Knowing he was a writer, she asks him to teach her.  They exchange $34.18 and he agrees to give her lessons.

Their first lesson begins with both of them out by a road in their neighborhood.  It is an ordinary looking road that one might see in many neighborhoods.  The colors are a neutral palette: the green of leafy canopies, the beige of homes, the gray of concrete.  Trees are here and there, neither plotted nor planned.  Mailboxes line the street in soldier-like fashion.

As the camera pans down the street, Freeman asks Finnigan to look down the road.

“Tell me what it is you do not see,” he says to her.

She spins around toward him, eyebrows raised, hands on hips, “What?!  I paid you $34.18 for lessons.  What do you mean tell you about what I don’t see?”

Angry, she stomps off.  Freeman chuckles gently and calls out to her, “Next lesson will be tomorrow morning!”

What is it that we do not see?  What is it that we do not hear?  I can tell you what I do hear oftentimes, cancer.  It lightly treads around the edges of my consciousness looking for an opening to peek in and ask, “Remember me?”  My neural pathways are well grooved (anymore tunneling and I’d show up in China, head first) when it comes to my mind and dealing with illnesses.  I am missing other good life stuff as my mind travels down that familiar pathway.

Since I want to create new patterns of thinking, going forward how am I going to handle adversity differently?

Certainly there are times when the adversity will be front and center.  If your child seems to be having allergic reactions to foods but you are not yet sure which foods, you’ll be giving that issue more brain space while it is being handled and resolved.  Or, maybe you’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer and need to make treatment decisions.

But, during those times when we are handling difficult tasks, do we see what it is we are not seeing as Freeman was teaching Finnigan to do?  Do we hear what it is we are not hearing?  Are we able to maintain awareness such that we live in the present letting the past lie and allowing the future to come as it will?

There are times in my life when I find this more difficult to do than others.  Lately it has been difficult. So, I’ll be working on this in the coming months and years. (It is a lifetime practice.)  Training to become more aware of what is, presently, rather than what could or should or might be.

If we find ourselves getting caught up in frequent, repetitive thoughts, one idea is to give yourself and your mind a break.  For one or two minutes, hear what it is you are not hearing.  Maybe your toddler is softly humming to herself or the birds are singing.  See what it is you are not seeing.  Maybe the deep purple of cooked black rice could be the next best crayola color, or the clouds have taken on the hue of autumn’s evening light, deep gold.

In shining our light of awareness on what it is we are not hearing or seeing, those familiar grooved pathways we are desirous of changing will become a little less worn. In cultivating this practice, we will develop our mindfulness muscles and create new neural pathways.

Marcia Rose Shulman has well greased pathways in creating gorgeous food.  Her Black Rice Risotto is loaded with color, nutrition, and flavor.  The magenta hue of the beets bleeds beautifully throughout the dish.  Using two different grains provides different textures.  The wine adds complexity and depth of flavor.  Depending on how much cheese you choose to use, the traditional comforting creaminess of a risotto is intact.

Below is my adapted version.  I increased the vegetable to rice ratio.  Omitted the cheese. (But included it as an option in the recipe for those of you who want to add it. A different cheese alternative could be Manchego.  It would be nice grated over the top of the finished dish.) Roasted the beets with the skins on. And, substituted farro for the arborio rice to boost nutrition and texture.

Black Rice Risotto

adapted from Martha Rose Shulman

  • 1 c. black rice*, such as Forbidden Foods Rice, cooked
  • 1 c. farro*
  • 1 qt. vegetable or chicken stock, as needed, preferably low-sodium
  • 1 bunch beet greens, rinsed, stems removed
  • 2 or 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or 1 t. jarred minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 medium or large beets, rinsed well, cut into bite size pieces, roasted**
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, if using, for a more traditional risotto
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook black rice according to package directions, set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, warm over medium heat 2 T. extra virgin olive oil.  Once heated, add diced onion.  Sauté the onion until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes, add the farro and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are fragrant about 3 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 qt. stock in a medium saucepan to barely boiling.  Cook the washed beet greens for about 10 seconds or less in stock, just until wilted.  Remove greens with tongs reserving stock.  Set greens aside to cut into bite size pieces.  Turn heat down to simmer on the stock.
  4. Stir the wine into the grain and onion mixture.  Continue stirring frequently until the liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding 1/2 c. or so of broth, stir frequently.  When liquid has been absorbed add another 1/2 c. or so of stock.  Continue adding stock when liquid has been absorbed for about 25 minutes total cooking time until farro is al dente.
  5. Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl, place roasted beets, cooked beet greens, add amounts of cooked rice and farro to your liking, reserving the remaining grains for another meal*, add parmesan cheese if using.  Combine well.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve.

*Marcia’s recipe calls for 1 c. cooked black rice.  I used about 1/3 of the cooked rice.  If desire less rice in the dish with fewer leftovers, 1/2 c. rice could be cooked.

**To roast the beets:  preheat the oven to 350°.  On a large baking sheet place cut beets, toss them with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Spread them out evenly.   Roast 25 – 35 minutes until soft.

Yield: 4 servings