Monday, April 16, 2012

Meatless Monday: Spring Vegetable Risotto with Balsamic Asparagus & Portabellos

A couple of years ago, Duff Man bought us tickets to the International Food & Wine Festival at the Ronald Reagan Building.  While we were there, we caught a cooking demonstration with Todd Gray from Equinox.  What I remember most was his discussion of risotto which boiled down to "Fight the power!  Don't stir it!"

I pump my fist with you, Todd Gray, and I pledge my allegiance to your cause: delicious risotto sans sore arms.

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Balsamic Asparagus & Portabellos

For the Risotto:

1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1 leek, halved and sliced thinly (light green & white parts only; float them in a water bath so the silt falls to the bottom, then scoop the greens from the top and pat dry with a tea towel)
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. arborio rice
1/3 c. dry white wine
3 1/3 c. vegetable stock, brought to a boil and then turned down to simmer on low (I cheated and used chicken stock because I had some fresh stuff on hand.)
2/3 c. English peas
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. mascarpone or cream cheese (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Basil or your favorite herbs, chopped

For the Grilled Veggies:
1/2 bunch of asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1-2 portabello mushrooms, wiped clean and gills scraped
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 T. grill seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced

Heat a large pot or dutch oven on medium heat and add the olive oil & butter.  Once the butter has melted, add the leeks, onions, and garlic to the pan and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the rice, coating the grains thoroughly, then add the wine.  Simmer while stirring, 2 minutes.  Add 1-2 ladles (about 1/3) of hot stock into the rice, stir to combine, then let sit.  (Fight the power!)  

Once the rice has absorbed the stock, add the next 1/3, stir, and wait some more.

While you're waiting, fire up the broiler or grill to high.  Mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, grill seasoning, and garlic in a small, airtight container.  Shake vigorously to combine.  Pour the marinade over the asparagus and mix well--then arrange on grill or broiler pan.  Repeat with portabellos.  Grill/Broil for 4-5 minutes.

Add the rest of the stock, then add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and peas; season with salt & pepper to taste, and then--you guessed it--wait some more.

Pull the veggies off of the grill and set aside.  Once the risotto has absorbed the last of the stock, stir in the parmesan, mascarpone or cream cheese, herbs, and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.

Add the risotto to your serving bowl and top with asparagus, and sliced portabellos.  Garnish with extra parmesan and chopped herbs.  


Friday, April 13, 2012

My Mala Beads

On a cold, dark November morning, my teacher training classmates and I rolled out of bed before dawn and hiked up to the main house of our retreat center out in the countryside of Virginia.  We had a mala practice scheduled for the day.  However, the group's physical and mental exhaustion led Padma substitute our 108 sun salutations with a different type of mala practice.

We sat in a circle, lit only by a few flickering candles, with a needle, a length of cord, and a number of small slips of paper in our place.  We sat in the dark and passed around little glass spheres--our "guru" beads which formed the beginning of the malas we created.  The beads were all a little different--slightly bigger or smaller, smoother or more coarse, and different colors.  They represented the teachers we would become--sharing common traits as teachers while each expressing a different style.  Once we felt we had settled on our guru beads, we threaded them onto the cord.

Over the course of the next hour or so, we sat in the dim room.  We took turns going around the circle and sharing the words written on the slips of paper in front of us.  There were 108 words total, words representing the qualities of a good teacher.  Creative... Caring... Inspiring... Dedicated... One person would read a word, and then we would each reach into the center of the circle and pick up another bead--these ones were wooden.  They came in different sizes, shapes, and (although we couldn't see it at the time) colors.  They represented our students.  As a teacher, you don't know what your students will look like--you teach those who come to you.

108 words later, we tied off our cords and completed our malas.

Yesterday, as I was getting dressed I saw my mala beads on my dresser and I put them on solely because they were a good accessory to my outfit.  As the day went on, though, I remembered how and why I created them.  

This has been a really hard week for me, professionally speaking.  Every day this week, I have had someone tell me they were angry at me, that their student hated me, that their student thought I hated them, that I'm doing X well, but I still need to work on Y.  Every day this week, I have had someone implicitly or explicitly tell me that they think I'm a bad teacher.  It's been exhausting.  I feel like a failure, I feel frustrated, I feel like I can never win.  I can't live a balanced life AND be as professionally successful as when I was working until 10 or 11pm every night and never saw my husband or did anything outside of my classroom.  And yet, when I was spending that much time at school, I was a miserable person--miserable to be around, unhealthy, unbalanced.  

So this morning, I put my beads back on as a reminder of why I do this.  A reminder of what I can be, not in the yoga world, but in the public school world.  A reminder that I need persistence and determination and discipline in addition to kindness and compassion and creativity.  A reminder that "perfect" was NOT a word that anyone thought about when describing a good teacher.  A reminder that, somewhere along the way, I thought I was a good teacher. 

Today, I'm wearing my mala beads in hopes that they help me remember why I thought I was a good teacher... and maybe as a reminder of the things I need to do to feel that way again one day.

Hopefully sooner than later.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Random Friday Vrittis

...formerly known as Random Friday Facts

1)  I've got about five blog posts written in my head--good ones, at that--that I never made time to write over Spring Break.

2) I always intend to do work over break, but for the past few years I've focused more on relaxing.  I don't regret it.  (Ask me how I feel about this on Tuesday and you may find a different answer.)

3) I ate peas for the first time in a long time yesterday and I didn't totally hate them.  

4) I've spent most of this week hanging out with friends and taking (and teaching) lots of yoga.  It's been pretty great.

5) I've also made lots of tasty food.  

6) Earlier this week I decided that, if I ever organized a formal cycling event, it would be called "Slow Girls with Helmets."  Because that's who I am and that's who I care about.

7) A couple of my friends are starting to dabble in the world of triathlon.  I think that's amazing--but I could never do it because of the swim leg.  

8) There was a time when I defined myself almost entirely through my work.  That's no longer the case--and that's a good thing.

9) I downloaded Instagram this week.  It's pretty cool, but not quite as awesome as I had hoped.

10) I found out yesterday that I was accepted into grad school (again.)  I'm hoping to take 2 or 3 classes this summer so I can have a lighter class schedule during the school year.  Mostly, I'm really happy that I can finally start planning out my summer.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012