Risotto: Joanna style!

Hi all,

Working on getting back in the blogging game and picking up where I left off last time.

What’s awesome about risotto is that you truly can easily create quite the elegant dish while having some creative fun with pretty much anything edible sitting in your fridge or kitchen. My trial approach—with white long grain rice, heaven forbid!—is proof! (Never occurred to me to take a picture of it done. Sorry! Please don’t ask what’s up with the formatting on this particular paragraph of text. I am clueless.)

Here’s Jake again–to make up for the food pic I should have taken–he’s so much cuter than a bowl of rice, don’t you think?

Back to the post!

Here’s what I used to make ‘risotto’:

One small to medium onion, finely chopped

One small zucchini, chopped

One clove of garlic, coarsely chopped

About 3 tbsp of olive oil

One tbsp or so of butter/margarine

1-1/2 cups of long grain white rice

One quart of chicken broth

½ cup white wine (I had chardonnay in the fridge—BTW, you can adjust to taste here)

pepper to taste

a few slivers of dried rosemary

Here’s what I did (in a 12-inch, heavy-based non-stick frying pan):

Sautéed the onions and zucchini in the olive oil until tender;

Added the garlic and cooked until golden;

Added the rice and stirred to coat it.

Slowly poured in one cup of broth, stirring lovingly until the rice absorbed it; repeated this process until I used up the wine and 3 cups of broth total. (Somewhere along the way I added the margarine, a dash of pepper and crumbled in the rosemary.) According to the online recipe, I should have been almost done, about 25 minutes in after having added the rice to the veggies.

My rice, however, seemed to have alternate ideas about getting soft. Forget al dente; the grains were downright crunchy. So here’s where I let instinct take over: I added the rest of the broth (about a cup), raised the heat to high and let the liquid come to a boil. I immediately reduced the heat to low and covered the pan tightly, letting it simmer about 15-20 minutes total, and stirring once or twice. Afterward, I took the pan off the heat. Still covered, I set it aside another 10 minutes.

The result was quite delicious. I mean, every single grain of rice was ridiculously infused with flavor. Me, the non-rice girl having seconds AND thirds? Yes, I’ll have to further up the walks and exercise/dance sessions to make up for the extra calories…

Luckily, I’m a lazy kind of cook so I might not make this all that often.  Then again, texture and gusto-wise it was so good, the time, effort and resulting carpal tunnel syndrome may be worth the yumminess of this dish. Add a little meat and you’ve got a one-dish meal. For me, the veggie route is perfect for keeping it a side dish.

Leftovers:  James suggests frying them up as patties or rissoles. I reheated on a lower setting in the microwave–still good! If need be, one can add a bit more broth to smooth out the remains and serve as an even tastier side dish–that’s one less part of a meal I have to cook!

Have a great day and even greater weekend,


Checking Back In and Catching Up

Hi all. Hope all of you are well. Sorry. Went a bit MIA these past weeks. Between feeling lousy (sinusitis and a nasty antibiotic that made me a tired insomniac—yes, in that order); some family matters to attend to and work beginning the end of winter-into-spring-paperwork rise, life just got in the way—again.

I am glad to be back, though. Ironically enough I recently read a wonderful post about procrastination by Darlene Steelman. Yep! Spent the rest of that day avoiding the laptop but finally parked my back end at the darn thing around 9 PM to draft this write up.

Isn’t Jake the sweetest thing? He’s my son’s girlfriend’s pitbull, 4-5 months old. Love him and I promise my son was playing with him in the gentlest way!

In other Joanna news, I’ve been working on getting back into a routine that includes some ramped-up exercise. It’s way too easy to go slack after not feeling well for close to a month. Recently finished Larry BrooksStory Engineering, too. Now there’s an awesome resource for plotters and pantsers alike. More on that in another post. A must-read book for anyone trying to find their way to story constructing nirvana.

And I finally made risotto! (Did you catch that, Dr. Stratford?) Got up the nerve last Friday evening. (Parts one and two of the post that inspired me went up last month.) Won’t tell you I followed James’ recipe but I could see his line about ‘stirring it lovingly’ throughout. (Truth is, I hunted down an alternate recipe b/c I committed risotto sacrilege and used long grain white rice. Sorry James, I didn’t have Arborio and was too lazy to go out and round some up. I found a recipe that fit the bill online, doctored it a bit and fell back on instinct to reach the finish line. It worked out, too. Well enough that I’m sharing my take on it.)

I am, however, running longer than I should so I’ll share the recipe later this week. (Besides, this lets me sneak in an extra blog post, as I am nearing the 300 mark!)

Catch y’all later!

Have a great day,


Risotto and the Hero’s Journey–Part 1

Happy Wednesday, all! I might have posted Monday had I not been so distraught over the Packers’ undoing by Colin Kaep–I mean, the 49ers (;D)–just kidding. Hey, I pulled for Packers but the better team won. Call me a front-runner (some man I’d never met before did in Wendy’s last week, AFTER he told me and my younger son to go incinerate our Giants’ jacket and hoodie–any wonder the man sat down alone to eat?), but I’ll watch the next 49ers game–awesome is as awesome does.

Let’s move on. Hope all is well and no one has the dreaded flu circulating the Boston area. Brings to mind author and online friend Carrie Rubin’s excellent debut novel, The Seneca Scourge. Crazy parallels going on with that story, which Carrie released earlier this year. If you’re interested, read my thoughts on it here. (But don’t forget to come back!)

What I adore about the internet is the connections one gets to make all over the globe. Should I ever make it to my Aussie cousins and the Australian Open Tennis Championships–Rafa Nadal pulled out so I figured I’d skip the trip this year ;)–I’ll make sure to look up today’s guest! I’ve been inspired by his posts: he challenges the hero in each of us to answer the calls life puts out there and be our very strongest. 

About the Author: James Stratford is an educator and author of numerous publications on the hero and international strategy. His blog, Beyond the Call, shares reflections on his own approach to  learning and personal development that are often inspired by the great hero ancient and modern stories. James is also a keen cyclist and traveler and a lover of great food – preferably all together. He lives with his wife and son in Melbourne, Australia. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Note: James has been terribly patient waiting for  me to finally get this post up–thanks, James. The floor is yours:

You’re probably wondering what risotto, the classic Italian rice dish, has to do with heroes. I can assure you, absolutely nothing.

Well almost nothing.

I realized the other day that it was almost twenty years ago exactly when I cooked risotto for the first time and when I first saw Joseph Campbell interviewed on the Power of Myth, thus starting my long relationship with the hero of myth and epic. I ended up devoting the next twenty years to researching one of the great ancient hero myths, Homer’s Iliad, which features the hero Achilles.

The hero myths stuck with me not merely because they’re wonderful stories, but because I’ve always found they resonate with whatever phase of life I’m in. I wrote about this in my book, Discover the Hero Within (published in Spanish as Descubre a tu heroe interior by Aguilar Fontanar–read an excerpt here). I’ve also found that the epic, and the hero’s journey generally, has held vital lessons which have inspired me and reminded me of the most resourceful strategies for living in the world and getting through some of the toughest times.

Eating and hospitality centered around the sharing of food have a subtle but important place in the journey of the hero. In the Iliad, meals take on a range of significance. When Achilles receives the embassy who have come to secure his return to battle, before any discussion takes place he instructs Patroklos to prepare food for his guests as an expression of xenia, or ‘guest-friendship’.

On the other hand, after the death of Patroklos, Achilles denies himself all food and is nourished by the gods who infuse him with nectar ambrosia. In the final and, many would say, the finest, book of the Iliad, Achilles graciously offers food and lodging to the old king, Priam, who has come to ransom the body of his son, Hektor, killed by Achilles in battle (in savage revenge for the death of Patroklos).

The sharing of food stands so simply and effectively as a ritual that embodies the natural order of the living. It is also symbolic of Achilles’ return to this world, not in a literal sense, but metaphorically as an agent of order rather than as a bringer of the chaos and death that characterize his grief-fueled return to battle. If you’re familiar with the Iliad, food has a similar significance in the closing stages of Book 1. When the Greeks appease the wrath of Apollo by returning Chryseis to her father, the troops bring closure to the episode by having a great feast and singing to the god. Order restored.

This is only a taste. If you read the Odyssey, eating plays an even more important role, and we see it used both properly by the venerable heroes of the Trojans and abused by the band of suitors who effectively hold Odysseus’ family under siege, and the infamous cyclops who turns Odysseus’ men into a meal.

But I don’t want to leave you on that grim image.

Rather I want to urge you to contemplate the significance of food on your journey:

the great meals you’ve shared; the satisfaction of eating simple foods after hard days in the bush, hiking or skiing or doing hard physical labour; great meals in foreign cities.

Then there are the real feasts, meals that we share to mark the most important days in our lives – marriage, birthdays, graduation.

Which ones stand out most and why?

I suspect that when you reflect on this you might find that while beautiful food is often central, what it’s really about are things like the nourishment of the spirit and the honouring of our relationships with one another. It’s no wonder food has such an important place in all the old cultures. It’s not much of an exaggeration to suggest that the sharing of food is really the axle around which our cultures function, all starting at the family meal.

We’ll stop here for today. Friday, James will share the his own special risotto recipe. Definitely a weekend undertaking, given the time and dedication James discusses for this particular dish’s preparation. In the meantime, we’d love for you to take a moment and talk about how food figures into your life and relationships, be it cooking, eating, socializing, celebrating–it’s your call. Go for it. And if you please, do take a moment to SHARE via one of the buttons below.

Thanks so much and see you Friday 🙂