It's been a pretty crazy few weeks here at A Half Baked Life, though you wouldn't know it from this blog, which has been quieter than a dormouse. (Did you know that common dormice may spend up to three quarters of their lives asleep? You're welcome.)
N. started walking independently. I started trying to fit in some part time remote work, and discovered that the only time I can put in real hours is at night, after I've cooked and done the never-ending laundry, leaving no time for blogging, and falling asleep at my computer. And then, I had an interview for a real job this week, which I spent the past week trying to prepare for, and which went not as well as I'd hoped, to put it delicately.
For a week in there I had no mental energy to come up with anything new to cook. I am almost ashamed to admit that I picked up a make-your-own-taco dinner in a yellow box. I gaze at foodgawker, my usual go-to for foodie inspiration, and feel like everything new is the same old thing, none of which sounds all that appealing.
I struggle to find balance between the old and the new. I admire Keiko, who started her new blog and business this past week (which, by the way, is awesome; you should go visit). There's Trinity, who left her job and sounds like she's reoriented well. And Serenity, who just left her job, too, to start a new adventure. In many ways, I think experiencing the loss of one's own potential future children or difficulty conceiving them can make you a little more likely to take risks; maybe it offers some of us a sharper picture of our values, and in doing so, motivates us to pursue a happier version of our lives with a little less attention to the cost of that pursuit.
I felt brave when I left my last job. I knew the my family and my integrity and my dignity were the most valuable things I had. But part of me is still risk-averse.
It's sort of like being in a hot air balloon. You've got a great vehicle, but all you do is move up and down; you and the wind become one force, and you allow it to take you wherever it's going. It's not all bad, traveling that way. You can see some beautiful places, just drifting through them. But it's not exactly brave. And being dependent on the wind does sort of limit your control over your journey.
Here's something old and something new for you. Risotto, made with barley. It's got a bit more crunch than usual, but it's hearty, and filling, and better for you than white rice. Maybe I should take a lesson from my kitchen, and accept a happy medium of both.
Barley Risotto with Roasted Squash
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs.), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 T. olive oil
4 c. low-sodium broth
4 c. water
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c. pearled barley
1 c. dry white wine
3/4 c. grated Parmesan
1 t. minced fresh sage
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
Adjust an oven rack to the upper middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the squash with 2 t. of the oil, 1/4 t. salt, and 1/8 t. pepper and spread out over the prepared baking sheet. Roast the squash until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes; set aside until needed.
Meanwhile, bring the broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover to keep warm.
Combine the onion and 1 t. of the oil in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the barley, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted and aromatic, about 4 minutes. Stir in the wine and continue to cook, stirring often, until the wine has been completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.
Stir in 3 cups of the warm broth and half of the roasted squash. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and the bottom of the pan is dry, 22 to 25 minutes. Stir in 2 more cups of the warm broth and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and the bottom of the pan is dry, 15 to 18 minutes longer.
Continue to cook the risotto, stirring often and adding 1/2 cup of the remaining broth at a time as needed to keep the pan bottom from becoming dry (about every 4 minutes), until the grains of barley are cooked through but still somewhat firm in the center, 15 to 20 minutes longer.
Off the heat, stir in the remaining roasted squash, cheese, butter, sage, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.