I was reticent to participate in this 28-day challenge at first. Not because I feared giving up certain foods, but because I feared my family would revolt.
My husband believes we need meat to live. I’ve been slowly reducing the amount of animal protein that we consume as a family, but anytime I point it out, he indicates his concern that he’s not getting enough protein in his diet.
So a plan that reduced our meat intake even further caused a bit of consternation on both our parts.
And while my kids are good eaters, dinnertime often turns into a game of negotiation when we introduce new things. Especially new green things. If it’s not broccoli or raw spinach, the five-year-old tends to automatically assume he’s going to hate it. “How many bites of this do I have to take?” is his automatic response when the plate is placed before him. The thought of facing this reaction every night as we try out new flavors and textures is enough to make me question the effort. Luckily, he’s sort of getting used to it and has learned that he often actually likes things once he tries them.
As it turns out, we haven’t really missed the meat all that much. We’re all learning to try new things, and it hasn’t really been a terrible struggle to adapt to the new way of doing things. Granted, I still use some sea salt when I cook, and I occasionally use a vegetable oil pan spray to help with sauteing, but we’ve definitely been incorporating a lot more vegetables and whole grains into our repertoire, while at the same time eating a lot less meat.
Tonight it was beet risotto
(again). The difference this time was that I used golden beets instead of red, and I added the beet greens right at the very end of the cooking time.
If you haven’t cooked with golden beets before, I recommend it. They’re similar in flavor to red beets, without being quite so “beety” if that makes sense. They’re still sweet and earthy, don’t get me wrong, they’re just a little bit subtler than their red cousins. And they’re so sunny and pretty. When you roast them and peel the skins off, they look like a tropical sunset – ranging from golden to orange to deep umber. So colorful!
I also incorporated whole wheat berries (above left) in addition to the short-grained brown rice (above right). They added some texture and flavor to the mix, as well as fiber and protein.
Golden Beet and Wheat Berry Risotto
prep time: 20-30 minutes
cook time: 30-40 minutes
yields: 6 servings
3 medium-sized golden beets, greens removed and reserved
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup wheat berries, prepared according to package instructions
6 cups water
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking pan with foil
- Cut the beets in half and place them cut-side down on the baking pan
- Bake the beets for 20-30 minutes, or until tender
- While the beets are roasting, prepare the wheat berries
- When beets are cooked through, remove from the oven, allow to cool and remove outer skins. Dice in 1/2 inch dice and set aside.
- Wash the beet greens, remove the stems and coarsely chop. Set aside.
- In a chef’s or saute pan over medium heat, place 1/4 cup water
- Add the diced onion to the pan and saute until water evaporates and onion begins to caramelize (it will happen, I promise – I was skeptical too).
- Add the prepared wheat berries and the rice and stir to combine. Cook until the rice begins to become opaque/white in places.
- Add 1 cup of water and cook, stirring periodically, until water has become fully incorporated.
- Add water 1 cup at the time, allowing each addition to become fully absorbed before adding the next.
- About halfway through this process, add the diced beets.
- Just before you add the last cup of water, taste for seasoning. If you like the way it tastes, you probably don’t need to add the salt and pepper. I thought it needed a little something, so I added a bit of salt and pepper.
- When you add the last cup of water, add the beet greens as well. Stir to combine and allow to cook just until most of the liquid has been absorbed. It’s okay if it’s still a little soupy, as it will continue to firm up as it sits.
I served ours alongside a mixed green salad topped with apples and a tiny bit of goat cheese. The dressing was composed of about a tablespoon of apple cider, a tablespoon of homemade peanut butter (made with unsalted roasted peanuts), two tablespoons of dijon mustard, and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. I know it sounds strange, but the peanut butter and the apple cider really complimented each other.
The best part about the whole thing was the five-year-old barely complained at all. He seemed to actually like the salad, and he didn’t balk too terribly at the rice. He even almost cleaned his plate. Small victories.
Oh! And the risotto was so filling and flavorful. The wheat berries and beet greens definitely made a difference, turning what is usually considered a side dish into a hearty main course. Paired with the salad, it made for a wonderful vegetarian meal (make it vegan by just eliminating the goat cheese on the salad).