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Farro Risotto with Green Peas and Mushrooms

I decided to tackle the Everest of Easter Brunch dishes over the weekend! This dish is not necessarily quick, simple, and easy, which is what I usually go for with cooking. But it’s really good, it’s packed with good-for-you ingredients, and is great for a special occasion where you want to serve something that you’ve put real heart into. I tried this recipe and along the way found that a few modifications were needed, so I’m sharing my tweaks below.

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One key ingredient that I’ve added to this recipe is Kettle & Fire’s Mushroom Chicken bone broth. They are not sponsoring this post, but they did give me some product and after trying this broth, I’m hooked. I had been using it as a sipping broth the week leading up to Easter, and when I came across this dish I knew it would be the perfect recipe to allow this broth to shine.

If you’re not already aware of the tremendous benefits of bone broth, read up. It’s amazing!

Kettle & Fire’s products are a little pricier, so if you need to save money you can swap out their broth for equal parts mushroom broth and chicken broth of any brand. If you want to make this recipe fully vegetarian, just use all mushroom broth. It will give your dish so much more depth of flavor than just plain vegetable broth.

I made this dish as a “make ahead,” so I’ve also included instructions for that below. But if you’re cooking to serve immediately, you just ignore the part about refrigeration and do it all once, serving immediately. Simple!

Here’s the full scoop on how I made it:

Ingredients

½ oz dried Porcini mushrooms

½ lb Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and mushrooms thinly sliced

8 oz boling water

16 oz Kettle & Fire Mushroom Chicken bone broth

8 oz water, room temperature

1 medium onion, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

5 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup Farro, rinsed

1 cup frozen sweat peas

½ cup dry white wine

1 cup Parmesan Romano cheese blend

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. The first step is the most tedious. Stem and slice all of those Shiitakes! It’s a labor of love. While you’re stemming and slicing, multi-task by placing the dried Porcini mushrooms in one cup of boiling water and cover. Drain and reserve the mushroom water. Coarsely chop the mushrooms. If you time it right, these tasks work seamlessly!

  2. I recommend a strong mise en place game for this recipe, because once you turn on the heat it all moves pretty quickly. So for step two, dice your onions and garlic. Pour your farro into a collander, rinse, and set it to drain in the sink while you chop. Pour out the amounts of room temp water, broth, and white wine you need. Make sure your olive oil, salt, pepper, cheese, peas, and parsley (stemmed and chopped) are nearby and ready-to-go.

    NOTE: If you’re making this dish ahead, keep the cheese and the peas in the fridge and freezer, respectively. You don’t need those until you’re reheating it to be served. All other ingredients will be in play, however.

  3. Give your sauté pan a sheen with about two tbsp of olive oil. Bring to medium heat, and sauté the until translucent, about 3 minutes.

  4. Add your mushrooms (both types) and another few tbsp of oil so they’re all well coated. I recommend having about 1-2 tbsp (of your 5) on hand for this step, but use your senses and don’t add more than you need to give all the mushrooms a light sheen for cooking. Sauté for 7 minutes, until the mushrooms have reduced in volume and are all soft to the touch. Transfer this cooked mushrooms and aromatic mixture to a bowl and set aside. If making ahead, cover in plastic wrap and put this bowl in the fridge.

  5. To toast your farro, add it to the pan after giving a sheen with your remaining olive oil and cook for about 1 minute, until the grains start to smell nutty and toasty. Add the white wine and cook until the wine evaporates, which should take about 3 minutes. Begin gradually adding broth, about a half cup at a time and stir frequently. When you’ve used all the broth, add in room temperature water. The farro is not done when your liquid runs out—taste a few grains along the way and stop adding water once it reaches the ideal texture. You may need more water, depending on how dry your product was to begin with and the conditions in your kitchen. Use your senses! Once the farro is al dente, remove from heat.

    NOTE: If making ahead, cook the farro halfway before removing the pan from the heat, and then refrigerating immediately, up to 24 hours ahead of serving time. When you’re ready to finish the farro, pull the pan out to come to room temperature (takes about an hour). Then reheat and begin adding your remaining broth and room temperature water until its fully cooked.

  6. Remove from heat and then stir in the frozen peas, cooked mushroom and aromatics mixture, and cheese. Mix and then cover with a lid until ready to serve. Give it at least a few minutes, so the residual heat of the farro warms the peas fully.

  7. Sprinkle with parsley to serve!

So, give this a try and tell me how it turns out. Did I get the proportions and cook times right? Any ingredient swaps you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Voila!  

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How to Talk About a Traumatic Birth

Inspired by the March of Dimes #unspokenstories campaign and #blackmaternalhealthweek, here are tips for moms and family members who have experienced trauma, mortality, or morbidity at birth on how to talk about their experience.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to attend a special screening of the April 15 episode of Fox’s The Resident, titled “If Not Now, When?” This episode featured a storyline about maternal mortality that was inspired by the real life experience of Kira Dixon Johnson. Her husband, Charles Johnson, has tirelessly advocated for black maternal health ever since he lost his wife just hours after the birth of their second son through the nonprofit he founded, 4Kira4Moms.

From left to right: Melinda Parrish, Dr. Monique Rainford, Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Dr. Lynne Lightfoote, Stacey D. Stewart ( March of Dimes President )

From left to right: Melinda Parrish, Dr. Monique Rainford, Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, Dr. Lynne Lightfoote, Stacey D. Stewart (March of Dimes President)

Attending this event, held at the March of Dimes headquarters in Arlington, VA, opened my eyes to just how many families are impacted by maternal mortality and morbidity (“near death”) every year. The United States is the only industrialized country in which the maternal death rate is rising. Black women are disproportionately likely to experience death or morbidity during their birth experience. These numbers are devastating, and reveal that those of us who have been impacted by these statistics are not alone.

My own birth with Sammi was traumatic. Thankfully, both she and I received excellent care and are thriving. But for the few months after having Sammi, and every once and awhile now when I am triggered by something I encounter in the world, I have often been brought back into the trauma of our experience.

Other people may assume that your birth experience looked like a Pampers commercial. But if your birth experience involved trauma, mortality, or morbidity, you know how painful conversations about your birth story can be. Significant milestones, such as birthdays, bring mixed emotions rather than the unadulterated joy other people seem to feel about their children’s milestones. When people say, “from the moment you held her in your arms…” your heart may still break at the memory of not being able to hold your baby right after birth. All of this is normal and okay.

As someone who has had to navigate these experiences, I have a few tips to offer so that you can protect yourself in situations where you’re being asked to speak about your birth experience.

1. Be Open About the Trauma

It is very painful to be in a conversation where someone is telling you about their ideal (by comparison) birth experience, or asking you to talk about your own. It is even more painful to try to nod along and mirror someone else’s emotions about their own experience, rather than being honest about the fact that you have had a traumatic one.

I have found that a simple line such as, “we had a traumatic birth,” lets other people know that they need to tread lightly on this subject. You don’t have to go through all the painful details of your experience in order to give someone a head’s up that it’s a touchy subject for you, and this “short but sweet” line gives you a direct, empowered, and honest way to let someone else know that this is a triggering topic for you. You can then choose whether to navigate around the subject, or create a safe space to share.

2. Consider Therapy or a Support Group

For me, it was very healing to connect with other mothers and share my experience through a mommy support group. We attended one sponsored by the hospital where I delivered. It was not specifically a support group for trauma, but it was a safe and supportive space where I felt comfortable. It helped me realize that we were not alone in having had a traumatic birth, and to feel a sense of connection with other moms. Some may benefit more from one-on-one counseling, or a support group that is specific to trauma, mortality, or morbidity at birth. You can also find trusted friends and family members to talk about the experience with.

It’s definitely important to process what you’ve been through. Talking is one way to move through all of your feelings, rather than keeping them bottled up. However you prefer to do that, it’s important to seek out a safe space where you can open up about what you’ve been through.

3. Use Mantras to Pivot from Trauma

When you’re processing a traumatic birth experience, you may find that you have painful flashbacks, memories, or repeated thoughts of fear, or even panic. This is normal, and there’s no need to stigmatize these episodes if it’s something that you’re experiencing. Every birth, but especially a traumatic one, triggers our biological hardwiring for a “fight, flight, or freeze” response. This is true for not only mothers, but also fathers, grandmothers, and other family members. We as humans are programmed on a very deep level to survive, and to ensure the survival of our offspring. Pivoting away from trauma involves soothing yourself so that you can turn off that “fight or flight” mode.

One thing that can help you gradually begin to reprogram your mind after such a trauma is to use mantras to remind yourself that you are now safe, and focus on the positive things ahead, instead of the pain of the past. In coping with my own experience, I repeated the mantra, “I am safe and my daughter is thriving.” I would collect happy moments from our days together and try to recall these when I was flashing back to our birth experience, kind of like a slideshow that I would play on loop when I was having a flashback moment.

Over time, I have been able to go for longer and longer stretches without having flashbacks. It’s important to note here that everyone copes in different ways, and everyone’s experience is different, so please consult a mental health professional about the best way to deal with your own feelings about a traumatic birth. Don’t just take my word for it!

Of course, one of the best ways to process a traumatic birth is to seek to help others who are dealing with these circumstances. Join the #unspokenstories campaign by sharing your own story using this hashtag and tagging @marchofdimes. Please visit the March of Dimes website to learn more about maternal health and morbidity, and to learn about ways that you can help!

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