When I first looked into the grad program I’m now in at Boston University, the academic director told me that most students do the program part-time because the classes are at night, it was originally intended for people working full-time, and the program is academically rigorous so a part-time schedule enables students to get more out of what they’re learning. I’m curious to know what grad program would not be considered academically rigorous but that’s another issue.
Every time I had considered grad school in the past I always found myself admiring people who were able to balance work and school. Although they’d probably argue that there was no real balance. I always thought “There’s no way I’d work and go to school. I’d go full-time, head on, get in, get out.”
So, naturally, I’m now in a grad program part-time and working part-time. You know what they say about the best laid plans.
Balance is an interesting concept. The more I try to get some, the harder it is to come by. I think balance is a very personal thing. Each time I talk to someone else in my program about how to find a balance between all of the things we’re trying to do and accomplish, I realize that the balance others are seeking probably wouldn’t work for me. Most notably, I need more sleep!
I keep trying to take a step back and remind myself that finding balance in life is always a challenge, and doing it while entering a new season of life is especially tricky. How do I find the time to go to class, do all of the work that’s being asked of me, get paid to do a part-time job, try new recipes, enjoy the blogosphere, get regular exercise, get regular sleep, skype with my family, keep up with my friends, and socialize? Oh, and do the laundry that’s currently sitting on the floor staring up longingly at me.
I’ll let you know when I figure it out. Right now the only kind of balance I can seem to find is in the kitchen. It’s my zen place. Since I haven’t found a yoga studio here yet. So bear with me as I compare my life to the big yellow pot you see pictured above. You know that saying about how life is like a box of chocolates? Right now my life could certainly use a box of chocolates, but it feels an awful lot like this big yellow pot. A pot that for years belonged to my grandmother, which I never knew until I found it in her garage after she passed away. It took me a matter of seconds to realize that this pot was the one possession of my grandmother’s that I wanted to have with me. I’ll introduce you to my grandmother later. Incredible woman. Incredibly complicated relationship.
Anyhow, this pot, big and beautiful and rustic and charmingly aged, just begs to be used. So far since moving to Boston I’ve used it to make an enormous chocolate chip cookie and this wild rice and mushroom casserole. And that’s a little bit like what my life feels like right now. One day it feels like an amazing chocolatey, chewy, perfectly sweet deliciousness of a cookie that I can’t stop eating. The next day it feels like a warm and hearty hodgepodge of a casserole that fills me up pretty quickly and requires some time before diving in again. Some days it feels a little empty and uninspired. It’s hard to keep up.
So I’m trying to go with the flow. I realize that as soon as I find some kind of balance a new semester is going to begin and throw me right off my rocker again. That’s okay. I’ll survive. I’ll just keep cooking in Grandma Barbara’s big yellow pot.
Wild Rice Casserole
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 30-60 minutes
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon spicy or whole grain mustard
- fine grain salt (kosher or sea salt)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced or chopped (Any variety will work. I used button mushrooms because those were available.)
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups cooked rice or grain at room temperature (Any combination of wild rice, brown rice, even quinoa or another grain would work well here. To save time I used precooked frozen rice. Just be sure it’s good quality.)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese
- 1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon or thyme (Be careful here. Both herbs are quite strong!)
Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously slather a medium-large baking dish with olive oil. Or use a big yellow pot that you inherited from your grandmother. Mine is about 10 inches in diameter and worked well here.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
In a large skillet (or big yellow pot) over high heat, combine the olive oil with a few pinches of salt. Stir in the mushrooms, being sure to cover with the olive oil. Let the mushrooms cook in the pan without bothering them for about 5 minutes. Mushrooms like to be left alone to do their business of browning and releasing water. Keep an eye on them, though, and once they’ve reduced in size a bit stir occasionally until they’re nicely browned.
Add the onion to the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Then stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Remove the pan from the heat, add the rice, and stir to combine.
Combine the rice mixture and the cottage cheese mixture either in a large bowl or in said big yellow pot. Stir to combine and put the mixture into your prepared baking dish if you’re not using the one pot wonder that is Grandma’s big yellow pot. Sprinkle about 2/3 of the grated cheese over the mixture and cover with aluminum foil. This ensures you can control how brown the cheese gets.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes depending on how quickly your oven browns the cheese. Alternatively, you could broil the casserole for a few minutes to save time, but be sure to keep an eye on it so that the cheese doesn’t burn. The casserole is done when it’s hot throughout and a nice deep brown along the edges. See picture above!
Serve sprinkled with the chopped herb of your choice and the remaining grated cheese.