“We’re going to Utah.”

What would be your reaction if someone said that to you?  I thought of an infinite landscape of dessert.  And that maybe there are scant gas stations strung across the state for inter-state traffic.  And then I suppose those gas station people have to live there and then I guess their families have to live there.  But that’s it.  Oh yeah and then there’s the whole “plural marriage” thing.  Which, by the way, Utah, the plural of marriage is marriages.  So maybe all the gas station peeps are one big family?  I dunno about going to Utah.  And plus, I’m monogamous most of the time.

But, I have to thank the History channel for opening the door to my closed mind.  They feature that uber-cool series, “How the States Got Their Shapes“, hosted by Brian Unger.

This is exactly the kind of program we need on air to combat the reality Bravo TV trash (which I happen to love).  Brian is a pretty charismatic guy and does he have the coolest job or what?  Yeah, I’m just going to travel the US for free, ask people questions about their accents, talk about their state, maybe ask them to draw a map occasionally.

The show makes me realize that even though we are so thirsty to visit other countries, there is so much offered by our land right here in the US. 

MARYLAND (photo courtesy of How the States Got Their Shapes)
MAINE (photo courtesy of How the States Got Their Shapes)
NORTH CAROLINA (photo courtesy of How the States Got Their Shapes)
OREGON (photo courtesy of How the States Got Their Shapes)
We went to Utah for a few days to explore Zion National Park and Bryce National Park.  We stayed at the ever cozy place, Zion National Park Lodge.  Utah is gorgeous.  And I feel guilty that I judged him before meeting him.
Checkerboard Mesa

View from Zion National Park Lodge
Hiking the Narrows
On the first day, we hiked The Narrows and we were famished that evening.  We walked over to Zion’s Red Rock Grill expecting to select the lonely, token, vegetarian pasta plate.  But surprisingly, we could select from an array of vegetarian options like Quinoa Primavera and Greatheart Beans ‘n’ Rice.  Multiple veggie options?  Utah, is that..is that really you?
Utah, I was once apprehensive about our relationship. I had mixed feelings. But now that we’ve met, I like you. A lot. Now, I AM married, but I’m assuming that’s not going to be a problem with you, right?
shredded carrots add brilliant color to any dish

Zion Beans ‘n’ Rice
(vegan)
Serves 2-3…in no time

This is my re-creation of Red Rock Grill’s Greatheart Beans ‘n’ Rice.  It’s so quick and easy, we work it into our regular weeknight rotation.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, grated
2 shallots, finely diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tablespoon Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning (or any savory spice mix)
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked rice (wild rice or brown rice) (for a shortcut, try Near East Wild Rice)

Directions:

1. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a shallow but wide pan over medium-high heat.  Add shallots, peppers, and carrots. Saute for 3 mins. Add black beans and cook on medium heat until heated through.

2. Season with Northwoods seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Serve with wild rice:  Fill a ramekin or small bowl with rice.  Put a plate upside down, centered on the bowl (covering the rice).  Using both hands, flip the assembly so that the bowl is sitting upside down on the plate.  Do not remove the bowl yet.  Spoon the bean mixture evenly around the bowl.  Gently remove the bowl.  Ta-da.  Watch how excited your family is about bean n rice with this presentation.