This past weekend I attended an event called The Big Traveling Potluck, where some of the most talented food bloggers in the country gather each year for three days of food, fun and inspiration. The event took place in the countryside of Temecula, CA, at a retreat called Plateau Edge. It was a great opportunity to make some new blogging friends and reconnect with old ones, many of whom I haven’t seen in years. The theme of the weekend was “Invest in Yourself,” and all of the talks were geared towards what that means for us as bloggers and food writers. We listened to a group of terrific speakers, including my friend Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.
Ree said something at this conference that I really took to heart. She spoke about how at one point in her life, she was saying yes to every opportunity, taking on a huge workload. She wrote a New York Times bestselling cookbook, then another. Then Food Network gave her a TV show. All of this on top of a busy life at home on her ranch in Oklahoma, where she is a devoted wife and mother of four kids. Between TV appearances and book tours and regularly keeping up her blog and a to-do list that I can only begin to fathom, she was trying to do it all. At one point, she described feeling like a “shell” of herself.
Around that time, somebody gave her a piece of advice that stuck with her:
Saying no to one thing means saying yes to another.
She shared this piece of advice with us, and the sentence really resonated with me. I’ve recognized this feeling in myself before– the feeling of being spread too thin and taking on too many obligations. You get to a point where you feel like you’re not accomplishing anything on your list to the best of your ability. Have any of you ever felt this way?
I loved hearing this piece of advice from Ree, who is a big role model for me both professionally and personally. She is one of the most positive and giving people I know, and I take her advice to heart. Her words reminded me to step back from time to time and reevaluate my priorities. I came back after the weekend to a to-do list about a mile long, but I was able to look at it with fresh eyes and a sense of calm. I was reminded that it’s okay to say no once in a while, knowing that as one door closes another will surely open.
Since The Big Traveling Potluck has been on my mind, I thought I’d share a potluck-style recipe today. This simple pasta salad is dressed with Meyer lemon juice and fresh basil which gives it a lovely seasonal aroma. The dressing is creamy and balanced with the sweet, aromatic flavor of fresh Meyer lemons. The salad can be served without parmesan to keep it pareve/dairy free, though I do love the way the parmesan enhances the overall flavor of the dish. Enjoy!
Dairy Free and Gluten Free modifications appear in the recipe below. For Vegetarian, make sure you use a vegetarian rennet-free parmesan cheese.
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- 12 oz. tricolor fusilli pasta (for gluten free, substitute your favorite certified GF pasta)
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 cup ripe green or black olives, drained and sliced into rounds
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 tsp agave nectar or honey
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the fusilli pasta according to package directions till tender. Drain. Run cool water over the pasta till it returns to room temperature. Shake dry and return to pot or place in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the basil and sliced olives.
- In a blender, combine Meyer lemon juice, mayonnaise, agave nectar and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Blend on low till well mixed.
- Cover the blender and open the pour spout. While the blender runs, slowly drizzle the extra virgin olive oil into the dressing till the mixture is emulsified.
- Taste the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad. Add the parmesan cheese. Toss gently till the salad is well combined. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Salad can be made up to a day ahead; refresh with additional olive oil if needed before serving.
- Dairy Free Modification: Omit the parmesan cheese, add another tablespoon of mayonnaise to the dressing when blending.
- Gluten Free Modification: Use gluten free fusilli pasta instead of tricolor fusilli; make sure all of your ingredients are certified GF.
- To keep the salad Vegetarian, make sure you use a vegetarian rennet-free parmesan cheese.