Note from Nicole and a Recipe: Summer Pasta Salad
Well, we're deep in the throes of summer and I cant help but think about Anicca. Impermanence or change. Just when things seem like they're settling in to a nice rhythm, bam! Change! We all know fall is around the corner. And then (gasp) winter.
But that's not to say that we shouldn't enjoy the sunshine while it's here. This summer I've been focusing on finding balance. Between work and play, heat and cool, movement and rest: finding equilibrium amidst impending change. Taking advantage of all that summer has to offer, knowing full well that it will not last.
I recently took a week off to be with my husband, son and some good friends at a lake in northern Wisconsin. Heading into the trip I was thinking that it wouldn't be a very relaxing vacation because a vacation with a bunch of toddlers is not much of a break! We ended up having a wonderful time and I felt rejuvenated upon coming back to the city. I was able to relax and fully enjoy seeing summer through my son's eyes. Watching him learn to boat and swim and pick up pinecones and run through the grass was good for my soul. Finding peaceful moments throughout the day to just sit and look out at the lake revitalized my mediation practice. Staying active chasing a toddler around on land and in water was my yoga practice.
If we can learn to become fully present we can both enjoy our time off and savor it when it's here, and equally dive into our work and be productive when it's time to work. When we're always looking to the next vacation (a vacation from the vacation!), or being consumed with what's going to happen at work once we get back to the office, it sullies our moment to moment experience of life.
It's important to be aware of change. While it's happening and when it's nearby. It is equally as important to be able to remain in the moment. A skill developed through meditation. Being aware of the chaos around you, while staying present within your own body from moment to moment. This duality helps us experience life fully. The rush and the calm.
In addition to my time off, I've been enjoying teaching this summer. At Unfold, we've had the opportunity to teach outside when our clients' space, and the weather, allows. From beautiful rooftops in the Chicago Loop, to outdoor patios at office parks in the suburbs, to lovely walking meditations near lakes and trees, we help you learn to absorb your surroundings in nature. We listen, pause, move and breathe out in the open.
We also love to see you find balance in your work day. Taking the time to step outside for lunch or for a walking meeting. Even missing you in class one week, knowing that you're taking a much needed vacation. We love the opportunity to embrace the change that Summer brings, and to help you do so as well.
On to yummier things: When the weather warms up it's time to cool off... the pasta, that is. This is my go-to pasta salad. I hope my mom doesn't mind that I'm sharing her recipe with the world, but here goes.
This recipe is very nostalgic for me. I remember loving it when I was young. My mom would make it periodically, especially in warmer months. We'd all dig into the big tupperware of it in the fridge until it was all gone. Then as I grew up and moved out on my own, I would call her when I was having a craving. Asking just how much garlic powder to add, or asking which Feta to buy when I was at the grocery store. By now, I have this puppy committed to memory. As with all good family recipes, it's not so much about following the recipe word for word, but it's about transporting yourself as you make it. Remembering what it was like to be carefree and young eating your mom's cooking. And at the same time loving and embracing the present moment - the smells coming from the vinegar, the texture of the feta as you break it apart in your fingers (and then lick clean, of course), the textures of all the different components.
Cooking is an all-sensory experience, made better when we can be fully present while doing it. Allowing the space and time to take care with each chop and slice. Listening to the sounds of the water draining from the hot pasta or the pepper grinder crushing and releasing the fresh pepper into the bowl. If you need some tips on mindfully preparing and eating your food, I have some resources. Our Mindful Eating Program has been a huge hit since we launched it earlier this year. We also have a free guided meditation to help you savor your food. Brush up on your mindful eating practices and then get cooking with my recipe below!
My cooking is pretty unscientific, so pardon the loosey goosey instructions. I say, make it your own and do what feels right to you!
1 package Large Shell Pasta
3 stalks Broccoli, steamed and chopped
Artichoke hearts, drained, quartered and lightly chopped (1 or 2 little jars)
Feta, as much as your heart desires (get the brick of feta in brine, not that chalky crumbled stuff)
Shredded parmesan cheese, again, go crazy, or not
Red Wine Vinegar, if you're like me, really go nuts with this one
I like to steam the broccoli first, then use that water to cook the pasta. While the pasta is cooking you can start chopping. Chop up the green onions, artichoke hearts, broccoli (stems and leaves please!) and feta. I like to slice a block of feta and then crumble those slices so you don't get perfect squares of cheese. Just go ahead and mush it all up with your fingers. Put all this in a bowl and add the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Let this marinate while you tend to the pasta. Once your pasta is cooked, drain thoroughly and add to the bowl. Mix it all up and add some parm if you'd like. Do me a favor and give it a taste. You'll probably want to add more vinegar. Don't worry, no one is judging you. Add some extra on top of that and give it another good mix.
Indulge right away, but know that this stuff gets better as it sits. Second day pasta salad is quite good. But, this stuff could last several days so why don't you just double the recipe and eat it all week. Store air tight in the fridge and you're good to go.