Thank you all for the sweet birthday wishes (and especially the surprise poem from Alex!). It is an honor to know so many loving, sweet, and inspiring people as yourselves — readers, bloggers, friends, and family alike.
A friend of mine asked a question this year — what was the most memorable part of your last year? Without a doubt, travelling to Cambodia and writing a cookbook leaped to mind. It was amazing, incredible, heart-wrenching, terrifying and exhilarating all in one. It’s one of hardest things I’ve ever done, but truly one of the most rewarding.
If you’re new to this space, the long and short of it is that this past March, after learning about the issue of human trafficking and feeling called to do anything we could to help, Alex and I traveled across the world to learn more and to visit a culinary training program for at-risk women, with the goal of writing a benefit cookbook to aid the program there.
Even now telling the story, I almost don’t believe that it happened. In so many ways, it was fulfillment of a life-long dream. As a girl I was young and idealistic, constantly dreaming up ways I could “make a difference” and do something good for humanity. And I always had wanted to write a book.
It’s all well and good to be a dreamer as a teenager, but where does that take you in your 20′s? I had a hard time in that decade, bouncing from one thing to the next, trying to understand where to direct my passion as it spewed everything in its path.
Thankfully, that passion nozzle finally got tightened and after lots of seeking, questions, tears, and prayers, the cookbook opportunity arose. It was exceedingly difficult to put together (my favorite image is me reading the entire book out loud to Alex the night before sending it to the printer!) — but in every way exactly the thing we were supposed to be doing.
It was a year of deep gratitude — to this opportunity, all the people who made it possible, and the sweet wonderful women in Cambodia who let us into their lives. And to all of you out there searching and dreaming big dreams, I want to encourage you — keep dreaming! It may take some time (years, maybe!), but you’ll find your calling.
And now, some pasta! This recipe is a delicious little meal we dreamed up as part of a Valentine’s Day meal to cook with loved ones. We love the zesty red pepper pesto (we adapted it from our Roasted Red Pepper Pita Pizzas) — it’s an interesting alternative to a tomato-based sauce. We added some kale for some nice nutrients and a bit of texture. Paired with salty feta and crunchy walnuts, it’s a delicious and fancy-looking entree!
- 1 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers
- 12 sundried tomatoes packed in oil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ to 1 cup walnuts
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 12 ounces to 1 pound whole wheat linguine
- ½ cup walnuts
- Feta crumbles
- Drain the jar of peppers. In a food processor or blender, combine 12 ounces roasted red peppers, 12 sundried tomatoes packed in oil, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ cup walnuts, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. (For a nuttier pesto, you can add up to ½ cup additional walnuts.)
- Boil the pasta, according to the package instructions.
- Wash and chop the kale. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil an add one pinch red pepper flakes. Add the kale, then saute until bright green. Add a pinch of kosher salt.
- In a dry skillet, toast about ½ cup walnuts over medium heat, stirring often, until the nuts are fragrant and toasted about 3 to 4 minutes (be careful that they do not burn).
- When the pasta and kale are done, add the kale to the pasta. Mix as much pesto as desired into the pasta (you may have to taste and adjust quantities. Top with toasted walnuts, feta crumbles, and a bit of olive oil.