There’s some quote (or possibly many quotes) out there that talk a lot about challenges being placed in your life for a reason-basically until you learn what you are supposed to learn, and then they will go away. These challenges can basically be disguised in a million different ways, but, nevertheless, they are all a part of a bigger lesson that you must overcome.
Another favorite quote of mine (by the great Albert Einstein) is this: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
If you haven’t figured it out, I’m a huge quote person.
There was a person a few years ago who made a tremendous impact on my life. She helped me build back up a lot of broken stuff, fill in a couple deep, deep wounds, and showed me a completely different way of looking at life in general. To this woman, I pretty much owe everything. But, out of the hundreds of lessons she taught me (I would like to refer to her as my unofficial guru), one of them in particular always stands out.
And that is, the “pop quiz”. It’s the universe’s little way of checking in to see if you have learned that particular lesson you needed to learn.
Here’s one of my examples.
I met this guy, Jon, a few years back. We hit it off right away and went on a few dates. Needless to say, a couple of dates in, I learned that that not only was he still planning on going “on vacation” with his ex-girlfriend a few months from then, but that they were still communicating frequently, even though they had been “broken up” for several months.
This, of course, didn’t fly with me. And it didn’t fly with me that I found all this out from a mutual friend (Jon didn’t even tell me). So, when confronted, he spilled his guts to me (and by spilling his guts, I mean he shared some pretty personal, private medical issues with me that left me standing there like he had just cut his arm off and handed it to me.) I had enough emotional baggage at the time that taking on his was way too much.
A few months went by. He went with his ex to Tunisia, as planned. She left early, apparently. He stayed an extra week. And then he calls me to go out for a drink.
At this point I have successfully failed the first pop quiz.
We go out again, have a great time, and start communicating on a regular basis. One day he sends me a text (he was working nights at the time) with a picture of himself. I texted back….not knowing that he had inadverdantly sent it to multiple people and I was actually texting all of them back.
You know how this goes, right? (again, another failure on the pop quiz)
“Stacy” texts me right away, asking who I am and how I know Jon. I tell her. She tells me how she knows Jon. We text back and forth, spilling the details. “Stacy” (honestly, I don’t even remember her name) calls Jon, Jon calls me, I hang up on Jon. Jon sends me a series of about 8 pages of text messages talking about all of his issues. I tell him what I think and call it a day.
I thought that was the end of the story.
Fast forward about four months. I have now moved over 1000 miles away and I am dating someone new. One night, completely out of the blue, I get another 8-page text from Jon, apologizing for everything, and then telling me that I am basically the one who got away, that he’s going to interview for a job in the place where I currently work (again, 1000 miles away from where we met), and that when he comes for an interview he wants to see me. I don’t respond. He then emails me the next day, reiterating everything. I don’t respond. And, thankfully, I haven’t heard from him in almost two years now.
I consider that as an example of finally ace-ing a great pop quiz. At least with that particular man.
And don’t worry, I have quite a few of these stories to share with you.
I get asked a lot about why I am single, and this both amuses me and annoys me at the same time. I get asked this by almost exclusively coupled people, like there’s something wrong with it or weird about it (p.s. there’s not.). I am single because I choose to be. All of these men (?) have shown me what I don’t want, and I’m really thankful for that.
I’ll tell you what I do want, though. I want a best friend, a companion, someone who will travel the world with me, and someone who will let me have my own space and, most importantly,someone who will love me back just as much as I love them (which is a lot). If he could have his own space, do his own thing, and maybe we could see each other once or twice a week, that would be pretty much perfect. I want to experience life moving in a forward direction running parallel with someone, not in a twisted circle enmeshed in a solid line with someone else (the twisted part comes from examples like Jon). And, I’m saying that I’m not even sure if I want this right now. But in the future? Yes.
I’ll close this intro (possibly the longest intro ever) by saying that another one of my favorite quotes (which apparently has been mistakenly attributed to Buddha, so I don’t know where it comes from), is along the lines of: “In the end, there are three things that matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” Personally, I think it’s absolutely beautiful. I refuse to mess around with the free will of someone else. And I don’t want anyone messing around with mine. If the timing isn’t right, and if the stars aren’t in “perfect alignment”, then it’s not right. And when it is time, and it is right…it will happen. And maybe this is a gradual realization on my part…a giant pop quiz, in a way.
And now on to the reason you came here in the first place…the food.
This dish is pretty tasty, I have to say. And now that we are in the season of tomatoes, this is great way to use up your tomato surplus. There’s something incredible about a seared tomato. The warm juice, the slightly charred flavor of the tomato skin, the way it kind of pops in your mouth…it’s all good. And, anything with burrata on it is fantastic (I can eat a whole ball in one sitting.) I substituted kale here (the original recipe calls for spinach), so use whatever you have on hand (note: the kale will take longer to cook down). I also threw in some capers (I love them) for a little bit of extra salty flavor. Some kalamata olives would have been pretty good, too, but I didn’t have any on hand. Enjoy.
Fettucine with Seared Tomatoes, Kale, and Burrata
Servings: about 4
8 ounces uncooked whole wheat fettuccine
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved (about 15 or so)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon crushed garlic (or minced-however you like it)
One 14.5-ounce can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained**Get fire-roasted if you can-it’s awesome
2 tablespoons capers
1 bunch fresh kale, chopped (about 3 cups)*Make sure to discard the stems in the middle-just use the leaves, ok?
4 ounces burrata cheese
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1. For the pasta: Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Meanwhile, make the sauce.
2. For the sauce: Generously spray a sauté pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.
3. Arrange the tomato halves, cut sides down, in the sauté pan and until seared. (It took me about 3-4 minutes or so).
4. Stir the tomatoes and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove the tomatoes from the pan and set aside.
5. Reduce the heat to low, and add the olive oil to the pan.
6. Add the red pepper and garlic and cook for about 1 minute or so, stirring occasionally.
7. Add the canned tomatoes and capers and for cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
8. Add the kale and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the kale wilts slightly (or cook until it is of your desired consistency. I wanted mine to have a little texture still.)
9. Add the cooked pasta and stir to combine, cooking for another minute or so.
10. Divide the pasta between your serving bowls, and place your desired amount of seared tomatoes on top of each.
11. Top each serving with your desired amount of burrata cheese (the more the better, in my honest opinion). Season to taste with salt and pepper.