The week leading up to the big day (and I use that term loosely) was pretty normal, and I hadn’t given much thought to my age or the coming weekend’s festivities. I was just moving through daily life as I always did.
The morning of my birthday, I woke up in a good mood. Hearing my husband’s voice say, “Happy birthday, honey!” before anything else was the best way to start my day! But as the day progressed, I found myself feeling a little like someone was tightening a ratchet around my neck, bit by bit, until I was completely panicked. I realized that my timeline to which I’d been basing my life’s moves to this point was in full motion (and this is where the universe begins laughing at my sad attempt to plan out my life), and this birthday marked my last bit of freedom B.K. – Before Kids.
After graduating college, my plan always was to be wildly successful in my career as a book publisher and journalist (didn’t quite happen and I ended up in marketing and PR), to marry a man who loves me unconditionally by 26 (totally happened), and to start a family, write a book and launch a gourmet food line by the time I’m 30 (haven’t even really started on those projects). Beyond that, I figure my life is not really my own for the next 20 years or so after the family bit comes along, so the plan picks up again after that.
Now that you know the embarrassing and incredibly ambitious game plan for my life, you understand why turning 27 became an issue. (Although, it’s not like I can resolve said issue. I can’t stop aging…) On my birthday, I felt like I was running out of time to do the things I “needed” to accomplish in life.
I knew I was totally overreacting, but it didn’t change the way I felt. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we put pressure on ourselves to be a certain way or feel like we must have a plan for everything? Why do we need to do x, y and z to be successful? Is it not enough to live a good life and to be kind and hard working?
After my inner birthday battle (and it was a battle – it lasted for hours), I came to realize that we’re all just figuring it out as we go along. It’s okay to not know what’s coming up next. It’s okay that life hasn’t panned out exactly as you had imagined. (What fun would it be if your plan did come to fruition, anyway? Unless, of course, you had planned on inventing a cure for world hunger or something. That would rock.) To hell with the plan, and cheers to living life!
So, now that I’m a year older, I thought I’d make a simple yet sophisticated dish. This colorful and light Orzo with Asparagus and Lemon-herb Vinaigrette is like a [birthday] party in your mouth. Enjoy!
Orzo with Asparagus and Lemon-herb Vinaigrette
1 pound orzo
1 pound asparagus
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
For the vinaigrette:
Juice of 1 large lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
First, prepare the asparagus by removing the woody ends. Bend the asparagus spears until they break in a natural spot. Steam the asparagus for 2-3 minutes for medium spears, then immediately transfer them to an ice water bath to shock them and stop the cooking process. Once cooled, cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal, and set aside.
Cook the orzo according to package instructions. While the orzo is cooking, prepare the vinaigrette. Mix the lemon juice, mustard, honey and herbs together in a small bowl. Add the olive oil in a thin, steady stream and whisk constantly until well blended. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
Drain the orzo and allow to cool for a few minutes. In a large bowl, toss together the chopped asparagus, bell peppers, tomatoes, olives and thyme. Add the warm orzo and then add the feta cheese and toss again. Drizzle some of the Lemon-herb Vinaigrette over the orzo mixture and taste. Then adjust based on your desired flavor level. When ready to serve, sprinkle the orzo mixture with fresh parsley and enjoy.