You think you know, but you have no idea: mountains.
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…
The past few months have been a complete whirlwind. Life spinning at an unfathomable pace—a seemingly never-ending marry-go-round of awkward family get-togethers, endless buffets of glistening turkeys and pies topped with soft pillows of whipped cream. Family feasts, although awkward, are comforting moments amongst the mad dash to the finish line.
There is, however, beauty in the flurry of tinsel, wrapping paper and bows. I love finding the hidden splendor in the ribbons of royal icing, dribbled across my kitchen counter and the spray of sprinkles that wedge themselves into my kitchen floor. It’s a chaotic yet joyful time where everyone both young and old releases his or her inner child.
So here we are. 2014. The carols have died down, the lights have been put away, and the cookie cutters are safely tucked in the back of the hall closet. My birthday makes a brief appearance. 28. Then it’s on to another day, another week—life settling back into its normal rhythm. I always feel a sense of exhaustion, a need for a vacation from my vacation.
As life resumes it’s typical ebb and flow, I can’t help but think how amazing the past year has been. Sure there were small hiccups, but on the hole it was an adventure. It was an exploration into just how far I can push myself. I found a new place to call home, started a new job, I pushed boundaries discovered a new sense of self-awareness. This leads me to wonder just what is left for to this New Year?
Health, happiness and self-indulgence—a vibrant year filled with laughter, self-confidence and warmth. While 2013 was a year of needed upheaval and welcome change, 2014 is all about settling in, digging my feet in the sand and breathing in the sweet California air. It’s about accepting the continual growing pains and intensely awkward moments that come with adjusting to a new place and culture. It’s about giving into the dreams and desires that have been hidden away, too shy to see the sunlight.
Giving in. I love that. I plan to give in to cravings, to anticipation, to joy. I plan to give in to every emotion, letting it wash over me completely. It’s about gratification, instant gratification.
Like right now, right now I want something hearty, something comforting—a nostalgic embrace. The solution? Mom’s spaghetti and meatballs. There is nothing I want more than a bowl filled with tangled strands of delicate pasta. Three, giant meatballs nestled in the bed of noodles, smothered in a robust and spicy tomato sauce—the finishing touch, a sprinkling of nutty Parmesan. It’s a rustic and nostalgic recipe, childhood in a bowl.
Will you join me? Will you join me in a year of self-gratification and happiness? I think we all could use a year filled with spaghetti and meatballs, hikes through the Rockies, and lazy afternoons on the beach.
Mom’s Spaghetti and Meatballs
For the meatballs
“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder
I have had a steady stream of visitors since moving to San Francisco. Friends, family, and old co-workers have all made the trip west for long weekends, whirl-wind business trips, and the quick pit stop on the way to other destinations. No matter how short the visit, I have had the amazing opportunity to share a growing love for a city and state that is still a stranger.
Each visit has been a blissful adventure—leisurely drives along the coast, mornings spent wandering a maze of vendors at the farmers market, biting into warm croissants, the flakey layers giving a satisfying crunch as we take our first bite.
Baking has become my pre-visit ritual—a way of calming nerves and filling my home with the warm, welcoming scent of melted butter and spicy cinnamon. If there is anything I have learned from my friend Jeanne, it’s the power of pie. Pie can soothe away heartache, offer encouragement, create joy, and welcome visitors.
This deep-dish apple pie is the first thing my guests encounter when they walk through my door, and the first thing they taste as they unwind on the couch. Tart Granny Smith apples give their taste buds a jolt while the flaky, buttery crust and rich, heady scent of honey unfurls their tired mind. I love watching as they dip a finger into the last but of crumbs, savoring the final remaining flecks of cinnamon and sugar.
As the year comes to a close, my steady stream of visitors has slowed. So, my friends, pick some dates and drop me a line. I’d love to see you and I promise there will be pie.
Deep Dish Apple Pie
Combine flour and confectioners sugar in a bowl and mix together with a fork. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles peas. Add eggs and a splash of milk to the mixture and gently work together until it forms a ball. Flour it lightly. On a lightly floured counter, turn out the dough and pat it into a flat round, flour it lightly, wrap it and chill in the fridge for about a half hour.
Preheat to 425°F. Cut dough into two sections, one a bit bigger than the other. Roll out larger piece of dough on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer dough to deep dish pie plate. Roll out second piece of dough. Spoon filling into bottom crust and cover with remaining crust (feel free to have fun with your edges).
Bake pie 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until apples are tender and juices bubble thickly around edge, about 1 hour 10 minutes longer. Transfer pie to rack. Cool 1 hour.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)
I don’t think I have properly introduced my beagle, Louie. You may have seen him, the adorable 6-year-old pup who makes a regular appearance on my social media feeds. He’s my boyfriend, love bug, best friend, and favorite cuddle buddy.
We met a little over a year ago at the Chesterfield Humane Society in St. Louis. I was on a mission for a big, burley dogs that could protect me—Coonhounds, German Shepherds and Rottweilers were on the top of my list of possible new roommates. The idea of something smaller was completely out of the question.
The adoption room echoed with the sounds of yips, yaps, bellows, and bays. As I walked down the wide aisle I saw sleeping puppies, pacing labs, and lazy retrievers. I was overwhelmed by the number of innocent dogs that were without a home—part of me wanted to adopt them all. At the end of the row, on the right hand side, I spotted a medium-sized beagle, sitting behind the glass, his white tipped tail wagging happily.
I fell in head-over-heels in love with his expressive, honey colored eyes. When the volunteer brought him into the meeting room, I could feel it. We were meant to be together. I am pretty sure Louie knew it, too. He jumped up into my lap and started licking my face, nuzzling my hand, and stealing my heart with those big, golden eyes.
Since that day life with Louie has been one interesting adventure full of trips to the dog park, hikes through the Redwoods, even surprise scavenging through my kitchen garbage has become a popular excursion. Now that we’re in California, Louie has decided to add experimenting with mind-altering substances to his list of recreational activities.
I knew marijuana was legal in California—for medicinal purposes only, of course. What I didn’t know was that marijuana came in forms other than the sloppily rolled joint. Popcorn, peanuts, and even butter can be found laced with cannabis and sold to the public as “edibles”. This means whenever someone wants that higher-than-life feeling they just slather some marijuana butter on their toast or much on some popcorn for an afternoon snack. They can even keep a bag of cannabis-laced peanuts in their purse for those stressful days at the office. Of course, when you leave a bag of pot-covered peanuts in your purse, and leave that purse on your friend’s kitchen table, the resident beagle is bound of sniff them out and indulge in the “special,” salty treats.
A couple of months ago Louie found a bag of peanut edibles in a friend’s purse. Even though I wasn’t there to witness his discovery, I am pretty sure he devoured them in seconds, reveling in their salty, herbal flavor. I have never indulged in marijuana before in my life, so I have no clue what my little beagle experienced. I don’t know if he saw rainbows or felt dethatched from his body, if he heard voices or reached nirvana. What I do know is that for three hours he lay on the couch, twitching and completely immovable. He didn’t budge when I brought out a slice of pizza, or when I tried to tempt him with his coveted kibble. I had to physically pick him up in order to take him outside. It was then that I knew something was wrong. Louie was stumbling, tripping over his own paws like a college student after too much tequila.
I can’t really describe the fear that I felt when I rushed Louie to the emergency vet. His pulse was low; his body was completely limp, lying in my arms like dead weight. As the nurse removed him from my arms, all I could say was, “Please, please make sure he’s OK.” Louie had to be kept over night after receiving intravenous fluids and having his stomach pumped. Apparently animals eating edibles is quite common in California and the vet assured me that Louie was fine and there would be no long-term damage.
Like I said, Louie is a curious beagle who lets his nose lead him everywhere, even into trouble. I brought him home and doted on him for days, even going to far as to letting him have a bite or two of pizza. Since then, Louie has been the butt of many family jokes, although, I assure everyone that we’re still on the sober train.
This homemade pizza is a salute to pot-smokers and edible eaters everywhere. With a soft, chewy crust and a thick layer of melted cheese and fresh, market vegetables, just one slice is guaranteed to satisfy those post-high munchies. Just please remember to keep your edibles out of reach from a beagle’s nose.
Olive Oil Farmer’s Market Pizza
For the crust
For the toppings
For the crust
In a bowl, mix 1 cup of flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Add olive oil and warm water. Beat with a mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Switch to the bread dough attachment and knead the dough for 5-8 minutes on medium speed, until dough is smooth and springy. Cover with a clean towel and let it rest for 30 minutes if a dry, warm place.
For the toppings
Sautee the peppers and zucchini in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat, until just softened. Remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 425. Coat a 9x13-baking sheet with olive oil.
Roll out pizza dough and place on baking sheet. Pre-bake in oven for 8 minutes.
Remove pizza from oven and drizzle with olive oil and garlic. Top with mozzarella, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, basil leaves and Parmesan. Return to oven and bake until the crust is golden brown and cheese is melted and bubbly.
To some extent, Seattle remains a frontier metropolis, a place where people can experiment with their lives, and change and grow and make things happen.
As you get older, you shouldn’t waste time drinking bad wine.