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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How I cure myself

Sometimes I feel a bit "off."  Not sad, not angry, not frustrated, not annoyed, just not my usual peppy, optimistic, sunshiny self.  Usually a good night's sleep can cure these feelings.  But spending time doing some of my favorite things definitely helps boost my mood and get me back to normal. A good hike in the woods, my favorite movie, or creating culinary masterpiece in my own kitchen can definitely shake me from these depths.

My favorite hike is at Oil Creek State Park.  In the heart of the park is the Geology Trail in Wildcat Hollow.  This 1-mile loop takes you up and down one of the main hills in the park, through a pass between two giant boulders.  The rocks and soil under these boulders is almost always muddy, and often has a small stream running between the rocks.  You can smell the oil in the ground during your hike.  Further up the trail you past a rock overhang, where you can imagine Native Americans resting for the night after a hunt.  This also happens to be where a friend and I boldly choose to step over a copperhead, though I didn't tell her the snake was venomous at the time.  Several hundred feet further is an overlook where you can see the entire Oil Creek Valley.  While not an easy trail, it is definitely rewarding.  As a teenager, my dog and I used to hike this trail at least once a week.  The view from the overlook was never the same, but always comforting and beautiful.

As I was growing up and hiking the trails of Oil Creek and the woods beyond the field near my house, it was perfectly normal to complete any hiking trail without seeing another soul the entire time.  (Hasson Heights locals will know that field as Rubino's Field.  There was an awesome abandoned barn and chicken coop we used to explore as kids.  Always gave me the creeps, but even two girls couldn't resist the urge to venture in and have a look around.)  I believe this is the way to experience a hike; in total solitude.  Hiking was and is my place to get lost in my own thoughts and daydreams.  I never hike with headphones or music.  Instead, I enjoy the music of the forest.  To me, nothing sounds better than the songs of birds, the chatter of squirrels, the rustle of leaf litter as a white tailed deer jumps across the path, the trickle of a snow melt stream, and the sound of wind through the tree branches.

When I moved to Washington D.C., one of my biggest complaints was that I couldn't get away from the mass of people.  Everywhere I went, including the woods (I lived very near Riverbend Park in Great Falls, VA, which had a trail that ran along the Potomac and linked up to Great Falls National Park - a lovely park and a lovely hike) I couldn't get away from the people.  Forget hiking on a weekend, you would encounter hundreds of people along the way.  Sometimes, on cool or cold weekday mornings, you could hike the trail and only run into a handful of people, but it still didn't allow me to enjoy my hike.

When I moved to NC, it was slightly better.  I hiked Carolina Beach State Park on a regular basis and enjoyed the flat, coastal terrain along the Cape Fear River.  Each time, I would encounter a few people, but it was generally a good hike when the weather allowed.  It was great until I came across a middle aged man walking the trail stark naked.  A few weeks later, a body was discovered in this same park and concluded my hiking experience at Carolina Beach State Park.

Fayetteville has a soulless trail called the Cape Fear River Trail.  It's paved (which ruins it for me, I must admit) and has clear mile markers making it easy to hike a few miles.  But it isn't the trails I long for.  We ventured north to Raven Rock State Park but had the same experience as I did along the Potomac, far too  many people.  Hopefully we will be able to find a suitable trail for me to hike with Lola.

I was definitely feeling "off" on Monday.  Lola puppy had her spaying appointment.  I'm far too attached to that dog, and it drove me crazy that I couldn't be there through the surgery or even with her during her recovery.  She did far better than I did, and is recovering nicely.  Anyway, to cure my "off" feeling I got a good night's sleep and decided to do one of my other favorite things; cook a delicious meal for my husband;
Pan-Seared Rockfish with Buerre Blanc Sauce served with Parmesan broiled asparagus and baked potatoes.  Sounds really difficult, but it was really quite simple.  I found the fish recipe online, but changed it up a bit to improve the flavor.  Serve this for company and they will definitely be wowed by your abilities!!!

Pan-Seared Rockfish with Buerre Blanc Sauce

2 lemons
1/2 dry white wine
White pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup canola oil
6 eight ounce filets of rockfish, boned and skinned
1 cup butter, melted
half a shallot, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
tablespoon fresh thyme
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

For the sauce, mix together wine, white pepper, and juice from lemons and heat to simmering.  Whisk in cream, bring to a boil and reduce by half.  Meanwhile, heat oil to medium high in large skillet.  Salt and pepper filets to taste.  Saute shallot and garlic in oil.  Add filets and cook till golden brown on both sides, sprinkling 1/2 of the fresh thyme over filets after you turn them.  Once cooked, remove filets to heated serving dish.  When the sauce has reduced by half and is thick, reduce heat and slowly whisk in melted butter, whisking the whole time to properly incorporate the butter to the sauce.  Pour sauce over the filets and serve immediately.

I also made him a treat - Buckeyes!  These are essentially homemade Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, but are definitely delicious and sure to impress anyone.  Here's the recipe I used, and it turned out really well but there are a few things I would do differently:

-Place your wax paper on a baking sheet so you can easily lift your buckeyes into the refrigerator to let the chocolate set.

-Once set, transfer to large plastic container.  Separate layers with wax paper.

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