Solitude and Butternut Squash

Fun fact: I have never been to a movie alone. I’ve never even gone to a restaurant by myself.

I have a hard time deciphering between loneliness and solitude. I suppose it has to do with the fact that I’ve always had a good group of friends. Every weekend of my adulthood was spent with this incredible group of ladies. In junior high it looked like staying up until 4 am chatting on AIM with boys we didn’t have the courage to talk to at school. In high school… well, it looked pretty much the same.

My best friend used to live in this cabin behind the graveyard. It looked like it was made out of lincoln logs, and the sprawling front yard was host to endless water fights come summer. Her back room was always stocked with diet coke, and we laid claim to the upstairs. The “big room” was full of squishy coaches and extra beds. Every weekend I would pack my bag and walk over to stay the weekend. Just a few blocks away, my best friend’s house was where I grew up.

This house brought together a group of girls that I still call my best friends to this day. They’re my people. They always have been, and always will be. The problem is, all of them live in Washington. I live in Texas.

mygirls

There’s the conundrum. I can’t head down the street, or across the hall. That comfort is now a phone call or skype date away. And that’s just fine. I chose to move to Texas, and it’s growing on me. Every day, I love it more and more. Down here in my little southern bubble, far from home, I’m learning to be alone. I’m dipping my toes into solitude and relishing in the silence.

Lately I have been so busy that I haven’t even had the time to dabble in this lonely/solitude business. Working full-time at a place I really love results in me working 50+ hours a week and not even batting an eye. It’s on the weekend where I’m left with a whole lot of “me” time. I suppose I’ve never really had to ask people to do things, and so while I have friends from work and through my sister, I’m not good at initiating things. Instead, I spent my Friday night cooking (big surprise). And everything about it was quiet and perfect.

I listened to three hours of This American Life, cleaned my room, finally did those piles and piles of laundry and cuddled with the hound. I found Sprouted Kitchen’s squash empanadas recipe, and they looked so delicious that it pushed me into eating cheese (!!!). This tiny little cafe/grocer opened down the street from me, and while it doesn’t quite serve as a grocery store (unless you can survive on wine and chocolate), they do have a great selection of cheese.

cheeseAs someone who’s taking a step back from veganism, I didn’t want to mess around on my little field trip into the world of cheese. Which is why I had a lengthy discussion about goat, feta and what would go well with roasted butternut squash. We settled on a marinated feta that makes my mouth water when I think about it (literally). And yes, it was far too expensive. But as a I said, I wasn’t going to settle on anything less than divine for this dish.

It succeeded in being divine, and then some.

If this is what “lonely” looks like, I’ll take it.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Feta Empanadas

From Sprouted Kitchen

This is a time-consuming recipe, but it’s worth it. The dough turned out REALLY great, although I did adjust it slightly by using rice milk instead of heavy cream (I wasn’t going to get TOO crazy in my dabbling with dairy), and used vegan buttery spread instead of butter (because it was what I had on hand).

The original recipe called for goat cheese, which was my original plan. But after talking to the British lady (I love an accent) about what would pair well with squash, and I tasted the magic of the feta, I scrapped goat cheese. You can do whatever cheese floats your boat. I think having something salty pairs nicely with the spiciness and richness of the squash.

For the dough:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 stick of unsalted vegan buttery spread (or butter)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper (optional, but I always add pepper when I can)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tbsp of milk (I chose rice, it was in my fridge…)

For the filling:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 onion, minced
  • 1 tsp. chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp chopped herbs (I used parsley and cilantro, and added a bit more)
  • 5 oz marinated feta, crumbled
  • egg wash (1 egg and splash of water, well whisked)
  • sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Then, start with the dough. Place the flour, salt and butter in a big bowl. Work with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. You want to keep some chunks of butter visible. Beat together the egg and milk. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients. Using your fingertips, mix everything, making circular movements. Keep mixing, the dough should come together quickly and if it doesn’t, add one more tbsp of cream (not necessary for me). Press to form a ball, and cover with plastic and keep in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil and rub it into the flesh of the vegetable. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon and roast for about 45 minutes. Remove and let it cool completely.

While the squash is cooking, saute the garlic and onion (or shallot) in a bit of olive oil until just browned. About 8-10 minutes.

Once it’s cool, scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add another pinch of salt, the chipotle, nutmeg, the sauteed garlic and onion and the green herbs. Use a fork to mash everything together. Taste, and add more spices according to taste.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and prepare a parchment lined baking sheet. Roll out the dough to about 1/8″ thickness on a floured surface. I used a cup to cut out circles, and then rolled them out thinner. I made big ones, I made small ones, just do whatever floats your boat.

Leave plenty of room around the edge, and put a dollop of squash in the center and a dollop of cheese. Fold the circle over, and seal the edge with your finger. If you want to, you can press along the edge with a fork to make it pretty. Once on the baking sheet, brush the top with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until golden. Enjoy. They will keep in the fridge, and just pop them in the oven to warm them up.

Leftovers for days.

empanadas

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Birthday Blessings

Today I turned 25. A quarter of a century old. I would have most likely had a panic attack about this a few months ago. When everything was crumbling around me. When all those plans I had laid out in front of me fell apart.

A few months ago the thought of truly being an adult would have scared the shit right out of me.

Today I turned 25 and it was perfect. I nearly broke into tears on a few separate occasions when I looked around  and saw how blessed I really am. I took a walk in the sunshine with my hound dog. My best friend and his son came over for breakfast. We ate waffles and laughed about 3.5 year old things. A few more of my favorite people came over and kept me company while we chatted over coffee.

One of my heterosexual life partners gave me one of the sweetest gifts I have ever gotten. It was a bundle of love notes—handwritten. Affirmation that I have such an abundance of love in my life. Encouragement that I am a pretty decent person, and that the people I adore like to hang out with me. They are note cards that I will stick in my purse as a reminder that this life of mine is so god damn beautiful.

And then to top it all off I went to lunch with all of my ladies. Eleven ladies gossiping around a crowded table, eating delicious food and sharing in each others company. There were a few moments where I looked around and thought, GOD DAMN… I am lucky. All of these ladies are my close and special friends. All of these ladies have been there for me for so long. I can’t believe much they keep me grounded. How much they keep me believing that humans are a pretty okay species after all.

Yes, I had to come to work—but I got here to a myriad of happy birthdays, a free coffee from my favorite barista and a box of Mighty-O donuts.. say WHAT? My co-workers rock. They presented me with a card filled with well wishes. Overwhelmed once again.

I checked my phone to see a couple messages from my family. Each and every member called me and proceeded  to sing Happy Birthday, in its entirety. This year, my brother channeled Marilyn Monroe—which he did wonderfully.

See? I’m tearing up just now as I write about today.

Thank you world, for giving me such an amazing life.

My message to all of you—nothing else matters but who you surround yourself with. Your existence, your happiness and the core of who you are is made up of the people that are around you. Don’t settle for loneliness.

I start my 25th year on this earth brimming with hope—I owe that to my people.

25… you are starting off with a BANG.

Funk

It would not be an over-exaggeration if I were to say that this weekend I was in a funk.

And I am sorry to say, this post will not be about me getting funky fresh and awesome. It is about me feeling sorry for myself and having a tiny violin follow me around with a sad-faced cloud above my head.

Deal with it.

My life is pretty fantastic. I have a great job. I have amazing friends (seriously, I am the luckiest when it comes to my group of girls). My family is fantastic. I have my health. I think I’m pretty cute sometimes. AND I have my dog, who is the love of my life.

So what in the shit am I complaining about?

Who knows, sometimes that horrible, gut wrenching, soul crushing self-doubt seeps into your life. Perhaps I shall blame it on the old Ex, whose life–post me–makes me feel like throwing up. It is never fun to feel like a used kleenex after having spent three years with someone. Yes, bitterness… you are my friend at the moment.

So here is how my weekend went: me weeping for no reason, writing letters to people I shouldn’t write letters to, writing emails to people I shouldn’t write emails to, and eating a lot of chocolate.

Basically, I was a walking rom-com cliché.

And to make matters worse, my runners knee has come back, so I haven’t been able to run. Which makes me feel like an obese failure.

Seriously, can you hear the violin?

And yes, I am still kind of in a funk.

But here is what I know:

  1. My friends and I made oven roasted veggies with quinoa and non-dairy creamed kale while watching Crazy Stupid Love… best evening ever. This solidified my love of my wonderful, amazing friends. And my love for Ryan Gosling. I don’t think the man can be sexier… Did you know he can sing? Yeah, shut the front door.
  2. I have vowed to practice some form of yoga everyday. It centers me. It reminds me to seek peace. To let go of bitterness. To forgive.
  3. My friend from work posted this image on my Facebook and told me that she thinks of me and my life every time she reads it. It was a huge compliment. I am glad she sees me this way. I want to see me this way too.

Funk, be gone!