Food + Wine, Fun

The Roaring Twenties and All Things Awesome.

I’m turning 30 in exactly 3 days.  This means I have 3 days left to do things like a girl in her twenties would do.  I have 3 days left to get away with nonsense because ‘I’m only in my twenties’ and ‘don’t know any better’.  Three days left to be in the same decade that gave me a college degree, love, marriage, life on two opposite coasts, a baby boy, a home, a baby girl and sadly, a devastating loss.  I have done absolutely everything that I said I wanted to do when I was younger.  I wanted to go to college and live at the beach.  Check.  I wanted to be on television.  Check.  I wanted to get married.  Check.  I wanted to live in Los Angeles.  Check.  I wanted to be a mother.  Check.  Check.  I wanted to have a beautiful house.  Check.  That’s everything I had planned for myself.  And yes, I’ve achieved it, (so congrats to me!) but it’s just a little weird that I’ve done ‘it all’.  I guess when I was younger I thought it would take me longer to do all of the things I have already done.  So now that I’m approaching this big milestone, and I’ve done everything I always wanted to do, I’m just kinda left with a big question mark.

My twenties were chock-full of surprises, highs and lows, and I suppose if I look at it in the right way, I have set my thirties up to be a hell of a lot easier than my twenties were.  I mean, I already had the babies, found the love of my life and tricked him into marrying me, searched for the perfect home to raise our family in, and experienced what it feels like to lose one of the most important people in my life.  I know myself now, I’ve been through some amazing things and have come out of them a stronger and better person.  So I’m guessing my thirties will be more about maintaining what I already have, which sounds like it should be a little smoother.  But then again, we never know what will come around the bend.  So who knows.

What I do know is that I’m not super excited about turning 30.  I think it will be fine when I’m actually 30…but the turning it scares me a little.  Turning 30 seems like it should be a really big deal, but I guess I haven’t been in the mood lately for a ‘really big deal’.  I’m too damn tired for big deals.  I think when I pictured my 30th birthday, I pictured a huge party where I was looking my best, feeling my best, showing the world that 30 looks awesome, and so on and so on.  I mean, If 50 is the new 30, then 30 should be pretty Awesome, right?  But when you just had a baby 6 months ago and you’re still nursing said baby, chances are you will not be feeling Awesome-looking.  I think that I look good for having just had a baby, (yes, I realize I’m pushing it by saying ‘I just had a baby’, but in the context of my argument, it’s appropriate), but I, by no means, feel Awesome or even Awesome-ish.  All these crazy hormones from still nursing make me feel like a lunatic on a regular basis, cause me to hold onto about 10 extra pounds, make my skin break out in weird places, make my boobs change cup sizes throughout the day, and make my hair either fall out or grow super fast.  Not exactly Awesome material here.  I wish I could turn thirty next year, I betcha next year I would be ready for it.

But it’s not next year, it’s this year.  So I gotta face this thing head on.  On Thursday I happened to walk by the same table I walk by twenty times a day and saw the same important piece of paper I’ve seen twenty times a day for several months now and it suddenly hit me that this piece of paper was telling me I now had exactly 2 days to renew my drivers license.  Crap, how did that happen?  I had been putting it off for months, hoping I had more time, maybe also hoping the laws would change, but I just simply wasn’t looking forward to going through the hassle.  I wasn’t really concerned about the hassle of dropping off the baby with my mother at the perfect time, getting back to feed her and put her down for her nap at the perfect time, taking the test or waiting in the long line, I was mainly concerned about the fact that I would be documenting my current appearance on something permanent.  I began to stress about what to wear, how much make-up to put on, how to style my ‘in between’ hair, whether or not to show my teeth, you know, the serious stuff.  You see, if I smile with my teeth, I look 10 pounds heavier than the 10 pounds heavier I actually am, but I look happy.  If I smile without my teeth, I look smug, but thinner and if I don’t smile at all, I look mean, but skinny.  What’s a girl to do?  Can I not just bring in a photo from 2005 that they can use?  And while we’re at it, can it be a full body shot so I can show everyone the incredible six pack I used to have?  That would be awesome.

So Thursday night, I got incredibly emotional about the fact that I’m turning 30 and having to go get my picture taken when I’ve been feeling so yucky.  (These hormones are crazy, I tell you!)  But then I had to stifle my tears because I am not a good crier.  There are some women out there who can do it gracefully, but I am a full-body, eyes-closed, ugly crier.  My whole face gets puffy after I cry, and I couldn’t afford to get puffier than I already am, so I just splashed a lot of cold water on my face in hopes to confuse the tears into thinking they weren’t needed anymore.  And then Friday morning, I put on as much make-up as the 6 month old in my lap would let me, put on some tight leggings and high heeled boots which I have to say, looked slightly better than decent on me, and dropped the baby off at my mothers before I headed two towns over to the DMV.  I was feeling kinda good, actually.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror and almost recognized a pretty, confident girl I used to know.  But after a couple of minutes driving I started noticing something was a little odd.  My bottom was getting warm.  I didn’t think much about it considering I experience hot flashes from my ‘nursing hormones’ several times throughout the day, but this hot flash wasn’t wanting to go away, my bottom only got warmer and warmer.  Then I figured it out.  The seat warmer was on in the car.  But since I’m still driving a dealership loaner, I had no idea how to turn it off, which meant I had a very long drive, in very tight pants with a very hot tushy.  (Side note- I don’t think I’m a fan of the seat warmer…I find it entirely unnecessary.  Shouldn’t the bottom get warm on its own considering it’s relationship to the seat?)

After a couple of minutes I managed to forget about my hot rear when I realized that I was in my car alone for the first time in….oh, I don’t know…months maybe?  So I turned the radio up a little louder, a little louder, and found myself acting like a 20 year old.  I was bopping around, singing with my hands, I think I even threw a fist pump in there just for kicks.  When Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ came on, I was so into it and I didn’t realize how fast I was going and how much my car was playing it to the beat, that I had to stop and collect myself before continuing.  (How awful would it be to get a ticket on the way to the DMV?)  I had everything under control until Wyclef and Shakira started telling me that their hips don’t lie.  Then I became straight up Colombian.  I challenge anyone to listen to that song and not move their hips.  My hips were certainly not lying when I pulled into my parking space.  And when I stepped out of the car, still high on music adrenaline, I immediately began to regret the vigorous dancing and singing I had just done on a flaming hot seat.  In body-hugging leggings.  My tush was now not only hot, but quite damp.  Awesome.

The line inside the DMV seemed pretty short and there weren’t many people around so I was feeling very optimistic.  Once it was my turn in line, I almost sang to the lady what I was there to do.  And this woman popped my bubble so fast I almost started crying again.  I was informed that the computers and printers and cameras were all down today and that I would have to come back.  Soooo… I left the DMV deflated and kinda pissy, and then got lost a couple of times on the way home because, apparently, I am incapable of functioning on lame music. (Thank you, Uncle Kracker).  But, in my constant struggle to work on finding the positive in things, I realized that I needn’t be pissy.  So I have to go out again, so what?  Even if my destination was a bust, the journey was incredible.  I had a great time!  I got to go somewhere without my children and feel like I did when I was in my early twenties.  And it felt great.  No, scratch that.  It felt Awesome.  But you know what else felt Awesome?  Walking up to my parents house, an almost 30 year old woman, and seeing the baby that I gave birth to in my twenties smiling at me.  I wouldn’t trade that for another year if you paid me.

This is the first really good recipe I created in my early twenties.  It represents something I did when I was very young, but made better the older I became.  It’s perfect in the Fall and I hope you enjoy it!

*Fennel Rubbed Pork Loin with Dried Fruit Compote 

(serves about 6 people, depending on the size of pork you decide to use)

-In a small saucepan, place a small handful each of golden raisins, dried cranberries, diced and dried apricots or peaches, diced and dried figs* and half of an apple, diced.  Cover with either apple juice or cranberry juice (or a mixture of both) and throw in a cinnamon stick.  Place the lid on the pot and bring to a simmer.  Cook over low heat, until the fruit has softened, the apple is cooked, and the liquid has been absorbed.  Allow to cool.
-Place a center cut piece of pork loin, roughly a foot long, on a cutting board.  Using a sharp knife, make a vertical cut, lengthwise, along the center of the meat and stop the cut about 1 inch from the other end.
-Open the flap like a book and lay it flat.  Cover with plastic wrap and take a heavy-bottomed skillet and pound it to an even thinness (anywhere from 1/2-1 inch thick, depending on how long you wish you pound a piece of meat).
-Preheat a large, oven-proof skillet in medium-high heat with some olive oil and your oven to 350 while you…
-Season your butterflied piece of pork loin well on both sides with my Fennel Rub (**recipe follows)
-Take your cooled fruit compote and spread over the center of the pork.
-Fold up the sides of the meat, overlapping if necessary and secure in several places tightly with kitchen twine.  (if you don’t have kitchen twine,  you may use toothpicks.  Just be sure to seal it as tightly as possible all over the roast so you don’t lose your filling.)
-Place a digital thermometer into the center of the meat, making sure the tip of the thermometer is in the meat portion and not the fruit portion.
-Carefully place your roast in your hot skillet and sear on all sides until brown and crispy all over, then transfer to your preheated oven.  Bake until the thermometer shows you a reading of 145 degrees and remove the meat from the pan to rest for at least 15 minutes while you prepare a pan sauce…
-Turn your burner on medium heat and add 2 TB of flour to the drippings in the pan.  Whisk until smooth.  Deglaze the pan with about 1/2 cup of dry, red wine and continue to whisk as you pull up all the bits stuck to the bottom.  Allow this to bubble for a minute or so and add about 1/2 cup of chicken stock.  Stir and bring to a bubble again.  Melt in 1 TB of unsalted butter and taste to check your seasoning.  Turn burner off.
-Carefully remove your twine or toothpicks from the pork and slice into thick pieces.
-Pour your sauce over each serving on the plate.
-Serve with mashed sweet potatoes or roasted root vegetables.

(*use whatever dried fruit you have on hand, dates and prunes are also a good option.  You could even use a bag of dried fruit bits you can buy at the store.)

**Fennel Rub (original recipe doubled here)
-2 tsp kosher salt
-1 tsp cracked black pepper
-2 tsp ground fennel
-2 tsp onion powder
-1 tsp allspice
-zest from 1 lemon

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