Finding Healing and Fall Harvest Salad, Pumpernickel Bread, and Big Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie

Hickory Nut Trail near Wildcat Rock Overlook in Bat Cave, NC

Friends, a week away in the forests of the North Carolina mountains has been a balm for my mental health.

Well, that and the fact that I’m two steps away from securing a position that I will not only enjoy and be good at, but that will help secure my family’s financial stability and longterm financial goals.

It seemed a little risky to invest in a camping vacation right now; and yet, how could we not? Every week that went by of the 5 months since I lost my job have seen a decline in my emotional and mental health. How can I show-up to job interviews with enthusiasm and even coherent answers without my full mental faculties?

I couldn’t. And so we planned it last minute, praying it would all work out. And it did.

The Monday of the week we left, I was searching (once again, as I do each and every day) on LinkedIn and found a job that I was immediately interested in. The problem? 400 other people had already applied. I re-read the posting and decided I was still a strong candidate and I had nothing to lose. It was afer 5pm and I’d already done quite a few applications that day, but I went ahead and completed this one while it was fresh.

Tuesday morning someone from that company viewed my LinkedIn profile. By Tuesday evening the job had over 1000 applicants.

Wednesday morning I was invited to an interview.

I interviewed Friday morning. It went amazingly. Saturday morning we left for camping. They said they’d be taking 3 people on to the next round of interviews and that I’d hear likely between Wednesday and Friday of the following week.

On Tuesday, sitting outside the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, North Carolina, immediately after concluding several hours of an in-depth audio tour, I got an email inviting me for the next round.

As soon as I got the email, I enjoyed a lovely glass of Biltmore winery Merlot.

I informed them I was on vacation but that I’d be home on Friday and that day would work best for me, but if necessary I could make Wednesday work. They picked Wednesday, and so on vacation, I found wifi and interviewed for round 2. They said I’d hear by the end of the week for the final round.

On Friday evening I received that invitation.

Out of 1050 some odd applicants, I’m in the finals. It’s magic. Like. I can’t even.

Not only is this a major boost to my bruised self-esteem (I was getting rejected out of hand for entry level positions–likely because I’m overqualified but was trying to sidestep to related industries and was also having a hard time competing with people in my experience range who weren’t transitioning).

But, most importantly, it’s the best possible job at the best time. Something in me healed on this vacation. I’m ready. I’m excited. I want this job. It’s the best choice I’ve had in five months and one I can really see myself doing long term…like permanently.

I know I’m healed because I feel like cooking. I have the sudden capacity to care that I once did.

At Chimney Rock looking out on Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, NC

It may not be much, but yesterday I felt like cooking–A LOT. I made a cherry almond breakfast bread, reorganized the kitchen, and then I threw together a throw-back salad from my executive chef days (it was called Country French Salad back then), a loaf of deep and rich pumpernickel bread that felt appropriate for Autumn, and a giant cookie in the iron skillet. It felt good. It felt right. It was delicious and I knew immediately I wanted to share the good vibes with all of you.

Fall Harvest Salad
Yield: 4 adult dinner servings

1 honeycrisp apple, cored and sliced thin
1 pear, cored and sliced thin
1 C chopped candied pecans (see below)
1/3 C crumbled goat cheese
4-8 strips thick applewood smoked bacon, cooked crisp and cut into pieces
spring mix
baby spinach
honey-dijon vinaigrette (see below)

Assemble salads with the greens, bacon pieces, pecans, and goat cheese crumbles. Drizzle on the dressing then fan the apple and pear slices prettily on top (or just chunk it all together and toss!)

Candied Pecans
1 C chopped raw pecans
2 T powdered sugar
1/2 t olive oil
1/2 t sea salt

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients until pecans are thoroughly coated. Place pecans in a heated skillet over medium low heat. Allow pecan coating to begin to melt for 1 minute then begin stirring. Continue cooking and stirring for another 2-3 minutes, until all the coating has melted and thickened and pecans look darker. Remove to a parchment-lined plate and set aside (they will clump so a plate and parchment ensure that they won’t stick together as they cool. Conversely, if you like clumps of pecans–because clumps are delicious–you can dump them into a bowl. They’ll break apart easily enough as needed, maintaining some delightful clumps in the process).

Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette
Yield: 1 cup of dressing

3 T dijon mustard
1/2 C white wine vinegar
1/2 – 2/3 C sugar (to taste)
1 t dried tarragon
1/4 t sea salt
1/4 t pepper
1/3 C olive oil

In a mason jar with a tight lid, combine all ingredients and shake vigorously for 3 minutes. Set aside, shaking lightly before pouring.

Pumpernickel Bread
Yield: 2 small loaves

2 1/2 C AP flour
2 1/4 C whole wheat flour
3 T cocoa powder
2 T instant yeast
1/4 C sugar
1 T sea salt
1 1/2 C warm water (to around 100 degrees F)
1/2 C molasses
2 T avocado oil

Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans and set aside.

Warm water and add yeast to dissolve, letting stand a few minutes to ensure yeast becomes bubbly and foamy.

Meanwhile, add all the dry ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk well to combine.

To the water add the molasses and avocado oil then pour into the dry ingredients in the stand mixer.

Use a rubber scraper to combine it all and then, with the dough hook fitted, knead the dough for 3-5 minutes.

Transfer dough to a large container for proofing. Let rise 2 hours.

Lightly deflate the dough and shape into 2 loaves, then transfer each loaf to the prepared pan. Cover and let rise another hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool, slice and then serve with salted Irish butter. Yum.

Big Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie
Yield: one 8-inch round cookie

1/2 C melted butter, barely browned
3/4 C brown sugar
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
2 t vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
1 t baking powder
a shy 1 t sea salt
1 C semisweet chocolate chips

In a well-seasoned iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Allow the butter to brown ever so slightly and then pour into a mixing bowl, allowing some of the butter to stay behind in the skillet (this will help grease your pan and provide a browned butter crust to form on your cookie).

To the melted butter in the mixing bowl, add both sugars and whisk until they are fully dissolved and it incorporates into a caramel looking sauce. Add the vanilla and egg, whisking well.

Trade the whisk for a rubber spatula. Add the flour, baking powder, and sea salt and fold and stir until almost combind. Add the chocolate chips and fold in.

Move dough to the iron skillet, patting it down as needed to make an even surface.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove, let cool, then slice into pie sections to eat.

Published by kelinmchull

Wife, mother, teacher, dreamer/doer, adventurer, wannabe farmer, writer, and all around curious gal.

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