We took the kids for a hike in the woods this past weekend. It was the perfect family activity for a gorgeous fall day.
But, I’m not gonna lie. I sort of freaked out in there.
We’d gone to a local ‘nature center’ for our adventure. Not sure what I was thinking, but I’d expected a well-cleared, child-friendly path. I’d almost worn sandals. I definitely wasn’t prepared for a mountainous hike through barely-marked, densely-wooded trails. There were harrowing cliffs and treacherous mudslides. Old wooden bridges creaked as we crossed over rushing ravines. And ferocious wilderness creatures crouched behind every tree, waiting for their chance to attack.
Ok, so I may be exaggerating a little bit about the terrain. But I swear that chipmunk looked at me funny.
It didn’t help that when, at last, we found a trail marker, with a faded, barely legible map, we identified ourselves to be at location known as the “grave bed”. That’s when I almost started to cry. That’s when I wanted to curl into a ball and surrender my fate to the wilderness.
It could be that my husband and I have watched way too many ‘horror in the wilderness’ type movies lately. For as we wandered deeper into the solitary woods, my mind flooded with every worst-case scenario. My heart raced as my maternal protective instincts went into overdrive. Was that a banjo I just heard?? Are those berries safe to eat?? How could I forget my grappling hooks?? That sasquatch wants to eat my baby!!
Oh, I may have been more relaxed had we brought absolutely anything into the woods with us besides my husband’s iPhone…you know, like survival gear? Is there an app for that?
No one even knew we were out there. And the baby kept squeaking. Would wild bears perceive the baby’s squeaking for weakness, in the same way that sharks perceive kicking legs to be an injured fish…easy prey?? Hush baby! Mama doesn’t feel like wrestling a bear today!
Oh, and the bugs…as big as birds and as hungry as dinosaurs. I walked with my arms flailing around me, windmill-style, to prevent those vicious creatures from landing on my precious baby, whose meaty, naked legs hung from the carrier, like a juicy ribeye being waved in front of a rottweiler.
Bears, bugs, and bigfoots aside, it was a fun family adventure. But I think my four-year-old said it best as he ran towards the trail exit screaming, My life is saved!!
I think next weekend we should go back to apple-picking.
Here. Eat this. It’s about as comforting as comfort food comes!
Pepperoni Braised Chicken
- 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 1-pound bag frozen pearl onions, defrosted
- 1 cup pepperoni, chopped
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 1/2 – 3 cups chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim chicken of excess skin and fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over medium/medium-high heat in a large dutch oven pan. Place the chicken in the pan, skin-side down. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the skin is golden and crisp. Turn over and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Lower the heat to medium. Add the garlic, pearl onions, and pepperoni to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, then nestle the chicken thighs into the mixture, skin-side up. Add the chicken stock to the pan. (It should not completely cover the chicken.) Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pan and place it on the middle oven rack. Cook, covered, for 45 minutes. Then, remove the cover and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove the pan from the oven. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken, onions, and pepperoni from the sauce. Skim and discard the excess fat from the surface of the sauce. In a small bowl, stir a few tablespoons of the hot sauce with the cornstarch. Return the cornstarch mixture to the pan. Bring the sauce to a simmer for a few minutes to slightly thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.
Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes.