Thanksgiving week. Is there anything more overwhelming than opening up a new post with the intention of writing about things that you’re grateful for? The list is never-ending. I’m so fortunate and thankful for my friends, my family, my job, good health, and to be living in the city that I love. This year I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Zen mindfulness. There’s a beautiful post on mindfulness at Zen Habits:
It’s a life where we awaken from the dream state we’re most often submerged in — the state of having your mind anywhere but the present moment, locked in thoughts about what you’re going to do later, about something someone else said, about something you’re stressing about or angry about. The state of mind where we’re lost in our smartphones and social media.
Full mindfulness means we can open our minds to the beautiful, interesting, and important things around us that we miss when our minds are not awake or present.
With that in mind, this year I wanted to focus my Thanksgiving post on small, everyday parts of life that I’m thankful for. Things that – if you really take a moment to stop and notice them – are wonderful. Our days are (or can be) full of moments like this that appear to us if we can focus in on them. Even days that seem like bad days are usually full of more good moments than bad. They are simple things, but they have meaning. (Part of why About Time was my favorite movie of the year is that it beautifully demonstrated this idea.)
Here are a few of the small parts of life that I am thankful for:
- Steaming traveling mugs of peppermint tea that warm my hands while walking outdoors in winter.
- Putting on a bright, colorful scarf and mittens.
- The smell of coffee brewing that makes it seem like waking up and venturing out into the would might actually be possible.
- The feeling of crawling into bed after a full day.
- Listening to a new favorite song.
- Starting a new book.
- The soft sound the couch cushions make when I make a satisfying plop down into them right before an evening full of relaxing TV watching.
- The feeling of achievement immediately following the washing of all the dishes.
- Meeting a friendly dog on the street.
- A phone call from my little brother.
- Looking out the window on a winter morning and discovering a new snowfall.
- The dorito that has a ton of extra flavor powder on it.
- The feeling right after finishing a spin class.
- Freshly washed sheets.
- An email from my mom.
- Calling my dad to talk about how good the game was.
- Watching a Muppet movie.
- Freshly cut flowers.
- Stopping in M&M deli to get a bacon egg and cheese on toast on the way into work.
- When the tea kettle on the stove starts to whistle.
- A cool breeze coming into the window at night.
I’ll leave you with a recipe. When people ask me what I like best of the things I bake, the answer is this apple pie. If any food deserves full, complete mindfulness, it’s pie. Pie demands your attention and your focus. There is no multi-tasking while eating pie. The moment should be calm, reflective. Pie heals the soul.
This apple pie is the best thing ever. The crust is thick and made with butter. There is a perfect crust to filling ratio. You can eat this pie warm. You can eat it cold. You can eat it with ice cream. You can cut a silver of it in the middle of the night and eat Hand Pie. It’s lovely. I’ll be making it myself this week for Thanksgiving, and again at Christmas. Here’s the recipe. It is adapted from The Modern Baker.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 to 4 pounds baking apples – peeled, cored and cut into wedges (2 pounds Golden Delicious and 2 pounds Granny Smith work well, or any combination of baking apples. About 5 to 8 apples depending on the size.)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Melt butter in a Dutch oven. Add apples, sugars, and cinnamon. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender. (I find it takes about 20 minutes.) Cool the filling. You can make the filling up to three days in advance and refrigerate it until making the crust and assembling.
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 and 1⁄2 sticks of cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
Egg wash – 1 large egg well beaten with a pinch of salt
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the butter and blend in with a pastry blender. (You can also use a food processor, but I like to blend by hand if I have access to a great pastry blender. When all else fails I have used a fork, but the butter has to be a bit softer.)
Add the eggs and egg yolks and mix until it starts to form a ball. If too dry, add cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Do not overwork the dough.
Turn out the dough on a floured surface until it forms a ball. Roll out into large circle on parchment paper or baking mat. Do not roll it too thin, it should be about 1/4 inch thick. Move the entire thing (dough + paper or mat) onto a large round cookie sheet. Spoon the filling into the middle of the dough and mold the sides up around the filling leaving an uncovered space in the center.
Brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. If you have Sugar In The Raw, that works best.
Bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees until the dough is a golden brown and filling is bubbling – about 40 minutes. Then it will look something like this:
I recommend serving warm (you can heat up a piece for about 20 seconds in the microwave) with vanilla ice cream. And make sure to savor it, it’s divine.