Those hopes and desires that we have for a life well lived were planted when we were young dreamers, and they began to take shape long before we ever realized; and for me, reconnecting to that part of myself is so very important. So whenever and however I can do that, whether it be through cooking— through preparing a comforting dish like chicken in a roasted garlic cream sauce—or in some other way, getting back in touch with that more open and hopeful part of myself is where I find my truth.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been enamored with the act of climbing up high and getting lost in just gazing at things from way up above them.
I can recall, at around the tender age of three or four, climbing up the little stoney fireplace we had in our basement living room in Michigan, and feeling such a sense of accomplishment as I carefully placed one bobby-socked foot onto one stone and the other onto another stone, and made my way up to the top where the fireplace met the ceiling.
What a neat thing to behold the living room from that vantage point!
Around the ripe age of six or seven (and beyond), I remember climbing the tallest tree we had in our front yard, a thin and wispy pine, and looking out over our cul-de-sac and the neighbor’s rooftops as the wind whirled around me, the tree gently swaying, feeling the thrill of adventure mingled with a slight sense of vertigo as well as the flutter of the little butterflies in my tummy from the nerves.
Or even later, in my pre-teens and then well into my teens, I’d grab my trusty companion, my walkman (child of the 80’s), and go out onto the upstairs balcony where I could easily hop onto our roof that overlooked our backyard and the canal that we lived on, and just sit up there for what seemed like hours, undisturbed, listening to music and contemplating life, often wondering why I seemed so “strange” compared to others.
Ah, the drama and the beauty of being young.
What I remember most about spending that time “up above it all”, looking out and over things, was that it allowed for me to dream.
It encouraged me to be lifted up over reality for a little while, to have my head “up in the clouds”, so to speak, and to connect with what my soul was desiring, what those longings of my young heart were blossoming into.
Climbing up above the noise of the world below gave me the space to freely imagine what my life could look like, what I wanted it to be like some day when I grew up, and to contemplate the kind of woman I would like to someday become.
These memories I shall never forget—these crucial, precious, magnificent, private moments in my early life that were a breath of fresh air for me, that informed and shaped me so very much, and that were the beginning of my becoming an “eternal dreamer”.
Looking back, I can see that it never occurred to me that I couldn’t accomplish whatever it was that I put my heart and soul into; that what my future held—who I could be, what I could do, how I would express myself— had anything to do with anyone or anything other than myself and God, my “partner in crime”, the One who gave me the talents and the drive, the tools to accomplish whatever I was meant to accomplish.
My dreams didn’t depend on a movement, or a government, or any sort of politician; they depended on my holding tightly onto them, keeping my child-like insouciance, keeping as much of my innocence as possible, and staying true to the kind of human being—a merciful, compassionate, loving, and empathetic one—that I knew that I was capable of being.
It was a responsibility, the responsibility of maintaining my integrity, ultimately, that fell squarely upon me.
I think it is so therapeutic to look back and become reunited with that precious material our dreams were made up of when we were young dreamers—dreamers before any jading took over, or before any life blows came in and planted suspicion and doubt over what is possible.
That glorious, glimmering, shimmering material that makes up the dreams of a young dreamer is the very substance that sustains life, that is most pure, and that is most nourishing to the human soul.
It is the light, and it is good.
It is the sense that all is possible, that today is a blessing, and that our hope, our love, and our faith in the guidance of the One that created us is what will carry us forward, and will help us to realize our life-long desires.
So while these days I don’t spend nearly as much time on rooftops and in treetops as I’d like to, I still find a little inkling of that young dreamer within myself in other ways…
I find her when I listen to an inspiring person speak about their own life and the miracles within it; I find her when I quiet my soul and sit down to write; I find her when I listen to music that sends me; I find her when I connect in a fun and carefree way with my husband over drinks on a Friday night; and I find her when I fire up my stove and cook a meal made with love, for love’s sake.
So in the spirit of nourishing and nurturing what is possible, what is good and what creates wholeness, I’d like to share a comforting and soothing recipe for chicken in a roasted garlic cream sauce for you to enjoy, in hopes that you too, perhaps through the process of preparing it, will reconnect with that young dreamer in you and become inspired.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Chicken in Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves about 4
• 2 heads garlic (or 3 if very small), tops cut off
• Avocado or olive oil
• 2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise to create 4 thinner cutlets
• Black pepper
• Pinch paprika
• 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 1 1/2 ounces unsalted butter (3 tablespoons)
• 1 1/2 ounces flour (about 5 level tablespoons)
• 3 cups milk (2%)
• 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
• Pinch white pepper
• Pinch nutmeg
• 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
• Squeeze of lemon (scant 1/4 teaspoon)
• 1 cup baby spinach leaves
• 1/3 cup julienned roasted red peppers (from a jar, patted dry)
• 4 slices prosciutto, chopped and crisped up
-Preheat the oven to 400°; drizzle a little oil over the heads of garlic, and wrap each in a small piece of foil; roast for 45 minutes, until golden-brown and soft; unwrap and allow to cool, then using a knife or fork, mash the roasted garlic into a paste, and set aside.
-While the garlic roasts, marinate the chicken: place it into a bowl, and drizzle over a little of the oil; sprinkle in a couple of pinches of salt and black pepper, plus some paprika and the pressed garlic cloves, and allow to marinate while the garlic roasts.
-Once chicken is marinated, place a heavy-bottom skillet (cast iron, or the like) over medium-high heat; once hot, drizzle in a couple tablespoons of the oil, and sear the chicken until golden-brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side; remove from pan, and set aside for a bit.
-Clean out the pan, and lower the heat to medium or medium-low; add in the butter, and once melted, whisk in the flour to create a “roux” or paste-like consistency; cook that for about 30 seconds, then slowly pour the milk in, whisking all the while to fully dissolve the roux.
-Allow the milk mixture to come to a gentle simmer, whisking all the while until thickened, then turn off the heat; whisk in the roasted garlic “paste” until it melts into the sauce, along with the Italian seasoning, a couple of good pinches of salt, a pinch of black pepper, a small pinch of white pepper and nutmeg, and the grated parmesan cheese; taste the sauce to see if additional salt/pepper is needed.
-Add in the squeeze of lemon, along with the spinach, and stir those in just until the spinach wilts in the heat; add in about half of the julienned roasted red pepper and stir that in, then return the chicken breasts back into the pan and spoon some of the sauce over each.
-Sprinkle the rest of the julienned peppers over top of the sauce, along with the crispy prosciutto, and serve over bow-tie pasta, or with roasted baby potatoes, is desired.