A few weeks ago we explored Area 51 in Nevada - which is known for extraterrestrial life, sightings, and studies. While I get excited for a road trip to the 7-11 for a slice of pizza, I know this road trip will be remembered as one of my favorites of 2014. I'm a sucker for any adventure and I think it's exciting to believe in other forms of life, no matter where they may be. The truth is, anything is possible, and I'll never contest the idea of aliens. Come to think of it, we're aliens ourselves. Well, I like to think I am.
So we drove a few hours outside of Vegas, stopped at a nature reserve because I was convinced I would spot a wild bull, almost bought some super "exclusive" alien vodka from the "official" Area 51 souvenir store, grabbed a beer and a burger, and took a personal pick-up truck tour by a local in the tiny town of Rachel, and made our way back to Vegas in time to have doughnuts for dinner. All in all, it was a great day that I don't plan on forgetting anytime soon.
Although there wasn't anything too stunningly interesting regarding extraterrestrial life out in Area 51 that day, I did learn some facts about the area. The folks in Rachel, Nevada have to drive all the way to Las Vegas just to get groceries (around 2 hours), and it gets REALLY cold out there during the winter months. Coming from the midwest, I always assumed that Nevada was all desert (which it is), but I thought it was really hot year round. Not such an educated assumption. There are also only 4 young people living in Rachel (18-26 years old) and they decorate the barbed wire fences around their double-wides with shoes. Whenever I think about wanting to live in the middle of nowhere, I'm going to remind myself of Rachel, Nevada and immediately change my mind. I liked Rachel, I could spend a few days out there (ok, maybe like 2), but living in such a remote area would drive me insane.
Weekend trips to the Vegas area are my favorite - getting away from the hectic LA buzz to the middle of nowhere (I rarely actually do the "VeGaS~!!!" stuff) for some relaxation has proven to be good for this small town soul. Sure, Runyon and all the other hikes are nice in LA, but just knowing that you're away from it all - far, far away - is calming all on its own. I think this is something that I've learned from traveling so much last year - visiting an area shouldn't be about the glitzy attractions, but how you feel when you're off the beaten path exploring the area on your own.
During one of those weekend visits, we took a day to explore Lake Mead National Recreation area. It's beautiful - and its so friggin' close to the Hoover Dam that we had to check that out too. I didn't quite dress for a hike as it was a completely spontaneous decision (I also would have packed a picnic too, because let's be honest, I love food as much as fashion) but I'm glad I'm into tennies right now - there's something so innocent and feminine about a pair of plimsolls.
What are some favorite hidden gems that you've found while traveling?
Football season means many things, but for me, my favorite part of football season is spending a Sunday in and cooking. I obviously like watching football, listening to fantasy shenanigans, gambling, and commercials - but food is the real way to my heart.
I started making chili off of a recipe I found a few years ago, and I've been adjusting it to my liking ever since. I like to think that this is the most amazing chili ever, and I hope you try it and think so, too!
Recipe makes 20 servings. Adjust measurements to amount of servings you would like to make!
3 tablespoons bacon drippings
2 large onions, chopped
3 peppers (I like to use 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green), chopped
1 package mushrooms, chopped
2 cans of sweet corn
8 pounds ground turkey
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons chili pepper flakes
4 tablespoons mild chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 cup paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 (10 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup dried parsley (optional)
1 fresh jalapeno peppers (optional)
1 cup flour
Green Onion, chopped
Melt the bacon drippings in a large heavy pot over medium
heat. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent. Once the onions are just about translucent, add peppers, mushrooms, and corn.
Combine the ground turkey with the garlic, chili pepper
flakes, chili powder and cumin. Mush these ingredients together thoroughly with
your hands. Add this meat-and-spices combo to the veggies in the pot. Break up any
meat that sticks together as you cook, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes,
until meat is evenly browned (very browned, not just gray). Sometimes, I like to add some bacon from making the drippings to the ground turkey for extra flavor. Sprinkle in paprika
Pour in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, salt, parsley
and jalapeño. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2
hours. I’m not a fan of beans, but if you are, this is when you add 2 cans of
During cooking you may squeeze the jalapeño as it softens
against the sides of the pot to release more heat if desired. If this sounds
too spicy, don’t add the jalapeño at all (I often find that this recipe is spicy enough without the jalapeño).
If the chili is not thick enough, this is where you mix in
the flour. Add little by little, and cook while stirring for 30 minutes longer,
or until desired consistency is achieved. Taste and adjust seasonings.