This year, my Valentine (🚨!!!) and I booked a retreat in the piney woods of Crockett, Texas.
A few weeks earlier, I’d gotten it into my head that I needed to stay at a DIY cabin — you know the kind, with repurposed wood countertops and galvanized tub sinks. As luck would have it, we found just the one in a small town, two hours north of Houston.
To get there, KT and I drove through the winding countryside, following mysterious instructions (“pass the church and the fire department and look for the dirt road with the mailboxes”) until we found our sweet little property. There was a miniature horse and donkey grazing out front, and a babbling creek tucked behind the house. Our AirBnB hosts lived in a geodesic dome compound a few yards away. For two city kids, this was really, really exciting.
We spent our days walking the grounds, feeding the animals, and exploring the parks next door. Given the scant information online (and my own snobby Californian standards of natural beauty), I was skeptical of Davy Crockett National Forest — but it turned out to be quite nice. Our walk around Ratcliff Lake gave us the outdoor fix we needed: tall trees, a swimming-friendly body of water, tempting camping spots, and the merest hint of hill country.
After some pretty easy hiking, we retired back to our cozy cabin. Being alone in nature was something special. One night, we walked outside into the pitch black of the wilderness, crickets chirping all around us, and gazed at the (literally sparkling!!) stars. … And then, we heard distant rustling, got scared, and promptly ran inside, where we made dinner and watched Netflix. You can take the kids out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the kids.
Make-ahead vegan samosa shepherd’s pie
This was my selection for a an easy Valentine’s Day dinner. It involves a few different items of kitchenware — so while it might not be a effortless choice if you’re roughin’ it, it fit the bill for our glamping. Luckily, the cooking itself is not highly technical; you’re boiling potatoes and sauteing and baking a vegetable mash.
My two cents: Make sure to pick out high-quality spices; we could only find generic curry powder at the local grocery store, but a true garam masala would’ve made the dish really shine. As always, make sure to taste and adjust the salt along the way. I think it’d be great with liberal douses of lime and hot sauce, but it’s delicious as is, too!