Pumpkin Nut & Seed Loaf

Today is the day after Christmas. Dan and I arrived home from Albuquerque at 1am, where we’d been celebrating with my family and close family friends. I don’t have work today, so I’ve been spending the day shopping and cooking to prepare for the week.

I mentioned last week in my post about what I’ve been up to lately that I’ve been making Alanna’s Cranberry Pumpkin Nut & Seed Loaf on Love & Lemons regularly. I’m not generally into alternative foods to replace other foods… I never wanted to ‘soy-sage’ when I was vegetarian, and I don’t want non-bread (i.e., gluten free) bread now. But. This is nicely termed a ‘loaf,’ not bread. And it’s delicious. And, it’s probably not even gluten-free because I’ve been using regular Quaker Old Fashioned Rolled Oats. So there.

It does have grains (oats) in it, and I’m not sure where the paleo community stands on psyllium husk (okay, I just googled and found this as one data point), so this isn’t really a paleo-friendly recipe. I eat it in the morning, generally as part of my breakfast after working out. The ingredients initially made me fear a bathroom nightmare, but it hasn’t caused any problems. Ahem. (It’s had no effect either way, as far as I can tell.)

I have not once followed the recipe exactly. I try to keep the oats, binding ingredients (flax, chia seeds, and psyllium husk), and wet ingredients to the right proportions, but I’ve varied the nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and oil each time I’ve made it. I may have varied the maple syrup one or two times also, since I often prefer to limit my use of sugar in recipes, even natural sugar. I’ve used almonds, sunflower seeds, pecans, dried apricots, dates, and raisins. Often in more or less the right amounts, but often less as well. I’ve used olive oil and melted coconut oil for the oil. I’ve used canned pumpkin and homemade pumpkin. Today, I added some shredded coconut.

I cut each 9×5 loaf into sixteen thin slices. I toast and eat one each morning with butter. The rest stays wrapped tight in tin foil and kept in the fridge for eating over the next two weeks. Yum.

Below are some of MY photos, but if you follow the link to the recipe on Love & Lemons, there are some really beautiful photos.

My host in Albuquerque sent me home with some fresh frozen roasted green chiles, bless her. My holiday in Albuquerque included posole and green chile stew instead of traditional Christmas fare. We left in a bit of a hurry yesterday, and Dan was sad that he missed another serving of green chile stew, so I promised him I would make him some at home. Voila!

I didn’t follow a recipe, but I progressively threw all of the following into a Dutch oven, brought it to a boil, turned it down, and simmered for over an hour:

  • 1 tbsp? bacon grease
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Less than half of a red pepper (the amount determined by what was leftover in the fridge)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 10 oz. green chile (6 oz. of the defrosted fresh chiles, plus 4 oz. from a container – but still from New Mexico)
  • 3 russet potatoes (~650 grams)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 container (4 cups) beef stock

About to head downstairs and eat it now. I haven’t tasted it yet! Hopefully it’s good :-).

In addition to the green chile, I also brought home New Mexican piñon coffee and memories of luminarias, beautiful New Mexican scenery, and a barely-white Christmas.

Virginia Backpacking – AT-Mau-Har Trail

Guys, I’ve been busy. And haven’t had much to write about. But you know what’s great? My weekends have been busy, but I’ve been home for most of them! Last Fall, I was gone almost every weekend, and this year, I’m here! What’s been keeping me busy, then? I don’t know really. The half marathon was three weekends ago (and so fun!). We had several friends over (both runners and non) for brunch afterwards. I made breakfast tacos: scrambled eggs, black beans, sautéed onions and peppers, tortillas, shredded cheese, cilantro, etc. Plus coffee and mimosas. And tomorrow, I’m taking my Project Management Professional certification exam. Studying for that has kept me busy. Will I be less busy now? Who knows. The election is tomorrow, and I expect work to get very busy after that (now I’m finishing this post days later, and the election is over. Ugh).

In mid-October, Dan and I did a two-night backpacking trip with a friend of mine that lives in DC. It was a three-day weekend for me, so I was willing to drive a little further and wanted to get two nights in. We ruled out Shenandoah due to no campfires and picked a loop with the Mau-Har Trail (also called the Three Ridges hike) in the George Washington National Forest. It was a little short for two nights, but we made it work. The total hike length was 14.4 miles, but a significant portion of it did not have water access, so we planned our camping accordingly.

Last Fall, our hiking plans were foiled by intense rain due to Hurricane Joaquin. This year, Hurricane Nicole and other meteorological activity threatened us – but we powered through.

We didn’t get started until about 5pm on Saturday and hiked only 1.6 miles to the Maupin shelter – in the pouring rain. My friend was smart and had brought a waterproof cover for her backpack. Dan and I don’t have them, so hoped for the best, which turned out just fine. There were plenty of campsites around the shelter. Some people were already there, but they weren’t planning to sleep in the shelter. Dan and I also decided to sleep in our tent, but my friend did not have a footprint for her tent so decided to sleep in the shelter. Before we went to sleep, all the campers hung out in the shelter to keep dry, which was nice. Overnight, the rain stopped but it was SUPER windy. Thank god no trees fell on us!

 

The next morning was chilly but sunny. And windy. The higher we hiked, the harder the wind blew, and it was a little crazy at times. There were some really great views.

We finally were sheltered from the wind on the other side of the mountain. We hiked about 8 miles total, turning onto the Mau Har Trail and camping about at the Campbell Creek camping area. This section of the Mau Har Trail (~1.5 miles) was almost entirely steep downhill. Kinda rough.

We were the only ones at Campbell Creek that night. We set up our tents on land between two running creeks. It was pretty loud from the running water, but really pretty and nicely sheltered from wind. We had a little trouble getting and keeping a fire going because all the wood was wet. Thank goodness my friend brought some small firestarter things :-).

On Monday, we hiked the 1.8ish miles back to the Maupin Shelter and AT on the Mau Har Trail. This trail was HARD. Campbell Creek where we camped was the bottom, and the rest was uphill back to the AT, a lot of it VERY steep. It was as if the trail blazers decided to use the shortest distance between two points instead of working with the mountain at all. That’s not true, of course, but it felt like it. I took a picture of the shelter in the sunshine instead of the dark and rain, as well as the start/end of the trail at Reeds Gap. Then we hiked the 1.6ish miles back to the car at Reeds Gap the way we’d come on the AT. We drove a few miles to Devil’s Backbone Brewery for lunch before heading back to DC and Baltimore.

Overall, it was a very nice hike that definitely provided a workout and great views. I think the weather kept some people away. According to reviews, it can be very crowded. The parking lot at Reeds Gap was full when we got there on Saturday. We got the last spot. We saw a lot of people on the trail, but it didn’t feel too crowded.

Also, I think we went one week early for great Fall colors. There were some, but the next couple of weeks would probably have been incredible.

She Eats (and Hikes) in Charlottesville

I spent the weekend in Charlottesville with a good friend who lives in DC but is doing a law internship in Charlottesville for the summer. I had never spent time in Charlottesville before, though I’ve driven through/near/around several times, and was glad for the opportunity.

I drove down Friday after being let out of work early for the 4th of July holiday weekend. I’d driven to the DC Metro red line in the morning instead of taking the MARC train as I usually do, so was able to start driving from north of DC around 3:30. With DC traffic on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend and several thunderstorms, I didn’t arrive in Charlottesville until 7pm. I had NPR, the Minimalists (Episode 28), Liz Wolfe and Cassy Joy Garcia (Balanced Bites Episode 250), and then some poppy music to keep me company along the way.

Soon after I arrived, we went to Monsoon Siam for dinner and sat on the porch. Our meals were delicious (and actually spicy) – my friend had Kapow Jae to maximize the vegetables, and I had the pik pow with added broccoli – but the entry process was annoying. It wasn’t clear where to enter or who to talk to about putting our name in for a table (or even if that was necessary). Things like that drive me crazy. Then, once we got seated, a server didn’t come for probably at least 20 minutes. My friend ended up going to the bar for waters, and then ultimately went back to the bar for beers before we ever had a server come. To be fair, they seemed understaffed and overbusy. I probably would have been more forgiving if not for the initial entry process confusion. Anyway.

After dinner, we walked along the pedestrian mall and went to The Southern to see some music (Rob Cheathem & Co.).

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On Saturday, I woke up at 5:30 like usual (annoying) and was out for my triathlon training workout by 6:15. I didn’t bring my bike, so I borrowed my friend’s hybrid. And Charlottesville is hilly. I biked west of town and back in a big loop, and then I ran 3 miles down through the UVA campus and back to her house. I was pooped. Did I mention it was hilly? While running, I snapped a photo of this church. Yay, equality.

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To get the day started, we went to the Charlottesville farmers market downtown and then to Bluegrass Grill for brunch. At the farmer’s market, my friend bought tomatoes, and we both bought a bucket of peaches. It seems early for peach season, but man, they’re delicious. For brunch, I had a potato scramble with (some sort of weird, fake, but still meat) chorizo, egg, peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

After an unfortunate locking-of-keys-in-trunk incident, we spent the afternoon being lazy on her lawn, snacking on nuts and fruit.

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We went to a barbecue at one of her friends’ houses that evening, where we ate some delicious salads, steak, and sausage.

On Sunday, we ate breakfast at home (Greek TJ’s yogurt, nuts, and banana for me) before setting out for a hike. Shenandoah and other mountainous areas were a further drive than we wanted, so we went to the Fortune’s Cove Nature Conservancy about 35 minutes from Charlottesville outside Lovingston, VA. The hike was five miles-ish and relatively steep both up and down. The day was overcast and foggy so the views weren’t great, but it was still pretty. Parts of the trail had a lot of growth; the trail to the top of High Top mountain, a slight detour off the trail, was particularly overgrown. And not worth it at all, due to the lack of views and the creepy I-feel-like-I’m-in-an-episode-of-Lost gated building. But overall I’d recommend the hike. It was very well marked, a great workout, and pretty.

We didn’t see a ton of wildlife, but what we did see was super unexpected. First, we ran into a turtle. Next, near the top, were a TON of these three-dimensional spiderwebs. And finally, where the trail crossed a fire road on the way down, we saw some large animal that we’re still debating: was it a dog? A coyote? Or, where I think we’ve settled, a fisher weasel? It looked kind of like a raccoon, except four times as big. And kind of like a dog, except it… ambled more… like a bear. Who knows. We saw it from behind, and its most defining characteristic was its very bushy tail. I wish we’d taken a picture.

The nature preserve was just across the road from Mountain Cove Winery, so we stopped for a tasting before heading home. It’s apparently the oldest winery in Virginia!

We were starving (it was late afternoon), so we stopped at Al Carbon for rotisserie chicken that totally hit the spot. It was delicious. So were the roasted vegetables and sweet potato sides that I got. My friend liked her chicken, but thought some of the sides were too rich and creamy.

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Due to the late lunch, we didn’t need a proper dinner, so snacked on more nuts and fruit (and TJ turkey sausage) for a late evening snack.

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For my last meal in Charlottesville, we went this morning to the Oakhurst Inn Cafe and Espresso Bar for breakfast. It was so charming – in a house, with pretty wood tables and enormous cups of coffee. I would love to stay at the Inn. My friend and I both got the baked farm eggs, and I got a side avocado salad that I’m pretty sure had an entire avocado in it. The baked eggs were delicious (and a little spicy), but the dressing on the avocado salad was my favorite part of the meal.

And finally, after returning home early this afternoon, I made myself a salad with the last of the Trader Joe’s turkey salami, a tomato from our farm box, part of an avocado, and a peach from the Charlottesville farmers market. Yum.

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Humpback Rock

On a ridiculously foggy weekend in May, Dan and I drove to Virginia for a wedding near Charlottesville. On the way there, we stopped for a hike at Humpback Rock. My colleague, who’d been to both Veritas Vineyards, the wedding venue, and Wintergreen Resort, where all the wedding guests were staying, recommended it as a good workout with nice views.

I’m sure the views were very nice. We could only see about five feet in front of us. But it was still a lovely hike. We saw only a few other people on the trail, and it was a good uphill bit (maybe one mile) that got the heart rate up, followed by a leisurely, lower-grade three miles downhill. Another friend did the same hike the following (sunny!) weekend (after attending a different wedding at the same venue!) and posted pictures that looked great! Maybe someday we’ll go back.

And the wedding we went to was fun too!

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She Eats in Oaxaca

Dan and I met up with my parents in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico last week. We arrived on Monday after a day of flights via Atlanta and Mexico City. My parents arrived a day ahead of us, traveling from their home outside Guadalajara and spending a few days at the beach on the south coast of Oaxaca (the state). We left on Saturday, so had five nights and four full days of food and fun.

We really went there for the food, which is distinct to the region.

Everything we ate was good (honestly, I can’t think of anything I had that wasn’t good), but we had two amazing meals. One was at a restaurant called La Biznaga on our second night in a fun part of town just north of the main downtown/Zocalo area. The area has a lot of other restaurants and also art galleries, coffee shops, and bars. My father was talking about his ceviche appetizer for the rest of the trip. Dan and I split a salad, I had the zanduga (pollo, mole de guayabas, y platano macho), and Dan had the milpa alta (puntas de filete c/ nopales, jalapeños, y cilantro). I also had a locally brewed pale ale on draught. My mom ordered this cheese covered in hoja santa leaves, which we saw a lot in dishes. The leaf has a slight anise-y flavor, but not overpowering.

 

The second amazing meal was our last night, at Casa Oaxaca Cafe, which is the third Casa Oaxaca restaurant in the Casa Oaxaca family (the others being Casa Oaxaca and Casa Oaxaca Restaurante). It’s located about a mile and a half from the zocalo (city center) in aIMG_9359 more suburban-y area. We walked there, and it was really nice to go through different areas. This location is the least fancy of the three and was relatively casual, but was still fine dining. The service was AMAZING, as was the food. Really. One of the best overall dining experiences I’ve had in a long time. Dan and I had mezcal cocktails, and we ordered a Mexican wine made with nebbiolo grapes that we all really liked (which was a pleasant surprise… I don’t think of Mexico as a wine-growing place, and I’m definitely no wine connoisseur, but we really thought it was quite good and interesting). We split a ceviche appetizer and Dan also ordered some octopus taquitos that I tried one bit of. I had arrachera de res (tenderized beef, grilled), rajas con cream (slices of poblano peppers with creme), and papas quebradas (which I think might also be mashed potatoes, but in this case was fried potato pieces). Dan had beef tongue and beans (it’s not on the menu online right now, so I can’t remember what all the dish had in it). He decided to order the weirdest thing on the menu. He likes tongue – he eats in tacos sometimes, so it wasn’t a totally new thing for him – but I don’t think he’d ever had a hunk of it like that. I had a bite. It was not unpleasant :-).

 

Aside from those meals, I ate a lot of mole (which comes from Oaxaca!). And some fresh stuff like salads and juices, and some simple meat and beans dishes. Oh, and this very simple but amazing poached whole fish wrapped in an hoja santa leaf and stuffed with cheese and an amazing tomato and onion sauce.

 

So that was the food. We also tasted several mezcals. Mezcal is mostly made in Oaxaca, from the maguey plant (a type of agave). Mezcal is made from 30 something types of maguey plants, one of which is the type that tequila is made from. So tequila is a mezcal. We got to visit a mezcal distillery and learn about the process (and see some of it in action!). Dan and I also went to the very small and somewhat bizarrely-decorated small mezcalaria (mezcal bar) to taste more.

And believe it or not, we didn’t just eat. We also spent time walking around Oaxaca, peeking in the churches, and touring the nearby sites – including the widest tree (in the world? I think?) in Tule and natural mineraly springs called Hierve el Agua (The Water Boils) which run over the side of a cliff leaving mineral deposits that make it look like a waterfall. Dan and I also spent a day mountain biking. The trail was actually a mountain road, not single track. The first hour and a half was all. up. And then we got to ride down! It was hard and a bit scary and exhilarating. And the views were great. I’m definitely glad we went.