Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Running Up the Hill

At the beginning of this summer, I made a goal to be able to run up this steep hill near where I live without walking or stopping by the end of August.

This hill is about 1.1 miles long and it's got a 10% grade to it. When you drive up it, it doesn't seem that steep. But when you walk it, oh my gosh I feel like I'm gonna fall over! (Ok not really, but you get what I mean!)

I've walked up this hill multiple times in the past year and it's a great workout just walking. Now running? Holy moly that is hard. You definitely do not see many people running up it.

So I made a goal for myself that I would run enough during the summer to be able to run up this hill without walking. I ran about once a week, but not a whole lot. I did lots of hiking this summer, which is also a pretty good workout, but it's nothing like running.

Yesterday, I was not having a good day. I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I was feeling tired and cranky. I left work a little early just because I wanted to be some where comforting, like my home. I had planned on going home and sitting in front of my computer, watching Mythbusters and stuffing my face with food.

Then I remembered what I had heard while watching the Biggest Loser a while ago. I don't remember who said it or what exactly was said, but the gist was that when you are feeling down or upset or angry or anything, instead of stuffing your face with food, it's a better idea to go for a walk or a run, and you will feel better afterwards.

So I decided to run up the hill. The last time I tried, I made it about 1/3 of the way up before turning around. While I was at the bottom, I decided to run as far as I could. I got to the point where I had turned around before and I was starting to feel tired. I was breathing heavy, my legs felt like lead. I could have so easily turned around at that point. I couldn't see the top of the hill, and it felt so far away.

But I pushed on.

I rounded the corner of the hill and kept running. I had made up my mind that I was going to make it to the top without walking. Then, my mind started to play tricks on me.

You can't do this. You should walk. You are too tired. Why don't you turn around?

I said, Brain, shut up! I so can do this!

And I did. I ran all the way to the top till I hit the light pole at the intersection. I was so proud of myself and it was at that moment that it clicked.

I am stronger than I think I am. I really can do anything I set my mind to.

I took a quick walk around the small park that is at the top in order to get some water from the fountain, then slowly jogged my way back down the hill.

And then as I got towards the bottom, the crazy part of my brain that I love so much said these famous words from that one Boston song:

Wanna do it again?

And I said yes. But I was so tired, I only made it a 1/3 of the way back up before turning around and walking back down. I was still proud that I had made it to the top without stopping. Going 1/3 of the way a second time was just icing on the cake!

I felt great after my run. It gave me a sense of peace and calm that I so need in my life. Before this run, I had believed only hiking and skiing could give me that same feeling. In fact, before I started hiking, I thought only skiing would do it for me. I have proved myself wrong twice now, and I'm sure I will prove myself wrong again.

But now I want to run more. I think I have found my solution to calm down my emotions and make me more even keeled.

I also want to conquer bigger things, climb bigger mountains. Maybe I'll do this one next:

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tacos with Ground Beef and Guacamole

My lettuce crop has been absolutely exploding! I thought I should probably use some in a recipe, and since I have been craving Mexican food, tacos came to mind. Tacos were a regular at my house growing up, but they almost always included sour cream and cheese. I decided to try to make a flavorful taco without the dairy.

The meat is cooked with onions and garlic, then seasoned with a spicy, smoky spice mix. The guacamole is simple, only avocado, lime, cilantro and tomatoes. Extra tomatoes are piled on top, along with fresh, chopped lettuce. Each taco is wrapped in a yellow corn shell and devoured with a sprinkling of lime juice.

Try this version of tacos for a healthy, flavorful meal tonight!

Tacos with Ground Beef and Guacamole
Serves 4

1 lb ground beef, 97% meat, 3% fat
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper

1 large avocado
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped, 1/4 reserved for topping
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1/2 lime, juiced

lettuce leaves, chopped
lime wedges
yellow corn tortillas

1. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook until garlic begins to brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Cook beef until there is no more pink. Stir in spices, set aside.
2. To make guacamole, mash avocado in a bowl. Stir in lime juice, tomatoes and cilantro.
3. To serve: heat tortillas over medium heat in a nonstick saute pan. Top with beef mixture, guacamole, lettuce, diced tomato and sprinkle with lime juice.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cottonwood, Mirror and Twilight Lakes

I'm so far behind on my hiking posts! GAH! I'm just not inspired to write them, but I'm gonna make myself do it!

So exactly a month ago, I went with a great group of gals to Mirror Lake with a stop at Cottonwood Lake. The skies were cloudy when we started in North Bend, but by the time we got over the pass, it was sunny! Unfortunately, the trail head was back in the clouds, but it was nice and cool. Perfect hiking weather!

Cottonwood Lake

Cottonwood Lake

The trail head starts back behind the Snoqualmie Pass ski area, off a Forest Service road. The hike to Cottonwood is not very difficult, but there are plenty of ups and downs and stream crossings. Cottonwood Lake is very pretty, but very marshy. We didn't stay long because of all the bugs, but I found my first patch of snow! YAY!

Mirror Lake

We soon continued up the hill to Mirror Lake, which is one of the prettiest lakes I've ever seen.  The hike up from Cottonwood is challenging, but it's short. Once we got to the top, we had to walk over some snow and route find a little, but we got to the edge of the lake without any trouble.

We followed the PCT along the edge of Mirror Lake to the popular campsite at the shore. There were a few guys camping there, so we asked if we could take a few pictures, then be on our way. They warned us to not step in the snow because that's where they were keeping their catch, a beautiful Rainbow trout!

I showed the gals the way to a nice ledge along the trail where we stopped for lunch. The creek from Mirror Lake was really flowing! I had been on the trail before, but the creek wasn't running as high. Tina quickly finished her lunch and then went exploring. Crystal and I joined her and she showed us a pretty waterfall she had found.

View from our lunch spot


After lunch, the gals wanted a little more of a walk, so we continued about another mile to Twilight Lake. There was a little campsite in the middle of the lake, but most of it was marshy grass land, so we walked across to see what the lake looked like. With the fog and clouds hanging so low, the lake looked so pretty!

Ollie the dog had a great time running around the lake and we had lots of fun watching!

After we had rested, we hiked back up to Mirror Lake, then back to Cottonwood, and finally back to the cars. Tina had suggested a beer afterwards, so we stopped at Webb's Restaurant on Snoqualmie Pass for food and drinks. Our waitress was hilarious and we chatted with her for a while, then headed home.

I would have to say Mirror Lake is one of my favorite hikes to do since it's short and beautiful! Along with Sheep Lake, it's one of the few hikes I make a point of doing every year.

Total time: 4 hours 
Distance: 5 miles, 800 ft elevation gain
 Passes: NW Forest Pass required
Location: off exit 54 on I-90, GPS: N 47 20.645, W 121 25.477

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Halibut with Chimichurri and Quinoa

I made this dish a while ago when I was craving some halibut and had a bit of parsley and cilantro left over. I thought instantly of chiumicurri, since I had seen a recipe for it in one of my bazillion cookbooks. I added in some lime juice for my own spin. Other than that, it's a simple fresh sauce that can be served over almost any kind of meat.

I pan fried the fish, then served it over a bed of greens with some red quinoa. Enjoy this as a quick, easy dinner tonight!

Halibut with Chimichurri
Serves 4

1 lb. halibut fillets
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lime, juiced, other half reserved
salt and pepper

1. Combine in a food processor the cilantro, parsley and garlic; chop until fine. Stir in olive oil and lime juice and process until combined. Set aside.
2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Coat halibut fillets with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook skin side down for 3 minutes, then squeeze the other lime half over the fillet. Cover, and cook until done.
3. Serve halibut with salsa verde on the side.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Garlic Zucchini over Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Do you have that big block of leftover spaghetti sauce in your freezer, but just don't want to eat it as spaghetti? Do you want to give it a fresher flavor that makes it feel like it was just made? I did!

I had some zucchini in the fridge that needed to be used up. Since I love garlic zucchini, I thought it would go good on some leftover spaghetti sauce I had sitting in the freezer, and it sure did! It brought the sauce back to life!

Give this addition to your spaghetti sauce tonight! (And give yourself more freezer space!)

Garlic Zucchini over Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Serves 4

2 medium zucchini, diced
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
frozen spaghetti sauce
Parmesan, for serving, optional

1. Defrost enough spaghetti sauce for 4 people.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
3. Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add zucchini, and saute until soft and beginning to brown, about 5-7 minutes.
4. Heat up sauce in microwave. Divide pasta into four bowls. Pour some spaghetti sauce over pasta, then top with zucchini. Add a little grated Parmesan, then devour!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Chard

I originally came across a recipe for a tomato sauced fettuccine dish that included chard over a year ago when my ex's mom's garden was exploding with chard. I couldn't find many quick easy recipes with chard, so I was extremely excited about this one.

I decided to revisit it recently, and this time I added in a little Italian chicken sausage and used spaghetti instead of fettuccine. It was still very delicious! It's super easy and a great way to use up some chard if you have it coming out of your ears.

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Chard
inspired by Donna Hay
Serves 4

1 lb whole wheat spaghetti
2 Italian chicken sausages
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 c. your favorite tomato sauce
1 bunch chard, Swiss or Rainbow
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 c. liquid, then set aside.
2. Heat a large non-stick saute pan over med-high heat. Remove casings from sausages, then cook in pan, breaking meat into small pieces. Once there is no more pink visible, remove from pan. Add 1 tsp olive oil, reduce heat to medium, then cook garlic for 1 min.
3. Add tomato sauce and sausage pieces to pan. Add chard, and let wilt slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in spaghetti and a little bit of the pasta water to blend together. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Naan Pizza with Sopressata, Onions and Basil

I love making pizzas at home! You can customize them any which way you want, and if you are sharing, you don't have to fight over the best (or worst!) parts.

This pizza was inspired by one I saw in Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas. The one in the book had caramelized onions, with sopressata and walnuts. As good as it sounds, I went the lazy way.

First, I used a garlic naan as my base. Holy moly was that a good idea! It was so tasty and added so much flavor! Then, I used some of my favorite marinara sauce, made by Cucina Fresca. Lastly, I skipped the caramelized onions and just put sliced sweet Walla Walla onions on top.

And it was amazing! I made it twice in one week. I know a dish is a winner if I make it twice, and it's gotta be absolutely astoundingly good to be made twice in one week! Try this pizza tonight!

Naan Pizza with Sopressata, Onions and Basil
Serves 4

1 package garlic naan (comes with 2 naan)
1/2 cup your favorite tomato sauce
1/4 lb. sopressata (or sub in your favorite salami)
1/4 sweet onion, sliced thinly
mozzarella slices, optional

basil, shredded, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Top each naan with 1/4 c. tomato sauce. Layer with a few mozzarella slices, if desired. Place torn pieces of sopressata on top, then sprinkle with onion slices.
2. Bake each pizza for 5-10 minutes, to desired crispness. (I like mine at about 7 minutes, where the sopressata looks like stained glass and the tips of the onions are just turning brown.) Remove from oven, the sprinkle with shredded basil.

Cut into quarters and serve.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Franklin Falls and Denny Creek

Hey there! Just to let you all know, I started a facebook page for my blog! Feel free to like my new page over on the left side there! :) Thanks!

I hiked to Franklin Falls twice last year, and didn't once get a picture. Finally, on my third trip there, I got plenty of pictures, as you will soon see!

Franklin Falls is a rather large waterfall that is right under I-90 Westbound, just west of Snoqualmie Pass. I have driven over I-90 hundreds of times in my life, but never knew it was there. The first time I went, the falls were roaring, but we could walk around the pool at the base of the falls.

This time, however, there was so much water, we all got stuck on this little ledge and had to take pictures from there. The whole area at the bottom of the falls was covered by several feet of water! I was not expecting that!

Buddha and Tina

From Franklin Falls, we walked back to the trail head, then off to the Denny Creek trail head. From there we hiked up into the forest, until we came across Denny Creek.

Now, last year, it was low enough that we could rock hop all the way across. This year, we had to do the balance beam on a log dam. I was so proud of myself for not getting wet on the way across, but on the way back, I stepped in the water on my very last step! (Thanks a lot, you unstable but stable looking rock!)

Once we got across Denny Creek, we meandered though the forest some more before coming up to the rock field and hiking our way up in the heat. We stopped several times where ever there was shade to drink water and snack.
Our group. Photo by Valerie.

We got to Keekwulee Falls, which we couldn't see because of all the brush in the way, but then we arrived at Snowshoe Falls. Isn't that pretty? I do love me some waterfalls!

Snowshoe Falls

After that, we decided to trek as far as we could go before there was too much snow and we had to turn around. While we were taking a rest break, a guy stopped to let us know that the snow cover on the way to Melakwa Lake was rather thin and that he had fallen several times up to his waist because of snow bridges. He had also tried to cross the creek, and said it was very difficult when he did it. Not wanting anyone to get hurt, we got to the first large snow patch, Tina made a snow angel, then we packed it in and headed back down. 

Rebecca and Buddha near the waterslide. Photo by Tina.

We stopped to dip our toes in the icy water of Denny Creek at the "waterslide," which is a natural rock formation that kids use in summer as a waterslide. It didn't appear to be working very well, but the kids that were there were still having fun!

Maxwell hitching a ride across the logs. Photo by Tina.

Then we crossed back over the log jam and headed back to the cars. I am very tempted to make the trip up to Melakwa Lake, but I'm definitely going to wait until the snow has melted! 
Total time: 6 hours 
Distance: 2 miles, 400 ft for Franklin Falls, 4 miles, 700 ft elevation gain to Denny Creek
Passes: NW Forest Pass required
Location: off exit 47 on I-90, GPS: N 47 24.780, W 121 20.493

Thanks for reading!

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