Monday, June 23, 2014

Talapus and Olallie Lakes

Talapus and Olallie Lakes are two of my favorites lakes to hike to in early summer, mostly because they are at lower elevations and can be hiked to while the upper elevations are still covered in snow. I swear I have done this hike 4 times in the last 3 years because I love it so much! Olallie is also one of the few lakes that I will actually swim in, which I did last year after a scorcher of a hike to Island Lake on a really hot day. Swimming in Olallie sure felt good! I would have swam in Island, but it still had ice floating on it... brrrr!

The hike itself is pretty straight forward and we were able to finish in only about 3 hours, even after taking a lunch break at Olallie and meandering back to the cars. The weather was nice and cool but not raining, perfect hiking weather. The WTA volunteers were out in full force making mud puddles where they were tearing out big rocks and replacing them with board walks. That trail is sure going to look nice when they are all done!

Hiking up there really felt good after the first mile was over with. I was sucking air the whole first mile, but then my breathing slowed and it was fun after that. It also got my hiking bug to come back and now I am really excited about my hiking plans for the next few weeks. I have Lime Kiln Trail, Bare Mountain, Green Lake, Mount Beljica and Lake Wynoochee happening all within the next month and I'm really excited for all of it!

What hikes do you have planned for the next few weeks?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Chenuis Falls

I had been wanting to do this hike for a long time, just so I could start to explore the Carbon River Road at Mt. Rainier. This road has been closed since the floods of 2006 washed it out and was turned into a bike to hike road, one of two in Mt. Rainier National Park that allow bikes. I didn't want to bike it (I do have plans to bike to the end and stay overnight at Ipsut Creek Campground), but it just wasn't in the plans for last Sunday.

Mark and I parked at the entrance then walked down the road. While the road is not particularly exciting, it was very peaceful and gorgeous seeing the sun streaming through the moss covered trees. The road walk went by much faster than I anticipated, and before I knew it, we were at the former trail head for the falls.

Now, this trail is only accessible once they put the foot bridges in across the river, which usually are in May. The rest of the time, the river is too cold and high to ford. The foot bridges felt really sturdy and I had no problem walking across.

The falls themselves are only 0.2 miles from the former trail head so we were there in no time! And they were beautiful! We had lunch at the base of the falls. I just loved gazing out at that blue-green water. It was so relaxing and wonderful. After lunch we slowly ambled back across the river, taking lots of photos and just soaking up the sun.

On the way back, we took a side trail up to an old copper mine that Crystal and I had worked on with the WTA a year ago. It looked a lot different and this time I explored a little further into the mine. It was creepy!

If you want to check out the mine, walk about 1 mile up the Carbon River Road past the barricade and the trail is on your right. It's level for the part, but then it goes up! Be prepared for a steep incline.

I now really want to go and explore more of the Carbon River area of Mt. Rainier. It is so beautiful up there!

Have you explored the Carbon River area at all?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Caramelized Spiced Yams

Whenever I think of sweetened yams, I always think of the typical marshmallowy Thanksgiving dish. My family usually loves putting lots of marshmallows on top, which is always delicious. There were a couple of years there where every few minutes someone new would come traipsing through the kitchen and add a handful or two more marshmallows to the top of the casserole. There would always end up being more marshmallows than sweet potatoes once it made it to the table.

I saw this recipe for caramelized potatoes in one of my cookbooks and thought, hmmm, I like that idea, but instead of white potatoes, why not yams? And to add my spin to it, I added some allspice, cinnamon and fresh grated ginger to give it a kick. These yams makes the perfect side dish and can be done in under 20 minutes. Perfect for any dinner, Thanksgiving or not!

Caramelized Spiced Yams
serves 4

2 medium yams, peeled and diced into 1/2" dice
2 tbsp Earth Balance or butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

In a large stock pot, bring water to a boil and add diced yams. Cook for 4-5 minutes, just until soft. Drain and set aside. In a small saute pan, melt butter, then add sugar and spices. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then drizzle over yams. Toss to combine and serve.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Rachel's Cobb Salad with Ranch Dressing (Egg and Dairy Free)

I'm not the biggest fan of ranch, but sometimes I get a craving for it that just won't go away. Like my cravings for buffalo wings. Sheesh! Don't get me started on those. A ranch craving popped up about a week ago, and ever since I've been dairy and egg free, I have not for the life of me been able to find a decent ranch dressing! I also haven't been able to find a dairy free ranch seasoning, until last week.

I was whipping through the store at lightning speed when I stopped by the salad dressing aisle. I decided to take a look at the seasoning packets for ranch dressing, just in case I found one that fit my requirements. And guess what? I did!

So I took it home and made my version of a Cobb salad, which is basically lots of veggies with ham. I followed the directions on the package with some additional ingredients and got a delicious ranch dressing. My next dressing project: make a killer blue cheese dressing using sheep's milk Roquefort. I think I'm going to need some more buffalo wings.

Rachel's Cobb Salad with Ranch Dressing (Egg and Dairy Free)
serves 2

1 head lettuce, rinsed and chopped
4 small tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 handful snap peas, cut in half
4 slices of ham, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
any other veggies you desire

1 tbsp ranch seasoning from packet (I used Uncle Dan's Classic Ranch)
1/4 c. egg-free canola based mayo
1/4 c. soy milk
1 tbsp rice vinegar

To make dressing, pour all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk to combine. Divide lettuce between two plates. Layer tomatoes, peas, ham and avocado on top, then drizzle with dressing.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ryan House

Hello everyone! It's a rainy Friday here so its the perfect time to write up about my recent adventures while I enjoy some mango passionfruit white tea. I've also got a cake in the oven that is for my next cookbook, The Summer Kitchen. I'm so excited to be working on it! I think you all will love it!

Anyways, last Saturday as I was waiting for Mark to finish hanging out with one of his friends, I decided to go on a photo tour of Sumner. A few years ago, I created a list of all the sites on the National Historic Register that were in King and Pierce county, including all of the ones in Tacoma and Seattle. It is a long list, but my goal was to just go explore and take photos of the sites. So on Saturday, I decided to start with Sumner.

I first stopped by a park that I had been wanting to visit, since the website has boasted about its beautiful views of Mt. Rainier, hence it's name Rainier View Park. I went there on a bad day, since it was gorgeous out and there were screaming kids everywhere! I'm sure on a cloudy day or early in the morning it is a nice place to sit and read, but in the afternoon, not so much.

The view of Rainier was nice, but I've had better. I took a few photos and continued on. I drove to the first site on my list, which was a private residence, so I didn't take any pictures. It was a beautiful old house right next to a huge farm, and it was needing a lot of work.

I continued on to the next one on my list, which was the Ryan House on Main St. I had driven by it so many times, but never bothered to stop. I just happened to be taking pictures of the outside when a lady walked out and said I should come in and take a look around. Being a sucker for old houses, I immediately went inside.

Mary Beth gave me a wonderful private tour of the house and told me the story of her family, the Ryans, and how they established the town of Sumner. It was quite an interesting story! She let me wander around to take pictures and then offered to show me the upstairs, which they were still restoring. She told me all about how the family no longer wanted to live in the house after George and Lucy Ryan passed away. It became a library after that, and then had a stint as the city hall, before finally becoming a museum.

They still had lots of stuff packed in to some of the rooms that needed to be sorted. One room had books and folders of old photographs packed to the brim. I wanted to just dive in and look at what they had. And organize it! 

If you are in the Sumner area, I definitely recommend stopping by the Ryan House. It is truly fascinating to see how people lived when this area was first being built. They are run by volunteers, so they are usually only open on weekends, but be sure to give them a call if you want to stop by during the week. 


There are definitely a lot more places for me to explore in this area. I love finding cool new places! For more photos of my day trip, check out my flickr album. For more information, click here or here.

Find any interesting places lately near to where you live?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Steak and Strawberry Salad

Its strawberry season here in the Pacific Northwest! Farms left and right have set up berry stands everywhere, especially in the Puyallup/Sumner/Orting area. The other day I stopped by the Spooner Farms stand on Main St. and bought some of these beauties! 

I saved some for cooking, some for snacking and the rest were turned into jam. Yum yum!

The strawberries that were left eventually made their way into this salad, which came about by necessity. I had somewhere to be and I needed to eat dinner, quick! I peered into my fridge and it came to me: a steak and strawberry salad with balsamic dressing.

I grabbed whatever else I could find that would go with (cukes! avocado!), chopped it all up and threw it together. I was amazed at how good this salad was that I wrote it down with plans to make it again, which I haven't done yet, but it's on the list.

Make this easy quick salad tonight, especially if you have leftover steak! Mmmmm....

Steak and Strawberry Salad
serves 2

1/2 lb leftover steak, sliced thinly
1/2 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 cucumber, sliced thinly then cut into half moons
1 avocado, cut in half, peeled and diced
1/2 head red leaf lettuce, washed, dried and cut into pieces

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

To make dressing, whisk all ingredients together. For the salad, separate lettuce pieces onto two plates, then divide cucumber moons, strawberry quarters, diced avocado and steak slices between the two plates. Drizzle with dressing and enjoy. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Talking about Food Allergies

It seems lately I've been having a lot of conversations with various people about my food allergies, mainly because of my cookbook. It's interesting to hear what other people have to say, and it's rather refreshing to meet others who have been affected by food allergies and their struggles.

I went walking with my cousin a few days ago, who also has food allergies and intolerances that have affected her life drastically. We chatted about difficulties with family members and others who have had "issues" understanding our allergies and working with us during meal times. It was good to see her and to be able to talk to someone who understands the things I go through on a daily basis, from having to asking a dozen questions to the waitstaff or having to bring all the food to a get together to having to shop at multiple stores in order to find the right products.

After I got home, I went to pick up my Stitch Fix (which I love!) from the main office and I chatted with one of the ladies there about my cookbook. She was surprised that I was writing a dairy and egg free cookbook, especially because her daughter had both dairy and egg allergies growing up, but has since faded. We talked about how difficult it can be, but how there are so many new products available out that have made it so much easier to eat "normal."

She made an interesting comment about how her daughter still prefers her food without dairy and eggs, because that is how she ate growing up. It made me think about how I would eat if suddenly I found out I wasn't allergic. I'm not sure if I would switch back because I have grown to love eating foods without dairy and eggs, and it really has expanded my palate.

Through talking with people about my food allergies, I have discovered that this is what I was meant to do, to help others who have the same allergies learn how to eat without dairy or eggs but still eat delicious food. I didn't quite resist it, but I haven't embraced it fully either. I think it's time that I do.

*All the pictures are from my walk with my cousin and her youngest son (who is so adorable!) at Nolte State Park.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Etsy News!

Hello everyone!

I hope you are enjoying this beautiful sprummer day! (Ok I totally make that word up. It's still technically spring here but boy does it feel like summer!) I have some wonderful etsy news! I have started posting my first collection of kitchen and table ware on my Etsy shop, rachelvdolekkitchen.

The first collection is perfect for summer since where does everyone go for summer? The beach! Featuring blues and greens and white, my items would fit perfectly in your beach house, whether its actually at the beach or not!

Some items that are already up are this beautiful hand painted vase that I upcycled. I have this one in green, but expect many more in blue and white. In fact, I have a blue one drying right now that just needs a few tinges of green and white, and a sealing coat or two, then it will be ready!

I also have some fun painted wooden spoons, available to purchase singularly or in sets of 3. I just love that blue color!

And finally, I have a couple colorful hand knitted trivets, made from 100% cotton yarn. I have knitted them so that they look marbled. I will also have matching placemats available to order early next week.

Keep your eyes open for many more items within this beach theme, including spoon rests, tablecloths, napkins and possibly even aprons and kitchen towels!

Have a lovely day!


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Super Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies (egg and dairy free)

I love brownies. Cakey, fudgey, you name it. I can't eat the boxed kind because of the milk by-products that are present in many of them, so I usually make my own. I have used many recipes over the years, but this one has got to be my favorite. It's fudgey and super chocolatey, while not being overly sweet. I love using Baker's unsweetened chocolate for the base because it is dairy-free. I also use dairy-free chocolate syrup (such as Torani's) and dark chocolate chips to make it extra chocolately. To make them egg-free, I use Ener-G Egg Replacer Powder mixed with a little almond milk to make up for the liquid.

Beware, these brownies are addicting!

Super Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies
makes 12 brownies

1/2 c. butter or vegan butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp chocolate syrup
1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer Powder
2 tbsp almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 c. AP flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 c. dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x9x2 pan with baking spray. In a saucepan, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat, stirring until melted. Add in chocolate syrup, sugar and vanilla and stir to mix.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and egg replacer powder. Toss in chocolate chips, then add to chocolate mixture in saucepan, along with almond milk. Stir until just combined.
3. Spread the batter into the pan and bake for 20 minutes. Cool, then slice and serve. They will be crumbly at first, but after they cool completely they will set nicely.

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