Monday, July 28, 2014

Greek Chicken

It's been hot here lately and so I haven't been in much of a cooking mood. I either need to get my cooking done before lunchtime or just make salads galore. How hot is it in your neck of the woods? Hopefully everyone is staying cool!

On one of those hot days last week, I made some Greek chicken earlier in the day and then enjoyed it for lunch and dinner. It was a really easy and flavorful dish that I definitely want to try again, but with chickpeas for a vegetarian version. I added extra veggies to mine since I love onions, peppers and zucchini. The lemon juice brightened the flavors while the feta added a nice saltiness to it that I love on a hot day. On a cooler day, I suggest serving this over rice, but it was definitely delicious without.

Greek Chicken with Peppers, Onions and Zucchini
serves 4

2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 sweet onion, cut in half then sliced
1 zucchini, sliced thinly
1/4 tsp dried oregano
juice of 1/4 lemon
feta cheese, for sprinkling
cooked rice or pasta, to serve

Cut chicken breasts into halves lengthwise, then pound to a 1/2" thickness. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a saute pan over medium high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil, then cook chicken for 4-5 minutes, flipping once. Chicken should be slightly browned on each side and cooked thoroughly. Remove from pan and set aside, keeping warm.

Add garlic cloves to the pan and saute for 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and onion strips and cook for 7-9 minutes, until onions begin to brown and peppers become crisp tender. Add zucchini and oregano during last 5 minutes of cooking. Be sure to toss the veggies frequently to avoid burning. Add lemon juice and toss, then pour onto a platter. Top with chicken, then sprinkle feta cheese over the top. Serve with cooked rice or pasta.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

30 Days 100 Miles Update

I'm halfway through my challenge and not even a quarter of the way done with my miles. I really need to up my mileage! I have also had a lot of days where I didn't do any walking and that needs to change. If anything, I need to up my mileage to over 5 miles a day to meet my goal. And that's a lot! 

So, my question to myself is do I start to count my mileage from running, spinning or ellipticalling? (Is that even a word?) Or do I just push myself to get close to my goal? Do I push myself to reach my goal and then exceed?

The critical part of me wants to just quit now because that part of me doesn't think I will be able to do it. It's that inner super critical voice, saying you aren't good enough, saying you might as well quit and sit on the couch for days.

The perfectionist in me says that I should just push myself to get that goal no matter how hard it is. But is it worth it in the end, to push yourself so hard?

The realist in me wants to just strive to hit the goal, but if I don't make it, at least I got close and tried, right? Plus, 5 miles a day isn't exactly ideal, especially with the fact that it's summer and I don't do well in the heat.

So what am I going to do? I think I am going to start with keeping my 3 miles a day like in my original goal, and then try again next month to get to the 100.

Which side are you most like? How do you deal with it?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heather Lake

I have this unfortunate habit of redoing my lists that I make. My hiking list is the worst offender, since I have redone it at least 2 times already this year. Heather Lake was not originally on my list to do this year, but when I redid my hiking list, it popped up, and I'm sure glad it did.

My friend Darja and I set out to do this hike on a beautiful sunny Sunday. By the time we got to the trailhead, it was already packed and I can see why. Sitting behind Mt. Pilchuck, the lake had views of waterfalls cascading down from snow still melting in the hot July sun. After making a loop around the lake, we found a nice little sitting spot where we dipped our toes into the lake.

Now, this is a big thing for me. I'm not a lake swimmer and I will not put my feet in the lake unless I can see the bottom (thanks to all the stumps in Goose Lake where my family camped when I was little). I'm trying so hard to get over it, but it still freaks me out. Last year, I did take a short swim in Olallie Lake but I haven't swam anywhere else in a long time.

Anyways, as we were packing up, a bird flew through the trees and all I saw what this white projectile heading towards me. I soon realized that it was poop and thank goodness it landed on my arm. Darja and I started to crack up, especially after we realized that it had barely missed hitting her in the face. As gross as it was, getting hit in the arm is WAY better than getting hit in the face, so I gladly took the hit for her.

I washed off in the lake, then we headed back down to the car. It was definitely a fun and eventful trip and I'm glad I got to bond with Darja more. But she owes me big time! ;)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pineapple Coconut Oatmeal with Macadamia Nuts

I love having oatmeal for breakfast, even in summer. It's the only breakfast item that keeps me from being hungry an hour later. My typical oatmeal is some sort of dried fruit, usually raisins or a berry mix, and walnuts with a little cinnamon and brown sugar. The other day I decided to mix it up.

I first grabbed the last few pieces of dried pineapple I had bought to snack on and some shredded coconut I had in my pantry. The final delicious piece was found while rummaging through my freezer where I found some macadamia nuts leftover from some recipe I made a while back. Perfect! I cooked the oatmeal and dried pineapple with a little allspice and brown sugar, then topped it with the shredded coconut and macadamia nuts. I felt like I was at the beach, enjoying a delicious breakfast before heading out to swim in the warm water. Ahhhhh... that sounds so relaxing right now, doesn't it?

Pineapple Coconut Oatmeal with Macadamia Nuts
Serves 2

2/3 c. rolled oats (not instant)
1/4 c. dried pineapple chunks
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 c. shredded coconut
1/4 c. macadamia nuts

In a medium saucepan, combine oats, pineapple, allspice, salt and sugar. Add enough water just to cover oats by half an inch, then place saucepan on the burner and turn on to medium-high. Set a timer for 5 minutes and let cook, stirring once or twice to avoid sticking. After 5 minutes is up, turn stove off and let stand for 2 minutes to absorb the liquid. Pour into 2 bowls, then top each with a little coconut and a handful of macadamia nuts.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Larsen Lake

I'm sure I've written about Larsen Lake on this blog, but it was so long ago, I feel it needs a revisit. Larsen Lake is a cute little lake surrounded by blueberry orchards in Bellevue. I used to go walk around the lake when I lived down the street from there, and it's still one of my favorite short walks in the area.

The loop around the lake is almost a mile and it's so perfect for a scenic run, although on a hot day it can be hard since there is little shade. My favorite starting point is actually at the Starbucks just down the street since there is a lot more parking there than at the actual trail head.

My preferred direction around the lake is clockwise. There are plenty of views of the lake from the trail, and there is even a dock to hang out on if you need a break. Plus there are tons of blueberries everywhere! (Please don't pick the blueberries. If you would like to pick them, check in with the farm stand in the red building to get a bucket.)

I recently went back for a walk around the lake and it was still as beautiful as ever. My peach green tea lemonade sure helped cool me down because even at 10 am, it was already hot out! For more information, click here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chicken and Sun Dried Tomato with Pasta and Peas: Gourmet Camping at Ohanapecosh

After hiking the triple loop the weekend before, Mark and I decided to stay midweek at the Ohanapecosh Campground at Mt. Rainier NP. I wanted to make reservations since I'm a super planner and it stresses me out to not have reservations, but you had to book them at least 5 days out and we were only gonna have 3 days inbetween our hike and when we wanted to camp. So we drove out there anyways, with backup plans A, B, C and D firmly in place to ease my mind.

After a rough start to the morning, we finally got there in the afternoon. We drove through practically every loop until finding the perfect spot in the E loop (sorry not going to tell you which one because I want to keep the secret to myself since it was so perfect!). We quickly set up camp and proceeded to relax.

We pondered what hike to do the next day and settled on Rampart Ridge, since I had never done that one and its kind of a classic at Rainier. After that was settled, it was time for dinner. Earlier in the week, the job of planning meals was given to me and I decided I wanted to do a pasta dish. Mark brought his Coleman stove and a few pots and pans, so I made the pasta dish super easy to make. All we had to do was boil the pasta, cook the garlic in oil, then toss everything together.

This dish was so awesome and easy and perfect for camping that I just had to share it. All you need is a camp stove, a pot to boil pasta, a skillet, a cutting board and a knife. And maybe a spoon to stir. Before leaving, I the put frozen peas into a baggie and stashed them in the cooler. In order to save time, I bought the sun dried tomatoes already julienned, and simply put some of them in a small mason jar with a little oil. We also brought some garlic bread, which Mark sliced and cooked over the campfire he made, along with two ears of corn, which he cooked over the fire until the husks turned black and the kernels were hot. They were the perfect side dishes.

The dish comes together quickly and is delicious and you should definitely try it on your next camping trip.

Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes with Pasta and Peas
Serves 4

1 box whole wheat spaghetti
1 pre-cooked chicken breast, sliced into 1/2" slices
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. peas
1/4 c. julienned sun dried tomatoes with about 1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large pot, bring water to a boil, then cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, then add the chicken. Cook the chicken until heated through, about 3 minutes, or cook a little longer to crisp up, about 5 minutes. Add peas and sun dried tomatoes with oil and cook for another minute, then add the pasta. Toss to combine and coat pasta with the oils. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve with garlic bread cooked over the fire.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fine Art America


How is everyone today? It's a beautiful sunny day here in Washington and I'm loving it. I wanted to tell you all about my newest adventure, selling my art from my hikes and travels. I love to take pictures and have been asked by several people if I sell my art, so I decided to go for it.

If you want to take a look, click on the slideshow on the left and it will take you to Fine Art America, where I sell my work.

I am sponsoring some pages, so feel free to browse from these links if any catch your eye:

rainier art
garden photos
flower photos
green photos
yellow photos
dahlia photos
red photos
purple photos
pink photos
seattle photos
white photos
washington photos
nature photos
flowers photos
blue photos
sand photos
kitchen photos
cityscape photos
grape photos
plant photos
fruit photos
hyacinth photos
tropical photos
water photos
sea photos
sunflower photos
lisbon photos
landscape photos
snow photos
forest photos
orange photos
beach photos
portugal photos

Thanks for checking out my art! If you sell your art anywhere, leave a link in the comments. I'd love to check it out!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Hiking at Ohanapecosh

Over the past three years, I have been exploring Mt. Rainer NP much more and I'm loving every part of the park. It is so different in each area and I love seeing new things every time I go. A few weekends ago, Mark took me to Stevens Canyon and Ohanapecosh because I had never been to that corner of the park. I thumbed through my guidebook, Day Hiking: Mt. Rainier, and saw three "loops" we could combine into one larger loop and decided to go for it.

We parked at the Ohanapecosh campground and immediately decided we had to come back and camp (which we did on July 2nd). The loop we decided to do was to combine the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs loop, the Silver Falls Loop and the lollipop Grove of the Patriarchs at the other end, returning on the other half of the Silver Falls Loop. Overall, I think it was about 6 miles and it was perfect.

The trail was nice and cool, and followed the river until we got to Silver Falls, which was roaring and splashing up spray. We crossed the bridge over the river and took tons of pictures from every overlook we could find. We watched a pair of logs caught in a whirlpool for at least 10 minutes, betting on which would would get out first (turns out neither did, even by the time we came back to the spot on our hike).

We continued north on the trail until we got to the road at the Stevens Canyon entrance. The parking lot for Grove of the Patriarchs was full and there were lots of people on the trail. I really enjoyed walking across the suspension bridge to the loop, even though there were lots of tourists. I definitely want to go back there on a weekday and get more pictures of the bridge and the creek since it was so pretty there. I'd love to lay out on the bank and just snooze.

On the way back to our, we decided to head right instead of left on the Silver Falls Loop as to not retrace our steps. This side was much less traveled and didn't stick as closely to the river, but was nice and quiet. It spit us out on the other side of the campground, so we wandered around searching for the best campsite. (Shhhh don't tell anyone but we really like the C and E loops. G was a close third, but it was full both times since it is first come first serve like the H loop, while the rest are all on a reservation system.) I really loved this loop and I definitely would do it again while camping at Ohanapecosh, which is now my favorite campground.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

30 Days, 100 Miles

Ever since I started on my first cookbook, I have been struggling to get away from the computer and get more active. I mean, I kinda sorta workout, and I hike almost every weekend, but more often than not, I'm on my bum.

With more and more research showing that sitting on your rear for any length of time is bad for you, I am doing some fixes. First, I am making myself a standing desk from a shelf set I bought at IKEA forever ago and never got around to using. It's not going to be perfect and won't be able to hold a lot of weight, but at least I will be standing more instead of sitting!

Second, I'm getting more into working out at the gym. I've never really been one to go to a gym, but now that I have a membership, I might as well use it! I love going in the mornings when its quieter, the only problem is getting my butt out of bed before 7! (well, this morning it was more like 8, but still!)

And third, I wanted to start an Instagram challenge (with a weekly update here) called 30 days, 100 miles. I run, swim or cycle when I go to the gym, but other than that, I don't go walking and I really should. So now I'm going to walk 3 miles or so everyday (plus extra on the weekends) and I'd like you to join me!

Just take a picture while out on your walk and use the #30days100miles tag. If you want to tag me in it, use @rachelvdolekkitchen.

I can't wait to see where you all go walking!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Garlic Lemon Cod with Walnut Raisin Salad

I made this dish about two weeks ago and had to put it aside due to some very crazy weeks for me. Lots of stuff happened in a very short amount of time. My dad threw out his back while my parents were packing up their house to move since it sold in 6 days and they weren't prepared for it to sell that quickly. I helped them with the movers two days before they were supposed to hand over the keys, and they are now enjoying some time up at their condo at a nearby ski area.

In addition to helping my parents move, we had several family emergencies, and just stress all-around. This past week, I went camping for the first time in years and came home so relaxed and refreshed. Fourth of July I spent at Mark's mom's house in the North End of Tacoma and enjoyed watching the fireworks. The weekend involved more hiking and some resting. I'm now back to my semi-normal schedule and I'm ready to cook.

This dish is perfect if you are low on time and need something fresh and easy. The cod is cooked with lemon and garlic, and is done in minutes. The salad is simple but tangy and delicious. Try this perfect pairing for dinner tonight.

Garlic Lemon Cod with Walnut Raisin Salad
Serves 4

juice of 2 lemons
1 lb cod, cut into 4 pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 tbsp butter

dressing for salad:
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp balsamic
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper

golden raisins
baby kale or your favorite greens

To make dressing for the salad, whisk together ingredients, then set aside. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle cod with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Add cod, garlic and lemon juice to pan, and cook for 3-4 minutes, flipping over once. Remove cod from pan and set aside. Add butter to the pan and swirl until melted. Pour lemon butter sauce over the cod.

To serve, place a handful of baby kale on each plate. Sprinkle walnuts and golden raisins over the top, then drizzle with dressing. Add a piece of cod to each plate, then spoon over more lemon butter sauce.

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