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lake placid

We just came back from the most fantastic trip. We spent 4 nights camping at the Adirondack Loj in Lake Placid with our friends Amy and Richard and their 2 daughters Chloe and Aubrey. Lake Placid is a heavenly place. The air is clean and the views are just amazing. I just love being there.

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At the summit of Mt Jo.

We have not made it to Lake Placid in about 5 years or something like that. Cycling, pregnancy, and Julia’s arrival were the culprits. :) Since Julia is a bit older now and after camping in Watkins Glen, we decided to give it a try. I must admit that I was a bit nervous. I cannot remember the last time we camped for 4 nights, if ever. I guess there is always a first… ha!

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Our house. :)

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The drive was fine, but as soon as we arrived in Lake Placid, it started to pour… a torrential downpour with hale. Yikes!! I knew that rain was in the forecast, but no one mentioned hale. Luckily we planned to have lunch first, so we did not have to setup camp quite yet. The rain did stop, so we ended up setting camp in semi dry conditions. The rest of our stay was beautiful! Sunny and warm. So lucky!

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We had lots of activities planned, thanks to Richard. He is so good at planning! :) He found a bunch of things for us to do, including hikes that were toddler friendly. Owl’s Head was the first mountain that we climbed. It was a typical Adirondack mountain… normal trail leads to scrambling up rocks and boulders as you reach the summit. As soon as we started our hike, Julia insisted on hiking on her own. Once we let her loose, she was having a blast! She loved climbing up the rocks and boulders. So fun!

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Julia’s first hike in the Adirondacks… Owl’s Head.

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We made it! Hoorrayyyy!!

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Our second hike was Mt Jo. This too was a typical Adirondack mountain. We decided to hike it as part of a guided tour. Our leader Laurel told us about the vegetation and history of the mountain. It was fun to lean more about the area. Once again Julia insisted on hiking on her own, but since we were hiking with a guide, we kept telling her that she had to wait. She ended up hiking on her own during the descent. It was definitely more challenging descending, but she did so great! She loved using the roots as holds.

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Julia descending Mt Jo.

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I am so proud of her! I never in a million years would have thought that my 2 year old could hike, especially not a mountain in the Adirondacks. So great!!

Our planned activities also included a bike ride for the boys and another for the girls. Joel and Richard went for a mountain bike ride on the Lussi and Loggers trail. Apparently it was a good ride.

Amy and I rode on the Adirondack Loj Road. It included a few awesome descents. Amy turned around once we reached Route 73 and I continued on to Bear Cub Road. The road was super nice… very quiet and scenic. I passed the Cornell maple and potato seed farms, a few farming fields, as well as 2 guys on a horse and buggy that was pulling a huge tire. They stopped to let me pass and I learned that they were using the huge tire to move rocks. Ha! Riding on the road also gave me a different perspective of Algonquin Mountain… I have only seen the mountain from 2 directions, so this was kind of fun.

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Amy riding on one of the ascents on Adirondack Loj Road going toward Route 73.

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The road had some amazing view of the surrounding mountains.

My return on Adirondack Loj Road was a different story… those amazing descents turned into painful ascents. The worst of it was at the last stretch before reaching the campground. Oy! I was really hoping to do another ride, but time did not allow. I really wanted to ride on River Road. Joel and I took a drive on it instead and it was so beautiful… lots of twists and turns and amazing views of Whiteface Mountain. Next time.

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Riding on Route 73… I could not help myself not snapping a photo of the sky jumps. :)

Julia and Chloe rode their bikes a bunch too. As soon as Julia woke up everyday, her first words were “I want to go outside and ride my bike!”. They rode around the campground’s road and also around our campsite. It was so fun to see the two of them ride. Amy and I kept saying that we were so glad that we had their bikes, since they had something to do. I love watching them ride. So cute!

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Riding around the campground’s road.

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I love the sun rays in the background!

Aside from hiking and biking, we mostly hung out around camp, swam in Heart Lake, went to a show, and spent a little time in town, where we walked around and also ate some crêpes. That’s right… I said crêpes. It was the best discovery! We had some as a snack one day and some for lunch the next day (savory and sweet). Delicious! Another reason to visit Lake Placid! :)

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Julia’s first time wearing a head lamp.

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It was such a fun trip! Julia did so well at camp. She slept super well every night, despite the cold nights, and loved being outdoors. I look forward to our next trip.

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View of Heart Lake.

vegan cake

Julia turned 2 the other day. Crazy!! I cannot believe that she is already 2 and at the same time it is hard to believe that she is only 2. Ha!

We had a small birthday party to celebrate her birthday. Since one of Julia’s friends is vegan, I decided to make a vegan cake. I looked in a few cookbooks and at a few sites and decided to give it a try. The recipes did not seem too involved, so how hard can it be. Another ha! I baked 5 cakes… yes, I said 5 cakes… and they were either ok, mediocre, or just awful.

The first recipe that I tried was a coconut lemon cake from the Veganomicon cookbook. It was simple to make. The recipe included coconut milk, lemon juice and zest, and the regular baking items, such as flour, sugar, etc. Since no eggs are included, a combination of baking powder, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar is used as a replacement. The recipe required a bundt cake pan, but I decided to make it in a springform pan. The cake was pretty good, but it was not a good cake for a birthday cake. The flavor was really nice… the coconut and lemon worked well together. The consistency of the cake was pretty dense… it almost resembled corn bread. Joel tried to convince me that it was an ok recipe as a birthday cake, but I was not convinced.

I searched some more and I came across a recipe for an orange blossom sesame cake on the My New Roots blog. It sounded pretty tasty. However, there were a few things… the recipe required unhulled sesame seeds and tahini made from unhulled sesame seeds. I am not sure where you can find tahini from unhulled sesame seeds. Wegmans does not carry it… perhaps Lori’s or the co-op? I did not have time to search around too much so I settled on the tahini that I had in my fridge. Same goes for the sesame seeds. The recipe also required orange blossom water. I again searched at Wegmans but could not find it there. I did find it at Cook’s World… I love that place… they have everything there! :) The recipe was also fairly simple to make. The cake looked somewhat similar to the photo in the blog. My version was lighter, which I suspect is from the fact that I used hulled sesame seeds and tahini. I really liked the cake. The flavor was nice. I liked the taste of the tahini with the orange flavor. I did not care too much for the honey syrup… I found it way too sweet. If I make the cake again, I would make a simple syrup instead. Even though the cake was good, again I did not think that it was a good cake for a birthday party for a 2 year old.

The search continued. I decided to look in my Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts cookbook. I forgot that I owned this cookbook and thought for sure that a vegan recipe would be included. I was right… but it was a chocolate cake. I was set on making a vanilla type of a cake, since chocolate seems to affect Julia. I thought I would give it a try anyway. The recipe is the simplest cake recipe I have ever made. It takes 12 minutes if you want to use a bowl. According to the recipe, you can mix everything in the pan, which would only take you 6 minutes to make… hence the name of the recipe “Six-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake“. The cake looked pretty good… it looked rich and fluffy. However, the flavor was much subtle, specifically the chocolate part… it was pretty mild. The recipe only required 1/3 of a cup of cacao, so I am not surprised. Aside, from that, I did not really like it as a cake. Again, it needed more chocolate.

The last recipe that I tried was a recipe that I found on AllRecipes.com called Vegan Basic Vanilla Cake. I have never made anything that was posted on that site, but 23 people gave it a 4 1/2 star. So it must be a good recipe, I thought. The recipe required the same basic ingredients that all vegan recipes require and it was pretty easy to make. The outcome, however, was not good. The cake was gummy tasting and just blah. I am so surprised that 23 people gave it such a high rating. I must be missing something. Or I must have high cake standards. It is definitely NOT a keeper.

In the end, I ended up making a regular sponge cake with lemon curd and vanilla frosting for Julia’s birthday. Since I felt terrible about not having a cake for Julia’s friend, I made the Six-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe as cupcakes. I must admit that I really liked the recipe as cupcakes. I think that it worked way better than baked in a springform pan. I am not sure if it is because the muffin pan requires less cake so it bakes differently or what. The flavor seemed more intense too.

I am not sure what to make of vegan baking. The egg replacement is a mystery to me. I admit that I have not tried the egg replacements that exist, but I did not want to buy another ingredient that I will only use once or maybe never, depending on the outcome. I have had some really tasty vegan cakes so I know that a good recipe exists. I guess I just have not found it yet.

Julia's birthday cake

I just realized that I have not written a post since March. March… how can that be?!?! I remember writing the last post a month or so ago… or so it seems. I guess between taking care of Julia, doing house chores, cooking (yes, I have been cooking), reading my book, trying to finish off the entire Breaking Bad series (just finished it last week), and trying to stay active… yeah, yeah, yeah… excuses, excuses.

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Hiking on the Crescent Trail.

Trying to stay active has been a bit challenging, but it is getting much easier. Instead of running, hiking, biking on our own, we have been bringing Julia along a bunch. We have a running stroller, a backpack for hiking, and a bike trailer. Luckily she loves all 3!!

As I mentioned, we have a bike trailer… our friend let us borrow it. I have always heard mixed things about what kids think about the bike trailer. Some apparently love it and some apparently hate it. As soon as Julia climbed in it, she was sold. Joel rode around the neighborhood for the first ride.

Julia's first trailer ride!

Julia’s first trailer ride!

Then we did our first family ride to the Village of Fairport. That was fun since it was during the Fairport Canal Days festival, so we had lunch and listened to some music.

Our first family ride.

Our first family ride.

Then a few weeks ago, Joel took her on an RBC ride. He rode for an hour and a half and I guess she really liked it. I rode separately and when I saw her that evening, she told me about her adventure… how she saw a rooster, a bunny, a horse, and deer. She was super enthusiastic about it. :)

Julia's first RBC ride.

Julia’s first RBC ride.

The downside of it is that the thing is a tank! Because of that, we cannot really transport it, unless that is the only thing that we put in our trunk. Our neighborhood is so hilly that riding with it is a workout, for Joel at least since I do not ride that bike. I think that my legs would fall off. Ha!

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Julia did not care for the backpack for a long time, but lately she is more interested in it. At the beginning of June we went camping at Watkins Glen State Park with a couple of friends who have a little girl, Chloe, who is Julia’s age. They played so well together!

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Hiking with Chloe.

Chloe has a backpack too, so we went hiking together. The trip was so memorable for Julia. A week or more after the trip, she was still talking about hiking by the waterfalls.

Hiking at Watkins Glen State Park.

Hiking at Watkins Glen State Park.

I think that that hike definitely helped with being more fond of it. We have taken her on several hikes since then and she stills seems to like it.

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Hiking with Chloe at Abraham Lincoln Park.

The running stroller has been a hit too. She loves to “run” with us. She loves looking at the trees, spotting birdies, and waving to doggies. A few weeks ago we decided to do a run loop from the house to the playground and back. She was so excited once we arrived at the playground.

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Ready for a run!

Riding, hiking, and running is SO fun! We look forward to many more adventures!

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pea soup

It has been the longest and coldest winter ever! Aside from a warm blanket, a good furnace that spews hot air (70 degrees to be exact), and tea… a bowl of soup is always a good remedy for a cold day. So… I have been making a lot of soup lately. One of my favorite finds has been a pea soup from the blog called My New Roots.

Julia decided to be a vegetarian, so I have been trying to find protein alternatives to include in her diet. From my research I found that peas are one of the highest protein vegetables out there. Who knew! And luckily, peas are one of Julia’s favorite vegetables. When I found the pea soup recipe, I was excited and hoped that it was going to be a keeper.

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The soup is not only good, and Julia loves it, but it is also one of the easiest soups to make. It only requires a few ingredients… peas, parsley, lemon zest, chicken stock, onion, garlic, and olive oil. To make the soup, you simply sauté the onion and garlic with some salt and pepper until soft. You then add the peas and ~4 cups of your best chicken broth. You boil it until the peas are a bit cooked (I cook it much longer than what the recipe requires since uncooked peas can cause stomach aches… for me at least). Once the peas are cooked, you add the parsley and the lemon zest and cook it for a little more until the parsley wilts a bit. To finish it off, you blend it using a hand blender or a regular blender and drizzle a bit of olive oil. That’s it!

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I have modified the recipe a little bit every time I have made it. The first time I made it, I did not have lemon so I used lime zest instead. I have tried both and I actually like the flavor of the lime zest more than the lemon zest, so I have been using lime zest ever since. I experimented with the soup thickness, since I like it on the thick side. I found that using 2 bags of frozen peas (I use the Wegmans Organic Peas… they are super sweet!) and about 3 1/2 cups of broth is best. If you like the soup on the thinner side, use more broth or less peas. Also, if the soup is too thick, you can always add more broth when blending, as the recipe instructs. The recipe also requires a fair amount of parsley. I have never used the full amount. I thought that it was way too much for my taste, but if you love parsley, go for it. Also, this past time I made it, I decided to add some spinach to it. It worked really well so I will definitely include it from now on.

Yesterday the temperature was in the 40s and today it is going to be in the 50s. I really hope that this is the beginning of the warmer weather. Although, I think that this soups is also good cold, especially since I just realized that the recipe’s name is “Chilled Parsley and Pea Soup“… HA! And I also have a recipe for this amazing watermelon and tomato gazpacho. Who says that soups are not good in the summer too.

snow, snow, snow

Winter is finally back! A while ago we got some snow and it was great! I was able to get out and enjoy the snow. But then we had a warm spell and all of the snow melted away. Such a waste! Then it became super frigid for a few weeks. Who wants to go outside and do anything in 2 degree (or colder) weather?? Finally, the temperature has improved and we even got some snow. What do you do when the perfect conditions arise?? You go outside and play!

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My favorite winter activities are cross country skiing and snowshoeing. I have not skied as much as I would have liked to so far, but I have gone snowshoeing a bunch. My favorite spot to go is Powder Mills Park. It is not because the park is close to my house, although that is a plus… it is because the park has super trails!

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You can always find fresh powder or spots where the snow is untouched by anyone. In fact, every time I go, I am the only person on the trail. The terrain is great! There are some flat sections, some hilly sections, and some rolling sections. To make it even more challenging and fun, I bushwhack through the forest and just explore. The best outing is to follow deer tracks… no need for trail markers.

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Irondequoit Creek

I usually snowshoe on the trails near the downhill ski area, starting on the Powderhorn Trail. The trail is fun since it takes you along Irondequoit Creek and near the YMCA Camp Arrowhead. It is super pretty!

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But since I always go on that trail, this past Monday I decided to explore a different route (across the street from the Powderhorn Trail). I climbed up a steep section and ended up on top of the ridge. I was super surprised about the terrain. The possibilities were endless… I could have been there all day! There is no trail per se… if you look at the park’s trail map, it marks the section as “unmarked trails”. I cannot really tell you where I was, but it was definitely a super fun section.

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My “trail”

What I love about snowshoeing is that you can make it as easy or as challenging as you like. You can simply walk, you can hike on a steeper section of a particular trail, or you can run. That’s right… I said run. Talk about a workout!

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Winters can be a drag, but a beautiful, sunny, snowy day makes winters fun!

roasting galore

It has been a while since I have written. I have been cooking a bunch, but I just have not had the time to write about it. Julia still has only 2 teeth so I still have to be conscious of it when cooking. Hence the roasting galore!

I have been on a roasting kick lately. I have roasted all sorts of veggies, mostly the ones that are in season… eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, sweet potatoes. Recently I have added squashes to the mix, mainly spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and butternut squash.

Julia loves roasted veggies. The first time I fed her roasted eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash, she just inhaled it. I was amazed! Her reaction has remained the same ever since. I have been adding it in pastas, couscous, quinoa, and my absolute favorite… gnocchi. It is now one of Julia’s favorite dishes too… of course! :)

Gnocchi with pesto, roasted veggies, and prosciutto.

Gnocchi with pesto, roasted veggies, and prosciutto.

My sister-in-law, Jeni, pinned a recipe on Pinterest that I was very excited about. It was for a Red Quinoa with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, and Pecans. Yum… right?? How can you go wrong with roasting butternut squash along with some curry and maple syrup. Heaven!! I have made it several times already.

The recipe is super simple… you simply add the butternut squash, cranberries, onion, and garlic to a roasting pan and then drizzle some olive oil and maple syrup and then sprinkle some salt, ginger, and curry on top. You then mix it a bit to coat the squash with all the goodness that you just added and then roast it for about 20 minutes or until the squash is soft.

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The first time I made it, I did not have fresh cranberries or onions in the house, so I used shallots, which I love roasting, and I added some currants once the dish was assembled. It was really nice.

My friend Kristin and I were talking about the dish and she reminded me about a similar recipe that she made, where she added dried cherries. I immediately thought about using fresh cherries. Wegmans sells frozen cherries, which I love, so I decided to give it a try. The combination of the roasted squash and roasted cherries is amazing! I will not go back to using any other dried or fresh fruit. I highly recommend it! The best part about this dish is that you can just eat the squash by itself or add it to a bed of greens, or to some quinoa, or to any other grain or pasta. It’s definitely a keeper!

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And Julia loves it too, which is even better! Last time I fed it to her, she asked for seconds three times. I love her! :)

I have been going to the market every Saturday morning. I love taking Julia with me and scoping out veggies and fruits together. Although, I think that I have more fun than she does. :) She does like to pick out the fruits… raspberries and blueberries to be exact. They are her favorites.

As you may already know, it is eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash season. Since I love to buy things that are in season, I have been buying them every week. I love roasting them with some shallots, olive oil, and whatever herb or other veggie that I have in the fridge. Julia loves them also. The first time I made them, she inhaled them. She does not seem to mind eating them regularly either. I have been serving them over salad, in pasta, or just as a side dish.

I have kind of gotten bored of just eating them as is, so I decided to seek a new dish. My sister mentioned this dish that included eggplant and mango… the recipe is called “Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango” and can be found in the cookbook called Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. My sister also informed me that Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks included a rendition of the recipe in her blog. After reading the recipe, I was sold. It sounded really delicious and thought that Julia could probably eat it as well, the veggies at least. I read both versions of the recipe and I decided to follow Heidi Swanson’s version… I really do not have any specific reason of why I did that. They are very similar, so I am sure that either version would yield super results.

The recipe was indeed delicious! And Julia loved it too! She loved the veggies, of course. She also liked the noodles. She did not eat too many noodles, but she liked them. I was unsure if she would really eat it after reading the recipe more closely since it required garlic and crushed red pepper. It was definitely a little spicy. But she did not seem to mind it. I am so proud of her!! She never ceases to amaze me… she loves everything that I cook for her. I am so lucky!

I do want to mention that I did make a few adjustments to the recipe. I decided that instead of pan frying the eggplant, I would just roast it, since it is easier, for me at least. I also added some zucchini and yellow squash, which I also roasted along with the eggplant. I did not use tofu or red onion. Since I roasted the veggies with some shallots, I decided that it was enough onion. Plus I really dislike raw onion. The mango that I used was super ripe, which I think that added some liquid to the dish. I kind of liked it that way. The recipe requires removing as much liquid as possible when draining the noodles. I did not mind it a little liquidy… I do not like dry pasta. I also only used 1 garlic clove, since I do not like a lot of garlic and thought that Julia might not like it either. One thing that I did not like about the dish is the difficulty of incorporating all of the ingredients. I found it hard to mix everything together. I find it to be the same with any stringy noodle though, so I should not have been too surprised. Ha!

The recipe is definitely a keeper! I apologize for the lack of a photo. You can just check it out in the cookbook or on 101cookbooks… both photos are beautiful. Plus my photo would probably not have given it justice anyway. :)

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