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giant’s nubble

This past weekend we spent 5 glorious days in Lake Placid. I really love that place… the mountains, the clean air, the landscape, and the amazing views. I can spend weeks there. We have been going to Lake Placid for years. Joel and I aspired to be part of the ADK 46ers club, which means that one has to hike all 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks, so we frequented the town. We hiked 8 of them throughout the years and then cycling and Julia put a damper on that. Ha!

The summer when Julia turned 2, we went back to Lake Placid and we hiked Mt. Jo, which is a good mountain to hike with little kids. Julia loved it! We had a backpack carrier for her and throughout the hike she kept saying that she wanted to hike on her own. So we let her hike on her own and we were super impressed. Hiking in the Adirondacks is no joke, no matter how “easy” the mountain is. A lot of the hikes contain lots of rocks/boulders throughout the trail, sometimes the entire trail is full of rocks. They can also be very rooty and steep at times. She loved climbing the boulders… some were taller than she was. It was so fun to see her hike. During that same trip we hiked Owl’s Head, which is another good hike for little kids. She loved that too!

Then last summer we went back and planned to hike Baxter Mountain. About a quarter of the way through our hike, Julia planted herself on the trail and refused to budge. We tried everything to get her to keep hiking with no luck. We did bring the backpack carrier, so Joel carried her all the way to the top and I carried her all the way down. That was our last hike for that trip and rest of the year. We were kind of sad about it since she did so well when she was 2. We figured that since she was a year older, she would be more capable and interested. I guess that it was just not her thing that year.

So this summer we were unsure about our hiking prospect. We decided to take her on a small hike in Mendon Ponds Park as a test. Throughout the hike, she kept saying how she loved the hike. We were super excited!

Our Lake Placid trip this year was kind of a spur of the moment decision. A couple of Joel’s friends were planning to mountain bike around there, so we decided to join them. As it was getting closer to the trip, we asked Julia if she was excited to hike a mountain and she said yes. Perfect!

The decision to hike Giant’s Nubble was also a last minute decision. I researched a few possible hikes and Giant’s Nubble was one option. Since the other mountains were a bit of a drive from our location, we decided on Giant’s Nubble.

Giant’s Nubble is part of Giant Mountain, which is a High Peak. Giant Mountain also happens to be one of the first High Peaks that Joel and I hiked. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into back then… apparently we forgot. Although Giant’s Nubble’s elevation is not as high, the trail that leads to it is part of the full hike and it was super rocky and steep at times.

Julia was such a trooper! She loved climbing the boulders and hiking. She did complain a bunch, so Joel and I were prepared. We gave her 2 M&Ms every 15 to 20 minutes. That really kept her going. I am not one to bribe with food, but I did make an exception this time (judge me if you will… ha!).

Throughout our hike, Joel and I kept looking at each other wondering if it was a good idea that we were doing this hike and wondering if she would really be able to get to the top and hike all the way back down. In fact, we reached one of the false summits, which is very typical of a High Peak, and as Julia was having her snack, I told Joel that I did not think it was wise to keep going, since Julia was really complaining. The funny part was that as soon as she finished her snack, she enthusiastically said that she wanted to go to the top. So we did!

The hike back down was slow but we made it. The hike ended up being 4.5 miles and it took us 4.5 hours to complete it. I am SO proud of Julia! The mountain was definitely challenging but she made it. I know that she was super proud of herself too!

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peanut sauce

I have been cooking a lot of pasta lately. Julia tends to prefer it over rice. In an effort to have something different, I decided to make a rice dish. I needed some kind of a sauce, so after searching in a few of my cookbooks, I came across the Peanut Dragon Dressing recipe in the Isa Does It cookbook. It seemed super simple and I pretty much had all of the ingredients.

I do have another peanut sauce recipe that I really like and I have it made many times… it is the Peanut Sesame Noodle from SmittenKitchen, but that requires fresh ginger, which I did not have at the time. I suppose that I could have just omitted the ginger from the recipe, but I was kind of excited about this new recipe.

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As I mentioned, the recipe is super simple… it requires smooth peanut butter, garlic, some water, rice vinegar, soy sauce/tamari, agave, sriracha, sesame oil, and some salt. I did not have agave so I decided to use maple syrup instead. Also, I did not use the sriracha, since Julia tends not to prefer spicy foods and I used garlic salt, since I do not care for raw garlic.

The recipe also mentions to blend all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender… I did that the first time that I made it (I used a food processor) and it made a royal mess. It was liquidy enough that it oozed all over my counter. A blender would have definitely been better. I no longer do that. I simply whisk it and it is just as good.

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I love this sauce since it is so versatile and easy. The dish is now part of my weekly routine. I have served it over rice (I love jasmine rice!) and topped it with any vegetables that I have on hand… grilled/steamed broccoli, steamed carrots, avocado, steamed green beans, grilled zucchini, fresh tomatoes… the possibilities are endless! I have also topped it with some grilled chicken and some peanuts. Using some sautéed/grilled shrimp and tofu would work just as well.

The first time that I made it, it turned out a bit thick, so I have been playing a bit with its thickness… I added a bit more water to it the second time that I made it and it worked out well. It does thicken even more if you store it in the refrigerator, but of course you can thin it with a little more water before serving it.

I always search for easy weeknight dinners and this one is definitely a keeper. And Julia has converted… she is now a rice eater. :)

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Another variation of the dish…

mendon mauler

I recently ran my longest distance… 8.4 miles. On June 10, I raced in the Mendon Mauler Trail Run. I was very excited to run it. The previous week I ended up running almost 8 miles, so I knew that I was ready. The run took place in Mendon Ponds Park, which was familiar… I ran in there plenty of times, so I knew what to expect.

Since I signed up for the 8 miler, it meant that I had to run the same loop twice. That was a bit challenging, since there were a bunch of runners who were doing just the 4 miler and they were running pretty fast. I realized that I am definitely an inexperienced racer. I think that I started a bit too fast since I wanted to stay with the crowd. After about a mile, I calmed down and just ran my pace.

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I felt great on the fist loop. I took a gel towards the end of the first loop, hoping that it would keep my energy going. I saw Joel and Julia at the end of the loop, which made me smile! Then about a mile into the second loop, my left foot started to cramp. I was very thirsty during the entire run, not sure why. It was also a fairly warm evening. I tried to conserve my water since I knew that I had 8 miles to run and I figured that the 10 oz bottle would be plenty for the run. Apparently not. Then my second foot cramped too. I actually had to stop running to alleviate the cramps. I was so mad at myself for not refilling my bottle at the end of the 4 mile loop. I knew that there was a water station further down the trail but I could not remember exactly where it was. The cramps eased up a bit so I started to run slowly. Luckily the water station came sooner than I thought, so I refilled. I started to feel better… perhaps the gel kicked in and the fresh water helped too. I was running next to this woman and she mentioned that we had about a mile left. When I heard that, I just took off and ran as fast as I could. I felt amazing! I finished strong, but right as I got close to the finish line, my shin started to cramp. Ugh!

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I was happy with my run considering how I felt. Since it was getting late and close to Julia’s bedtime, we did not hang around much. Once I got home, I decided to check the results. I was amazed and beside myself… I won my age group (1st out of 9), got second in the female group (2nd out of 34), and placed 21 overall (21st out of 71). That’s crazy!! I never would have thought or expected it!

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My average pace was 12:24, which was a bit slow. I blame my cramps and this steep, full of rocks hill that I had to descend twice. Ha! And I definitely learned my lesson about drinking enough fluids. I should have known better since I had the same experiences when I first started cycling. It was also a Friday night… Friday nights are hard due to working all week, taking care of an almost 4 year old, and blah blah blah. Ha!

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I am still amazed that I can actually run that distance. I guess that I felt the same way when I first started cycling. I never imagined riding 15 miles, 50 miles, or even 100 miles… but it happened. For some reason I have no desire to run longer though. I like the 8 mile/10k distance. I also do not have time to train for longer distances. For this race, I ran twice and rode my bike once a week. I can definitely keep that up.

Oh and the best part about the race was the prize… a jar of Once and Again Peanut Butter! That’s right!

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Oh and this log… haha!!

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The Medved Madness trail race took place a few weeks ago… on May 1st to be exact. I am always weary about signing up for anything that takes place outside… I do not like to do anything outside if it rains.

Before I started running, I would always sign up for the Highlander Cycle Tour, which in the past took place in September. September in Rochester can be super hot, super cold, super sunny, or super rainy. In fact, the first year that I rode it, it was all those throughout the ride. It was also my first century and I kept thinking to myself what was I doing out there riding for 100 miles in the cold/cloudy, then sunny, then rainy, then cold, then sunny/warmer day. I think that out of the 6 years that I rode it, only 2 or 3 times was nice out.

In the days leading up to the Medved Madness run the weather was looking good. No rain but a bit chilly. Then of course, with my luck and the stupid Rochester weather, it changed to rain. Bah! “Why can it just be nice for once!”, I complained to Joel. I ran the run as a relay… Joel ran the first leg, our friend Marc ran the second leg, and I ran the last leg. The run was actually super fun! And the weather ended up not being too bad. It was just a bit drizzly at times and not too cold. Also, with my luck, I ended up running through the exact same mud gardens and hill as in the Dirt Cheap race, since the race was also in Mendon Ponds Park. Super lucky! Ha!

But the most exciting part of the race was the kid race. When we first told Julia about our race, she enthusiastically told us that she wanted to run in the race too. Of course we said yes! So during the leading months, weeks, and days, she trained for the race too. Joel set up courses for her… around the perimeter of our house, around the trees in our front yard. She was super excited!

As we were walking towards the event tent, Julia told me that this year she wanted to run it on her own. Last year she ran the race too, but we ran together and I held her hand the entire way. She was only 2 1/2, so I was impressed that she even wanted to run it at all. She did great last year too. She also told a few of her friends that she was going to run in the rain. Although, as we were walking towards the race tent, she mentioned that she no longer wanted to run in the rain. I reassured her that it was not a big deal and that all of us were going to run too. I am glad that she changed her mind.

As the kids took off and she ran past me, I could tell that she was super excited. I ended up running behind her to cheer for her and to make sure that she ran the course. She had the largest smile on her face the entire time. As I was checking out the photos that Joel and Marc took, I noticed that she also had an intense and focused look on her face at times. She seemed so determined to have a good run.

And she did! She did SO awesome! We are super proud of her. I think that she is proud too… she talked about it for a few days after the race. It was so fun to watch her race and I loved her excitement and enthusiasm. I hope that we can find some more races for her soon.

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She did it!! Good job Julia!!

Lastly, I wanted to mention the après run party. This was by far the best running event that I have ever attended. The food was fantastic! We are super lucky to have Medved in our community. They did a fantastic job with the entire event!

dirt cheap

About a month ago, an email came into my inbox about a race that was on dirt and it was cheap… $13 to be exact. How can you pass that one up! Ha!

The Fleet Feet Sports Dirt Cheap Trail Race Series (aka Dirt Cheap) is a series of 6 races, but I decided to only sign up for the 1st series just to check it out. The race started at Devil’s Bathtub in Mendon Ponds Park. As I drove into the park, I came across rows and rows of cars that were parked along both sides of the road. “Wow! That’s a lot of people.”, I thought to myself. I heard that the race was popular, but I did not realize that it was this popular.

The race was interesting. Apparently 432 people ran it. Crazy!! The trails are not very wide, so there were bottlenecks. Luckily I started closer to the front, but even so, there were bottlenecks. And then there were the mud gardens. In the mountain biking world, there are rock gardens. In the running world, there are mud gardens… or at least that is what I am calling them. Ha! And oh what mud there was! Deep, wet, slathery mud. Mud where you are afraid to pull your foot out of since your shoe may be lost in it. It was the craziest mud that I have ever ran through. And it was not just one mud garden, there were at least 3 mud gardens. Although, one was definitely the worse. I do not like mud! I could not help but just laugh as I ran through them.

As if the mud gardens were not challenging enough, there was this one hill that went straight up and then straight down. I do not care for running too fast down a hill since I can just picture myself tripping and just doing cartwheels all the way down. Some folks were running it full speed, which I do not understand how that is even possible.

Lastly, as if the mud gardens and the huge hill were not enough, the finish included running up a staircase. That’s right… a staircase. I am speechless. Haha! This reminded me of the Highlander Cycle Tour where you had to climb Route 12 out of Naples at mile 90… so cruel!!

I guess that in the end the run was pretty fun! It ended up being 4.73 miles and I ran it with a 10:44 average. I was pretty proud of myself for that. I think that I could have ran it a little faster if those bottlenecks were removed. And apparently I ended up placing 145 out of 432. Yes! :)

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ride

It is that time of the year again… the salt has washed away and the weather is warmer (although, not today), which means that the biking season is finally here! My first ride of the season was last Wednesday. I rode my usual Wednesday night ride with the Rochester Bicycling Club. My friends Brian and Cindy joined me for the ride, which was great! It was nice to see them and catch up. It is kind of funny how we do not see each other pretty much at all during the winter and then we spend so much time together all summer. It feels as though we just saw each other yesterday. I love it!

The ride felt great! I was unsure what to expect since I have not ridden since last September or October. The first rides are usually pretty painful. The endurance is out the window. But I was super happy with my ride! I rode 20.6 miles at a 14.6 average. Ever since I started running, my first rides of the season have felt so good. It amazes me!

When I first started riding, that is all I did. I rode 3 or 4 times a week, sometimes logging as much as 200 miles or more a week. It was my thing. And I loved it. I loved wandering through Mendon, Victor, the Finger Lakes. I live in such a beautiful area! My favorite was the big ride of the season… the Highlander. I always finished the bulk of the season with a century and the Highlander was it since it was an easy century due to the rest areas. I did the ride 6 years in a row (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011). The ride itself was not easy at all, since it took us through the hilly Finger Lakes. But it was SO beautiful and all that pain was super worth it. Ha!

Then I had Julia so I had to find another thing, since riding took too long, especially the riding that keeps you in shape. So I took up running. I did not love it at all. It was fine. But I have grown to like it over the years. After much reservation, I now consider myself a runner. Haha! I can be both a rider and a runner, no?!? I am pretty ok with it.

I am happy that I can bike and run. I find them to complement each other really well… perfect cross training. In fact, I went for a run on Sunday and I felt great! I ran 5 miles at a 9:48 pace in the hilly Powder Mills park. That is pretty fast for me especially for a trail run.

I do miss those long rides though! I really love wandering on my bike. This week is not looking so good weather wise and I signed up for a run race, which is on Sunday, so I need to do some running. But I look forward to logging some miles in the saddle. The season just started after all!

 

roasted chicken

I cannot roast a chicken for the life of me. It is super true! I have tried it numerous times over the years with no success. It always ends up way too dry. I have a fear of it being under cooked, so I tend to roast it way longer than needed.

A while back I got food poisoning from uncooked chicken. It was the worst experience! It was so painful that I could not move. If I made just a slight move, I would get the worst stomach pains. I spent the entire day motionless in the fetal position. I do not wish that pain even on my worst enemies, if I had any. So now you understand.

I have tried several recipes, with no success… even a Martha Stewart recipe! I have been successful with roasting chicken pieces, mostly chicken thighs. I guess that you cannot really overcook chicken thighs since they tend to be more fatty.

As I was walking thorough the grocery store a few weeks ago, I was eyeing this whole chicken. “It would be so nice to roast an entire chicken in order to have leftovers for the week.”, I thought. I also thought about just buying a premade rotisserie chicken but I decided that roasting my own would be so much better. So I took it. Since I have no clue about how to break down a chicken and do not really care to attempt it, I asked the butcher at the grocery store to cut it down for me.

As soon as I got home, I contacted my brother (who is a chef). “I have this entire chicken. How long will it take? An hour at 425 degrees?”, I asked. His answer changed my life… ok, maybe not my life, but definitely shed all my fears about roasting a chicken. :) It really did!

Before divulging all the secrets, I have a disclaimer, which is that I own a convection oven, so my roasting time may differ from your oven. Ok, so here it goes…

First, do not roast a chicken whole. Roasting a broken down chicken allows each piece to cook independently, especially the breasts, which take the longest. Also, never add lemon juice or any acid during the cooking process.

Second, submerge your chicken pieces in a brine. I have been using about 6 cups of water and 1/2 cup of salt. You can certainly use more or less depending on the size of the chicken. I let it sit in the brine for no less than 15 minutes. If you let it sit longer, go easy on the seasoning during roasting.

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Third, after adding some olive oil and some salt and pepper, roast the chicken in a preheated 425 degree oven until the pieces reach about 150 to 155 degrees. For me, that is anywhere between 20 to 25 minutes. The thighs reach the temperature faster than the breasts. I have to let the breasts roast about 5 minutes or so longer than the rest of the pieces. If your oven runs hotter, check it earlier. The trick is to reach that temperature, so check often if needed.

Fourth, once the pieces reach the 150 to 155 degrees, remove them from the oven and let them sit for 10 minutes. Do not be tempted to do anything with them at this point. Just let them sit.

Fifth, once the 10 minutes are up, put the chicken back into the oven and continue roasting it until it reaches the recommended 165 degrees. For me this is anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes. Again, the trick is to reach the 165 degree temperature, so check often if needed.

Sixth, once roasted, remove the chicken from your pan and squeeze some lemon juice over it. This will give the chicken that great lemony flavor, which I love.

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This is the best roasted chicken that I have ever made and tasted. I really mean it! I made it 3 times so far and every time it has come out fantastic. The meat is super juicy and delicious! It was so good in fact, that each time I made it, we almost ate the entire thing. :)

Next time you are craving roasted chicken, give this a try… you will not be disappointed.

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