Sunday, September 30, 2012

fall strolling

i apparently have 2 hiking speeds: speed walking and jogging. the concept of strolling and soaking in your surroundings is lost on me. sure, i can get to an overlook and ooh and aah and sit for 5 minutes but then i zip right along again. but that's not the point- the whole idea of my hike was to just get away. ever get that antsy feeling where you just want to get away from yourself but then have to settle with just being by yourself. it's not so bad. rather relaxing and all sorts of chances to just be you. it was one of those weeks where nothing was going right, so being outside and active was just the sort of cure-all i needed.
Chimney Rock, my favorite part of the loop
i picked catoctin mountain state park b/c i  remember liking it back when i was little. their website has all their trail maps (read: for free!) and parking at the park is free as well (woot woot). i got there around 9 am and there were only about 3 cars parked at the visitor center (visitor center not only has free maps, but water fountains and bathrooms!) so all around i was a happy camper. i asked the park ranger at the desk where i should start to take the 8 mile loop. i picked the longest hike b/c i figured i'd get to see everything and i wanted to be away for as long as possible. he pointed the way and even gave me a hint about the trail signs. for those of you who want to go hike the 8 mile loop or hike catoctin mt in general here are some things i found out:
Blue Ridge Summit Overlook,
this is where I started seeing lots of other hikers
- no sign will mention the blue ridge summit overlook, just go towards hog rock if you are coming from thurmont vista
- go early on the weekend, parking gets crazy
- none of the trails are marked with trail names or blazes (athough they are very well maintained so hard to get lost...although there was the one time when i was trying to find chimney rock...)
- on the 8 mile loop you take the handicap access trail to cunningham falls and there is no way out to the falls without climbing over the observation deck fence (it's fun, trust me, just know that you will have to do some spidermany kind of moves to get back onto the observation deck, or you can just keep walking down the water until the platform opens up, but where's the adventure in that!)
Cunningham Falls
- you have to park somewhere else to take the lower or cliff trail
- i started towards chimney rock and ended at cunningham falls, i don't know if it was b/c it got more crowded or b/c i like big views better, but i much preferred chimney rock.

now, back to whole speed walking thing. i always walk fast. it's just the way i move. maybe it's b/c i had tall friends growing up and had to keep up w/ them but i enjoy racing up terrain. the 8 mi loop said it takes 4 hours and 45 min, adding on the mile-mile and a half i got lost on, it took me 3.5 hours to do it. and i spent a a little bit of time at every point of interest (some more than others when there were too many people).
Thurmont Vista, there was a pretty sweet bench here,
except it was really narrow
since it was still early early afternoon i wanted to check out cat rock (the description says "beautiful overlook" so i knew i had to check it out since i was already there. so i drove to another parking lot by park headquarters, squeezed into a grassy "parking" space and hiked up the 1.4 miles up. it ends at a sign post that says "cat rock- 1546 ft" (i'm not entirely sure about the exact number but it was in that range) and there was NO other sign. i had no idea where to look for this view. all the other trails had signs that pointed the rock formation to climb to get the view so i looked around and started going up this huge rock structure to the right of the sign and then got stuck on how to get to the top. luckily, met another hiker who was familiar with the overlook and he pointed out the route to take through the rocks. hint: go a little past the sign and climb up. it takes a bit of leveraging but the view is totally worth it! oh, and the hike says it takes 2 hours round trip, it took me an hour and i spent a while at the top until i got too cold to stay up there.
Cat Rock Overlook, the view I almost missed,
and boy was it high up and windy to get this shot
*just as an fyi, these pictures are not in order of how i hiked to them. the actual order i went was: chimney rock, wolf rock, thurmont vista, blue ridge summit, hog rock and cunningham falls. but i took some artistic pleasure in ordering them the way i wanted. i also didn't include pics of wolf rock or hog rock b/c that would be picture overload:)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

sleepless in...well, it's not seattle for sure

if it were, it wouldn't be so hot! haha, apparently being sleep deprived = corny jokes and a post that might not make too much sense. but you're going to luck out b/c i got some sweet treats coming! fall means pumpkin and that means it's cheaper and easily found in the grocery store. went to safeway and it was cheaper (99 cents!) but it sure wasn't easy to find, and once i got home i actually took the time to read the label...
at least it's organic :D i tried it, not quite as good as the pumpkin butter i got last year at ann's house of nuts, but as a baking item, it would do. it has all the spices and cane sugar added to it, so no need to add any extra of that!
this recipe is only using HALF of the canned pumpkin! it came out pretty awesome if i do say so myself. i've got some pumpkin walnut muffins baking right now using the other half of the can, can't wait for fresh mufins!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake
9 x 9 baking dish

~ 1 1/2 c flour
~1/2 c instant oats
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c pumpkin pie mix (I had Safeway's organic and used half a 15 oz can)
2 eggs
1/2 c plain, fat free yogurt
1/4 c water
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-2 T cane sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease baking dish.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine wet ingredients and then lightly combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Add in the chocolate chips last. Spread into the baking dish and sprinkle with sugar- bake for about 35-40 minutes or until lightly brown.

*the cane sugar gives it a nice crystallized crust since there's no oil or butter in the cake! These suckers are amazinggggg

Monday, September 24, 2012

i love mondays

it's funny how much i like mondays now that it's my latest starting day. and by latest i mean i actually get to wake up at 6 and go for a run instead of getting ready for work or school. it also means i get to dally through breakfast- cook something, read blogs, catch up on the TODAY show (i am sounding vaguely like a housewife...big dreams in my life!).
lucy made me all sorts of jealous the other day w/ a picture of hangover banana pancakes and it's been years since i've made pancakes and i have this wonderful little bottle of Vermont (grade B!) maple syrup that really needs some love-

the recipe was kind of thrown together with instant oats, flour, a dash of baking soda and cinnamon with an egg, spoonful of yogurt, and soy milk. i poured that all onto the skillet and then pressed the banana slices into the top part. flipping was an interesting feat, but as long as your base is done right then it should flip fine (that or just do the hand on the handle and flip for dear life). this little baby literally took 5 minutes to make so now i have no excuse to not make pancakes all the time (or at least until my syrup runs out...). these would taste great with some chopped up walnuts or pecans or chocolate chips in them.

happy fall! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

good bye summer

i don't think these peaches were all that great to begin with so the only thing to save them was paula deening it with some butter and sugar. although i did manage to restrain myself (only due to the fact that i was working with a minimal amount of butter)
the bars could have lived with more butter (especially for the top, or get that drizzle in to make it get that crusty topping), but man the peaches were tasty.

Peach & Pecan Oat Crumble Bars (adapted from here)
(9 x 9 pan)

Base Dough
6 T unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
~1/4 c maple syrup
3/4 c flour
dash of salt
dash of cinnamon

Peach filling
~1 lb peaches, unpeeled (I used 4 medium/large peaches)
1 T cinnamon/sugar mix (I had leftover premixed stuff)

Pecan Oat Topping
2 T unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 c instant oats
1/4 c flour
1/2 c pecans, chopped
dash cinnamon
dash salt

Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease a 9 x 9 baking dish.
Roughly chop the peaches into 1/2 inch pieces and toss in sugar and cinnamon and set aside. I did this step while waiting for the butter to soften so it soaked for a couple hours.
In a bowl cream butter with maple syrup. Add flour, salt and cinnamon until the dough is soft and pulled together. Press the dough firmly into the bottom of the pan and refrigerate.
Wipe out the mixing bowl and mix the butter, oats, flour, pecans, cinnamon and salt until soft and crumbly.
Spread the chopped peaches over the base. Crumble the pecan topping over the peaches and bake for about  30-35 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned. The topping won't stick together completely because of the small amount of butter.
Let cool for at least an hour before slicing and serving. 

it worked!

well, it looks more like naan, but it tastes unbelievable just the same. the rolling out was a pain, and i started to somehow lose count of how many times i had divided by dough so i got some funny small pieces, but i of course didn't take pictures of that (akeke, maybe i should admit to the funny meatish looking shapes). they do look pretty funny. also, most of my pieces didn't puff up, but still, i gobbled about a dozen of these suckers before i had to lock them up and throw away the key (they taste delicious with hummus, btw!)

happy eating!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

mideast feast

this semester i'm taking food service where in groups of three we choose a theme and plan an appetizer, entree, sides, bread and dessert. we chose to do a vegetarian (only group!) middle eastern meal-
appetizer: roasted red pepper hummus with baked pita
entree: baked falafel with tahini lemon sauce
sides: quinoa tabbouleh and a cucumber yogurt salad
dessert: chocolate covered dates with almond and coconut

the recipes need to be tested out before we actually go through w/ our meal so i took on the bread (new found appreciation for all those fresh baked artisan breads!) and the falafel (b/c as a vegetarian there is nothing like an easy new way to eat protein)
this is from foodnetwork- i'm not feeling too confident about my bread making skills, but we'll find out in about another hour when i actually get to cut and cook this sucker. cross my fingers! oh, and i didn't have any whole wheat flour, so my recipe is all white flour.

this is the most straightforward easiest recipe to follow. i halved the recipe b/c i didn't feel like dealing with that many falafel patties when i wasn't going to be home anytime soon again. but half the recipe from tastykitchen gave me 6 patties of the shape and size described in the recipe. it wasn't until this class where we have to calculate every ingredient and portion that i realized how nice it is to have really descriptive recipes to follow. since i was just trying to get an idea of how many falafel this recipe made i fudged with the ingredients that i didn't have so mine did not have the coriander, chili powder (i used korean red chili pepper flakes instead:), and i had to make do w/ dried parsley and minced garlic (and i was very heavy handed with the garlic, b/c, c'mon, it's garlic, you can never go wrong). i love food processors. these suckers are good. too bad the bread isn't done- but i wrapped mine in some lettuce w/ some hummus (more chickpeas!) and feta cheese crumbled on top. eum eum eum 

i'll check back in with you about the pita o_O

Saturday, September 8, 2012

red velvet brownies

it's a rainy day, but spent the sunny morning hiking at patapsco state park w/ jazz and then getting food at bon fresco and shopping at wegmans :D

it became a rainy afternoon, so scoured the house for baking supplies and found a red velvet cake box + google search = red velvet cake brownies

they weren't kidding when they said the batter was thick! but don't worry, it comes out great, and then top w/ cream cheese frosting. happy saturday (the weather is getting cooler!)