Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mt. Washington

This past weekend was our camping trip. We got to the campsite around 2:30 Friday, after a leisurely morning (having packed frantically Thursday night), got our little tent set up, unpacked our stuff and hung out for a while. I don't think I slept at all Friday night, unfortunately. The camping mats were great as far as mats go, but they're hard compared to our mattress, and then my sister borrowed an air mattress from someone for their tent and you know how loud those things can be when someone fidgets, and you can clearly hear it in the next tent, and then of course her boyfriend KICKED THE ON SWITCH on the silly thing at four in the morning, and shortly after that it was the birds, and then we all had to get up at 5 anyway to get to the mountain early enough to beat the storms predicted for the afternoon. (Love you sis! It really wasn't that bad. You're forgiven. :P)

Breakfast time consisted of a hard boiled (farm-fresh) egg and slices of salami. Why salami? It didn't get pulled out in time for me to add it to my lunch wraps, that's why, and I like salami and had no intentions of missing out. (Lunch wraps: two slices of either turkey or roast beef, spread with dijon mustard and rolled up with a slice of cheese. Make 4, put in ziploc, put in camelback pack.) There should have been lettuce to substitute for the tortillas others used, but we forgot to put those in the cooler... but that's ok, they weren't at all necessary.

So our bags are packed and we're ready to go... and it starts raining. Isn't it ironic? (OK, all lyrics aside, it really was ironic because we got up ridiculously early to avoid the rain.) We go anyway. Get to the mountain, still raining, start hiking anyway at 6:50 am. Vibrams are great, my feet are soaked but it's clear that the boots everyone else has aren't exactly dry, we're ahead of everyone except my cousin who's sticking with us, playing with our camera between squalls, we get to the caretaker's hut halfway up, check the midstation weather report and, half an hour later when everyone catches up, we all hike on, for maybe half a mile.

At this point we're well above the treeline, in Tuckerman's Ravine where the snowpack stays put until well into the summer. There's quite a bit still there, although no longer enough to ski on and quite dangerous at the moment due to the heavy rain that's been going on all morning.

Now, for those of you who have never been on the Tuckerman's Ravine trail, let me explain something. I've said the caretaker's hut was halfway. And so it is; the whole trail is about 4 miles, and the hut is a little more than 2 miles up. What that doesn't explain is the elevation. At the point we were in Tuckerman's Ravine, we had almost 2,000 feet left to climb - upwards. The hardest part, the steepest part, of that trail is entirely rock. Lichen-covered, and at that point very wet, rock.

With the fog, the thunderstorm warnings, and the hail warnings posted at the caretaker's hut we decided that it just wasn't worth the risk for us, and we all turned around. One of my more disappointing Mt. Washington hikes, to be sure, but at least that meant I was able to wear my Vibrams the whole way. We were back down at Pinkham Notch at 11:30. My feet hurt, my ankles hurt, my knees hurt; at least my bunions didn't, although I did get a small blister. I didn't feel like I would ever be dry again.

I'm not certain I would have made it down in my Vibrams if we had gone all the way up. Now, though, I have a pair of KSO Treks to try out, and with the thicker soles and better grip I think they'll be much better for those long hiking trips.

Of course, at that point, we go back to the campsite, where it is still raining. We all change in an attempt to dry off, and my mom, my sister, and I go out shopping for a canopy to put up. Of course when we get back with our little 9x9 canopy tent (after stopping for Irish Coffees, of course), it's stopped raining. But that was ok. We set it up with our three tents around it so that if it rained during the night we could get in and out of our tents easily, without getting water inside. It looked like a cute little tent séance.

Then, of course, it's appetizers and drinks and dinner time. As is usual with my mom's family, there is an overabundance of food: many chickens, lots of ribs, shrimp cocktails, the pasta salad I was asked to bring, the cole slaw my parents brought, veggie platters, cheese platters, and sweet potato chips. And of course cake and cookies for dessert. I was pretty good, paleo-wise: I ate a few bites of the pasta salad, since I'd spent so much time chopping veggies to make it; I ate far too many sweet potato chips, unfortunately fried in corn oil (my parents brought 20 sweet potatoes with them for this purpose); and a bite of cookie and a few bites of cake. Other than that everything was paleo-friendly, and although probably not paleo-ideal I think I did well. By the way, 20 sweet potatoes take about half an hour to peel and slice, even with a mandolin (thanks, Rich and Dad) and far, far longer to fry up. I think we fried them in about 15 batches, with most batches eaten before the next one was done. At least they were appreciated! BTW, for perfect chips: soak thin, even potato slices in water. Get oil up to 400 degrees. Drop in slices, carefully to avoid too much splatter from the water. Stir occasionally and take out when they start to brown. Salt immediately upon removal, and drain on paper towels.

Then it comes time to split up leftovers, pack it all in various cars, hang out a little longer, and go to bed. I slept really well Saturday night. It's amazing what a long day can do. Breakfast was an egg, a banana, a watermelon slice, and coffee.

Then it was a three hour drive, followed by cooking class. Moist heat methods today:

Osso buco
Pork and butternut squash stew (Rich and I made this one)
Braised rabbit
Braised chicken
Braised fennel with sea bass
Artichoke salad (the artichokes were stewed first, we worked on this one too)
Braised purple cabbage
Braised short ribs

Overall, enough to feed 12 with plenty of leftovers for people to take home, and not more than a cup of flour and a tablespoon of cornstarch in all of it put together. By far the most paleo-friendly cooking class yet, and we've come away with some amazing recipes to use. I liked all of those dishes.

Bonus! The two rabbits used were whole, and came with livers and hearts and things. Apparently nobody else likes liver, so Rich and I got those. I also managed to snag one of the osso buco bones for myself as leftovers, and ate the marrow as part of lunch yesterday. I've heard marrow described as 'buttery', and I really can't think of a better description. I was a little skeptical, never having tried it before, but now I'm hooked. I will find ways to make this. (Dreams of a trip to the butcher...)

So after class, we visited a friend who graciously picked up our CSA veggies for us. As expected, it was more than we could handle, so we insisted he keep quite a bit, as an expression of our gratitude for having picked them up for us. There's more corn, of course, and we haven't even finished the corn we got last week; there are far too many cucumbers, more tomatoes, green beans, zucchini and squash, and a cabbage I hadn't seen before and a squash that I'd only seen once. (Pointed cabbage and pattypan squash, as it turns out.) Last night in an effort to use the rest of last week's tomatoes we made a lovely little salad to go with leftover chicken from camping, and as part of lunch today. We're going to have to freeze the beans, and I think Rich is going to make corn pudding for himself with the four ears we still have.

Well, we had a very busy weekend, and we get to the gym and Smokey Bones tomorrow, the print shop (to look at wedding invitations) on Thursday, out for a friend's birthday Friday, and up to my parent's place Sunday. I'm starting to wonder if things will ever slow down. Anyway, here's the recipe for the salad we made.

4 medium-size cucumbers
3 large tomatoes
Dice and toss with dressing.

To make the dressing, blend together:
1/2 cup Olive oil
1/4 cup Lemon juice
1/8 cup Sherry wine vinegar
A lot of dried mint (maybe 2 tbsp? freshly chopped would be better if you find it)
A dash of dried thyme
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

The longer you let it sit, the more mint flavor you get. It actually smells like watermelon, which is odd, but it's quite tasty, especially with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All kinds of things

I guess it's been a while since I last posted! Whoops. I'll try to post at least once a week from now on; it's easier that way. I did try to write a post on my iPod on Saturday, but I somehow managed to delete it... :(

Cooking class on Sunday after our Six Flags trip was Soups, Stocks, and Salads. Rich and I made a southwestern squash soup in class that was delicious, and one we'll make again. It's very paleo-friendly. The other soups were less so, unfortunately, but I'm hoping to find ways to alter them, because they were quite tasty. (Yes, another special occasion meal gone...) We also picked up a couple good salad dressing recipes, and have started freezing all our vegetable and meat scraps to make our own stocks. We ended up with enough leftover soups to last us for lunch the whole week. Next week we get to braise rabbit!

Then, this past weekend, we visited my parents for the 4th of July. It was a rather tiring weekend, but a lot of fun. We had a gym session on Friday, and we headed North after picking up our veggies Saturday. So many veggies this week! Soon it's going to border on ridiculous. Rich has been resisting freezing or dehydrating our veggies so far, but this week it's a necessity. Anyway, we hung out with my parents on the lake, played bocce and horseshoes, and went hiking Monday before leaving Tuesday in time for yet another gym appointment. The hike was awesome. It was fairly short, about 5 miles, but one section is all rocks and caves that are tons of fun to climb through. We did that same hike last fall as well; I definitely felt more confident hopping from rock to rock in my Vibrams than I did last fall in my big clunky hiking boots. My feet did get tired again, but at this point we've done all the types of terrain we'll encounter on Mt. Washington this Saturday. I feel confident we can handle it. (We're still going to bring our boots along, though. We haven't done that kind of distance in our VFFs yet, and tired feet on the way down could be dangerous.)

So one question I've gotten from a few people is why I'll sometimes eat things that are clearly not paleo (like a brownie with ice cream over the weekend, and an ear of corn. There goes yet another special occasion meal!) or things that I've said I don't eat, like potato or rice.

The answer's pretty simple. My purpose is to enjoy my life. Finding a diet that helps me feel better, that I think is healthier overall, and that will increase my quality of life in the long term has been a big step towards that. However, I won't give up dairy (go strict paleo) unless I feel my life will be better by doing so, and since I'm at a more reasonable weight now, I don't think that it would. I also will occasionally eat things off-diet because I feel my life is enhanced by those small moments of pleasure. This is why I say I follow a moderate paleo diet; I won't give up dairy, and I don't follow it very strictly.

Giving up wheat and other grains, though, has improved my life, and so it will continue. For example, my trail mix for Saturday is nutritious and interesting, and will provide me with all the energy I'll need. Macadamias, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, sunflower kernels, and a few cashews and walnuts; chopped-up baking chocolate; craisins, raisins, dates, and occasional blueberries, raisins, pineapple, and banana. Tonight I'll be dehydrating a couple apples and peaches to add, too. It wasn't hard to avoid peanuts, pretzels, soynuts, and Chex, and I think those items detract from my quality of life rather than enhance it.

Well, this weekend I'll be hanging out with my aunts, who mostly disagree with me on my dietary choices; that will be interesting. I think this time I'll be prepared and bring along some info for them. I'm not very good at defending my choices when I don't have a computer in front of me yet. I'll post whatever I pull together, since I'm hoping to either find or create a good, informative summary of what I eat and why.

Oh! One more thing! The cats ate canned food instead of raw meat over the weekend, since we were out of raw meals and didn't have time to dismember chickens until yesterday. Their breath stank. Far worse than what's normal for them now. Back to raw meat again! Unfortunately, though, it doesn't appear that a raw diet affects how much they shed. There's fur everywhere. Poor kitties.