Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bike Adventures

Today's post isn't about food.  I plan to experiment with a new recipe tonight, so hopefully I'll have something on that front soon.  Today is about exercise zen.

Sometimes, instead of throwing heavy weights around the driveway, I just want to take a long adventure.  Today I woke up and decided to go on a "super long bike ride".  I moved here almost a year ago now, and I still am mostly uneducated about the bike trails nearby.  So, with water bottle, phone, and keys, I strapped on my helmet and proceeded my investigation.

There is a nice park not too far from my house, complete with several bike trails.  Getting there by bike is slightly treacherous, since the road is an expressway and there are no bike lanes.  The only sidewalk is on the "wrong" side of the street, but for my own safety, I choose to use it.  Better than getting creamed trying to "share the road", as all the signs say.  The expressway passes over a major freeway, and the guardrails are low.  All the other overpasses have nice tall fences protecting people from falling off, but not this one.  I have no desire to jump off an overpass, but I do sometimes worry that an extra strong wind will lift me off the sidewalk and drop me to my death among the speeding cars below.  I white-knuckle it a bit through that area.

After safely arriving at the park, I ride the trails and enjoy the currently dry wetlands.  There are benches situated for bird-watchers, I believe.  The wildlife wasn't particularly active today.

My goal was rather bear-went-over-the-mountain.  I just wanted to see what I could see.  So I chose a path and decided to just follow it.  I passed one paved trail, making a mental note to explore that another day.  Then I turned on to a wide gravel path that ran alongside a river.  Absolutely nothing looked familiar.  It was sort of surreal, riding along for miles, not knowing where I was.  As I approached my first gravelly incline, I saw a man struggling to pull his bike and trailer up.  I stopped and asked if he had everything under control.  He seemed surprised that I was speaking to him, but he smiled widely, revealing missing front teeth, and told me he'd be fine.  I smiled back and proceeded on my way.  About a mile or two later, I stopped and pulled out my phone, attempting a "you are here" moment.  I was by a park I'd never seen before, and I couldn't tell how far from home I was.  As I was putting my phone away, Toothless came riding up.

"I rode double time to catch up with you, because I wanted to tell you something."

Okay.

"You know that saying, practice makes what?"

"Perfect?"

"Well, there's no such thing as perfection.   But I have to say, you must have practiced an awful lot, because you're the nearest thing to perfection I've ever seen."

Wow.  I haven't been picked up like this since I used to go to the gym.  I smiled and said thank you, you're very kind.  As he rode off, he told me I'd made his day, and I waved and wished him a lovely bike ride.

I continued on the trail as it rose above the backyards of small homes with manicured plants and swimming pools.  I passed a huge FedEx parking lot. Then I came to a fence that said "AIRPORT PROPERTY.  KEEP OUT."  I was so surprised, I said aloud, "Airport?  Where am I?!?"  There was still a public gravel trail alongside, so I decided there was nothing to do but keep riding.  Until I came to a dead end.  There was an empty hamster cage there.

Hm.

Nothing to do but turn around.  I knew I'd passed a bridge a couple miles back, so I decided to cross it this time, and see if there was more to this trail on the other side of the river.

Ahhhhh, shade.

Sure enough.  On the other side of the river was the official trail, newly paved.  Lots of runners and bikers, and the occasional business person out for a lunchtime stroll.   I rode until I came to the airport.  At last!  I knew exactly where I was!  And pretty dang far from home, too.

parking garage at the airport

I turned around and headed back home.  I was starting to feel fatigued at this point, but euphoric with my adventure.  I passed this water tank that must have been decorated in the 70's.

retro water tower

My last stretch home was another "share the road" experience.  Taking the street instead of heading back to the park would be faster at that point, so I risked it.  I battled a headwind for the last couple miles, and my leg muscles were burning.  I arrived home, triumphant, having traveled 21 miles.  Super long bike ride, accomplished!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Paleo "Split Pea" Soup

It's starting to be too warm for hot soup, but a few weeks ago when I created this, we were still enjoying cooler spring weather.  You could easily simmer this soup with a ham bone.  It would add thickness and flavor to the soup.  However, since I had chopped leftover ham on hand, I decided to throw this together quickly.  Even without the legumes, it has a nice comforting texture and flavor.

Paleo "Split Pea" Soup
1 large onion, chopped
2 c. carrots, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, diced
2 c. ham, chopped
2 heads broccoli, chopped
1 head cauliflower, chopped
4 c. chicken broth
2 c. water
3/4 c. coconut milk
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper

In a deep non-stick pot, saute onion and carrots in bacon fat.  Add sweet potato and ham.

In another pot (or in a microwave steamer) steam broccoli and cauliflower until tender.  Puree with coconut milk and a little broth until smooth.  Add to pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in remaining broth.  Simmer until all vegetables are tender.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Kåldolmar (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)

I needed inspiration.  I needed variety.  I needed...Melissa Joulwan.  As I wandered through her recipes, I learned about something called Dolmas.  However, having no grape leaves handy, I wondered how I could adapt the idea.  Lucky for me, she included a bit of history about dolmas, so I started researching and wikipedia-ing.  (Yep, I just made an instaverb out of a noun.  Don't lie, you do it too.)

My wanderings led me to Anne's Food, where she shares the Swedish version of the dish.  After making some conversions for the difference between metric and not, it was easy to adapt the filling to Paleo.


Here we go.

Paleo Kåldolmar
1 medium head cabbage
1 lb. ground pork
1 1/2 c. cooked quinoa
2 T. coconut milk
1/2 T. salt
1/2 T. chili powder
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. fennel seed
dash cayenne pepper

Remove cabbage core.  Steam cabbage head 6 minutes in microwave.  Carefully peel cabbage leaves whole.  As leaves become firmer toward the center, return cabbage head to microwave as necessary.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Mix ground pork, quinoa, coconut milk, and spices.  The filling will be soft and fairly loose.

Fill leaves with about 1 T. filling (I used a medium cookie scoop) and roll tightly to form a package.  Place in an oven-proof dish, seam down.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Bake 40 minutes.

Remove the core.

Steam in the microwave.

Peel leaves off whole.


Scoop the filling.

Load up an oven-proof dish and drizzle with olive oil.


Bake.
Serve.

I served this alongside oven-roasted asparagus and Belly Dance Beet Salad.  My tip for getting chopped beets: