Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Quick Pickled Onions

Tacos are a household staple around here – probably because they’re so quick and easy to make and we usually have the ingredients on hand. These pickled onions make a great addition to virtually any type of taco. They are perfect for those who don’t like raw onions and they add a fantastic color; I’m a firm believer that you eat with your eyes first.

½ cup white wine or apple cider vinegar
3 tbs. water
1 ½ tbs. sugar
1 cup thinly sliced onion (a mandoline comes in handy here)

1) Bring vinegar, water and sugar to boil

2) Remove from heat, add onion and let stand 10 minutes

3) Drain

Enjoy on tacos, nachos, sandwiches, salads, and more!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MTB: Hanson Hills

As mentioned in my previous post, I had the opportunity to ride two trails this past weekend. I gave you my thoughts on Ogemaw, so next up:

Hanson Hills

Hanson is a gem hidden in the city of Grayling, Mi. The city is most known for its impressive military base (Camp Grayling is the largest National Guard training facility in the U.S), but turns out it is also home to some impressive MTB trails!

There are about 24 miles of trails total consisting of two large 10+ mile loops with some advanced/expert alternates sprinkled in, as well as a 3-mile Easy Rider Loop. We rode the main loop, meaning we followed the yellow bike signs. This brings me to my first point: this trail is very well marked. There is nothing more frustrating then trying to ride a trail that isn't. It's a lot more fun to ride when you have the peace-of-mind that you're on the right trail and won't have to stop at every sign to try to figure out where you are. 

The first mile or so is flat, allowing you to get your legs spinning briefly before the climbs begin. It is a ski-hill, afterall! Thankfully, though, there are not a lot of roots. The hills give way to flowy downhill and rolling terrain. "There are enough technical sections to keep you honest." as one review says - I have to agree. 

Unlike Ogemaw, the 'scenic overlook' actually provided a view!

Being a beginner, it was a challenge, but not insurmountable. I saw a fair amount of 'real' riders out there and it looks like it's a fun trail that they can really hammer through. I hope to be there one day!

Ogemaw – Nay
Hanson – Yay

Ride it? Let me know what you think!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

MTB: Ogemaw Hills Pathway

I know you're seeing a theme with the past few entries, but I promise that not all of my posts will be about mountain biking. If you're from the Midwest you'll understand why I can't keep away from the outdoors at the moment...Michigan summers are gone before you know it!

I had the chance to check out a couple new trails this past weekend. While there are several resources to find trails and reviews, you just never really know what you’re in for until you see it in person. Home base was Houghton Lake, so we were trying to find trails in the area. We settled on Ogemaw Pathway and Hanson Hills. 

Ogemaw Hills Pathway

Ogemaw Pathway is located in the hills north of West Branch at the comer of Fairview and Clear Lake Roads. The trails wind through approximately 15 miles of the AuSable State Forest providing groomed cross country trails for all skill levels.

I should preface this by mentioning that I only rode the southern portion of the trail. 

Ogemaw looked promising, but ended up being a bust. The track itself was a little overgrown and had more leaf-cover then I would have liked. A couple miles in we ran into swampy area and had to carry our bikes while picking our way through stinky puddles and slimy trees…meanwhile, proving to be a tasty treat for the local mosquito population.

In my opinion, the downhills were not worth the climbs and the ‘overlook’ might have been nice…but I couldn’t see over the 6-foot brush that surrounded the lookout area. So, all-in-all, it was an ‘ok’ trail that I probably will not be returning to. However, I am a firm believer that the beauty of a trail is in the eye of the rider, so please don’t take my word for it!

Location: West Branch, Mi
Total Miles of Trails: 13.6

In other news, West Branch might be a good destination for you morel-hunters! We spotted this guy right in the middle of the trail:

Happy riding! Next up will be a brief review of Hanson Hills. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

MTB: Mud Sweat & Beers 2014

I participated in my first mountain bike race yesterday! Almost a year ago, I heard about a race that's "a ton of fun and great for beginners" so I decided I was going to go for it..

It's called Mud Sweat and Beers and it's an annual race held in picturesque Traverse City, Michigan. There are two adult races: the Stout is 22 miles long, and the Pale Ale tops out at 12 miles. Seeing a theme? Bikers love their beer! There are even two races for the little ones: a two-miler called the Ginger Ale and the Root Beer, a quarter-mile loop for tiny ones. If you ever need a dose of adorable, go watch the Root Beer race - it will make your heart melt into puddles.

When I first signed up, I thought it was an actual possibility that I might do the Stout. Man, am I glad my past-self came to her senses! I competed in the Pale Ale instead.12 miles may not seem like much, but MSB lived up to her name...it was EXTREMELY muddy. I'm talking about trying to ride through six inches of pure monsoon muck in some places. It was brutal.

This was the view while we were waiting for our group to go. Beginners start last, so I had plenty of time to stand around and let my anxiety build. Thankfully, you only have one first race, right?!

Despite the cold and rainy weather, everyone was in good spirits. I might be biased, but I have found bikers to be one of the most welcoming communities. I've never met a rider that's stingy with a smile or a helping hand. 

And we're off! I'm the fifth (or sixth?) helmet from the left. My group consisted of beginner female individual and team riders ranging from 14 to 45+. The route begins on Mt. Holiday and winds around single-track trails, paved connectors through nearby neighborhoods and on to the Vasa Pathway before returning to Mt. Holiday.

The MSB finish line is immediately preceded by the impressive Fitbit Mud Pit. I was relieved to make it through on two wheels. Not everyone was so lucky.

I completed the race in a little under two hours and immediately celebrated with a cold brew from Right Brain Brewery....and a shower!

Monday, April 28, 2014

MTB: Why I Ride

From the day I decided to try mountain biking, it’s been love. There’s something about getting on a bike that takes me right back to being a pre-teen tomboy, cruising around the neighborhood on my hand-me-down 10-speed and bare feet.

Just minutes into any ride, the stress of everyday life fades from the forefront of my consciousness and I'm forced to only pay attention to the essentials: the trail, the trees, my breathing, and my legs. It’s meditative.

There are good rides and there are bad rides. The good ones leave you spent, but knowing that you were stronger on the climbs and faster on the straightaways. The bad ones can leave you questioning the sport, and sometimes yourself.

But at the end of the day, good or bad, it’s honestly just fun to get out there and pedal. I'm excited to have started a sport that, God willing, I will be able to enjoy for years and years.

"Tomorrow, WE RIDE!"

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time, I went to a restaurant and ordered an entrĂ©e of creamy pesto ganache with pancetta. The waitress gave me a strange look, but took my order and 20 minutes later I was devouring a plate of pillow-y potatoes in a delicious sauce. It wasn't until we were well into dessert that it dawned on me – GNOCCHI. Yes, that’s right, I had said ‘ganache’ which is not really even close to gnocchi (gnocci = potato pasta, ganache = rich chocolate goodness). Little did I know, but thankfully the waitress did – bless her heart, that I meant ‘gnocchi.’ 

In order to save you from a similar embarrassing fate, I bring you: 22 Food Words You Might Be Pronouncing Wrong

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Hey Kale

hahhaha - but seriously, this is how I learned about massaging kale. Have you tried it? A couple-minute rubdown turns coarse, bitter kale into something a little silkier, and a little sweeter. All you have to do is remove the ribs, grab a couple handfuls of curly greens and rub them together...and think about Ryan Gosling. ;)

Monday, March 3, 2014

In Defense of Food

image: Bridgid Gallagher 

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” These seven words have been permanently etched into my mind, and I love it. It's so simple! The last thing I want to do is sound preachy, but this book has opened my eyes to a lot and I wanted to share it..

In the book Michael Pollan tells the story of ‘nutritionism’ and how the American food culture has changed dramatically in the past several decades. ‘Nutritionism’ is a term used often by Pollan, and it describes the shift in the Western diet from real food, to food ‘products’ that are usually slapped with nutritional claims like “fat-free/sugar-free/low in carbs/protein-rich/vitamin-enriched.” The focus has moved from whole food to its parts. But the thing is, our bodies aren't meant to digest food fillers ‘enriched’ with healthy stuff, it’s meant to eat the real thing: REAL FOOD.

I know, there are thousands of health books out there and even more on top of that talking about different diets. But this isn't a diet in the sense of using restriction in order to gain temporary results. This is about the human diet, and getting it back to what it should be. And, thankfully, it’s really easy to follow..
If you can’t decide whether you should eat it, answer these questions: Is it real food? Did it grow from the ground, swim, walk or fly?
So if you're looking to clean up your diet, In Defense of Food is a great way to get started. Check it out, and good luck! Or try this recording from the Free Library of Philadelphia: In Defense of Food Podcast, recorded 1/10/2008

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Friend's Day

Happy Valentine's Day! I love this day, but not because I have a boyfriend or big romantic plans (in fact, we have no plans at the moment). I love it because I'm going to start celebrating it the way the Finns do. While most of the world celebrates St. Valentine’s Day on February 14, Finland celebrates “Friend’s (or Friendship) Day” 

So rather than the American traditions dedicated to a day of love, romance and an excess of hearts and Hallmark, Finns celebrate all of their friends - how can you argue with that?! Next year I'm sending cards and little gifts to all of my lovely friends..I can 't wait! 


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Black Bean Soup with Chorizo and Lime

Want something warm and hearty, but tired of chili? Try black bean soup! This one features chorizo, a fantastic smoky sausage that provides just the right amount of heat. 

2 teaspoons olive or coconut oil, divided
3 ounces Spanish chorizo (not to be confused with Mexican chorizo - read about the difference)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 (15 oz.) cans unsalted black beans, coarsely mashed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1) Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil, swirl to coat and add chorizo. Cook 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove chorizo from pan (do not wipe pan)

2) Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan , swirl to coat and add onion and bell pepper. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in oregano, garlic, cumin, chile powder and salt; cook 30 seconds.

3) Stir in stock and beans. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes.

4) Stir in cooked chorizo and lime juice.

5) Ladle into bowls and top with greek yogurt, lime wedge and fresh cilantro. It's amazing the difference fresh herbs can make!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sweet Potato Crackers

The past couple of weeks have been pretty brutal around the Midwest. Polar Vortex...Snowmageddon...whatever you want to call it, we've got it. And what's better than bowl full of hot soup when you're snowed in? Nothing! Unless, of course, it's hot soup topped off with a crispy batch of sweet potato crackers..

1-1/2 cups flour (I used King Arthur's whole grain)
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 medium sweet potato (1 cup of sweet potato puree)
1 teaspoon organic sugar (or honey or agave)
seasonings: paprika, cayenne, sesame seeds, cracked pepper, coarse salt
tools: food processor, KitchenAid mixer

First, cook your sweet potato. I prefer roasting the sweet potato - if you're short on time, poke some holes in it with a fork and microwave on high for a couple minutes - then pop it in the oven on 350* to finish the job. The method doesn't really matter, you could chop and boil it if you prefer. Once cooked, use a food processor or emulsion blender to create a smooth puree. If you yield more than a cup of puree, you can freeze it for next time!

Next, sift your dry ingredients together. Then add the butter and mix together using the standard paddle attachment until it forms a course mixture like this:

Switch to the dough hook attachment and add your sweet potato puree. Mix until the dough forms a ball - I had to add a bit of water, a couple tablespoons at a time until it was the right consistency. Since I'm still new to blogging, I might have forgotten to take a picture of this step...whoops! Imagine slightly dried-out Play-Dough...it should look something like that. Moist enough to hold it all together, but not so damp that it sticks to your hands or the bowl. Cool? Okay good, now you're going to split it into four dough balls - roll them and wrap them in wax paper. Let them chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 350. Turn out your dough ball onto a piece of wax or parchment paper and use another (or the piece that you rolled it in) to lightly flatten the ball. Then take a rolling pin and roll it very thin. Seriously, as thin as you can! Since I don't have any rolling pin rings, I improvised using some thick hair bands - they worked pretty good!

When you've got it nice and thin, roll. it a couple more times..just to be sure! Then cut them in your desired shape (mini cookie cutters would be a fun twist!) and sprinkle with toppings. I suggest toasted sesame seeds, paprika, cayenne and salt/pepper, but you could definitely switch it up - Parmesan and herbs might be my next batch.

Peel off and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pop in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn over and cook another 5-10 minutes. Mine took the full 10 minutes, but all ovens are different so just keep an eye on them - you want the edges slightly browned. They will crisp up a little more when you take them out.

Place them on a cooling rack for a few minutes until cooled. Then dig in!

They are great for snacking on or as additions to soups and dips! Can I suggest serving them with a bowl of black bean and chorizo soup? Yum! You can save them for a few days in an airtight container - remember, there are no preservatives in these bad boys. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Common Courtesy

Today, I am grateful for the people that consider common courtesy the norm rather than the exception. Like the person that held the door for the elderly couple behind them. The one that stopped to let me make a left-turn during rush hour. The folks who always say 'bless you' or 'gesundheit.' The people who don't talk on their cell phone while placing an order. The ones that smile back when you say hello.

Because, really, how hard is that?!