Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Butternut Squash Lasagna

One of the meals I have missed since going gluten free has been lasagna.  I haven't dared try to use a GF noodle to recreate the dish as I don't always like how the noodles are the next day.  I have found I tend to prefer them fresh and that doesn't translate well to lasagna.  It got me to thinking about the ways that people use different squashes to replace noodles in other dishes, zucchini, spaghetti squash, etc.  I have often enjoyed a butternut squash lasagna with a white bechamel sauce and thought that would work quite well as a replacement in lasagna.  So I set out to do just that!  It came out amazing and I cannot wait to make it again.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced approximately 1/4 of an inch thick
8 cups Simple Meat Sauce
8oz Shredded Cheese, Italian Blend works nicely
16oz Ricotta
16oz Chopped Frozen Spinach, defrosted and squeezed in a towel to drain excess liquid.
6 cloves of Garlic, mined
2 Eggs
2 TBS Garlic and Herb Seasoning
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix the ricotta, spinach, garlic, garlic and herb seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste.  Finally mix in the two eggs.

In a large baking dish, 9 x 13, start by laying meat sauce and a single layer of butternut squash, a little overlap is okay.  Layer in half of the ricotta and spinach mixture and top with a third of the shredded cheese.  Repeat with more sauce, squash, the rest of the ricotta and spinach, and another third of the shredded cheese.  Top with the one more layer of squash, more meat sauce, and the rest of the shredded cheese.

Bake for 60 minutes until squash is cooked through and cheese is lightly browned and melty.  Allow to cool a bit before serving.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Simple Meat Sauce

I have been wanting to make a gluten free lasagna for a while, so today was the day.

But first, let me take a selfie!

Okay, just kidding, first I needed to make a meat sauce.  This made more than enough for the lasagna, left me with enough leftovers to make a serving or two of pasta, and enough to make meat sauce poached eggs for breakfast.

Simple Meat Sauce
1 Onion - diced
1 Pepper, any color - diced
2 TBS Butter
20oz Ground Turkey
14oz can Tomato Paste
32oz can Diced Tomatoes
32 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
2 TBS Garlic and Herb Seasoning
Salt and Pepper

Saute the onions and peppers in the butter.  Add the Garlic and Herb Seasoning, continuing to heat until fragrant.  Stir in the three cans of tomato product, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and cook for at least an hour.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  The longer it cooks, better better it gets.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Yesterday my friend Lindsay had a Soup Night.  A lovely take on a potluck in which everyone brings a soup to share.  People taste the soups, eat the soups, and then divy up the leftovers into containers to take home!  It was genius and I now have several different types of soup in my freezer for last minute dinners and quick lunches.

As part of the festivities, there was a judging!  Everyone voted for their two favorite soups, and the winner went home with the golden ladle.  It was a close race, the second and third place soups were tied with 4 votes each, but my Cream of Mushroom Soup took home the Golden Ladle with 5 votes!

Cream of Mushroom Soup

10 cups Whole Milk
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 TBS Corn Starch
8-12 sprigs of Thyme, divided
4 TBS Butter
16 ounces White Mushrooms, 8 ounces whole, 8 ounces rough chopped
16 ounces Crimini Mushrooms, 8 ounces whole, 8 ounces rough chopped
1 Shallot, quartered
Olive Oil
Nip of Bourbon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

On a baking sheet place the whole mushrooms, shallot, 4 sprigs of thyme, and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-45 minutes, stirring once.  They should be golden in color when done.

In a dutch oven or stock pot, add the milk and remaining thyme (the more thyme the stronger the flavor).  Scald, then simmer lightly for 15 minutes.  Remove the thyme sprigs.

In a pan, melt the butter and add the rest of the mushrooms.  Saute until golden brown, seasoning with salt and pepper.  If the mushrooms give off a lot of liquid, drain into the milk.  Once golden brown, deglaze with the bourbon.

Add the roasted mushrooms and shallots to the milk, including the thyme sprigs.  Give a stir, then remove the thyme stems (this will allow the leaves to fall off into the soup).  Blend.  Stir the corn starch into the heavy cream and then whisk into the soup.

Stir the sauteed mushrooms into the soup, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, September 15, 2014

O2X Summit Challenge at Sugarbush Mount Ellen

I love pushing myself physically, and mentally. I also love trying new things, especially new events. When a new series was announced with the inaugural event only 45 minutes away from me at Sugarbush Mount Ellen, I put it on my calendar immediately.
O2X Summit Challenges

Per their website: O2X is the most authentic challenge out there. Our Base-To-Peak footraces combine a series of demanding vertical ascents, natural obstacles, and a test of your mental fortitude. We design trails that are tough, fun, and beautiful. When you reach the summit, you'll be greeted with an amazing view, a sense of accomplishment, and and ice cold beer once you return to basecamp. Are you ready to Rise Higher?

There were so many things to like about this event before it started! There was onsite camping the night before where they advertised there would be a fireside chat, food vendors, music, and more, referred to as Basecamp. All registered participants received a thank you for registering note with a handwritten envelope and sticker. Major kudos! We received a training plan that people pay lots of money for, I can't wait to implement it after the Beast. The email communication was clear and concise, there wasn't too many and I was never left feeling like I didn't have the information I needed. My expectations were really high.

"Are you ready for the next evolution in trail running? Push your limits. Reach new levels of personal achievement. Rise Higher." ~ O2X.com

I arrived at Sugarbush Mount Ellen about 6:30 and were directed by smiling staff where to go to unload for camping and then where to park. I pulled in and found NE Spahten tent city rather quickly. After Jeremy and I unloaded the car, I went to set up the tent. No tent. Crap! Beth mentioned we could probably crash with Lisa and Don in their palace (enormous tent) or check with Heather and Geoff because she thought she heard them mention an extra tent. SCORE! Borrowed tent for the win. Thanks Heather and Geoff!

At Basecamp, we took a quick look around before walking over to register. It was quick and easy, Lizzy D was working the computer and checked me in quickly. A usable drawstring backpack, Juti Bar, meat stick, soft cotton t-shirt, and Lululemon shorts! I was psyched. I did notice that my shirt was a men's cut and within moments, they had me swapped out for a female version. Material was the same but the capped sleeves on women's shirts are far more comfortable for me.

Since it was on the chilly side, inside we went, where we were able to enjoy the all you can eat chili dinner. While I wish this was included with the cost of camping, I was psyched to find a gluten free chili, salad that was free of croutons, and corn chips. With a race to be run the next day, the meal also included Gatorade which was a great touch by the vendor. They were selling beer and hard cider. Often times there are no cider options and that means that a vendor or event misses out on my money.
One of the things that really set this event apart was the fireside chat. Everyone was gathered around a crackling fire, smiling and chatting, when the founders of O2X started to tell us about their why. It was inspiring, heartfelt, and genuine. They talked about how they wanted to work together and then decided what that would look like. An ingenious way to start something. They talked about how each of us who stepped up to give them a chance was considered a plank owner; A "plank owner" is an individual who was a member of the crew of a ship when that ship was placed in commission. In earlier years, this applied to a first commissioning; since then, it has often been applied to one who was part of a recommissioning crew as well. As the founders are Navy Seals themselves, it was a very humbling moment to be considered a plank owner along side them. A chat from an average Joe, Frank Fumich, who also happens to like to push himself to the extreme just to see if he can, had us all laughing. 

The energy and the atmosphere blew me away. It is not often that I feel the type of energy circulating around that emanated from O2X. It was a struggle to tear myself away from the group (and admittedly, I was one of the last to do so) to go to bed and get the needed rest before the race. It was cold, as fall in Vermont can be, but after snuggling down in our borrowed tent, I slept solidly till morning. 

It was certainly brisk in the morning but breakfast was served in the lodge with hot coffee, although I hear they couldn't make it fast enough to keep up with demand, and they ran out of cream when we went to get our cups. After making a trip to the car, someone had returned with cream. Hot coffee was much needed on the chilly morning. A brief moose sighting up on the ski slope topped off the nature vs man feeling to the event.

As each wave went up to start, they were led through a brief warm up. It felt really good to get the blood moving. A few minutes later and we were off. The course started up a slight incline before dropping down and looping back up through the festival area. 
This really allowed people to get grab a hold of the energy of the festival to carry with them up the course. 
The course took us up and over ski trails, dirt roads, up along side a stream, across the stream, scrambling over rocks, bouldering over rocks, bear crawling up super steep glades.
We scrambled over fallen logs, slippery moss, under fallen logs, over fallen brush.  This course was not a trail run, nor was it an obstacle course race.  It was the ultimate trail adventure.  Along the way we hit milestones that let us know how many feet of elevation we had climbed.  I loved that this was carried over from the concept that we would be climbing feet of elevation as opposed to focusing on how many miles were covered.  There were smiling volunteers at the many water stations, several photographers, and amazing music at the scrambles.  The score from Last of the Mohicans seemed to pump everyone up more than any rock or pop hit seems to do at most events.  It also fit the setting. 

As we climbed, it got colder and colder, the wind blowing harder and stronger.  I couldn't wait to reach the summit to put on the dry long sleeves I had in my pack.  Below freezing with wind was not fun.  

A volunteer was stationed at the top of the nastiest of the climbs cheering and encouraging and directing us up to the finish.  While there was not a lot of action at the summit, nor was there a view, the staff and volunteers were full of smiles, willing to indulge me in my heel click into the finish.  They were immediately wrapping emergency blankets around our shoulders and giving us our finishers medals which were actually canteens filled with water.  While I wish it had been filled with bourbon or whiskey to warm up with, I thought it was a great way to avoid trash and get some hydration into us.  I look forward to utilizing my canteen in the future.

It was a quick downhill to stretch out the legs before hoping a chairlift back to Basecamp.  Had it not been for the predictably unpredictable New England weather, the views would have been stunning.  At the bottom, there was a fire to warm up by, music, and a free beer for each racer.  They actually let me have a cider instead of beer which caused me to do a happy dance on site.  

I had arrived back at Basecamp just in time to hear them give out their Rise Higher award to one our own NE Spahtens, Jane Boudreau Coffey, for surviving and thriving through adversity.  Just another reason to love O2X, their Rise Higher award, to be awarded at each event.  Simply email them with your nomination!

In short. Find the closest event to you and sign up.  It is worth every penny!

Monday, August 18, 2014

24 Hours of Shale Hell


10589687_605939556684_1450642774_nWell, I have had my first DNF, technically speaking.  If only in the manner that I couldn’t go continuously for 24 hours, nor could I finish my fourth lap.  Thank you 24 Hours of Shale Hell for that!

The start and finishing for each lap of the 24 Hours of Shale Hell (Hell) was the first Pick Your Poison and the finish was at the Tarzan Swing.  This was a bit different than their other events that either start in the center field or up at the barn and start with the Oxfords and Teeter Totters. As the Benson Bear Challenge #3 was currently taking place, we did register down in the center field.  We were able to park (free as always) next to the Tarzan Swing, set up tents, canopies, and whatnot; we had access to porta-johns, a grill; the medic was stationed here and a fire was started at dusk that was kept going all night.  This was also where your support crew was set up ($40 registration fee per crew member).

I opted to camp Friday night, the drone of the race track down the road lulled me to sleep without a coyote howl to be heard.  With a mornings worth of time to fill, I opted to help Jill stuff bags for the Benson Bear Challenge #3, registered a few of the Hell racers, and then was stationed out at the sandbag carry to direct 5k and 10k racers on the correct loop.  Was a beautiful day for a race and I was able to see Sandy and Michael on course.

It wasn’t long before I had to start getting ready for my event and made my way up to the tent.  Before too long had passed, Rob was pulling all ten of us racers together for a meeting.  The rules were simple:
- As many laps as you could manage safely in 24 hours.
- The Tyrolean Traverse would be closed from dark to sunrise.
- Penalties would be normal the first lap and scaled for each lap as follows:
Lap 1 – 30 Spiderman Push-ups (every obstacle, not 25 for most and 50 for 4)
Lap 2 – 15 Spiderman Push-ups
Lap 3 – 15 Spiderman Push-ups
Lap 4 – 20 Jumping Jacks
Lap 5 – 10 Inchworms
Lap 6 – No Penalties
Lap 7 – 5 Lunges
Lap 8 – 10 Flutter Kicks
Lap 9 – 10 Arm Circles
Lap 10 – Balance 15 seconds on left leg, repeat on right
Lap 11 – We shall see
- We were to help each other, if someone was down and hurt, if they were on course and weren’t being safe/smart, etc
- That we were to check in and out on a white board after every lap and let the medic know when we went back out on course.

 Rob suggested a first lap of sticking together with a 2:30 lap pace, especially for the people who had never been on course.  I know I spoke up immediately and said I knew the course and wouldn’t be able to keep that pace, I was fine alone.  I did start my lap with another female racer, Serena, a Shale Hill veteran and high school classmate!  I spent the second half of the lap with the other two female racers, both elite racers out of Canada, Jen and Sara.  I was able to give them some tips on several of the obstacles!  Can’t wait to see them again in September at the Killington Beast.  After my first lap, Sandy, Michael, and Adam decided that I wasn’t going to do any additional laps on my own, of which I am very grateful.  I had the pleasure of Michael's company on my second lap, someone whose racing and attitude inspire me.  My third lap, Adam accompanied me and other than my slip on the loom that resulted in a small panic attack, I never seemed to stop laughing.  The taco’s Sandy got me were the best food I ate all weekend, if you do a race at Shale Hill, volunteer, or are just in the general area, West Coast Taco (I think that's the name) is worth a stop, cash only!

 Over the course of my 3 full laps, I was able to scale the 8 foot wall, climb the HUGE slant wall, walk the top of the loom, and more.  All things I had either never done before or just learned the previous weekend at a NE Spahtens training day.  I will be honest, other than a few Spiderman Push-ups in my first lap, I didn’t do any penalties.  I wasn’t there to beat myself up with penalties, just to see how far I could go in 24 hours.
There were very few volunteers stationed on course but there were plenty around and mobil on course.  They were great at keeping the on-course fires burning, candles burning, and refilling the water stations when they were told they were empty.  There was a crew stationed at the Bucket Carry with a fire that definitely lifted my spirits.

The decision was made about 3:30 to close the course due to heavy fog that left runners with no visibility beyond the few inches in front of their noses.  Incredibly smart decision!  This was just after I got back from my decision to stop less than a quarter of the way into my fourth lap as my left hip flexor was not happy and I couldn’t lift my leg over even the smallest of obstacles.  The medic seconded my decision but also respected my decision to rest, see if stretching would help.  It didn’t.

Rob was called away as he finished his second penalty free lap due to a family emergency but was able to call in at the finish to congratulate us all.  What a race director!
OH! SWAG! There were prices for the top three females and top three males (top male finished with 8 laps, top female finished with 5), and every racer got a special Hell shirt, Hell medal, Shale Hill sticker, and a $10 gift certificate to The Wheel House in Benson.  Even the crews got a special Pit Crew shirt.
All in all, this event was small, intimate, and incredible.  My one and only suggestion would be to build the cost of one crew member into the registration fee as I could not imagine, personally, being able to do this race without someone there as support.
I cannot wait to see where I can go in a year!