Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mountain Momma

We took a little trip to the mountains for Fourth of July weekend.  I'm super lucky that my grandma owns a cabin just a few miles down the mountain from Highlands, right on the Cullasaja River.  It's a small, quaint, very 1970s little place, but it's just perfect for a getaway.  Unfortunately, we really don't use it enough.  We took advantage of the long weekend and made a quick trip with the dogs.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon and spent a bit cleaning things up (it hadn't been used since last summer).  It was pretty warm, so after we got settled, we decided to go swimming in the river.  The house next to Gram's cabin has a "beach" and a good swimming hole, so we took the dogs there and swam and threw the tennis ball for them.  I'm happy to report I did not see any water moccasins (we did run across one in the same swimming hole some 18 years earlier and I have not forgotten).  We cooked a steak dinner that night and enjoyed sitting out on the deck, listening to the river (and some Jack Johnson), watching fireflies and a few amateur fireworks and looking at all the stars.

Happy to be in the mountains!
Matt going for a little fishing excursion in front of the cabin.

Yeah, I found these in a kitchen drawer - the date on the package was 1965.  Awesome.
This is the life.

This next series of pictures is a progression of what happens when Maddie hears fireworks.  Or thunder.  We do not typically let her climb on us like this.

And she's gone... off to find another unsuspecting victim (aka: Daddy).
The next morning we were up early to try a little trout fishing.  FAIL.  I did, however, look super hot in my waders, fishing shirt and fishing sunglasses (they're polarized and I only wear them to fish because they are UGLY on me).  After our unsuccessful fishing trip in which I broke my pole (oops), we headed back to the cabin to pack up for our 9.6 mile Yellow Mountain hike.  Yep, you read that right.  4.8 miles in and 4.8 miles out.  I wore the Camelbak, Matt had a backpack with food and water, and Maddie carried her pack with water.  It was definitely strenuous, as labeled, and took us 5 hours round trip with only a quick stop at the top for lunch and a rest... lots of ups and downs and tight switchbacks.  The dogs led most of the way, but by the end, we were kicking them in the butt to speed up in front of us.  They were pooped, but we all made it and enjoyed it!  And drank all the water.

Against my better judgment, I am posting this for all the interwebs to see.  Yikes.
I think Matt is doing pretty feet.

View from the top of Yellow Mountain.

The Fire Tower

Those tongues!  They were tired but they LOVED it.

Of course they find the water hole on the way out... a little cooldown.  Maddie promptly laid down and began drinking.  Silly girl.

Time for a little swim after that hike!  They swam after the tennis ball for another 30 minutes after the 9.6 miles.  They couldn't have been that tired.
 That evening we took advantage of what had to have been a caloric deficit that day and had a cold beer and a delicious burger and onion rings at Flipside in Highlands then went for icecream at SweeTreats.  We once again spent the evening on the deck, watching fireflies and looking at the stars.  So peaceful.

The next morning we packed up and headed back to Atlanta, but not before a stop at Tallulah Gorge to see what it's all about.  After our Sunday hike, we weren't too keen on the idea of thousand whatever stairs to get to the suspension bridge, so we just did the upper three overlooks.  We'll definitely go back and try to get a pass to hike to the gorge floor at some point.  I can only imagine how cool it must be down there!

No Bust Your Butt Falls on this trip (a Highlands favorite), but we're hoping to get back again soon!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


This is what my shopping cart looked like when I checked out at YDFM on Saturday morning.  I'll let you guess what all that cost, but suffice it to say, I will not need to shop for groceries (or wine) for awhile thanks to all of this and my weekly CSA goodies.  I should mention that I pray my freezer doesn't go out, because it's storing an awful lot of meat.

I made six jars of cucumbers this weekend, and I STILL have cucumbers left!  Anyone want some?  I should be getting more today.  Here's my pickle recipe... I actually measured ingredients, so this should be pretty accurate.  Of course, you can just cut everything down if you don't have several pounds of cucumbers.

Kristin's Paleo Garlic Dill Pickles
(makes 6 Ball jars)
  • 3-4 lbs cucumbers (organic)
  • 3-1/2 c distilled white vinegar
  • 3-1/2 c water
  • 6 tbsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1-1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tbsp Chinese Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (or 1 tsp dried mustard)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • lots of fresh dill (organic)
  • 8(ish) small cloves of garlic, sliced
  • ~1/3 vidalia onion, sliced thinly

In a non-reactive pot, bring vinegar, water and remaining ingredients through dill to a boil until the salt dissolves (the mixture will be a little cloudy from the salt and mustard... that is okay).  Remove from heat and let cool.  Divide the garlic and onion evenly in each jar.  Put 1-2 (or more) sprigs of dill in each jar.  Slice cucumbers to desired thickness (I did 1/4"-1/3", you can also use small pickling cucumbers left whole, but they will require more time to pickle) and pack each jar full.  Once pickling liquid is cool (or at least luke warm), pour into jars.  Seal jars and refrigerate.  You should be able to enjoy yummy pickles within 24 hours!

Notes: I like a vinegar-y pickle with lots of dill flavor and a little spice.  Experiment and adjust accordingly.  I've read something about letting your cucumbers "rest" with salt for a few hours to remove some of the liquid... sounds like a good idea but I didn't do that and my pickles were still crunchy.

We had some nice bell peppers from the CSA, so I decided to make stuffed peppers last night.  I've never made them before, so I checked out a few recipes online just to see how you cook them and then made up my own recipe.  It was tasty, if I do say so myself (and, I do)!

Kristin's Paleo Stuffed Peppers
(serves 4+)
  • 4 bell peppers (organic)
  • 1 lb ground beef (grass fed)
  • ~2/3 vidalia onion, finely diced (I just used what I had left from my pickles... you can use a whole one)
  • garlic (to taste, 4+ large cloves), minced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce (organic)
  • herbs of choice (I used dried basil, bouquet garni and red pepper flakes)
  • 1 large zucchini, coarsley grated
  • fresh parsley, coarsley chopped (organic)
  • freshly grated parmesan (optional)
In a pot big enough to fit the bell peppers standing up (but not so big they fall over), heat EVOO over medium and add half of the garlic and onion.  Saute until tender.  Add tomato sauce, salt, pepper and herbs to taste (you're just making a quick marinara).  Reduce hit to low and let simmer.

Preheat oven to 400.  Meanwhile, cut tops off bell peppers and remove ribs and seeds from inside pepper.  Remove stems from the tops and dice what's left.  Heat a saute pan with EVOO over medium heat and saute onions, diced bell pepper and garlic until tender.  Remove from pan and add ground beef.  Cook until done and drain fat.  Add the sauteed veggies, zucchini, parsley, about 1/4-1/2 cup marinara, and parmesan (optional), salt and pepper to taste to meat and mix well.  Fill bell peppers with meat mixture and place upright in the pot with the remaining marinara.  Cover and cook until peppers are tender, about 20-30 minutes.  Serve with the marinara.  (I also served this with a Greek style cucumber and tomato salad.)

Notes: This isn't a super quick meal, but it was maybe 30 minutes of hands on time and then 20-30 minutes in the oven.  You can obviously cook the peppers in a different pan if you don't have an oven proof pot, but I just like to use as few dishes as humanly possible to keep clean up at a minimum.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's actually happening...

We are renovating our kitchen!!!  So, nothing is happening yet but cabinets and countertops have been ordered!!!!!!! (I hope the exclamation points convey my excitment.)

Here's a little sneak peak.  The cabinet style and color is the same as above (Martha Stewart - Ox Hill in Ocean Floor), though I feel like the cabinets are a little darker with a slightly green undertone in real life.  Floors will be dark walnut, just like the rest of the house, and the countertops will be Silestone in White North.  We're also adding recessed lighting, changing up the layout of the kitchen a bit, putting in a tile backsplash (TBD), new window coverings (TBD), new closet doors on the laudry, pantry and other random storage closet, new range and dishwasher, new faucet... you name it, it's all pretty much being done! Well, except opening up the wall between the living room and kitchen.  Oh well.  Barring any disasters, we should have a new kitchen by early September!!!!  Woohoo!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Crockpot Curry Concoction

Or, perhaps more accurately, experiment.  It's not a total experiment, because I did base it on another recipe, but I will have to wait until tonight to judge.  I like to try to do at least one crockpot meal every week or two, because it just makes dinner a cinch (and provides leftovers).  So, last night, after I had my dinner of split chicken breasts roasting in the oven, and my CSA cucumber and tomato salad prepared and chilling, I chopped the veggies (all from CSA except sweet potatoes and organic carrots), mixed the spices and pulled out the other ingredients so that I could throw this together this morning.  It's sort of premature to post a recipe I haven't even tried, but honestly, even if it doesn't taste that good, the curry aroma is worth it.  I can still smell it on my hands and I don't even think I touched any of the spices.  So, if you happen to work in my office and walk by me sniffing my hands with a happy, closed eye grin on my face, you know why.  :)

(On an unrelated note, my pickles were delicious and I have a boatload of cucumbers, so once I get more jars, I will be making more pickles and will take notes on the recipe.  I just threw it together last time, so I don't know how much of what I put in them.  But, man, they're good if I do say so myself!)

Crockpot Beef Curry Concoction
-1.5 lb grass fed beef chuck roast
-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into ~3/4" chunks
-1 c baby carrots
-1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
-1 small and 4 very small onions, diced
-1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
-~1/2" piece of fresh ginger, sliced
-2 cloves garlic, sliced
-1 tbsp coconut oil
-2 tbsp curry powder (I was almost out of curry, so I used the rest which was about 3/4 tbsp and probably closer to 1.5 tbsp garam masala... you could also use curry paste and maybe omit the other spices below)
-1 tsp chili powder
-1 tsp cumin
-1 can coconut milk
-2 tbsp coconut aminos (soy sauce alternative)
-1 tbsp fish sauce
-1-2 tbsp apple cider or apple juice or something fruity w/ a little acid

I chopped all veggies the night before and squeezed the juice of half a lemon over them since I had it sitting around.  I don't know why, I just did.  Covered the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.  I mixed the spices in a small bowl, covered and set on the counter with the other ingredients that didn't need chilling.  This morning, I put the meat and veggies in the crockpot and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I melted the coconut oil in a small saucepan on the stove, added the spices to create a paste and release some flavor, then added the rest of the wet ingredients and mixed well.  I didn't let this cook for any amount of time, because I needed to get to work, but I just wanted everything to meld together.  Poured it over the  meat and veggies in the crockpot, set it for low and let it do its thing.  I hope it tastes good!  I will taste it when I get home and add more spices, as needed.  And update the blog accordingly.

Update: the "stew" was good.  It was really more like a curry stew than a traditional curry, but for 10 minutes of prep work, I'll take it.  Matt made rice for his, and in a moment of weakness, I added about 1/8 to 1/4 cup to mine.  Have I mentioned that I've been "falling off the wagon" too much lately?  Yeah, about to institute a 30-day hardcore paleo lockdown on myself.  But, that's another post for another day.