Sunday, September 21, 2014

What I learned so far- New England Native in SLC

Salt Lake City, Utah is a wonderful place.
But when you are from New England... it is such a different place. 

When you pack up your life in a little UHaul and move 2,300 miles across the country, away from the water and to a land locked state up in the mountains, life gets a little... different. 

I have been keeping little mental notes of all the little things I have learned here, and I finally have a good enough list to share with all of you.  

To all of you who haven't been to SLC, 
Sit back and enjoy my little list of what a certain New England native learned so far.

Head phones are a must unless you want to have extensive conversations with the drunk homeless population riding the Trax (light rail, train, what ever you want to call it).  

On that note - the homeless are harmless, but it breaks my heart every time I see them (especially with the dogs!).  Certainly something that takes a while to get used to. 

Liberty park is amazing: dogs, biking, roller blading, roller skating, scooters, dodgeball, frisbee volleyball, acro yoga, aviary, pool, tennis, free concerts, and even LARPING.

The parks.  There are so many parks and they are all so beautiful and well kept.  A lot of them have running trails so you can avoid running traffic light to traffic light.

Running is SO HARD HERE.  The air is so dry, the altitude is tough at first, and there are no hills, just mountains with insane and constant inclines.  And the decline is tough too!

The rail is PACKED at 7am (and even worst on game days).

Traveling 3.5 miles in a city takes 3x as long to bike walk or even drive compared to living in a small town- waiting for stoplights and pedestrians takes forever

Biking to campus is a nightmare getting there- massive hill- and slightly suicidal heading home going down those hills

Utah has a lot of lakes and amazing hiking, but some of it does not allow dogs because it is a public water supply

Mountain lions, moose, rattle snakes, and bears live in this area.  And rattle snakes are common.  And the babies are the worst because they don't know when to "let go".  And now I have rattle snake nightmares and jump at any sound while hiking.

Air is not free- $2 to fill up your bike tire at the gas station (what?)

A lot of people in the state of Utah "carry" (weapons) and it is odd to see "No Weapons Allowed" signs on certain buildings.....

This city is all about Festivals. 
And there is a large Greek population here and the Greek festival is a big deal 

Everyone runs and bikes and is in impeccable shape.  Running a marathon seems to be a normal thing... and I even saw a kid on campus who had a tatoo tally of how many marathons he has run.  He was up to 7. According to my new Utah friend being active and hiking is called being "granola" a new Utah term for the books.

Free stuff and events everywhere Tuesday and Thursday concerts at the Gallivan Center are absolutely amazing- and free!  There is even a stage!  You can bring your own chairs, your own snacks and enjoy a free concert on a beautiful evening.  Did I mention free enough?

Bring a rain coat everywhere - and a bikini and a winter coat and sunscreen- because the weather is crazy and changes fast.

Sunscreen is a must- sometimes the sun can feel like you are under a broiler-  Bring your own shade everywhere in this state. Like EVERYWHERE.   We need more trees.

The University of Utah is GIGANTIC.  
One of my classes is almost a mile walk from the Trax stop on campus.  
Many days I walk a half a mile to the trax stop, ride the trax 3 miles to school, and then walk another .5 to a mile to class.  And I do this once in the morning and once at night. 

Fry sauce is a thing- and it's amazing. 
Why doesn't CT have fry sauce?

From Scratch has the best burger (and that amazing fry sauce).  But I will have to try all the burgers in this city to be sure.. you know... research. Oh and every single thing on this plate was made from scratch. Get it?

The malls here are gorgeous.  They are also outside with cute little rivers running through them, amazing restaurants, and the most adorable little places to sit and relax while shopping.  Did I mention they are all outdoors?

Liquor stores sell ONLY warm beer wine and liquor- no fridges of cold beer, no ice, no mixers.

BUT you can buy cold beer basically anywhere. 
Even at Rite Aid (any beer up to 4%).

Rice Eccles football stadium is not allowed to serve beer, or any alcohol for that matter.
The amount of people that attend football games and how into the games they get is a CULTURE SHOCK to the 1999th degree. 

It is so weird to be somewhere where winter is the highlight.  I no longer have to dread winter because the snow is useful here!

It is so nice to not depend on a car.  
I walk and take the Trax to school, and drive my car about once a week, usually to drive to a park because Olive isn't allowed on the Trax. 

This city is stunning and beautiful.  The most beautiful buildings, the most perfect parks, mountains, streams, and oh all the flowers!  Temple Square is simply beautiful and I now refer to it as the castle. The gardens, the square, the fountains.. all so beautiful!

You can run in to the most random things because there is always something going on.
  Like The Piano Guys filming a music video with the Batmobile at the Capital Building and a fog machine. And yes that is a little helicopter drone. 

Dogs who have never lived in an apartment are terrified of the elevator, and of the people that live above you. But there are a lot of great dog friendly events and locations in the city.  

I love having a balcony to sit on and enjoy a drink in the afternoons.  I just wish we had a better view.  Luckily we do get to see some lovely sunsets. 

It is really fun to be in a city with so much to do and actually have a reason to get dressed.  Living in your running clothes is not as popular as it was back at home for me! 

Utah is very on board with Adopt Dont Shop and has a big rescue scene (amazing!).  They host amazing events that support rescues, and even have some of their adoptable pups on billboards.  I attended this amazing "Yappy Hour" event at Pioneer Park that was a huge dog park with music, food, and beer. 

There are so many food trucks around the city and they are all so so SOO good.  
Elk slider and homemade potato chips good. 

While everyone automatically associates Salt Lake City to Mormons and no drinking-- it is such a myth.  Salt Lake City has some amazing bars (Phil dunfy owns one!).  They do have some funky draft beer rules I will admit, but they do have so many amazing local beers and bottled beer has no special percent rules. Beer Hive even had this amazing chiller on the bar to keep your drink cold.  BUT while we are talking about booze- their liquor laws are really annoying.  Every single bar has a special contraption they have to use on all their liquor bottles for evenly measured one shot pours. 

I guess all around... Salt Lake City is a pretty amazing place.  It is the perfect combination of clean safe city life and outdoor adventure.  

But don't get me wrong.  
I miss the water, and diving, and the horses, and of course,
 I miss you friends and family so very much!

I will keep updating my "What I Have Learned So Far" list 
because I am fairly certain the best is yet to come :) 

Stay Tuned!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dog Lake - Wasatch Mountains

Let me start by saying Utah's dog rules can be a little confusing.  
Why? Because of their watersheds. 

Dogs are not allowed in any of the Utah forests/canyons/mountains etc that drain to a watershed.  This was a foreign concept coming from the East Coast but once you figure out there "Can and Can Not's" it isn't too bad.

Dog Lake is between Millcreek Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon.   The hike can be accessed by either canyon.  BUT..if you have a dog, you have to stay on the Millcreek Canyon side.  Big Cottonwood Canyon is a watershed canyon that supplies drinking water to the Wasatch Front, therefore no pets are allowed in this canyon. 

We did our research, and headed into the Millcreek Canyon to start our hike.  We knew the hike was about 2.5 miles each way and there were two different trails to get to Dog Lake. 

The trail head is located at the end of the road leading into the canyon (From the Mill Creek fee station at the park entrance, it is 8.5 miles to the end of the road. Look for the Big Water Trail signs to start your hike).  There is a fee once you leave the park, and the parking can be limited so get there early!

As you can see, we started at the green arrow, climbed up to Dog Lake, and then went back to the red arrow.  We took the short steeper trail up and the longer more gradual trail down.   The elevation was quiet intense for this road runner, so these glutes were a little sore the next day. 

The trail up was a little rockier and ledgey, but the trail down was b e a u t i f u l.  Trees were just starting to change colors, and the path was nice packed dirt, wider, and had lots of dogs, hikers and bikers along the way. 

Once again, the GoPro caught some beautiful pictures of Utah. 

(Top of Dog Lake). 

(Oops-  self timer did not work out so well- mid sit!)

We took a 30 minute break at dog lake to eat a few snacks, drink a beer, and watch Olive play in the water with the other dogs. 

All GoPro pictures! 

Dog Lake was such a beautiful hike.  The Lake wasn't the most impressive Lake you ever did see, but it was a perfect spot to rest, and a perfect swimming spot (for dogs, and that allowed dogs!).  Be warned that this is a popular trail, especially for mountain bikers, so leave your headphones at home and be aware!

And now... an honorable mention that that evening... which probably needs it's own post. 

After that nice 5.5 mile hike, I balanced it out with some lovely fair food.
Specifically, with Fried Chicken and Waffles on a Stick from the Utah State Fair.

Yes- it was DELICIOUS.  
Fried Chicken put on a stick and in a waffle maker with waffle mix,
 and then jalapeno maple syrup dipping sauce on the side. 

It's all about balance....right?

Monday, September 15, 2014

My first college football game- Utes!

Growing up, I went to a highschool without a football team.  Then, I went to a college without a football team.  Then, I transferred to a collage without a football team. Football was just something I never "learned to love" or appreciate.

Then I went to graduate school at a University where football was a part of the culture of the University.  Like our Uconn Huskies for my East Coast friends. 
(Except I am still not entirely sure what a Ute is...)

Utah Utes logo.svg
The Utah Utes Football is part of the Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) and is NCAA Division 1. 

I never really got a feel for college football, or never even attended a college football game for that matter, until last weekend. 

The Trax makes a stop at the University Stadium, and is my typical stop when I am going to class.  However on game day, the Trax stations are MOBBED with seas of red and white t-shirts, and they even put a few extra trains on schedule.   Young and old, there are many die hard Ute fans that have their gear and their padded seats.  They even close down some of the parking lots for tailgating before the game.   I should have known this was a bad sign.  I do not do well in MOBS of people and tend to avoid theme parks and such for this reason. 

I don't really "get' football, but being a student, I get a free ticket in the "Mighty Utah Student Section", called the "MUSS" and decided it may be a fun way to enjoy some sunshine and a beer while supporting my new school. 

I found out very quickly that:

A.  Rice-Eccles Stadium does not sell alcohol.  Apparently this is a new trend among college football stadiums.  A trend I was very disappointed with on a hot Saturday afternoon.   While I get why crowds may get to rowdy, and underaged drinking may get out of control, it was a bummer to not enjoy an ice cold beer on a hot day. 

B.  Utah does not have any shade and the sun feels 1000x worst than what I am used to.  It literally feels like you are sitting under a broiler.  I ended up leaving after the half time break because I couldn't take the sun anymore.  

C.  You can keep buying $4 bottles of water, or wait in the hour line that wraps around the concourse to refill your water bottle at the bubbler/fountain because it is about 100 degrees in the sun on those bleachers. 

I wasn't very interested in the game to be honest, but I did enjoy the marching band and watching the crowd interact.  This was a great place to people watch and see die hard football fans in the act.  I really enjoyed watching the student section interacting at the game. 

While the game was something different to experience as a new U of U student and Utah resident, it really wasn't my cup of tea.  Mobs on the shuttle, Mobs in the concourse, no shade, and no beer. I repeat. no beer.   I told Thatcher we could consider going to one of the night games.  A hot coffee and a sweatshirt on the bleachers sounds much better than the intense Utah sun.

Another lesson learned in the "Bring your own shade" chapter of life in Utah.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rice and Beef Stuffed Poblano Peppers with a Lime Crema Sauce (Blue Apron)

So the blogs been a little all over the place lately.
Gardens, and mountains, and Utah, Oh my! 

I did warn you things were going to change, but I hope you are all enjoying the snapshots of my life out here and the adjustments.  I know my mom is (hey mom..)

  I am going to try to get the blog in some sort of a balance between everything it was and everything I want to be.  A balance between my new adventures, my running goals, and of course... food.  

Well, the blog has been seriously lacking in the food department 
and I have been trying to find the time to share this amazing recipe with you guys.

Well finally, I did. 
Yes, it is a Blue Apron and yes, it was super easy--and delicious!
My only negative comment to this recipe is is there is no "side".  But it was so darn tasty that I forgive you Blue Apron for your lack of sides, I will add a small side salad next time and love you just the same. 

 So now, I present to you....

Rice and Beef Stuffed Poblano Peppers 

with a Lime-Crema Sauce

                                   Makes 2 servings, about 700 calories each serving.  

Let me start by saying I was surprised how much I loved this.  I figured eh, your average stuffed pepper (minus the whole poblano thing).  Until I put in that cumin, pepitas, and currants.  The smell of cumin onions and garlic should be a new yankee candle (maybe?)
And then top it with this lime-crema creamy sauce, which perfectly balanced the heat from the poblano.

It was no longer a typical stuffed pepper but so darn good.  If your stuffed pepper recipe needs some spicing up (pun intended) try this recipe for a nice change. 

  • ½ Cup Long Grain White Rice
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro
  • 1 Lime
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 2 Poblano Peppers
  • 10 Ounces Ground Beef
  • 3 Tablespoons Dried Currants
  • 3 Tablespoons Roasted Pepitas
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • ¼ Cup Mexican Crema

"In this dish, you’ll be using a special Mexican ingredient: crema. It’s a creamy, tart condiment similar to sour cream and crème fraîche, In this dish, it provides balance, mediating the rich spiciness of the stuffed peppers, the toastiness of the pepitas and the sweetness of the dried currants."--BA

1.  Rice Rice Baby
In a small pot, combine the rice, 1 cup of water and a big pinch of salt. Heat to boiling on high. ** Once boiling, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer 14 to 16 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Fluff the finished rice with a fork.
**Or just use a rice cooker for perfect fluffy rice (every time) 

2.  Prep
While the rice cooks, preheat the oven to 500°F. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and mince the garlic. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stems; discard the stems and roughly chop the leaves. Quarter the lime. Peel and small dice the onion.

3.  Roast em 
Place the poblano peppers on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven 5 to 7 minutes, or until the skin is browned and blistered. Remove from the oven and set aside. When cool enough to handle, make a lengthwise slit in each pepper. Using your hands, open each pepper; remove and discard the ribs and seeds, keeping the skin of the pepper as intact as possible. Return the prepared peppers to the sheet pan and set aside.

4.  Make the Filling
While the peppers cool, in a large pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the garlic and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the tomato paste and cumin. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until toasted. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking the meat apart with a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes, or until browned and cooked through. Stir in the currants, pepitas, cooked rice and ¼ cup of water. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes, or until well combined; season with salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Stuff and Bake
Stuff each prepared poblano with as much of the filling as possible (reserve any extra filling to serve on the side). Bake the stuffed peppers 4 to 6 minutes, or until heated through and the filling is brown on top. Remove from the oven.

6.  Sauce and Plate
While the peppers bake, in a small bowl, combine the Mexican crema, the juice of 2 lime wedges, half the cilantro and 1 tablespoon of water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To plate your dish, divide the stuffed poblanos (and any extra filling) between 2 plates and top with the lime-crema sauce. Garnish with theremaining cilantro and lime wedges. 

Impress all of your friends and come back and thank me.  

Too hot?
If you aren't into the heat of the poblano,
 substitute one of the bell peppers and enjoy!  

No meat for you?
 Leave out the beef and get crazy with some beans or whatever meat substitute you desire!

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