Zucchini Pesto Pizza

Basil is my favorite thing to grow in the garden. This year I have no fewer than 9 basil plants and every one is 2+ feet tall and thick with large, green, fragrant leaves. What do I do with all of this basil, you ask? Pesto pesto pesto!!! This time of year I make big batches of pesto at least once a week. I use a few tablespoons of the fresh pesto on whatever dish we’re eating that night, then I portion out the rest into a silicone ice cube tray, freeze it, and store the cubes in the freezer in a ziplock bag. These pesto cubes keep for months and definitely are a welcome treat in the dead of winter when dinner needs a kick of flavor.

2727 Zucchini Pesto Pizza

Fresh pesto is one of the key ingredients in this Zucchini-Pesto Pizza that I made for dinner tonight. I spread a liberal amount of pesto directly on the dough, then added layers of mozzarella cheese and thin zucchini slices that had been tossed in garlic and olive oil. Yum!!

2713 Zucchini Pesto Pizza

As a side note, I had a major revelation while making tonight’s dinner. I constantly struggle with getting the uncooked pizza off of the peel and onto the stone in the oven, so much so that lately I had resorted to cracking open the oven and placing the raw dough directly on the preheated stone. Then I would arrange the toppings on the dough while it was already cooking in the oven. (That’s the hot, energy-wasteful way to do it, but at least the pizza turned out out nice and round!!)

Tonight, however, I wondered… what if I just temporarily took the hot stone out of the oven and assembled the pizza directly on the stone while OUT of the oven?? It worked perfectly!! This is probably the way that everyone else makes pizza, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me until tonight. Oh well! 😄

2726 Zucchini Pesto Pizza

Zucchini Pesto Pizza

You will need…
Pizza Stone and Pizza Peel
1 medium Zucchini, sliced into very thin (1/8″) discs
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
Cornmeal or Semolina Flour
1 – 16 oz. ball Raw Pizza Dough
1/2 cup Fresh Basil Pesto
8 oz. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Freshly Ground Pepper

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Position the rack 6-8 inches from the top of the oven and place the pizza stone on the rack to warm up. Place the zucchini discs in a shallow bowl with the olive oil and garlic, then toss thoroughly to coat.

Sprinkle 4-5 tablespoons of cornmeal on the pizza peel then drop the dough ball onto the cornmeal. Knead and spread the dough ball into a 15-17 inch pizza. Carefully remove the hot pizza stone from the oven and place it on a heat resistant surface. Transfer the dough to the stone and shape it into a nice circle the size of the stone.

Working quickly, spoon and spread the pesto onto the dough. Next, sprinkle half of the shredded cheese over the pesto. Layer the marinated zucchini slices evenly over the pie, leaving a 3/4 inch “margin” for the crust. Finally, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the zucchini and slide the stone back into the hot oven.

Bake the pizza for 8-9 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and starting to turn golden brown. Keep an eye on the pizza as it cooks… if your oven heats unevenly (like ours does!) rotate the pie with a few minutes left on the cook time.

Remove the pizza from the oven, top with a few grinds of black pepper, then slice and enjoy!

2730 Zucchini Pesto Pizza

 

That time Piper defended our house from an invading chipmunk (and other July happenings)

01 Piper on a rainy afternoon

Piper has had a fantastic summer so far, with multiple trips to the pool, plenty of playtime with her buddy Hershey, and hours of outdoor ‘hunting’ in our backyard. Here’s a recap of last month in photos. Enjoy!

02 Piper the happy swimmer!

In June when Matt and I were in Bethany Beach Piper finally learned how to swim in a pool! Prior to this she was scared to step off of the top stair, but when we returned from the beach Piper was swimming around like a little fish. A really really happy spotted fish with cute white whiskers!! 😄

03 Piper water entry method

Piper still hasn’t mastered her pool entry but she’s working on it. She sort of slithers off the side and closes her eyes as she hits the water. Hopefully we’ll get her jumping in like a normal dog by the end of the summer!

04 Piper and Hershey tug

Hershey usually chooses not to go in the pool. Instead, she patiently waits for Piper to retrieve the wubba and then immediately tries to steal it the moment Piper emerges from the water. These dogs crack me up.

05 Backyard puppy

When Piper isn’t paddling around Hershey’s pool she’s usually stalking something in our backyard. Over the past month she has become much more interested in chipmunks, groundhogs, toads and birds. Apparently there are nests with baby birds all around our patio because she has been spending every afternoon with her face wedged in the bushes and her tail wagging at top speed.

06 Uh oh, what has Piper gotten into??

Tip of the month: it is NOT a good sign when your puppy greets you at the back door looking like this!! This happened last Wednesday, just as we were about to go out for dinner. Piper was all “What? Why can’t I just come inside and lie on the carpet?!?”

07 Nope, I didn't do that

We surveyed the yard and discovered a huge muddy hole at the front corner of our house. It appears that a chipmunk foolishly attempted to hide from Piper by taking cover in the gutter. (This has happened before.) Piper “defended” our house by attacking the gutter and then proceeded to dig a moat around the gutter to keep future intruders at bay… or at least that’s what she’s claiming!!

08 Washing off the mud

Piper was REALLY muddy. Fortunately she is easy to bathe.  😄

09 Piper staring

In late June Piper won a “summer dog” Instagram photo contest with this photo. Her prize was a set of three split elk antlers from RidgeRunner Antler Chews in Colorado. I wanted to take some photos to thank RidgeRunner so I hung up a white sheet and started playing around with my camera settings before actually giving Piper an antler. Piper didn’t know what was going on so she just gave me her best puppy eyes as she waited to find out what I was so excited about.

10 Antler Piper

Piper figured out what the big deal was as soon as I handed her an antler. She LOVED it!! These antlers are fresh from the Rocky Mountains and have a thick layer of marrow that Piper went nuts over. She chewed and chewed for about 30 minutes while I snapped away.

11 Antler Piper

If RidgeRunner or any antler company needs a puppy model to “taste test” their products, Piper volunteers!!!

This has been an excellent month for insta-contests. Piper won a second contest, this one for “Cute Puppy Eyes,” with the above photo. One of the prizes was a cool digital portrait of Piper’s winning shot, complements of @Puppy_Transit. They did such a great job! The other big prize is a custom dog bed with our choice of fabric from @LillyandAbbie. Piper has never had a new bed (she sleeps on hand-me-downs from Bailey) so I am really looking forward to receiving her custom bed in a few weeks!!

~~

That’s about it for Piper’s month in review. Hopefully August will be even more fun!! (Although I could do without the mud hole in the front yard.) 😉 I’m pretty sure Piper will be happy as long as she gets to play in the pool!

00 Piper in the pool

What does your dog do for fun in the summer?
What’s your favorite photo of Piper from July?
I like the second antler shot and her awkward pool entry. 😎

Media 5 Mile

Media 5 Miler - me smiling at the start!

On Friday, June 19th I ran the Media 5 Miler for the second year in a row.  In the 6 weeks prior to this race I had been struggling with feeling burned out and tired but I’m happy to report that I pulled it together and finished the race more than a minute and a half faster than last year!!

After last year’s crowded start experience I purposefully positioned myself a lot closer to the starting line this year which was definitely better.  The gun went off promptly at 7PM and seconds later I crossed the start line at a comfortable jog.  (A big improvement over my 30 second lag and shuffle-walk start in the crowd last year!)  I had decided to run without music and as a result I felt much more focused and aware of my surroundings.  Focus can be a good thing and a bad thing during a race… it gives you time to think about your goals, running form, etc. but also means that you have 40+ minutes to reflect on how hot, tired, and slow you feel!

Media 5 Miler first lap turning down Olive Street

I’m #1480, in case you couldn’t tell from my HUGE smile. I love it when I spot Matt during a race!

I never felt too tired or slow during the Media 5 Miler, but with 80+ degree temps I was definitely hot!  Luckily this race has fantastic crowd support and many spectators had garden hoses, squirt guns and sprinklers to keep the runners cool.  Since I was running without a phone or sunglasses I made a point of running through every bit of water I could find and that felt GREAT!

Media 5 Mile Stats

Overall my splits were solid but nothing crazy.  I ended up much faster than last year’s Media 5 but significantly slower than my 5 mile PR time of 39:11 from Brian’s Run last December.  Nevertheless, December weather is approximately 2 million percent better for racing so I’ll take a 41:03 in the summer heat and humidity!!  In hindsight I definitely could have finished in under 41 minutes but with the chip versus clock timing I didn’t realize how close I was to that threshold.  Oh well! 😄

The morning after the Media race Matt and I headed south to Bethany Beach, Delaware for a 5 day vacation and family reunion.  The hot weather was perfect for the beach and we had a fantastic time. (Plus, I REALLY appreciated the flat terrain for my morning runs!!)  Two weeks later we visited the Jersey shore for another beach weekend, and next week we’re headed to upstate New York for yet another long weekend with friends and family.  Life is good!  That being said, I’ve been having so much fun relaxing this summer that I’ve rarely found time to blog, but that’s OK with me.  When fall arrives and cooler weather sets in I’m sure I’ll find more time for races, running, and blogging!

In the meantime, I do have one race on my schedule.  On August 13th I’ll be racing a single MILE on the Henderson High School Track as part of the “Bring Back the Mile” race series.  I haven’t raced a mile since May 2003 so this should be interesting!!!

Miles since last post: 161.2
Days since last post: 34
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.82
2015 MILES: 959.8

 Past Races:

•  May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3), Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
•  April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11), Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26)
•  March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
•  February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
•  January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
•  December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5), Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7), Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
•  November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
•  October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
•  September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
•  August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [PR]
•  July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18)
•  June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
•  May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
•  April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/, Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
•  March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
•  February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
•  January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
•  December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [PR]
•  November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
•  October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [PR]
•  September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

Southwestern Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

Southwestern Burgers with Chipotle Mayo 2

I am absolutely addicted to these southwestern burgers with chipotle mayo and green chiles. They meet all of my major requirements for a “staple” summer meal… the ingredients are readily available, prep time is under a half hour, the meat is grilled and, most importantly, the end result is DELICIOUS! The green chiles, chipotle and pepper jack are one of my favorite flavor combinations and Matt somehow grills the burgers to a juicy perfection every single time. I would seriously take one (or two) of these burgers over a restaurant burger any day.

We have been enjoying these burgers almost weekly this summer. In fact, we’re going to have them for dinner tonight (YUM!!) so I thought now would be an appropriate time to share the recipe and a few pics from the last time we made them.

Southwestern Burgers with Chipotle Mayo close up

The recipe comes from our trusty Williams Sonoma Grill Master, the same book that includes BBQ Baby Back Ribs, Paella, AND the beef kebabs that I’ll share in a future post. I highly recommend this cook book!! The original burger recipe is a bit fancier than our adaptation, calling for buffalo meat, homemade mayo and fresh-roasted chiles. Those ingredients sound exciting, but aren’t very practical for a weeknight meal, so we subbed in regular ground beef, jarred mayo and canned diced green chiles and the burgers turned out great.

Southwestern Burgers with Chipotle Mayo and Green Chiles
(adapted from Williams Sonoma Grill Master; makes 4 burgers)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup Mayonnaise
1-2 Chipotle Chiles in Adobo, minced; plus a teaspoon or two of adobo sauce, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro
Juice from 1/4 Lime
Salt and Pepper
1 1/3 lb. Ground Beef, 85/15
4 Slices Pepper Jack Cheese
4 Burger Buns
1 – 4 oz. can Chopped Green Chiles

Directions:
Preheat your grill to heat heat. Combine the mayo, chipotle, cilantro, lime, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl to make the chipotle mayo. Stir well, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the burger patties, divide the meat into four equal sections, then form each quarter into a patty about 3/4″ thick by 4-5 inches in diameter. The key to a good burger is not to over-mix or over-compress the ground beef so be gentle with this step!

Place the burger patties on a plate and create a small depression in the center of of each patty. Season both sides of the burgers with freshly ground salt and pepper.

Place the burgers on the grill over direct high heat. Leave the grill lid open and cook for 5 minutes, then flip the burgers and continue to cook for another 4 minutes. Add a slice of pepper jack cheese to each burger and allow to cook with the lid closed for another minute or until the cheese is melted. On our gas grill these cooking times yield a juicy medium burger; adjust your cooking times to reach your preferred doneness.

During the last few minutes of the burger cooking, place the buns face-down on the grill grates and grill for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the buns to a plate and spread a generous amount of the chipotle mayo over the bottom half of each bun.

When the burgers are done cooking, transfer them directly onto the mayo-ed buns. Top the burgers with a few spoonfulls of green chiles and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Make sure your puppy doesn't eat your burger!

These burgers are good… even Piper thinks so!!

A Belated Double Race Recap

After finishing the Broad Street Run on May 3rd I was on top of the world. I had survived the crowds, I accomplished my time goals, and I felt like I gave the race my very best effort. What I was NOT feeling was the urge to race again anytime soon. I’m sure that this is a fairly normal reaction after the exertion of a 10 mile race, but it was an unusual feeling for me. Leading up to Broad Street I had been a total racing junkie, eagerly participating in ten 5Ks, and two 10Ks since the first of the year. For me not to feel excited for my next race was very strange.

I felt tired, sluggish, slow, and achy in the days following Broad Street and did not feel any more excited about racing as the next week passed me by. Now, normally when you don’t want to race the solution is simple – just don’t sign up for a race!! – but unfortunately for me, I had already signed up for two races in the same weekend two weeks after Broad Street. I wasn’t feeling very confident about these races, but I was determined to show up and try my best!

Funny beer line

Still smiling after Race #2 of the weekend (probably because there’s BEER!)

Race #1 – Rocky Run 5K Trail Run – Friday, May 15th

My first race post-Broad Street was the Rocky Run YMCA’s 5K trail race in Media, PA. This was my second year running this race. Fatigue and soreness aside, I was MUCH more prepared for a trail race this year than I had been at this time last year. I’ve been doing lots of trail running (including running on the very trails where the race was taking place) and I’ve already run 3 trail races this year. With this in mind I went into the race feeling calm (but not exactly pumped) and interested to see what I would do compared to last year’s time.

Rocky Run 5K 1

The race began promptly at 6:30PM and I set off with 90 other 5K-ers, being careful not to go out too quickly. Matt and Piper cheered me on from the parking lot just before the course turned down into the woods behind the Y. The course was modified slightly from last year, with a new surprise uphill in the first mile and then a super-steep, eroded, single-track downhill almost immediately afterwards. This is my least favorite type of downhill because I work so hard to stay upright that I feel like I don’t get any time for recovery. Oh well!

The course continued downhill to the turnaround point where I realized with great surprise that I was currently the first place woman! I knew that I had a mile and a half of uphill ahead of me so was a little concerned about holding onto my spot, but tried to stay strong and mentally positive as I ran back towards the Y.

With a half mile to go I climbed a steep hill and emerged out of the woods at the bottom of yet another hill in the Y’s sprawling parking lot. Before the race I had imagined myself feeling renewed strength at this spot, a combination of being back on paved ground and knowing that the finish was close, but in reality by the time I hit this point I was totally drained. I shuffled up the hill as Matt cheered and encouraged me to finish strong. I had just turned into the final loop leading to the finish line when a woman zipped by me looking strong, happy, and downright perky. I huffed out “Good job.” as she streaked by and she kindly told me I was doing a good job too. By the time I panted across the finish line in second place I was completely and utterly spent. The photo below says it all… this is EXACTLY how I was feeling at the finish!!

Rocky Run 5K - this face exactly sums up how I was feeling at the finish!

Although I wasn’t impressed with how I ended the race, overall I was very happy with my time and second place finish. I completed the race in 26:50 which was 50 seconds faster than last year!! The course was also a little harder this year with that extra up-down in the first mile so this improvement was definitely encouraging.

Rocky Run 5K

Race #2 – Run for Victory 5K – Sunday, May 17th

Less than 48 hours after the trail race, I pinned on my bib for the Victory 5K in Downingtown, PA. Last year’s Victory 5K was a total breakout race for me. After a spring of 5Ks this is the race where I finally went sub-25, blowing away my old PR by almost a minute with a 24:17 finish. I knew that I didn’t have another PR performance in me this year, but I was hoping to at least match last year’s time on the fast, flat course.

Victory 5K

Unfortunately Sunday was not my day. I struggled through the race and barely squeaked through the finish under 25:00… my slowest road 5K since before last year’s Victory Run. Eek! I’ve (over) analyzed my performance in the weeks following Victory and here’s what went wrong:

  1. First and foremost, I was tired. I had just raced on Friday and was still feeling sluggish from Broad Street 2 weeks before.
  2. I had little motivation. I had just PR’d the 5K less than a month before at the Haverford Twilight Run so I felt ZERO need to even daydream about earning a new PR at Victory. I think this translated into me deciding beforehand that I didn’t need to show up with my A game. (But I don’t know if I could have even if I had wanted to… see #1!)
  3. It was HOT!!! May 17th seemed to be the first really humid day of the year. Victory’s 1PM start time put us squarely in the direct sun and heat of the day. Blech.
  4. I was burned out. Although I hate to admit it, after 14 races in 2015 I was completely burned out on May 17th.

I’ve been “streaking” since July 1, 2013. During all of these months with no rest days I have sometimes felt tired or sick or sore, but I have never felt truly burned out. Not until 1:25PM on May 17, 2015. It felt terrible. My body wasn’t running fast and my brain no longer cared. I got in line for my free post-race beer and agreed with Matt that it was time to take some time off from racing. (But not to end the streak… gotta keep that going!!) :-)

Looking really happy to be done the race

That’s the super-long beer line behind us.

So… not racing is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past month! I have continued to go to my Tuesday night track workouts, but beyond that have mostly been satisfied with slow runs (sometimes with Piper in tow towing me), hikes, and miles on the elliptical. I’ve gradually seen my times pick up on Tuesdays but the heat and humidity has been awful this spring and I’ve mostly continued to feel hot and slow.

Hopefully the last month will pay off and give me the mental and physical strength to break out of my burned-out funk tonight. Oh yeah… did I mention that in 2 hours I’ll be lining up for my first race post-Victory? It’s still really hot and humid out (even hotter than Victory, actually) and I’m still not sure that tonight’s the night for a PR, but I’m excited to give the Media 5 Mile Race my best shot! Wish me luck!!!

Miles since last post: 180.4
Days since last post: 40
Avg. Daily Miles since 7/18/13: 4.83
2015 MILES: 798.6

 Past Races:

•  May ’15: Broad Street 10 Mile Run (5/3), Rocky Run Trail 5K (5/15), Victory 5K (5/17)
•  April ’15: Tyler Trail 10K (4/11), Empower the Children 5K (4/18), Haverford Twilight 5K (4/26)
•  March ’15:
Athlete’s Closet March 5K (3/7), St. Pat’s 5K (3/14), Granogue Trail 10K (3/21), Pickle Run #3 (3/28)
•  February ’15: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/7), Pickle Trail Run #2 (2/21)
•  January ’15: SRA New Year’s Day 5K (1/1), Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/3), Pickle Run #1 (1/17)
•  December ’14: Jingle Elf 2 Mile (12/5), Brian’s Run 5 Miler (12/7), Athlete’s Closet Holiday 5K (12/14)
•  November ’14: Trinity Berwyn 5K (11/1)  [PR], Metal Run 5K (11/8), Seven Summits Turkey Trot (11/27)
•  October ’14: Martin’s Run 5K (10/5), Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/18), Bark in the Park 5K (10/25)
•  September ’14: Talk 5K Trail Run (9/13), Run A Muck Trail Race (9/20), Haverford Township 5K (9/27)
•  August ’14: Riddlewood 5K (8/3), Radnor Red Steeplechase (8/17), Pickle in the Streets 5K (8/28) [PR]
•  July ’14: Cam’s ‘Moonlight’ 5K (7/10), Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K (7/18)
•  June ’14: Radnor Conservancy 5K Trail Run (6/1), Media 5 Miler (6/20)
•  May ’14: Elwyn 5K (5/3), Run for Victory 5K (5/18) [PR], Rocky Run 5K Trail Run (5/30)
•  April ’14: Las Vegas Security 5K (4/3/, Rick’s Run 5K (4/19), St. Tim’s 5K (4/26)
•  March ’14: Athlete’s Closet March 5 Miler (3/1), Color Out Cancer 5K (3/30)
•  February ’14: Athlete’s Closet February 5K (2/1)
•  January ’14: Athlete’s Closet January 5K (1/4)
•  December ’13: Athlete’s Closet December 5K (12/14), New Year’s Eve YMCA 5K (12/31) [PR]
•  November ’13: Trinity Presbyterian 5K (11/2), Turkey Trot 5K (11/28)
•  October ’13: Fueled Up & Fired Up 5K (10/19), Oy Vey 5K (10/27) [PR]
•  September ’13: Run-a-Muck 5K (9/21)
•  The Challenge Begins: 100 Mile iPad Mini Challenge (7/23/13)

BBQ Baby-Back Ribs

BBQ Ribs

Matt and I made these oven-roasted BBQ baby-back ribs for my family at the Hunting Camp last weekend. This was our first time making baby-backs and they were delicious! I’m pretty sure that my brother single-handedly ate an entire rack… (But it technically wasn’t single-handedly because he totally had to use two hands to really dig into these saucy, meaty ribs!!) 😉I’d recommend lots of napkins and maybe some wet wipes when serving these!

When researching recipes for this meal, we originally thought that it would be neat to cook the ribs entirely on the grill, but we were doubling the recipe and quickly realized that 6 full racks of ribs would never fit comfortably on a standard grill.  With this in mind, Matt opted to do most of the “slow and low” cooking on rimmed baking sheets in the oven and simply finished the ribs on the grill for that final grilled flavor.  This made for an easy afternoon with very little hands-on work required up until the final grilling and cutting steps.

RIBS!

BBQ Baby-Back Ribs (serves 6; adapted from Williams Sonoma Grill Master)

Ingredients:
4 chipotles in adobo, seeded & chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
4 1/2 teaspoons cumin
4 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoons ground cloves
Coarse salt

3 slabs baby-back ribs (6lb.)
1 cup of your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce

Directions:
To make the rub, combine the chipotle chiles, garlic, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme, cloves and salt in a food processor. Pulse until a smooth paste forms. If the rub is too dry, add 1-2 tablespoons water and continue to pulse. The rub may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two days.

On the morning before you serve the ribs, begin by removing the silverskin (membrane) off of the bone-side of the ribs.  (See here for tips.) Use a sharp knife to carefully trim any large sections of fat from the meat, then use your hands to slather the ribs with the rub.  Coat both sides of each slab evenly, then place the ribs bone-side down on a rimmed baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4-6 hours or as long as overnight.

Flipping the ribs during roasting

Approximately 3 hours before dinner, preheat the oven to 275°F and allow the ribs to sit out of the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Transfer one rack of ribs to a second rimmed baking sheet (also bone-side down), then pour approximately 1/2 cup of water around the outer edge of each baking sheet. Cover the pans tightly with foil and place them in the oven. Roast for one hour, then remove the foil and flip the ribs over.  Continue to roast uncovered for another 1 1/2 hours, flipping every 30 minutes. The ribs can be prepared to this point a day in advance, then covered and refrigerated.

Ribs on the BBQ

Prep a gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Brush the roasted ribs with half of the barbecue sauce. Grill the ribs, turning once, until heated through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1-rib portions. Arrange the ribs on a platter and drizzle with the remaining 1/2 cup sauce. Serve and enjoy!

BBQ Baby Back Ribs close

The Hunting Camp, 2015 Edition

912 Piper on the ATV

Last weekend Matt, Piper and I took a mini vacation in the central Pennsylvania wilderness. We stayed at Globe Run Rod and Gun Club – fondly referred to in my family as simply “The Hunting Camp” – for our seventh year of outdoor fun. 😄

I’ve blogged about our Hunting Camp adventures in previous years so feel free to check those posts out for more background (2013, 2014). For this year’s recap, I’m going to summarize the Hunting Camp in “Five Things Friday” style.

Five Things we enjoyed at the Hunting Camp in 2015

1. SWIMMING

Matt and I were excited to discover that Piper LOVES water!! She paddled around the lake with my brother’s German Shepherd, Lady, and even swam WAY out into the lake with Hershey to flush a flock of geese. (I don’t think Piper knew what was going on until the geese actually took off!)

I’m not a fan of swimming in “dark water” but it sure was fun to watch Piper take the plunge!

2. BOURBON

I don’t know anything about bourbon so for fun we had a bourbon tasting on Friday night. Our family members each brought various bourbons (we ended up with 11 bottles!) and it was fun to try them all. The verdict? Basil Hayden was my favorite (probably because it had the lowest alcohol content), but ultimately I think I’ll take a glass of wine over a bourbon any day!

3. HIKING

There are miles of wooded trails at the Hunting Camp and the adjacent Rothrock State Forest. Every day we took at least one hike with the dogs and on Saturday morning I ventured out on a solo 6 mile run in the state forest. My brother saw a black bear at camp just before Matt and I arrived on Thursday, so naturally I spent the whole run worrying about what I would do if a bear appeared around the next bend. (Run the other way? Make a lot of noise??) Luckily the largest animal I saw on my run was a squirrel so I was OK.

4. FOOD

Matt and I were in charge of dinner on Friday night and we had fun with it. We made BBQ baby-back ribs, panzanella, potato salad, cornbread, and strawberry-rhubarb crisp. YUM! The other days we feasted on sausages, burgers, hot dogs, shepherd’s pie, and lots of chips and guacamole. Good thing we did so much hiking! 😃

5. RELAXING

One of the best activities at the hunting camp involves no activity at all.  The huge rocking chair-lined wraparound porch is the perfect spot to relax with a book (or Kindle or iPad). The porch is also a great place to watch the dogs (all four of them!) who spent hours in the yard wrestling, playing chase, and chewing on sticks. By Saturday afternoon the dogs were exhausted!!

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After three days of fun we drove home late Saturday night with a very tired, very happy Piper.  We all had a great time and can’t wait until next year!

367 Piper in a clearing copy