Summer Grand Traverse Trail Running Race

As an (almost) culmination to our summer of competitions, M and I completed the inaugural summer version of the Grand Traverse Ski Race. The race starts in downtown Crested Butte and finishes in Aspen 40 miles later (though our GPS read 40.68 miles). Entailing a mixture of singletrack, jeep roads and doubletrack; there were runners and mountain bikers competing.

For our first ultra race ever, I  was happy to finish full-stop, but we definitely weren’t among the top competitors! It pains me to say that I think we didn’t train enough on the right sort of terrain – up and down and up again vs. the usual BIG up we are used to, followed by mostly flats and downhills. My body definitely felt the effects of the brutal day, both during and after the race; and it may be a while before I walk without feeling  the burn in my poor legs.

We started in the early morning light, 6am in Crested Butte. The day promised to be clear and no thunderstorms were forecast – an important consideration with the high mountain passes we would be ascending and descending.

 

Highest elevation of the course - Star Pass

Highest elevation of the course – Star Pass

The first 30 miles I would categorize as relatively easy, we had a good pace and were chugging along nicely – walking the very steep stuff and making up ground steadily. And then we hit an absolute and insurmountable wall…

Aching knees and backs, pulled muscles, sunburn, even mosquito bites (once we descended into the area near the Barnard Hut) and general demotivation made that last stretch pretty miserable. The worst part of the day would have to be the 5 mile descent down Ajax mountain into Aspen. Sounds breezy right? Downhill after miles and miles of running in the heat (of course it was the hottest day of the summer according to numerous observers) should be a treat, right? No such thing – worn out feet and knees took the brunt of the steepest mountain I have ever seen and I would have dearly liked to crawl to the finish!

Still smiling at Star Pass, roughly mile 16

Still smiling at Star Pass, roughly mile 16

Despite all the laments above, I am happy to have crossed an ultra marathon off my bucket list, and the sense of achievement certainly feels tangible. The views were gorgeous and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness felt remote and wild, despite the dirt bikes and ATVs we encountered on the trails throughout race day. It didn’t take one rest day before M was talking about going back next year to better our position on the field. I am not so convinced.

A finish line never looked so good

A finish line never looked so good

M has a couple of triathlons left this summer and I have one more race planned to do, a measly 11km which sounds blissful compared to what we just endured. After that, we both feel a long break is deserved… lots of reading and baking on the cards me thinks.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese

There’s nothing like hot soup on a gloomy day. Though it isn’t quite winter in the mountains yet,  it is certainly feeling close as soon as the sun disappears every evening, sniff sniff.

Despite the sunny weather we have been enjoying, sometimes a girl just needs some soup – in this case, the recipe has been hanging out on my bookmarks for far too long and I needed to make it and be done.

I used and slightly altered the recipe from my favorite South African-born spices (and more) company, Nomu. Here is the original for comparison, note to self to try the grilled cheese French toasts one day.

Roasted Tomato Soup (serves 2 with lunch leftovers or 4 without)

3 lb ripe tomatoes (I used Roma)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

3 carrots, chopped fine

1 celery stalk, chopped fine

4 cups of vegetable stock (chicken or beef works fine as well if you aren’t fussy)

salt to taste

small handful of sugar

basil, chopped to serve

 

Grilled Cheeses

4-8 sourdough slices (depending on bread size)

4-8 thick slices of smoked Gouda cheese (or any of your choice)

black pepper

sea salt

olive oil spray

 

-preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

-halve the tomatoes and remove the core (only if very juicy, I left mine in)

-place tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt

-roast for 20-30 minutes until tomatoes have softened and look slightly caramelized

-heat olive oil in a pot and saute the onion, carrots and celery until softened but not browned

-add roasted tomatoes and prepared stock and bring to a boil

-reduce heat, season with salt and sugar, simmer for 20 minutes

-while the soup simmers, assemble the cheese sandwiches, garnishing the cheese with black pepper and spraying either side with olive oil

-broil in the oven on a tin foil lined cookie sheet until cheese melts and bread browns (2-3 minutes)

-use a handheld immersion blender to liquefy soup to taste, I like to leave some chunks in mine (beware the bottom of the pot here, I shed a few tears when I saw the scratches my blending left on mine)

-garnish soup with basil and black pepper, serve with grilled cheese sliced into halves

Roasted Tomato Soup with Crispy Grilled Cheeses

Roasted Tomato Soup with Crispy Grilled Cheeses

 

 

Peach Cobbler

And here would be the reason I neeeeeded to make almond paste in my previous post. I decreased the quantity of the recipe from the original in Bon Appetit, mainly because I bought too few peaches for the full 3 lb called for.

I love cobbler and crumble type desserts in the summertime because the delicious fruits of the season do all the hard work for you. Served with whipped cream or ice cream, these dishes have all the extravagance and presentation of a fancy pie without the hours slaving over crust and assembly. Though I do still love a good pie when I have the time and energy!

Peach Cobbler

Filling:

1.5 lb peaches (can substitute with any other ripe stone fruit eg. plums, nectarines)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp flour

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 tbsp fruit brandy eg. cherry (optional – I did not have this on hand but really want to try it next time)

Topping:

1/4 cup flour

3/8 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1.75 oz almond paste (I have a digital scale, this was probably about 1.5 tbsp but don’t quote me on that)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1.5 eggs (like I said, I halved the original recipe, I ended up using 1 egg plus the yolk leftover from the almond paste and it worked great)

1/4 cup almonds, chopped as fine as you like with a Magic Bullet/food processor

 

-slice the stone fruits into wedges, roughly 6-8 wedges per fruit

-toss all the filling ingredients together and place mixture in a square baking dish

-preheat oven to 350 degrees F

-whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl

-in an electric mixer, beat the butter, almond paste and sugar until it is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes

-add eggs, beating to blend

-mix in the dry ingredients

-drop dollops of this batter over the fruit filling and sprinkle with almond topping

-bake until the topping is golden brown and fruit juices are thick and bubbling (if your dish is very full, you may want to place the dish on a cookie sheet to prevent the filling from bubbling over and burning in your oven), about 50-60 minutes

-let cobbler sit at least 20 minutes before serving with whipped cream or ice cream

 

Peak of summer decadence - bubbling fruit cobbler

Peak of summer decadence – bubbling fruit cobbler

 

 

 

 

 

Homemade almond paste

Usually when I see a recipe that calls for almond paste, I scrap it and move onto the next idea. This is prompted by the first time I wanted to bake with almond paste, made the mistake of getting all my ingredients before arriving at the baking aisle to find a whopper price of $8 for a tiny can – on special!

This time I decided to google alternatives for the paste since I really wanted to make the peach cobbler from Bon Appetit.

Imagine my surprise to see that almond paste is easy enough to make at home. There are a lot of recipes online, I slightly adapted this one from Bob’s Red Mill.

Almond Paste

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup granulated or caster sugar

1 egg white

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/8 tsp salt

-Use a Magic Bullet or small food processor/coffee grinder to make the sugar finer. Original recipe called for powdered sugar which I seldom buy and this worked perfectly – plus some bloggers have mentioned that powdered sugar makes the paste too, well, pasty.

-Place sugar and rest of ingredients in bowl of your mixer and mix on medium speed with the beater attachment until it clumps together into a paste

-wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate – it should keep for 10 days though some recipes say 3 weeks. And some claim you can freeze it which I will possibly try if I don’t use it in the next week.

Almond paste block - less than 10 minutes to make!

Almond paste block – less than 10 minutes to make!