Baba Ghanoush Recipe

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This eggplant/aubergine dish is deceptively simple but we have eaten it as a side dish, snack, and even a topping for brown rice.  Does anyone else call eggplant “aubergine” or is it just those of us raised in households with European and/or Middle Eastern backgrounds?  Now I do know someone who is allergic to eggplant and eggplant is featured in the graphic on a recent New York Times call for comments and submissions titled “Is There Such a Thing as a Cucumber Allergy?” so hopefully this is a safe choice for your family.

Supplies

Cutting Board

Paper Towels

Knife

Baking Pan

Aluminum Foil (optional)

Oven with Broiler

Food Processor or Blender

Ingredients

1 medium to large eggplant

1 tablespoon of sunflower seed butter

1/3 of a tablespoon of fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/4 of a teaspoon of sea salt (even though E is clear of her corn allergy I still use sea salt instead of iodized salt), plus more for preparing the eggplant

Olive Oil for the pan

1 lemon’s worth of fresh lemon juice (you may want to adjust this to taste but fresh lemon juice is crucial)

2 medium cloves of garlic, crushed

Directions

To prepare the eggplant you need to peel it and cut it into rounds about 1/2 an inch thick.  I prefer rounds to dicing just because it is easier to salt them at this stage and they will break up when you pulse them in the food processor or blender later on.  Salt both sides of the rounds and lay them on a paper towel, sprinkling salt over both sides of each round before you place them.  I like to place the paper towel on my cutting board.  Then layer another paper towel on top and you can keep layering salted rounds with paper towels as needed.  Now let them sit for at least 20 minutes.  You’ll find that the paper towel absorbs some of the liquid drawn out from the eggplant.  I believe it improves the flavor of the eggplant by drawing some of the bitterness out.

Near the end of letting the eggplant sit, you’ll want to start your oven.  Prepare a baking or jelly roll pan by either lining it with foil (non-stick foil can be great if you’re trying to go easy on oil) and then brushing some olive oil on it to lightly coat the surface or just brushing olive oil directly on the pan.  My pan is in pretty bad shape from years of cooking so I opt for foil.  Place the eggplant rounds or cubes onto your prepared pan.  Sometimes I simply bake the eggplant at 450 degrees F until they are tender, remembering to flip them at the 10 minute mark an assessing when I am content with how “done” they are before switching to the top oven broiler to give them that roasted flavor and other times I just use the broiler to start, keeping the pan 6 or 7 inches away from the heating element and turning as needed.  The all-broiler method requires some attentiveness so that may help you decide but you’ll be pureeing the end result so you just want to make sure the eggplant is cooked all the way through.  I apologize for the vague instructions but depending on how much oil you use on the pan and whether you have rounds or diced pieces your cooking time may vary.

While the eggplant cooks, you can juice your fresh lemon and set the juice aside.  You’ll add it in increments to the eggplant, sunflower seed butter, fresh basil, and salt in the food processor or blender.  You can put the still warm eggplant directly into your mixer of choice but if you are using a blender don’t put the lid on right away because you don’t want the steam to build.  A food processor is more forgiving if you leave the food pusher out so the steam can escape.  Give your ingredients a whirl, starting with maybe a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and then taste what you’ve made!  Warm Baba Ghanoush is lovely but letting the dip sit covered in your fridge overnight will enhance the flavor as well so it is your call. It rarely lasts overnight at my house.

According to my calculations, the recipe should be less than 200 calories for the whole dish so you can enjoy the dip fairly guilt-free with a serving of brown rice or chips.

2013 Red Rock Canyon Marathon and 1/2 Marathon

I’ve run a half marathon!  My husband and I did another Calico Racing event, this time the 2013 Red Rock Canyon Marathon and 1/2 Marathon on March 9th.  We were officially engaged out at Red Rock (Ice Box Canyon) in 2006.  I say “officially” because I got to wear my engagement ring before we were engaged in part due to the advice of my wonderful sister-in-law to be who wrote in an e-mail to my husband: “Does she get to wear the ring during this not-quite-yet-ready-to-be -officially-engaged period? I hope so. It’s too pretty to keep in a box.”  We were married on March 10, 2007 so this race was a great chance to celebrate our 6th anniversary weekend.  I should let that sink in – who would have thought we’d be the sort to go out and run for over 2 hours as part of a celebration?  This is where something as seemingly simple as Couch to 5K can lead.

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I’m not sure how best to tell the story of this race.  I know some people think that blogging is narcissistic so I hopefully don’t come across that way with a bunch of details but what I’d like to convey with my recap is how much I appreciate the things that brought me to the finish line, both from within and from without.  We made it to the Suncoast Hotel where they were picking up runners to drive out to the start line just in time to catch the 6:30 a.m. bus.  The start was 7:00 a.m. so we didn’t wait around long (I believe it was around 44 degrees Fahrenheit at the time) after leaving the warm bus before we were crossing the starting mat.  One young woman I met while we waited told me that she’d run the course a year before and that I should be prepared to walk.

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Now, I had a hard time getting back to feeling good with my runs after the 10k race in January but a few days before my 30th birthday in February I pushed myself to a 13.1 mile training run (no walking) in 2:29:05.  I had the Red Rock Canyon Marathon and 1/2 Marathon’s unique course in mind when I opted to make sure I could cover the half marathon distance before the race because I had been warned by several people that I would not be able to run the whole race.  It sounds pessimistic to prepare for walking but: first, there is nothing wrong with walking, and second, my goal was to finish the race without injuring myself so knowing I could really run 13.1 all the way through was my way of giving myself permission to walk on race day if I had to.  I tried to incorporate hills in my training but nothing prepared me for the relentless 5 miles of an uphill course that yielded about an increase of 900 feet in elevation.

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So to have the subject of walking come up made me think about how I had mentally prepared to allow myself to walk.  I would be of no use to anyone if I pushed so hard that I really hurt myself so I opted to deal with the course (see a video of some of the terrain here) as it came.   The first mile or so was really good, a loop around the visitor’s center at the park entrance.  I did it in under 11 minutes and felt good though I was of course easily passed by much of the field, including my husband.  Then we started to climb.  It was slow work and my legs were not cooperating with me.  I told myself I could walk when I hit the 2 mile mark, hoping that at 2 miles I could convince myself to run to the 3 mile mark and on but I simply couldn’t do it.  I walked.  The picture above is the only one I took on the course but it wasn’t my only walking break (most of the other pictures in this post were taken by my husband while he waited for me at the finish line, having finished about half an hour ahead of me).  Other people were walking as well so I didn’t feel as bad as I’d feared and each time the pain lessened I would run as much as I could before taking another break.  My training, I think, helped me recover during the walk breaks even though I hadn’t incorporated a walking interval into a run in a long time.

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On the way up a hill I found myself walking with a woman who had brightly colored shoes.  I complimented her on them and after saying thank you she remarked that it was a bad idea for us to walk up a hill, we should run, so we ran alongside one another for a while and even chatted.  She told me about Team in Training and pointed out shirts of people in the distance who were also running to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  She remarked as to how little children fight cancer and here we were running.  She told me about her coach and the support network she’d found when before she thought runners were crazy for doing it.  It had helped her find her place as a runner.  I told her about someone I love dearly who is battling Rheumatoid Arthritis.  How I think about her when I run and how hard she has to work on most of her days to get her body to cooperate and let her move, and how the effort anyone puts into something is what matters, not the distance they cover or the time they manage while doing it.  My companion slowed to a walk and encouraged me to keep running.  She really boosted my spirits.  That said, I believe I reached the hour mark only having done 4.5 miles or so and my heart sank.  I started calculating in my head what my pace meant for my finish time and for some reason I cannot do basic math while I run yet I kept attempting to do so.

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This is another finish line shot from my husband to give you an idea of the snowy mountains in the distance and the beautiful red rocks that are the namesake of the Canyon.  I did finally reach the overlook area.  There was a welcome aid station there and I had been making certain to drink water at each station and eat a few Jelly Belly Sport Beans as I completed miles on the course.  One thing I learned during my training run two weeks prior was that I seriously hit a wall a little after the twelfth mile and I believe that happened because I never hydrate during runs.  At one aid station I did accidentally take a sports drink but luckily it didn’t upset my stomach or anything.  After the summit I complimented another runner on her sparkle skirt (I think I see a pattern in my ability to start conversations with people, but why wear awesome shoes or a flashy skirt if you don’t want compliments, right?) and she told me “this is the last bad hill.”  I asked her if she’d run the race before and she said that she had not but she did train out at Red Rock so she knew what to expect.  Good enough for me!  I may have told her I loved her for telling me that news and she laughed.  After that “last bad hill” she took off and I didn’t see her again.

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The downhills were letting me gain back some of my pace time, I hit 9.5 miles at the two-hour mark, so I did 5 miles in the second hour and knew a sub-2:45 time was in reach.  Not great considering my training time but not as bad as going over three hours as I had feared during the early part of the ascent.  The volunteers at the aid stations were so kind and encouraging, I made sure to thank them for their time and even though I went back and forth between feeling cold and warm I had to pour a cup of water over my head a little after mile 10 just to cool off a little bit.  It was certainly a work out!

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The traffic on the course wasn’t too bad, cars were quite courteous though it was hard to see the cyclists whizzing down the hills while I kept adjusting my form to accommodate my hurting knees and ankles.  Downhills are easier for me but they are not without their own complications.  Some of the descent was so steep that I felt like I was just falling forward but it still took energy to move and though at mile 11 I started to feel like just maybe I could run the rest of the way with no more walking breaks, it just wasn’t to be.  I was hurting and needed to keep taking breaks as needed.  The mile markers seemed to pass by so slowly near the end and I just could not see the finish line anywhere.  I passed a young woman stopped at the side of the road by her bicycle and she cheered for me.  I told her this was my first half marathon and she told me I was almost done.  I knew my friend Mindy had promised to be at the finish line with her husband and her three children (one of whom was just fourteen days old!) with posters and I started to envision seeing them and what the signs would say.  I wondered how my husband was doing, how long he’d been waiting for me at the finish, and if he had hurt his knees that were already giving him trouble in the days leading up to the race.

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At last I could see the structure in the distance that I knew was the finish line and I started to think of how I wanted to stop and walk again but I couldn’t because I was in sight of the end.  Because people would see me walking and even though my legs were burning and I couldn’t feel my hands (I’m thinking I’d stopped breathing properly or maybe had tensed my arms up but there was something enough wrong circulation-wise to be distracting), I had to keep running.  I saw my husband holding his phone up to take a picture of me and I shouted to him that I was hurting.  I was crying at this point, a mix of “I’m almost there!” and “I don’t know if I can make it!”  Just then the young lady that had been by her bicycle rode by slowly, calling out to me that I was about to finish my first half marathon.  I could see my friend Mindy with her neon colored signs with my name on them and my husband’s name on them.  She was smiling.  Everyone was smiling and I was just crying.  I ran across the timing mat and kept crying as the kind volunteer let me know he needed to cut off my timing chip from my shoe.  Someone put a medal around my neck, the medal I had been dreaming of but could not even look at because all I wanted to do was hug my husband.  I could hear cameras clicking so I think someone got a few shots of me crying and I am certain I ruined my finish line picture but at least the shot my husband got shows me with a smile, albeit a pained one.

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I love that you can even see the woman on her bicycle coming up behind me as well as the beautiful scenery.  My husband had finished with an official chip time of 2:06:30.48!  My official chip time was 2:38:13.36 for a pace of 12:08 per mile overall, my RunKeeper track is a little off but you can see the course and elevation map below.

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I was able to say hi to Mindy and her family while my husband stood in line for me for some finish line food…

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…and remembered to ask her to take our picture before we left.  My husband was (and is) amazing.  I love that we did this together, taking turns watching the kids so we could train early in the morning, running together when we could, and encouraging each other.  I think sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of life and to have goals bigger than yourself that you can also share as a couple is a pretty special thing.  We also got to share in a pretty epic anniversary lunch the next day with the calories we earned from the run.

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The bus for the Suncoast was full and Mindy and her husband offered to drive us back to our car on their way home instead of having us wait for another bus (what an amazing friend to come out early on a Saturday morning with her whole family and then to give us a ride, she is a total star — thank you so much Mindy!).  We took them up on the offer and were on the road home in no time.  The kids had both woken up before we left the house and we were eager to get home and give their grandmother a break (she is another star by the way!).  I did finally have a chance to check out my medal and I will be wearing my race shirt with pride.

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I am not sure what will be next, I am honestly feeling a little burned out with the long training runs over the past weeks and months.  It also has meant a lot of time away from the children but my hope is to do a maintenance schedule of 5K / 5K / 10K for my three runs each week and incorporate more strength training as well as bicycling to my exercise regimen.  As with most goals we do wonder what comes next and though I have been trying to savor the feeling of accomplishment I know the weeks and months ahead are filled with other challenges.  I do want to think back on running even though I wanted to stop, how the thought of people that mattered to me kept me moving forward, and that even though we have to walk sometimes we still can make whatever progress we can.  We’re not trying to do better than anyone else and as Plato wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  No one person’s journey is comparable to another’s.  As always, thank you for reading and may you have the friends and family you need along the way to fight your own hard battles.

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Some songs that came up in my mix during the race:

Non E Per Sempre – Eiffel 65 (amazon affiliate link)

Your Disco Needs You – Kylie Minogue (amazon affiliate link)

There is a Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths (amazon affiliate link)

Waka Waka – Shakira (amazon affiliate link) – my older sister shared this one with me the night before the race, I thought of her when it came on!

Take Me Away – 4 Strings (amazon affiliate link)

Las Vegas Discovery Children’s Museum Member Preview

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The new Las Vegas Discovery Children’s Museum (formerly the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum) will be opening March 9th but today we had the great fortune of taking part in a member preview of the museum!  Located right next to the Smith Center, the new museum has so many neat details inside that I tried to capture with my little phone camera so I wanted to share them.  For example, the railing in the picture above is from the courtyard by the museum, I love the detail in the design that looks like children with their arms reaching upward.

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We hadn’t received a confirmation e-mail for our RSVP so we arrived half an hour early and let the kids run around in front of Reynolds Hall.  It was a gorgeous day, albeit a little windy.  My husband and I had been to Symphony Park just the day before to catch West Side Story at the Smith Center but we don’t usually get to explore when we’re there for a performance.

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I will never tire of taking pictures of the Smith Center.  I’m so proud of Las Vegas for Symphony Park and the offerings there so far!

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We made our way back to the entrance of the museum and a line had formed so we knew it was time to wait instead of playing on the grass.  The kids did pretty well, actually, with the waiting.  The day before we’d been at “Touch a Truck” over by The Orleans and they’d surprised me with their patience while waiting to go on the garbage truck.  I was getting really excited to see the museum myself and it did not disappoint.

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They have screens up showing the pricing and it now reflects that ages 1-99 are $12 per person which is a change from their previous pricing and it looks like their packages for memberships have changed as well.  I wanted to talk to someone about party pricing and was told they’re already taking reservations for parties but by then it was lunch time for the kids and we needed to leave.  The member preview did offer food but not really anything safe aside from a bit of the fruit and I was also told that while we used to be able to bring our lunches to the museum they have adopted a no outside food policy for guests as well as for any parties or events.  Good to know so that I can plan accordingly.

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These kites are suspended over the entry area to the left of check-in/ticketing – I love the playful colors that seemed bright and energetic without being cloying as multi-colored decor can sometimes be when people are decorating for children.

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There was an area for pretend play, so you had a pirate ship, a castle, and even a dress-up stage on the first floor.

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We didn’t go into toddler town but it was adjacent to the fantasy area and the water play area.

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I snapped a picture of some of the dress up options inside the castle…

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…and her’s another picture of the pirate ship.  It was a packed museum, all three floors, but everyone was just excited and friendly so it all worked out.

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Our kids did not want to leave each area we explored, especially the water play section which is a huge improvement over the one in the previous museum location.

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Lots of splashing so pack a change of clothes for your kids or take advantage of some of the ponchos they have in the area.

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I’m not sure if the ponchos will be a regular feature but then again in the summer it won’t be too difficult to pop outside to dry off before returning to the museum to play.

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They had no maps available yet so I got a few shots of the one on the wall just to share so I apologize if any of the exhibit names are hard to make out.

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The details were amazing and lovingly done.  I snapped this photo on the second floor.

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The area I think we’ll spend the most time at in the future has to be “Young at Art” – there are all forms of media for cutting, pasting, crayon rubbing, and even digital painting.  It took a while to convince the kids to move on!

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The museum has an elevator and regular stairs but through the center of the building is a staircase of sorts that lets you play, slide, and make music all the way to the top.

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The very top was not yet open but should be soon.  I love the pinpoints of lights that reminded me of stars.

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Other areas include a mystery town where you can use various clues (such as those using morse code) to solve a crime.

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I was extremely worried the car exhibit we knew and loved in the old museum would not be at the new museum but the spirit of it lived on in Eco City!

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The Smiths store in Eco City was another familiar find though slightly updated.

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Next to the Smiths and Findlay Car Care area was a construction zone (foam blocks), an animal clinic, airport, and a mini Jamba Juice complete with counter and pretend food for serving to patrons.

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What a treat it will be to continue exploring all the museum’s offerings in the coming months and years.  If you are even just visiting Las Vegas with your children in tow I have to say this is a world class museum and worth the price of admission.  I’m gushing, I know, but the museum exceeded our expectations and then some.  The best thing of all is that the friendly staff and volunteers are just as wonderful as they were at the old location and their enthusiasm and excitement for their new home shows.