Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Recipes: Mac and cheese---Real Simple recipe put to the test. Faux Chicken Pot Pie

Do you remember the creaminess of homemade mac and cheese? 

I have news for you. You can have it again!

I'm heading out of town for the weekend and made up some dishes for The Mike. 
I gave The Mike some options for the casseroles and he said, "I would never turn down mac and cheese".   He can pair any of these with fresh veggies, a spinach salad and some grapes.
He will also have some left over lasagna from yesterday and the faux chicken pot pie below. 

I also made a chicken pot pie--of sorts--where you use mashed potatoes on the bottom. 
Then the filling just sits in a well in that. I've had this recipe for a while too, Feb of 2009 was at the top of the printout, but no name as to who it was from, but by googling the name and glutenfree/dairy free I was able to find that it is a Rachel Ray recipe.
I took one out of the freezer to show ya.
I'm not sure I'll make it again,but will let The Mike be the judge of that. 
You don't bake the finished product.

Boil potatoes (1.25 pounds, I used four larger Yukon Gold ones)
1 cloves garlic, mashed
5T olive oil
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 cups chicken broth
1 c frozen peas/carrots
1 cup broccoli florets
2 T cornstarch
1 tsp dijon

I thick wedge sliced the potatoes and left the skin on, then boiled them. Next time, I'd only use 3/4 to 1 pound of potatoes. I had plenty left over.  The store was out of "peas and carrots" so I used, peas, and carrots, and greenbeans. 

I cooked the chicken broth in a covered skillet with 1T of oil and about 1/3 cup of water. Then removed the breasts to the cutting board and added in my cheater method of the day--dried diced onion. I don't use it very often, but didn't feel like cutting up an onion yesterday.  I let them absorb some of the moisture in the pan, and then added in minced garlic and the thyme.   Let that cook for a couple of minutes. Add 1.5  cups of broth to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the veggies, stir,and cook for a couple of minutes. 
While that's going on, add the other 1/2 cup of broth to the cornstarch in a separate bowl. Let the cornstarch become dissolved, then add to the pan and stir until thickened. 
  **Next time: I actually would use more broth, like 3 cups or so, to have a good sauce at the end**
I used three separate containers for the frozen dishes for The Mike. I put some of the potatoes in each one, and smoothed them around/up the edges, creating a bit of a dip/well in the middle. Then I added in the diced chicken in each, making it even for each serving. On top of that I put a couple ladles of veggies and then went back and put some broth sauce in each one as well. I'd want more sauce if I was going to do this again, but I think the same amount of cornstarch would be okay. I let them cool, then lidded and froze the containers. 

Just out of the oven
I have had this recipe since November 2006. How do I know this?  It's from Real Simple magazine and says so on the edge.  I have made homemade mac and cheese before, from scratch and from a recipe.  However, I have no recollection of ever having made this recipe. Thus, it's a shocker I still have it in my collection! 

Funny thing, the recipe in the link is the same one from the magazine, except the one online says to bake at 400º and the recipe from the November magazine says to bake at 350º. I think the thing that would happen at 400 is that the top would get a little more done. 

The recipe originally calls for: 

1 pound elbow macaroni
5T unsalted butter (plus more for buttering your baking casserole dish)
1/2 c all purpose flour
6 c milk (whole or low fat)
1 1/2 cups (6oz) Cheddar Cheese
2 cups (8oz) Gruyere cheese
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional). 

I used Fontina cheese, as I couldn't find Gruyere in the stores.  It has a slightly nutty flavor. I also used sharp cheddar cheese, but you could use medium or mild as well.  My flour was 1/4 c tapioca flour, plus a few tablespoons of sorghum flour. I added an additional 1T of corn starch to some cold milk and used that to help thicken as well.  I boiled the pasta for 10 minutes instead of the 15-16 that it called for. Even then, it was still just about done-done and probably could have been 9 minutes instead, knowing it was going to bake for 25 minutes as well. 

After making this dish, for an 8x8 casserole pan and for 16oz of Tinkyada pasta, I'd change the recipe to the following for 1 pound of pasta (I bolded the changed measurements) 

1 pound elbow macaroni
4T unsalted butter (plus more for buttering your baking casserole dish)
1/3 c all purpose flour
4 c milk (whole or low fat)
1 cups (6oz) Cheddar Cheese
1 3/4 cups (8oz) Gruyere cheese
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional).

My other thought was to use 1 1/2 packages of the pasta, and use a 9x13 pan instead.  

Yes, I had a "catcher" pan in the oven from the lasagna yesterday,
and used it 'just in case' for the mac and cheese
Sorry, no other pictures while I was making it.  Running two pans and then trying to get the pasta cooked just right enough tasking for me!  

I started out with two pans, one for cooking the pasta in and the other for the sauce. If you have two large pans of the same size, I'd recommend that. 

When the pasta had been boiling for a couple minutes, I started on the sauce. I melted the butter and microwaved the milk (in a glass container) for a minute or so to take the chill off of it. I didn't want it to get too shocked in the hot pan and curdle. I added the tapioca and sorghum flour to the pan of butter to make a roux--the flour and butter will create a thick cream --sort of the consistency of sour cream, you can still stir it, but it's not watery).  

After a couple minutes of the sauce being thick, I added the milk and stirred until the roux was incorporated in the milk. I added the salt, pepper and cayenne pepper at this time. Then I added the cornstarch/milk mixture and stirred to get it to a thicker state. I had about two minutes left on the pasta timer at this stage and slowly added the grated cheese, alternating with adding a handful, stirring until melted, repeating.  Once the cheese was all added and melted, I drained the pasta, rinsed that pan (which was the larger of the two), put the pasta back in the pan and then poured the sauce on top.  I realized there was going to be too much sauce and had to stop pouring--that was tricky. 

I probably could have put all the pasta and sauce in the 8x8 but I didn't want it to overflow/bubble over in the oven, so I used the small Longaberger mixing bowl as well. Great bowls, as they can be used in the microwave or oven, or used for sides of veggies or fruit on the table. 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Traveling--uncertainties, differences in attitude

Last week I did some traveling across the country. Before I left I made The Mike some frozen food items to last him a few days--cause I'm an awesome wife like that.  *fine* it's because he asked this of me, and, because he doesn't put demands upon me, I said yes. 

Day 1. 
I was headed from the Midwest to the East Coast with a friend and her five year old.  Our first stop for lunch was Culver's.  This is a great chain that makes awesome custard and, while their chocolate custard use to be off limits, they've apparently changed their recipe, as it is now listed in the allergen menu as gluten free :-)  YES!  I haven't been to one in quite a while for a couple reasons. First, it's about $10 and for me, that always seems a bit high for a burger, no bun, or a salad, and I can always make a similar meal at home. Second, I no longer work near the one in my city.  I was excited to see the Cranberry Bacon Blue Salad with grilled chicken was still on the gluten free menu, which I ordered.  I was excited to see they now had a "gluten free" button on their computers!
I don't usually get dressing as most are made with soy, which I have to avoid as well, and on this particular salad, the bleu cheese offers good flavor with the cranberries so that additional dressing is not needed. The butter side was for a slice of my bread--I took half a loaf of breadmachine bread with me for the four days.

The next snack/meal time was a quick break after visiting a cemetery. I had a slice of my bread with the sliced turkey and a slice of provolone I had brought along in my friend's small cooler.  This was good, as the next stop was going to be a while :-)  We got a call from another friend, and were offered space at the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio. We had a ways to move it before we got there. We estimated arrival at 11pm or so. We got there about midnight--Eastern. Being not familiar with the interstate in Indiana, we missed the exit for the Wendys and ended up stopping at an "oasis" on the tollway---it's a gas station and restaurant along the toll, instead of having to pay to get off the toll and head into a town.  This Oasis had a McDonalds, so it was a turkey sandwich again!  Time to recharge the phone at the McDonald's booth, take out the contact lenses, and then head on down the road.  We did fairly well, with light traffic. I ended up falling asleep for about half an hour, but it was all good--I was the passenger and I woke up before we headed into our destination town. Seemed quaint at night and spied an Outback I was sure we'd visit in the next day.  We were exhausted, but looked forward to a "no drive" Friday.

Day 2.  
I got up and headed to the hotel gym thinking I'd get my 7.5 miles in the coach prescribed.  Why are hotel gyms always so warm? with no fans?  Ugh.  I had almost a mile in and was watching CNN, catching up on world news, when another guest came in and got on the elliptical.  Squeak, squeak, squeak came with every movement of his machine. I couldn't tune it out, no matter how much I tried.  I decided to head out on the open road, and found the mall just down the road. I figured a lap around would be a mile and I could get the rest of my miles in.  I was just about done with my first lap when an old green car came to a stop on the access road behind me.  I could hear the sudden nonmovement of the vehicle, stopped to turn around and glance ---a lady has to be aware of her surroundings at all times!  The car just floored it and sped away down the road.  Let's say I was freaked out, fully. I texted my friend that I was coming back ( in case something happened to me along the way) and headed back to the hotel.  I felt really bad I wasn't getting the miles in--at least I did until I spent six/seven hours in the water park running up the steps to the waterslides with the kids and working up my nerves to slide down the tubes.  Up the stairs, back down again.  Later that night and Saturday morning my thighs and glutes felt as if I'd run a half marathon or more.

Breakfast was at the Lodge with an awesome waitress. After she marked on the slip that I was gluten and soy free, she handed me the slip to mark what I wanted in my omelet. Then I had the fresh fruit that was on the buffet. They also had gluten filled pancakes, danishes, cereals.  Each table was served a 'family style' plate of hashbrowns and bacon.  Spinach, mushroom, tomato and cheese omelet that seemed as if it was cooked in water, as there was no sheen to the eggs, as one would expect with an oil.

Lunch was at a different Lodge restaurant, with the same waitress, who remembered I was gluten free (and I had to remind her of soy).  I had a hamburger with a gluten free bun!!!! and a side of broccoli.  No one wanted to take their cell phones to the waterpark to leave them at a table, so I have no photo.

Back to the waterpark for more fun and then we headed out to . . . . OUTBACK.  I just knew we'd be dining here. It's our go-to place when there's one available. We had the  best ever waitress!  Or at least, the best we've had in a very long time.  Kind, funny, engaging, sympathetic to the kiddos, and brought gluten free butter for those of us who needed it, and she brought small packages of animal crackers to the kids at the table.  I had the Alice Springs Chicken without the mustard sauce (the waitress checked and it contained soy), the garlic mash potatoes (omg, those are so good, why haven't I had them before?), and the veggies.

Day 3.
Saturday, we headed to the breakfast room of the Lodge and had a different waitress.  This one wasn't engaging, and she just plain refused to write 'soy and gluten free' on the omelet slip.  She said, 'there's nothing that should contain those in the omelet'.  I asked 'what about the butter?'   She said,'It's an oil mixture'.  ARGH.  My omelet came and it had a sheen as if it was made in oil this day rather than the appearance of the one the day before. I had to decide. Did I want to eat this and risk a soy issue in half an hour, or starve.  I took a chance and apparently it must have been cooked in real butter, as I had no issues.  I really had no idea what was up with this waitress that she just couldn't even write 'soy/gluten free' on the omelet slip. BIG attitude.  Sad.

We headed out and did a few stops trying to see Lake Erie to be able to walk along its shores. Apparently this is quite impossible from Sandusky Ohio eastward.  Private access is all we found --so different from being at the beach in Hawai'i.  We stopped for lunch at Wendy's--a place I haven't been to in years for no other reason that it's not in a part of my town I travel to very often, and if I'm going to eat a hamburger in my own town, it'll be one I make. I checked the nutrition/allergy menu posted and then made my order:  a double with cheddar cheese, no bun, lettuce, tomato, and a side salad, along with a small chocolate Frosty. The manager was in back making the food for everyone, and the order taker was new, so she had to ask him on how to put the order into the computer. I was quite satisfied this was going to be a good meal--and it was. 

We headed on our drive southeast and found a McDonalds late afternoon for some ice cream/bathroom break. Then had a lovely drive along Tappen Lake in Ohio.  The road meanders along the edge, taking us out over the water, and then back along the shore.  Beautiful drive, though it did cost us some travel time to do so. 
Tappen Lake Dam--and you can drive across the dam road!
We drove through Cadiz, and discovered this is where Clark Gable was born. #ThingsWeNeverThoughtAboutButFoundInteresting. 

As we were getting to West Virginia, we decided to get fuel in Wheeling, although we had enough to go for a while, but we took the detour around town and missed out on the cheap fuel on the non-detour route.  I didn't know about the town of Wheeling, or really how West Virginia came to be, except it was a Civil War decision.  Later I read a fiction book that also mentioned Wheeling, so I gave into temptation and used Wikipedia.  Turns out, West Virginia counties broke free from Virginia during the civil war and, from what was posted, without a majority of counties agreeing to do so (though I thought this was odd).  I still find it odd that the little portion between Ohio and Pennsylvania doesn't belong to either of those two states. 

Later on down the road--well, clear across the top portion of WV, into Pennsylvania where fuel is more expensive, down into WV again, and then just before the start of Maryland, we needed a restroom break and were getting close to needing fuel, so we pulled off just before the MD border, as a storm was brewing. No sooner than we get to the stop sign at the off ramp than a giant bolt of white lightning, with a couple skinny side bolts, sets off down the road where we'd have been if we had stayed on the Interstate.  We headed to the gas station, only to discover the pumps weren't working from that same lightning blast (told you it was close).  My friend headed in to use the restroom while I watched her son and tried to call The Mike.  I was inside when I got a voice mail message from The Mike saying to call him.  (Depending on location, sometimes the calls go right to voicemail when I'm roaming, this is one time where that wasn't good).  Turns out The Mike was on a gravel bike ride with several gents, they'd taken a break on a gravel road in the shade of some trees, were off their bikes, when a truck rolled from the top of the hill down towards them. Most got out of the way, one bike was destroyed when it became lodged under the vehicle. The Mike was fine, but a friend was tossed into the ditch (he is fine too), the guys all sprung into action with cell phones snapping pictures of the license plate, vehicle, and bike lodged underneath. However, he fled the accident. Due to RAGBRAI occurring in the same state, in the same area, dispatch originally thought it was a RAGBRAI injury, which it wasn't---just some random guys out for a bike ride on a gravel road who were rolled into by a drunk dude in a truck.

Thankfully, there was walking room in the gas station, and tables to sit down at after I was off the phone with The Mike.  So scary to have this happen, but knowing it wasn't as bad as it could have been.  

The gas station had regular food for friend and her child, and I grabbed a bottle of SmartWater and a can of sardines in olive oil --who'd have thought they'd have this at an almost rural gas station, or that the two combined would be less than one of the items in Iowa?  The can of sardines held me over. Turns out I wasn't too hungry after The Mike's news!

Refueled, we headed on to push through Maryland to the destination of Virginia.  The rest was uneventful, except for the hard rain that fell, requiring us to drive 40-55mph instead of 70mph, and delayed us arriving until. . . midnight. Apparently that's our favorite time for rolling into towns!  

Day 4. 

Fly home day.  My purpose in this trip was to keep a friend company on her drive back home, and that was accomplished.  Before I headed to the airport, I was treated to homemade chocolate gluten free donuts (and I got the recipe from her), had some packed for the layover I'd have, and then I headed to the airport. My first time flying American Airlines in quite some time and I have to say I enjoyed it immensely.  Loved their terminal at DC National and in Chicago, and loved the fact that they enforced the size of the carry-on luggage. Mine didn't make the cut, so it was checked through to my destination, which meant when I got to Chicago for my three hour layover, I was able to --delightedly--do walking laps without having to wheel my luggage around.  I also experienced the yoga room  at the airport and enjoyed some movements. No one else was in the room. Several mats were available, along with cleaning wipoes,  cubbies and hooks for your belongings, and a television playing calming music and random scenes of the city. 

Also at the airport was green room of sorts, and several healthy food stations in the various terminal wings. It was quite refreshing to see so many options, instead of just fast food or bar food. 

Soon I was home again, and able to give The Mike a big hug for his experiences on Saturday, reassure myself he was okay, and just veg out for a while.  I was exhausted!

Traveling can be a bit daunting at first, but when you're prepared with snacks and a few things to get you through in a pinch, it can be so much more relaxing for you, the gluten free, special diet traveler.  Plan a bit, don't have unrealistic expectations, consult with a smart phone app such as "Find Me Gluten Free".  The child with us?  He has a (epi-pen) peanut allergy--watching out for his needs was much more important than my gluten and soy free, adult needs. I had snacks I could have to hold me over. Try making a five year old wait is impossible :-)  Luckily, he was raised to enjoy real food, unprocessed, and would eat a whole watermelon at one sitting if his parents would let him.

Enjoy your day, and remember that your outlook at the moment impacts how you react to the world.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sometimes it's gluten and sometimes it's not. Birthday, race, and food

The last of one age group category. . .

The 12th of July I was pumped up for my last race in one age bracket.  I'd be turning a 'zero' birthday a few days later. I had my things laid out the evening before. Figured I'd ride my bike over to the race start.  Morning came and with it, rain, which was in the forecast.  I decided to still ride my bike over. Just as I was getting ready to leave the garage, a lightning bolt cracked and I said, "nope, I'm driving".  Sure, you can call me a chicken if you want :-).

The energy of the race as fabulous. It was a new event in my area, strictly a 10k. Cool weather was a plus at the start and the race followed the recreational trails in the area. This meant we went through tree lined areas. During the hot summer months it normally is grand. During mosquito infested times with no breeze and humidity, it is not.  I finished in 1:09:42 which was better than my first ever 10K, but I know it's not my best time. It's hard to get the mind around, "I was faster than this four years ago, but I haven't been in that position for four years. THIS is you NOW."  It's a mantra I repeat often. THIS is me NOW.  I cannot compare myself to what I did before, if my health has changed, or I got a bug or something, and no one else can either. Plus, I like to think mom was watching over me and the race. The finish time numbers correlate to her.

My "zero" birthday cake
Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix, two 8" rounds,
with Hershey s'mores palm oil/gluten free icing 
This past weekend I went to a county fair --you can take the gal off the farm, but she will still be a farm girl at heart.  I loved seeing the bovines (cows/steers), the chickens and rabbits, but the goats make me laugh. 

Goats living up to the reputation of trying to nibble anything.
Saturday morning I was up with the birds and sun. Headed out for a short run.  This was near my turn around spot. I will never understand how people say they could never live in the country.  The colors of the sky were even better in person. 

Old fence piece left from cattle days. 
Saturday breakfast was King Arthur GF pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon.  I realize as I write this that we didn't have any fruit on the table!  The nieces and nephews (and brother in laws) got Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls that my sis made.  WHY can't those things be made gluten free? 

Lunch was a catered event, a family reunion, and I had fruit!--ha ha.  Roast beast(GF), steamed veggies (GF), and a fruit platter (GF). Very delicious, though I wanted a bit of that hashbrown cheesy gluten dish!  

After chatting with family for a few hours and playing with the niece and nephews, I was out of energy.

Sometimes it isn't gluten. . .  

Headed to dad's to rest for a bit and then went back to town for dinner with the siblings. I had the Fajitas Hawaiian and am not sure what was the issue, but something was later that night.  I didn't double check the tortillas if they were corn or wheat, but usually gluten hits me 24 hours later, soy within 30 minutes, but this was a few hours later.  It might have been the chorizo, it might have been the oil used, it might have been the greasy food, it might have been. . . . The hardest thing for us to figure out what we ate is when we don't know how it was prepared.  I was dehydrated, but otherwise feeling fine and no issues besides that hour block there and a bit in the morning, so it definitely wasn't gluten (which for me is three days of torture).  It might have been the oil or the fat content of the dish.  

The first of a new age group category. 

Sunday morning came and with it SUNSHINE again.  My siblings and I decided to do the 5k/10k in a nearby county.  About 30 people started and most were not from the immediate area--which we found interesting/funny.  At the start, I was walking with one down the few blocks of main street until the crushed limestone trail came into view. Then I ran off to try to catch the other sibling--I did. She had knee surgery a few months ago and is suppose to be taking it easy.  I did stay with her, and figured this was a fun run event, not a race really, though it was to be my first race after turning the 'zero' birthday. [I figured it was okay to take it a slow and easy this day, since I was dehydrated from the night before.] It was great to talk with the sister one on one and once her knee got use to the rhythm again, we did run/walk the course. Time was about thirty minutes slower than last weekend, but bonding and friendship is priceless.  

Near the start of the race.

The race was followed by a luncheon grill-out at dad's, steak, salad, cukes with dill, grapes, ice cream and gf birthday cake for the dad's "zero" birthday.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kansas. Dirty Kanza finish, home to Iowa.

Oh, the land and wide skies call!  
Driving south, the herds. 
Art on the ranch.  Metal cutouts of rancher and cattle

Getting closer to Emporia, heading east. 
Hay storage system 
Back in Emporia and the day's not over yet!  almost 30,000 steps and 3,000 calories. No wonder I was starving.
Gorgeous clouds  tinted by the setting sun's colors. A few riders are coming in for their finish. 
The Mike at the finish. 
The Mike didn't finish before sunset. He said he'd been feeling well up to the last town stop and then the the energy departed.  He finished well, and truly worn, with dirt attaching to his sweat and sunscreen.

He has his Jimmy Johns unwich in his hand--the shop is right across the street from the finish!
Dorm room pics :-)   Race shirt --in my favorite colors. 
We headed over to the community center in Emporia for the after race breakfast and award ceremony. The local Lions club was hosting the breakfast--biscuits, gravy, and o.j.  Mike's ticket was included in the race, but we paid for mine. Had known of the sign below ahead of time,  I would have taken along some other items to eat. 

After the awards ceremony, we checked out of the dorms and headed to a local restaurant on Route 50 south of town, near the factories.  We'd been here a few years ago at 1am after a race finish, and knew they had good food. It's under new ownership now, friendly service, and they were fine with my request of butter, not oil for the eggs, and both waitresses offered to toast my UDIs bread I took in.  ( I didn't have them toast it, but it was the thought that counts). 
Good food. Omelet, hashbrowns and jelly for my UDI's bread! 
I spy- a face in the clouds
Hello Missouri!
Via Highway 36

Old school -retro-vintage hotel sign art.
Highway 36 west of Cameron, MO a few miles.

My reward for a half marathon with a finish time longer than I expected---my first bruised toenail in three or four years.  

Last weekend in DC my sister took me to get a pedicure. I warned the guy about my still tender toenail 19 days after the fact.  He wasn't too gentle at the start, but when he removed my nail polish and saw the purple under the nail, he was much more gentle with the toe! 
Friday night I realized my toe nail was no longer next to the bed and that there was just air in there. Instead of having it possibly get caught on something, or have my sock/shoe combo when I run pull on the nail, I decided to trim it off. ta-da:  9 nicely painted toes with OPI's Purple with a Purpose nail pols


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kansas. Part 2 --Rural Route 13.1 race, Lebanon, KS and Red Cloud, Neb.

Saturday morning came early for us. We were awake at 3:30am to get up, something to eat, send me on my way north and The Mike to get prepped for the morning.   On the one hand, it is a little hard to get up so early, and on the other hand, you basically have ants in your pants and nervous energy to dispense with before the big event!  

We had breakfast again in the dining hall, scrambled eggs for me, I had some steamed veggies too (which I admit, I didn't verify how they were cooked), and  a few slices of ham and cheese for the road in case I got hungry along the way.  The Mike and I were both dressed and ready to go.  I had difficulty figuring out what to wear and wore a thicker pair of Athleta capri  tights to wear.  I also packed other clothes thinking I'd have time to change along the way if need be.  I didn't want to wear shorts in the car, and have my legs and calves stick to the car seat on the 3.5 hour drive. 

The Mike in his new kit. Bike is Salsa Vaya, titanium of course, with a feed bag on the handlebars, water bladder in the tangle bag and another water bottle  with Cytomax in it. 
I 'had' to stop along the road (50) west to take a picture of the sunrise. I could see it in my mirrors and it was beautiful. 
The view changed when I got on the Interstate(135)  to head north. The sun was gone behind clouds up above and fog over the ground as well.  
Another picture "drive by" style further north on I-135. 
I had to make several 'pit stops' this morning as my intestines were not being nice to me. Good thing I was a farm girl ;-)   I did discover that cities and towns in Kansas were bypassed by roads and not just by a mile or so, but more like five or ten miles off the freeway route.   There were a few options for me to head west and I waited for Bellevue, Kansas thinking 'it's a big town and will be easy to find a gas station/restroom'.  Oh, I was kidding myself apparently!  Coming north on the road, I cont'd north thinking, 'anywhere along here'. Nope. Turn around, follow the signs to 'business district' which was a downtown square of sorts. A couple of men setting up for the farmer's market told me the gas station was straight ahead.  The design of the roadway is such that the road I was on had an exit to go west, but I don't recall one seeing a place to go east. The gas station was on the elevated portion just before the bridge that headed west, which I would have bypassed had I just headed west to Esbon.  More minutes lost to another pitstop. 

The funny thing about terrain is that it can change at any time.  All the way north on I-135 which turned into 81, the road was basically flat. Sure, there were some hills and such, but not enough to worry me. 

Once I turned west on 36, the road got more hilly up and down and around curves. Road construction was experienced too.  Beautiful alfalfa fields ready for a cutting of hay, or a field that was ready for the hay to be baled.  I wasn't sure how far I had to go to Esbon, but knew that I was going to be pushing getting there before the race started. I was freaking out a bit, trying not to, but my half hour of leeway time was taken up by the intestines and road construction delay.  I wasn't going to have time to change my pants or shirt into something lighter, as the temps had cont'd to climb and it was much warmer. Ah well, the run had turned from a chance to see what I had, to a race to see if I could endure. I was already dehydrated and this wasn't good. 

I put the hammer down some more and pulled screeching into town (okay, maybe not quite screeching!).  There was a parking spot right at the elevator, across from the bar/starting point, so I was happy about that. I got my race packet (shirt, bib number, and safety pins), barely had time to put the number on, no time to change pants, I quickly put on the running shoes, my water belt, clip for the phone/mp3, and everyone was walking around the block to the starting point. EEEK!  I couldn't find my Cytomax either, so GU it was all the way.  My intestines had finally settled down, I figured I looked goofy in my purple top and gray pants, and loud yellow shoes  and you know what, I didn't care.  I was just more worried about the terrain!  Mike had said I'd probably be on gravel roads as they wouldn't be paved. He was partially right. The race is on rural roads but they were dirt-not gravel!  No recent rains, so no mud.  

There were about 30 people at the race.  Others have said, "that's it?" when I've talked about this great race and I look at them and say, 'it's a first year race in a rural area. I thought it was a good start to something that will continue to grow!'.  

I started off running a little faster than I normally do (don't we all when we start a race?), and had to tone it back a little bit. I needed to get warmed up at the same time I needed to keep running.  I chose to walk the very top of the hills again, and think this was good, as I was able to run well on the downhills and keep going that way.
About mile 4 I decided to take this picture of a hill we had just descended and climbed.
While my grandfather was originally from further east in Kansas than Esbon, the terrain was about the same where he grew up, and where he moved to in my state, which is where I grew up.  By mile 5 I was feeling rehydrated with my water, the ice cold water provided at every couple miles by the race, and was feeling like I was out on a run at my dad's farm--a feeling that was helped by being on the course almost by myself. Everyone else seemed like they sprinted away (they didn't, but that was a feeling I had).   A slight breeze helped cool us off  as we ran.   
Beautiful train trestle  
About mile 7 I started taking (more) pictures with my phone.  Not something I normally do in a race, but it was such gorgeous scenery--even to a farm girl.
Livestock corral with interesting clouds
About this point in the race I was worried about my pants choice. . . the weight was a bit heavier than what I wanted, but it was actually fine for most of it. No, the reason I was worried was because I was looking down at the legs and realized the pants turned a dark gray where they were wet. I could only imagine what my backside looked like!  Note to self to wear these pants only on short training runs, or on my treadmill!
Off in the left center is the town of Esbon.  No till fields were giving rise to a new crop.
I ran up most of this hill, but decided to conserve some energy and
slowed to a fast walk and to do a quick shot of the 'ditch'.
I couldn't resist this photo of the town due north and the beautiful field of green wheat. 
panoramic of the wheat field, right up to the edge of the road. 
Did I mention I loved the clouds, cloud coverage, sun protection, heat shield?  
Mile 9 we crossed the road that went into Esbon and we were into another square mile with the clouds disappearing (i.e. sun / heat coming out).  I was on pace to this point to finish in about 2:40, which is longer than my best time, but okay for how I'd been feeling thus far this day.  I kept up the run/walk philosophy for the next couple miles, but then we were routed onto two roads that were gravel, or were limestone anyway--which means they were blinding white roads with the sun being out.  I had chosen to wear my sun visor rather than sunglasses and on these last two-three miles it was a decision I was regretting.  More ice water was to be had.  This was perfect for filling up the water bottles on my waist, which in turn helped to cool down my body.  (the second marathon I did, I was overheated, and firefighters were handing out mini bottles of water. I tucked one into my sports bra which helped immensely to cool down my heart/core and helped me finish the last two miles). 

We came up on the road that ran north/south on the east side of town and I kept looking for the spray-painted arrow to head west to the main street finish area.  The heat was  a bit worse at this point, or so it felt. I saw the spray painted line, turned, and I had about four blocks to go before turning again at this sign: 

The end is near! 
I was so happy to finish, and I finished under 3 hours, which is probably my second longest half marathon, and slowest since 2009 when I started running.  Last year I didn't do a lot of running, trying to figure out why I was run down/tired/lacking energy. I think there are things I've done to combat this, but then being dehydrated at the start of this race didn't help either. 

So there I was at the finish, thinking I was the next to last to finish, I knew there was another person behind me, when the race folks tell me there are three others out there. The two walkers I assumed were doing the 10K were walking the half marathon!  WOW. 

I was informed there was food with a free will donation and that 'it's all gluten free except the brownies'.  OH BOY!  Very exciting to have people I don't even know to be aware of needing gluten free (it probably didn't hurt that I registered under the QuirkyGfRunner email!).  

Freshly grilled--Kansas grass fed--ground beef burgers, chips, jello (which was so good to have after a long run!), and the giant pan of brownies which looked fabulous.  Definitely worth the money I put in.   While I was eating, several ladies came over to chat and I learned about the local area, the school system, the town, the loss of the school due to cutbacks.  I shared I was heading up to Red Cloud, Neb  where Willa Cather lived for quite some time (English Education major--I can't not  go there when it's so close!) and was informed that I'd pass through Lebanon, KS which is the center of the geographical US, not including Alaska and Hawai'i. Definitely a site to see, as The Mike and I had been to Belle Fourche, SD where they have the center including Alaska and Hawai'i.  

Before I left town I changed into a SkirtSports dress I had picked up on clearance, my compression calf sleeves since I'd be sitting in the car for a long time, and then headed back to take a picture of a stop sign--yes a stop sign.  

aw, come on, isn't this funny?  
I headed west on the road towards Lebanon and the thoughts of pioneers just entered my mind, as it often does when I venture into the states west of the Missouri river.  So much determination for the pioneers to come west, and the awfully cramped cities and poor work conditions they left behind where living in sod houses was better than what they had. I always wonder about the letters they wrote home.  Sure they probably didn't put in there, 'rocks everywhere, poor soil, stay there'.  Instead, most letters probably were more along the lines of, 'things are great, fresh air, big skies, our own land'. No one wanted to write the letter home that said, 'ma was right.'---even when they were going through the badlands of South Dakota!  
I got to the center at the same time of two Harley riding gents.  I took their picture, they took mine!  
A beautiful reminder of the settlers/homesteaders who came before us. 
As I headed north I encountered large rolling hills of beautiful prairie and thought, 'this is what the pioneers saw'.  To me it is beautiful, to a modern city dweller, no cable, no cell phone reception, might not be as beautiful a thought as it was 150 years ago to have no tenement living, no city air pollution, our own land.  
The elevator in Red Cloud, Neb.
My home town just tore down their old elevator, which was not this large. 

The city of Red Cloud was beautiful with its architecture and long main street full of gorgeous historic bldgs still in use today. Even the Subway shop was in an old bldg. This was the Museum and the Willa Cather Foundation gift shop was across the street and up the block. I went there first, spent some time, and realized I'd been up close to twelve hours already and had a long drive ahead of me. 

I had planned to stop in Concordia where there is no an orphan train museum, but I didn't have time to do that either, as I passed through there after 4pm and figured they'd close up at 5pm.  My grandfather had an orphan train brother.  I use to recall seeing an older gentleman when we'd go to Illinois to visit my mom's relatives. I always thought he was someone she knew in her youth, but it turns out it was someone my dad's family knew! (Since I was about 9 the last time I saw him, I think it's okay I didn't know he was grandpa's brother of a sort).  I thought to stop in Abiline as well for a walk about, see the Eisenhower presidential library, again though, I need to get back and cleaned up. The Mike was hoping to finish by 8:30, if all went well.