Central PA is surprisingly cool

When we were in Hawaii, I told Kasey-Dee about all of the “fun” things we could do if she came to visit. Everything seemed like an awesome idea at the time. I must have really made it sound fun, because she decided to spend the holiday weekend with us. I sat down on Thursday night to decide exactly what we were going to do, and it was at that point that I had this thought: We are so lame.

All of my awesome ideas sounded dumb. She lives and works just outside of Washington DC and travels the world. How did I think she could possibly have fun in Podunk, PA? (For the record, we Pennsylvanians truly refer to our state by its abbreviation: P-A. Also, there really isn’t a town called Podunk, but there is a Camp Podunk. Leave it to PA.)

I decided to stick to my guns because, well, there weren’t really any other options. I drew up a list of things to do and cleaned the house. She arrived on Friday afternoon and we hit the ground running. Our first stop was to my friends’ farm. They are out of the country for several weeks, but I stop by often to feed their animals. I hate to waste anything, so I save all of my food waste (peels, cores, stems, uneaten food from my toddler’s plate) in gallon bags in the freezer. Every week or so I take all of the bags over for the goats, sheep and cow. They love it. Kasey-Dee is a vegetarian and huge animal lover, so I thought this would be fun. She was so excited. It was awesome.

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After that, we all went to Hershey’s Chocolate World. Chocolate World is awesome. It’s beside the amusement park, but it’s totally free. There is a huge store where you can buy all things chocolate, but there is also a “ride” that you can take to learn about how chocolate is made. There are 3 singing cows throughout the ride that sing a ridiculously catchy song. We’ve taken Little Dude to this more times than I can count and he loves it. Since it was a holiday, the park was packed. We couldn’t get into the Chocolate World lot, so we had to park further away and take a tram. Little Dude was so, so excited to ride the tram. I think it was the most fun he had all day! Kasey-Dee loved it, and just had to get her picture taken with the Hershey Kiss!

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After we got all sugared up on samples of Brookside Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds (seriousy, if Brookside wants to send me stuff to eat, er….review, I am totally game), we hopped over to our amazing local brewery: Troegs.

Troegs is, in a word, awesome. They have very solid year round beers, and some awesome seasonal stuff. They also have their “scratch series”. They love to experiment with small batches, and number their scratch series sequentially. I think they are up to #152 or so right now. It’s fantastic. Their tasting room is huge, and their food is simply amazing. If you are ever in the Hershey area, you simply must check them out.

When we went to order our beer, Kasey-Dee boldly proclaimed that she didn’t like dark beer. The bartender took that as a challenge, and offered her a taste of Rugged Trail. While Rugged Trail isn’t a dark-dark beer, it’s darker than most of the lighter beers. (Brilliant statement,  I know. ) Kasey-Dee was a convert from that moment. (By Saturday night, I had her drinking Impending Descent – a Russian Imperial Stout. Yet another convert!)

2014070495193320We ordered their chickpea fritters with tomato chutney. It was absolutely amazing. I can’t even put it into words. The fritters were sort of reminiscent of falafel, but had a much different texture to them. There was also a good kick to them, which I loved. We ate everything. Yum!

Saturday morning began with a run on the Appalachian Trail, beginning at the Scott Farm Work Center in Carlisle. This was Kasey-Dee’s first experience on the AT. If you have never run the AT, you need to put it on your list of things to do. It’s awesome. It is just beautiful. That is a particularly nice section, too. We turned around at route 850 in Marysville, for a total of 12 miles.

photo 2(1)After the run, we returned to my house for lunch, but on the way home, we saw signs for “Hamfest”. I’m vegan and she’s vegetarian so neither of us eat ham, but we were intrigued. We followed the signs, but didn’t find out what Hamfest was. Apparently it was on the campus of the local community college, but it wasn’t big enough for us to see from the road. Maybe that’s a bummer, or maybe that’s luck.

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I made a kick-ass lunch. I busted out the panini press and grilled a panini for her. (I had a similar meal but without the bread). I call it my “Eggplant Pesto Stack”. First I made some garlic scape pesto. Then I caramelized some ononion.  I then roasted some eggplant slices brushed with olive oil and lightly salted at 350 for about 20 minutes (varies based on thickness). Finally, I put it all together and ate it. It was divine. (The recipe is at the end of the blog, but here’s the non-panini photo).

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Saturday afternoon was spent traipsing around Lancaster County to gawk at Amish folks and to buy PA Dutch foods. We saw tons of buggies and roadside stands. We stopped a farmers’ market and a little village shopping center in Intercourse. That’s right – the town’s name is Intercourse.

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There is also a small village somewhere in the area named Fertility, but we didn’t find it. Other towns in the area are Bird-In-Hand, Blue Ball, Ronks and Paradise. Huh?

After Intercourse (hehehe) we stumbled upon the Rumspringa Brewery and Mount Hope Estate Winery Tasting Room. S and I had been there before, so I suggested we stop and do some tastings. The wines are just ok, but pretty decent for PA wines. (Honestly our state’s wines aren’t usually that great. They are just too sweet.) The beer isn’t great, but it’s decent. Mostly it’s just fun to stop for a drink after Intercourse. (Seriously, that’s just fun to say.)

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We returned home and Kasey-Dee and I made dinner. She doesn’t cook, but that doesn’t matter. I put her to work peeling and cutting sweet potatoes so we could grill them up. I massaged some kale and made some kale chips. We threw some burgers (veggie for us, chicken for S and Little Dude) out to S and he grilled them. It was an easy, quick and healthy meal. After dinner, we headed down to the riverfront to watch the Harrisburg fireworks.

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On Sunday morning I took Kasey-Dee for a run up “my” mountain. I took her on my normal 7 mile run. The weather was perfect – 60 degrees and sunny with a light breeze. It was perfect. We followed that up with church. And then she was gone!

I was honestly surprised at how many things I had planned that we didn’t do. I tend to get kinda bored with the Harrisburg area and think that we need to move, but then I find a reason to really evaluate what this area has to offer, and I realize that it’s pretty awesome. It’s not fancy, but it has a lot to offer to many folks. You can find all sorts of things to do within an hour drive. This weekend made me really appreciate what we have here.

Eggplant Pesto Stack

For the pesto

1/4 c pine nuts
3/4 c chopped garlic scapes
1/4 c fresh basil
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 t salt
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

Process all ingredients in a food processor. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

For the eggplant
1 eggplant
2 T olive oil
1 t salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the eggplant into 1/2″ slices. Shake on some salt and put in a colandar to drain. Place slices on a greased cookie sheet; brush them with olive oil and lightly salt. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes,  flipping once.

For the onions
3 red onions
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 T Tablespoon olive oi

Cut the onions in half and then into thin slices. Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium. Add oil to the pan and shake until its coated. Add the onions and sugar to the pan and coat well. Cook for about 10 minutes.  Lower the beat and continue to cook for about 20-30 minutes or until they look all delicious and caramel-y.

To assemble:
Place an eggplant slice on a plate. Smear pesto on top. Add a slice of vegan mozzarella cheese (I used Teese brand) and some caramelized onion. Delicious

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