cashew quinoa energy bars

Several moons ago, I began dabbling in the art of the Wayfaring Chocolate ‘raw balls‘ recipes. Never before had I harbored any sort of interest in raw food, let alone things labeled near-vegan or no-bake. But I found myself hooked by these simple recipes, and the endless possibilities out there for combining nuts, dates, and other such tasties.

More recently, I’ve been fascinated by the nutritional research and dietary changes made by my blog pal Sarah and her family. The idea that overconsumption of grains is unhealthy had never occurred to me, perhaps because I love to eat gigantic bowls of pasta every chance I get. But now (although I still eat plenty of grains), I’m trying to work more grain alternatives into my diet, such as quinoa and chia seeds. Thank you, Sarah, for changing my outlook on nutrition.

Most recently, I went for another hike in Baxter State Park. I didn’t bring my camera with me this time, but I brought an idea. The night before hiking, I woke from a dream in which I combined cashews and quinoa into some sort of delicious ‘raw ball’ treat. The idea stuck with me, and I made sure to stock up on dates and cashews so that I could experiment.

These are not raw. I ended up baking them because I wanted to go with a looser ‘dough,’ if you will, one that would benefit from a crisp-up in the oven. That way, they’re kind of like a grainless granola bar. They are crunchy, nutty, and make for a wonderful midday snack. I recommend keeping them in the fridge for extra crispness.

 

So, last weekend’s hike. It was a hot and sunny day, and the bugs were much less bothersome than last time around. Our hike du jour was a 7.3 mile jaunt along the Fowler Brook and Middle Fowler Pond Trails, plus a quick .6 up and down Barrel Ridge, and also a roughly 2-mile triangulated bushwhack up and down the trail-less Bald Mountain, making for a total of nearly ten miles.

It was a 6.5 hour endeavor, and due to the bushwhacking I accumulated 49 scrapes on my arms and legs, and one puncture wound from a perilously large branch. It was all in good fun, although, yes, we ran out of water again. This cycle of abuse needs to stop.

Here are a few photos from last year [although the computer claims they were taken on May 28th, 1956, at 1:36am] on the nearby Traveler loop. The Traveler is much higher in elevation than we were this past weekend, but it is adjacent to where we were hiking – to give you an idea of the scenic beauty near Baxter’s South Branch Pond campground.

On to that energy bar recipe – perfect to bring along on hikes, if you remember to wrap the semi-sticky bars in wax paper beforehand. Also perfect to eat mid-afternoon, after a day spent lazing about in the yard, getting sunburnt.

Cashew Quinoa Energy Bars

A recipe created by my brain during REM sleep

++Ingredients:++

1/2 c. cashews, soaked in water 1 hour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c. quinoa, cooked and cooled
1/2 c. cashews
1/2 c. almonds
1 2/3 c. dates
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla

++Directions:++

Preheat over to 350 F. In a food processor, pulse the softened cashews and salt. Add quinoa, additional cashews, almonds,  dates, honey and vanilla, and pulse until combined.

Butter or spray a loaf pan (I used a 9 x 5″ pan), and press mixture into pan. Bake for 15-22 minutes, until edges are crispy and center of pan appears to be somewhat thickened. Remove from oven. Score lines into the pan; I created 14 rectangles that were each roughly 1 x 2″. Cool, remove from pan, and store covered in the refrigerator.

Variations: Next time I will try not soaking the cashews, and will see if there is enough liquid without doing so to bind with the quinoa and make no-bake balls. I also may add a small amount of almond extract, in place of, or in addition to, the vanilla.

hiking the freezeout and frost pond trails in baxter

Last weekend, after constructing a raised garden bed (welcome to my yard, carrots and turnips!), we headed southwest to Baxter State Park. We camped for a night along the deceptively-pleasant shores of Grand Lake Matagamon, which quickly proved to be the breeding ground of roughly 6.66 million black flies. The following day we surprised ourselves by hiking a rather long trail in an impressively short amount of time, only in part speeding along to escape the aforementioned bloodsucking terrors.

I recently made a promise to document my Baxter hikes here, and this is the first installment of that promise.

We mixed the tequila in the above photo with some wonderful not-too-sweet Strawberry Lemonade I had made the day before. If you’re looking for another refreshing summery lemonade, try this one, which I hope to make next.

The hike was simple in theory and practice: 11.2 miles on relatively flat terrain, with only one small mountain to scale (if you can even call it a mountain). The only head scratcher came just past the finish line – the hike was not a loop. Instead, the trail emerged 5.6 miles down the park road from the starting point, and the car.

To remedy this quandary we stashed my lovely, recently-built, no longer pristine, kickass mountain bike at the trail’s end prior to starting the hike. In Baxter, mountain biking is not allowed, but bikes are permitted on main park roads. Problem solved.

A bear ate this sign. No, really, it did.

The Freezeout Trail began at the Trout Brook Farm Campground, which is near the Matagamon (North) Gate entrance to the park. From there, it was 4.3 miles to the intersection with the Frost Pond Trail. In one short stretch of the Freezeout Trail, I counted thirty three blooming lady’s slipper orchids, ranging in hue from white-cream to deep pink. Being the blunderbuss that I am, I couldn’t be bothered to take out my clunky camera with the broken lens cap to capture this beautiful sight. Rest assured, though, it was there.

At some point, the trail joined up with an old forest road. Coming across signs of long-ago human habitation may be my favorite part of adventuring in woods such as these – – who inhabited these parts before me, and what did they do? Why did they abandon their machinery, or let their telegraph wires remain long after their departure?

With long hikes, my mind meanders in wonderful ways. I spent much of this hike dreamily visualizing settlers and voyageurs from the days of yore, skillfully cloaked in the forest about me, Last of the Mohicans-style.

While still on the Freezeout Trail, we pondered the significance of a large area adjacent to the lake that had no vegetation, but merely a thick layer of ‘soil’ made up of wood shavings (above, top right). Mildly bewildered (was it a landing site for logs before they were put into the river? why has nothing grown in yet? how long ago did something happen here? why am I so interested in this?), we continued on, turning onto the Frost Pond Trail.

Shortly thereafter, we entered the Scientific Forest Management Area, an area in the park where active forestry is practiced and compared to unmanaged ‘benchmark’ reserves. Much of this stretch of trail, which traverses some wet areas, scales Wadleigh Mountain (although if the summit was marked, we didn’t see it), and touches on an a reserved area of old-growth forest, was only completed in 2004. It was a lovely hike that sped by, both temporally and geographically. It is also in an area of the park that sees relatively few visitors – we saw no one.

Despite the easiness of the hike, my feet were quite tired by the time we made it to the trail’s end. I hadn’t spent any time in my hiking boots – which I loathe – since last summer. However, like any crazy outdoors person, I pushed on happily.

As my boyfriend pedaled away on my bike back towards the car, taking with him all of our water, I raised my head to the hot summery sun beating down from above. It was around 2 pm, easily the hottest part of the day. With the scent of pines permeating the heavy air around me, I set my sights on the first bend in the road. And I began to run.

I ended up making it 3.6 additional miles before being picked up; during that stretch I was passed by four or five cars, the passengers in each gawking at me with looks of confusion. I suppose runners aren’t too common in the middle of nowhere.

Baxter State Park

64 Balsam Dr
Millinocket, Maine

the bike we built from scratch

Actually, we built it from parts.

Using a frame from my boyfriend’s first seriously serious mountain bike – THE TRIPLE TRIANGLE! – we have spent the past few months piecing together a bike so that I can learn to ride mountain bike trails with him.

This way, we have something other than seriously serious hiking that we can do outdoors together.

Much Busch Classic, the drink of bumhugs everywhere, was consumed during the making of this bike.

I harbored dreams of creating a magnificent color-schemed bike, and thanks to the prowess of the internet, was able to let my dream set sail. With a yellow Retrospec seat, blue Retrospec handlebar grips and blue Panaracer Fire XC tires, I was destined for pleasant color greatness.

Some of the bike parts had killer names like “The Hammer,” which struck me as being pretty silly. Yeah, I ride on The Hammer. It’s no big deal, guys.

And now that the bike has been built, we can take it out on the trails and totally, like, shred. It’s totally gnarrrr.

There is an awesome network of trails nearby at the Nordic Heritage Center. Unfortunately, I haven’t come across any lefse sticks or krumkake yet, but I have hope. The trails are sort of confusing and not well-marked, so we’ve agreed that we’ll spend our summer learning what’s what out there.

And for now, I am learning to ride an incredibly light bike (shaving grams, bra!), trying not to fall over with every turn I take (shaving skin, bra!), and wondering how I can make the vast number of bruises on my right leg disappear before I have to look fancy pants nice on Friday.

Just remember: when biking, cats are optional.

Nordic Heritage Center

450 Fort Fairfield Rd
Presque Isle, ME 04769

With trails for biking, hiking, running, and in the winter, snowshoeing and skiing.