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.

a primer on pickling fiddlehead ferns

If I’ve learned one thing in the past week, it’s that city dwellers are fascinated by the idea of foraging. They understand the concept perfectly, sure. Person goes outside, person collects tasty treasures, person brings treasures home to hoard in cupboards like a pack rat. But barring conceptual understanding, the plausibility of actual foraging strikes these city folk as incredible. Miraculous. A bit dangerous, even.

This preamble stems from my spending the weekend in New York City. We brought along a jar of these pickled fiddleheads as a gift, and it caused quite a stir. And while the words ‘miraculous’ and ‘dangerous’ were not spoken on any lips per se, there were a few bug-eyed stares, and at least one foolish grin.

But, honestly, who isn’t fascinated by the idea of successful foraging? It seems to be all I can talk about these days.

I wrote about my excitement for fiddleheading a few weeks ago. The only thing that has since changed is that I now have fifteen pounds of them hoarded in my cupboards …like a pack rat.

With all those l’il cuties sitting around, something had to be done to keep them from going to waste. Many were cleaned and stored immediately in small portions in the deep freeze, but an equal amount were left behind to be dealt with in a different way. To be pickled, for consumption later in the year.

While I haven’t discussed it much here, I enjoy canning immensely. I typically make jams and preserves, for the sole and super sophisticated reason that I love sugar. But guess what? There’s sugar in pickling brine, too. And lots more good stuff, too.

After cleaning fiddleheads of their brown papery chaff, trimming their stems, and washing them, they are blanched. I.e., they are allowed to boil for a short amount of time in a salted pot of walter, before being plunged into cold water to chill them and halt their cooking progress.

A brine, consisting of vinegar, salt, sugar, and various spices, is brought to a boil. Blanched fiddleheads are packed into sterilized glass jars, and topped with brine. At that point, the jars can be placed in the refrigerator and eaten quickly, or can be canned in a boiling water bath to increase their shelf life.

The concept is quite easy, but the process is rather involved, and can easily eat up the better half of a day. Especially if you have an epic ‘canning incident’ in the process, like I fretfully experienced, and reported on here.

I made two different brines for two separate batches. Both are delicious, and not as shockingly different from each other as I initially thought they might be.

Feel free to alter the recipe to suit your interests – as long as you keep the vinegar:water:sugar:salt ratio approximately equal, you’ll be just peachy. Or pickley, if you like.

Pickled Fiddleheads {Original recipes, inspired via Edible Portland}

Apple Cider Vinegar Brine

Makes ~5-6 quarts’ worth

++Ingredients:++

6-8 (wet) lbs fiddleheads, ~2 grocery bags’ worth
8 c. apple cider vinegar
4 c. water
2 c. sugar
2 c. salt
3 tsp peppercorns
1 1/2 tbsp mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp coriander seed
3 tsp dill seed
8 Garlic cloves, halved or quartered
1 shallot, sliced thin

Red Wine Vinegar Brine

Makes ~4 quarts’ worth

++Ingredients:++

1 grocery bags’ worth of fiddleheads
2 c. red wine vinegar
1 c. rice wine vinegar
3 c. distilled white vinegar
3 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. salt
3 tsp peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp dill seed
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tsp coriander seed
6 garlic cloves, halved or quartered
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 bunch fresh dill, cut into small sprigs

++Directions for both brines:++

Clean fiddleheads, removing brown papery chaff. Wash well, and trim stems.

Sterilize jars to be used for canning. Wash well with hot and soapy water before allowing to be heated for ten minutes in a canning pot filled with boiling water. Wash canning lids and rings in hot, soapy water, but do not boil.

Bring a large pot of salted water (for blanching fiddleheads) to the boil.

In a large pot, combine all ingredients except garlic cloves, shallot, and fresh dill (if using). Bring to the boil, until sugar and salt are dissolved.

Add fiddleheads to pot of boiling water, and cook for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Remove, and immediately plunge into large bowl of cold water. Depending on the size of the pot, fiddleheads may have to be blanched in several batches.

As soon as they are cooled, prepare to pack fiddleheads into sterilized jars for canning. Start by adding a garlic clove quarter and shallot slice to each jar, as well as a sprig of dill if using. Pack half of the fiddleheads before adding some brine. The brine will immediately begin to cook the fiddleheads, and will cause them to shrink. This will then allow more fiddleheads to be packed into each jar. [Note: the surrounding images show that despite attempts to pack fiddleheads in tightly, they will still shrink during the canning process.] As the jar is being filled, add an additional one to two garlic cloves, shallot slices, and dill as desired.

When jars are filled to within 1/4″ of the top, run a clean paper towel around jar rims to dry them. Place a dry canning lid on top of each jar, and tighten on a dry ring [Note: tighten as tightly as easily allowed, before loosening the ring with an approximate 1/4″ turn].

Submerge jars into a prepared canning pot that has been brought to the boil, ensuring that there is a minimum of 3/4″ of water above the tallest jars. Process the jars for 10 minutes before removing to a heatproof surface; allow to sit undisturbed for up to several hours. Periodically check to see if the jars have sealed [Note: to do this, attempt to push gently on each lid. If there is any give, the jar is not properly sealed]. If any jars do not seal, repeat the process (perhaps with a fresh lid), or place in the refrigerator and eat within two weeks.

Enjoy this seemingly-foreign treat with at least one bug-eyed stare or foolish grin.

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.