Finding My True North

Finding My True North

When I returned to yoga in January 2015 due to a back injury, I never expected that in only a few months I'd be enrolling in a yoga teacher training. I had already been very interested in health in wellness tin recent years after transforming my own health through healthy eating and working out. Friends and family would tell me how I'd inspire them to make changes of their own, but I didn't have any true qualifications, nor was I really sure how to help others in their own pursuit of health and wellness. Further, I didn't feel like that great of an example. While I had been in the best shape of my life by the fall of 2014, my regiment started to take a toll on my body, resulting injury. 

Maine: The Way Life Should Be

In our busy, modern lives, the need to slow down is less about changing our pace, but more about awareness.  When I need to get away from the distractions of everyday living, I like to turn to nature. When I'm outdoors and allow myself to tune into the rhythms of the earth, I finally feel connected.  Lately, most of my trips have been camping because it allows me to center and really tune into who I am as this soul, in this body of mine.

My husband and I have a few favorite camping spots in New England, but this summer I was yearning to travel to Acadia National Park for the first time. Acadia is one of those bucket-lists types of places; somewhere you just have to see for yourself.

Chris and I decided to leave for the trip mid-week to avoid some traffic and crowds. Acadia was going to be the furthest away we had camped together so far, about a 5 and a half hour drive. Rather than rush, we did a one night stopover in Freeport at Recompense Shore Campground. It was a great spot, located right on the water. What makes it really unique is that it's right next to  Wolfeneck Farm; you can get farmland and ocean views in one spot. The afternoon we were there, we got to bike around, check out their farm stand will locally grown veggies, see the farm animals (like this adorable baby cow!), and go fishing in the ocean.

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The campground in Freeport was beautiful, but frankly, I had my heart set on getting to Mt Desert Island as soon as we could so there would be plenty of time to explore. We arrived just around noon, and after grabbing some fresh seafood at Beal's Lobster Pier, we headed to our 2nd campsite of the trip.

The planner I am, I had done plenty of homework when it came to finding a campsite. I discovered a spot on Somes Sound, that offered waterfront sites and booked it early. The pictures I saw online were beautiful, but was pleased that it was even better in person.

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This camp site is officially my favorite spot to date. It wasn't as private as some of the other places we've been but the view was amazing and we only had a few neighbors who were all pretty quite. Chris could fish for striped bass while I sat on our little platform basking in the sun and drinking wine. If it wasn't for the 47,000 acres of National Park that was on the island, we wouldn't have any reason to leave.

But, I'm glad we did because Acadia is magical. For instance, take Cadillac Mountain. It's the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to see the sunrise in the US through half of the year. After setting up camp, we took a drive over to the mountain to get a lay of the land. As we drove up towards the summit, I could feel the prana or energy or whatever you want to call it wake up inside me. It was kind of like having butterflies in your stomach, but without the nervous. Kind of like being anxious for something but without being stressed. It's hard to put in words exactly, but I just felt alive; completely connected to my spirit. If you've been there, you'll know what I mean.

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Three and a half days isn't a lot of time to be in Acadia, but we did our best to fit as much in without burning ourselves out. Chris is happiest fishing and Mt Desert Island has several ponds and lakes to fresh water fish. Although it was a bit foggy and overcast, our 2nd day we rented a canoe and fished for small mouth bass at (Great) Long Pond. The fishing itself was great, but so was just paddling around the pond. There were many special moments on this trip, but one of the most memorable ones was when a doe came down to the water as we fished along the shore. She was beautiful. 

What's great about Acadia, is that nearly everywhere you go is picturesque. Our third day, we took to the Carriage Roads for a bike ride. There are over 40 miles of trails, but we just did a leisurely ride around Eagle Lake and to Bubble Pond. Again, so pretty. The waters were the clearest waters I've seen, and we were happily surprised to know that you could still fish in them. After our bike ride, we went back to the car, grabbed our rods and made a few casts on Eagle Lake. We didn't catch anything. Not even a bite. But it didn't matter. It was so serene and peaceful. We did get to see a family of loons swim by and later, a large bird in the sky we suspected was a bald eagle (although we definitely saw one the next day fly over our campsite).

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I'm the type of traveler who wants to do and see everything; and it often leaves me feeling disappointed because I'm worried I might miss out on something. A lot of the trip I kept thinking, "I wish I could be here longer; there is so much more I want to do", but eventually the power of Acadia's beauty reminded me that everything I needed was right there. Just sit there and breathe. Be.

Watching the sunrise back at the campsite was certainly the best and most profound part of the trip. I am not an earlier riser, yet when I'm camping I have no problem waking up at the crack of dawn. When you spend time outdoors and camp, your body resets itself to the rhythms of nature. It wants to wake when the sun rises, and go to sleep once it sets. It's no surprise I feel so rejuvenated after a camping trip, because my body is getting the rest its supposed to have. 

One morning in Acadia, I woke up at 4:30am, still well before the sun was going to rise. I still felt sleepy, but was interested in the fact it seemed much lighter outside despite how early it was. I peaked outside and saw one of the prettiest skies I had ever witnessed. The light of the sun was just beginning to filter over from the Atlantic towards the coast. A warm, pinkish-purplish glow was starting to break up the deep dark indigo night. Rather than go back to bed, I decided to sit and watch.

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If you've ever waited to watch the sunrise, its pretty remarkable how much the sky changes in the hour leading up to the event. As I watched the sun come up over Norumbega Mountain along Somes Sound those next mornings, I realized how lucky I was to be there.

The sun rising is nothing new. For as long as this planet has been a cluster of matter, revolving around the sun, there has been a sunrise. Every day I have been alive, there has been a sunrise. Yet, in my regular day-to-day life, I've completely under appreciated the magnificence of this event. That's not because it wasn't happening, but rather I wasn't present in the moment.

How much have I missed, racing through life, not smelling the roses? I left Acadia beginning to see the world in a brighter light; noticing more the subtle, but amazing things this world has to offer; and being able to slow down to enjoy those small precious moments like the sunrise, watching a loon family swim by, seeing the fog roll in after the rain clears, and, without fail, the sunrising again the following day.

Vegan Hot Cocao with Clementine

The best hot chocolate I've ever had was on a class trip to Madrid, Spain back in 2004. The trip was a whirl-wind experience, soaking up as much culture, and visiting as many sites as we could see in the 10 days we were there. One very found memory I have was the night one of our teachers took our group to a small little cafe, tucked in the winding streets of Madrid. Oh, how I wish I could remember that name of place; I'd be sure to go back if I visit Spain again.

Their specialty was churro con chocolaté. The warm chocolate drink was nothing of the thin, watery hot chocolate of my childhood; this was a thick, dark and bitter concoction, essentially a drinkable ganache you could dunk the churros in. It was amazing. It was likely what turned me into a dark chocolate lover. For me, the darker the better; I love the rich and complex flavor of bitter dark chocolate.

My Hot Cocao with Clementine recipe is an homage to the flavors of that Spanish treat. My version is much lighter; not the ganache-like consistency I had, but it does have that complex and bitter chocolate flavor which I brighten up with a squeeze of clementine. Perfect for vegans, or anyone trying to avoid dairy; it's topped up with a whipped coconut cream.

Today is Day 2 of my little snow-day vacation. Framingham, MA got HAMMERED by Winter Storm Juno. The news reported my hometown got 33.5" of snow between late Monday night and early Wednesday morning. This blizzard is sure to be one I tell our children about one day. I got lucky; my office has been shut down for the second day in a row. I'm happy I had the time to kick back yesterday, because today was dedicated to the clean up. My car was buried in snow, and the task of unearthing it made me miserable. Our house has a garage, but it is so full of tools and junk there is no room for my car, which means, of course, a ton of work for me.

It was grueling, annoying, and a workout; but I did it. I dug out my car, cleaned it off and it'll be ready to hit the road to work tomorrow morning. After being in the cold for so long my bones were aching for something warm. My 2nd favorite hot beverage, after coffee, is hot chocolate. When I was little, making a good hot chocolate was all about adding some Swiss Miss into warmed milk (instead of water) for a creamy and comforting treat. In the past couple of years, I've reduced the amount of dairy I consume. I first made the decision to drink more dairy-free milks, like almond milk, because I was looking for a way to cut calories, but I eventually realized, when I'd drink regular milk, the dairy free versions were much gentler on my stomach. It seemed to make a lot of sense, considering my parents switched me to soy formula as a baby, because I was quite colicey. Anyway, happy with my dairy-free milk, its proven to be a great base for hot chocolate.

Now, I must call attention to the fact this is hot "cocao" not hot "cocoa". Raw cacao powder is unadulterated and contains many more nutrients than traditional cocoa powder. Pure, unsweetened cocoa powder tastes very bitter and rich, which is why it is most often used in sweets and confections. For more differences check out One Green Plant's article. I wouldn't say cocoa powder is worse than cocao, but the raw cocao powder was going to give me the flavor profile I wanted.

To get my hot treat going I added 1 1/2 tbs of the cocao powder to the almond milk along with a tbs of honey and a dash of cinnamon. I use cinnamon all the time, I love the flavor and how it adds extra warmth to a dish. Cocao powder doesn't dissolve as easily as the powder from a hot chocolate mix, so you need to whisk the mixture as it warms over the stove top. The thing that takes this next level is clementine. Orange and dark chocolate have long been a classic combination (one I've usually hated). There was nothing worse, as a kid, to bit into a piece of chocolate to realize it was orange flavored. What I've come to realize, is that it wasn't so much the fruit mixed with the chocolate as much as it was the artificiality of the orange flavor... it always overpowered the chocolate in the candies I had. With orange being a classic flavor in churros, and a big box of clementines sitting on my counter tops, I sliced one in half and squeezed in the juice at the very end of my hot chocolate being ready. Come to think of it Grand Marnier would be fantastic in this, but I'm still committed to #DryJanuary.

The best part of any hot chocolate is, of course the whipped topping. I love whipped cream. Any excuse I have to make it, I will. Nothing impresses people more as when I take out a chilled bowl, my biggest whisk, and whip it up by hand. Great upper body workout. I've seen and heard great things about whipped coconut cream, and had to try it for myself. I can attest that it is every bit as satisfying as the "real" stuff.

To make the coconut whipped cream, you have to chill a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge for at least an hour. This will ensure the cream separates from the liquid. After that, you prepare just as you would a standard whipped cream. Place the coconut cream in your stand mixer with a sweetener like coconut sugar or honey along with the vanilla extract. With the whisk attachment beat on high until it is whipped. Because coconut cream is more dense than dairy cream, it won't be as airy, but it will certainly be as creamy and delicious.

Before assembling, I blitzed my hot cocao mix in my blender with two or three pulses. With the whisking I did, it probably didn't need it but I wanted to ensure that all the ingredients were incorporated and the drink was frothy. Feel free to omit that step in interest of getting to drink it. Fill your favorite mug and top off with a heaping helping of whipped coconut cream and sprinkle on some extra cinnamon and clementine zest for good measure.

Ingredients

Hot Cocao

  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or another dairy-free substitute like light coconut milk, hemp or soy milk)
  • 1 1/2 tbs unsweetened cocao powder (not cocao powder)
  • 1 tbs honey (I'm aware that some vegans wouldn't consider honey vegan, so you can substitute that easily with agave nectar or maple syrup)
  • Juice of half clementine
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Coconut Whip Cream

  • 1 16oz can of coconut milk, chilled (you must use the full fat version)
  • 1 tbs sweetener such as coconut sugar, agave or honey
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Hot Cocao

  • Pour almond milk into sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Add cocao powder, honey (or other sweetener) and cinnamon.
  • Use a whisk to incorporate the cocao powder with almond milk. It will take some time, as it doesn't instantly dissolve.
  • You want to get the hot cocao up to approximately 112 degrees, carefully not to let come to a boil. You don't want to scald the almond milk.
  • Right before taking cocao off the heat, squeeze in the juice of half a clementine (you can add the juice of a whole clementine if you'd like, or just snack on it on the side).
  • (optional) Blitz mixture in a blender for a few seconds to get frothier and ensure all flavors are incorporated. You can also achieve this if you whisked the mixture on the stove.

Coconut Whipped Cream

  • Allow can of coconut milk to chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  • After opening, use a spoon to carefully scoop out the thick coconut cream off the top. Below this layer is a clear/slightly cloudy liquid you can reserve for other purposes (like a smoothie)
  • Add coconut cream to a stand mixture with whisk attachment and beat as you would with regular cream.
  • Add vanilla extract and coconut sugar (or some other sugar substitute).
  • Continue to mix on high until you get a whipped cream texture.

Notes

*I've made a lot of true whipped creams in my time and found the coconut cream, because it is more dense to begin with, does not become as light and airy as your standard, dairy based whipped cream.

That said, it had excellent flavor and the texture (while thicker) was the perfect touch to this hot chocolate.

Golden Goddess Juice

So the story goes, my father-in-law, at one point, was juicing so much that his skin turned orange from all the carrots he was consuming. Carrots get their orange color from beta-carotene, which our bodies turn into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient and supports healthy skin, the immune system, vision and more. If my father-in-law's skin turned orange due to carrots, it would be safe to assume he was full of Vitamin A (however all of this seems like a tall tale).

This is the first year I've really started to get into juicing. We've had a juicer sitting in a closet since my husband and I first moved in together a few years ago. I've always been more of a smoothie person in part for the added fiber, and part because clean up was easier. But lately, with this new year underway, I've found myself taking the few more extra minutes for cleanup to try juicing more. In fact, I think I've juiced more this month than I did all last year. Refocusing on my health and nutrition I've started adding juicing into my routine. I've found I really enjoy it and has been especially beneficial when I caught a cold and needed to boost my immune system. This January I challenged myself to avoid alcohol for #DryJanuary, so juicing has also been a great way to enjoy something other than water. 

Earlier this week I cut into a golden carrot I picked up from Winter Moon Roots. I bit into one of the spears, and I swear, it was the best carrot I've ever had. I've tried different colored carrots before and they always pretty much taste like any other carrot, but these golden carrots were just slightly sweeter than your standard orange carrot. It instantly got me thinking how great this carrot would be in a juice. 

Now, every time I think if juicing, particularly carrots, I think about my father-in-law's story about turning orange (I always picture that oompa-loompa shade of orange and laugh to myself). I wonder what color golden carrots would turn your skin. Gold, like King Midas' daughter? Then all of a sudden the recipe for this Golden Goddess juice came to me.

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With a blend of golden carrots, golden beets, golden apples and a medley of citrus and ginger I can't say that this delicious juice will turn your skin gold, but packed with vitamins and nutrients this juice will give you a burst of energy and certainly make you radiate and glow from the inside out. 

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With the perfect recipe in mind I couldn't wait to get to the Wayland Winter Farmers' Market this Saturday. Even snow wasn't going to stop me (my husband tried to advise against it, but you shouldn't get in the way of a woman a mission). This girl needed her roots!

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As usual, Winter Moon Roots delivered on some amazing produce. In addition to the golden carrots and beets for this recipe, I also grabbed some regular red beets and a watermelon radish to use in some other dishes this week. Michael, the owner, is super nice and hooked me up with some extras too. He saw one of my earlier blog posts this month and when I told him I was doing a special juicing recipe this week he gave me a few extra carrot bits (not pictured). My dog, Killian, was also really appreciative of the gesture; carrots are his favorite and of course he was begging me for snack when he saw what I was unpacking from the market.

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After the market, I stopped at the regular grocery store to pick up a few more things. I lucked out because they had organic golden delicious apples in stock, which is exactly what I wanted for this juice. When I returned home and finished unpacking, I got right to juicing (I've been waiting to try this for days)!

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The golden carrots produced a bright yellow juice that looked so refreshing, while the golden beets had a more orange/gold tint. Things were coming together just as I had imagined. An apple, half an orange, slice of lemon and inch of ginger and I was ready to down this concoction. It was the perfect contrast to the snowy weather outside. Bright and vibrant while the world outside was covered in a sheet of white.

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Ingredients

  • 1 jumbo sized or 3 normal sized golden carrots
  • 1 medium golden beet
  • 1 golden delicious apple
  • 1-2 inches fresh ginger root
  • Half of an orange, peeled
  • 1 slice of lemon, with rind

Instructions

  • Chop ingredients enough to make sure they fit through your juicer's chute (don't give yourself any more work than you need to).
  • Following the manufacturer's instructions, get your juicer ready with a glass large enough to collect all the juice.
  • Start juicing and drink immediately.

Notes

Use a mason jar as your glass. When you are done juicing, screw on a cap and give the juice a quick shake to mix up all the ingredients. Alternatively, give your juice a quick stir to blend the flavors.

Mushroom "Crab" Cakes

I am super excited to share this recipe with you! I'll admit I'm not someone who particular loves mushrooms. In most dishes if I had the option to have the meal with or without mushrooms it would be without. Then again, most of my memories of mushrooms were that of the slimy, rubbery type my father used to get on his pizza everyone and awhile. Lately, I have grown to like them more, and have appreciation for them if I'm out to dinner and they are served in a dish I order. But I've been secretly wanting to do more with them. Then I found Mycoterro Farm at the Winter Farmers' Market last week. I had just grabbed myself some coffee from my new favorite roasters, a local placed called Karma Coffee Roasters, and was heading to line up from my produce when I saw a sea of funky looking mushrooms set up and just had to learn more... 

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The man running the mushroom stand was exactly how you'd might imagine... I was taken back to my trip to Bonnaroo in 2006 and had to laugh. The first thing that caught my eye was a bizarre looking mushroom that resembled a sea urchin and I had to learn more. It's called a Lion's Mane mushroom. The guy (super nice and helpful but I didn't get his name) tells me that the mushroom has a taste similar to lobster, with a texture like crab.

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I had to have one and he provided me with some extra information on the mushroom, including a recipe for a "crab" cake. I took the recipe and tweaked it a bit and have to admit he was 100% right. I could fool anyone with these little bites; no one would know I was serving mushroom! For the most part I remained true to the recipe that came from Mycoterra Farms with the exception of adjusting some of the measurements of ingredients and using Greek yogurt in lieu of mayonnaise as I preferred to use the Greek yogurt as a healthy, fat-free (unprocessed) substitute.

An important note I learned was that raw, or undercooked, this variety of mushroom will taste quite bitter, and is best cooked slowly in a skillet or roasted. This recipe called for roasting the mushroom, so I followed suit. I chopped up the mushroom, perpendicular to the spines, as noted to retain the stringy seafood texture, tossed in some organic extra virgin olive oil and threw in my oven along with a large clove of garlic to roast at 350 degrees for 30-40 mins, turning part way.

Mushrooms retain a lot of water, so they shrink quite a bit when cooked. I was so concerned about overcooking these that I pulled them out on the early side. I could tell they could use some more cooking so after I started sweating some diced onion on the stove top, I added the lion's mane to cook another minute. I put the mushroom, garlic and onion mixture in a food processor and pulsed 3-4 times just to break up the chunks. In a separate bowl I started adding the rest of the ingredients for the "crab" cake: 2 tbs Greek yogurt, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 cup of bread crumbs, 1 egg, a generous amount of fresh chopped parsley, a splash of vinegar, splash of lemon and 1 tsp of paprika (and salt and pepper to taste). I gently folded in the the mushroom mixture with the other mixture to create the cake mix. All they needed was to be cooked!

I'd imagine that you could bake these in the oven, but to really get the true texture of a crab cake they need to be pan fried. My go-to cooking oils are grapeseed oil and coconut oil - both have a high smoking point, meaning they can withstand high heat, without breaking down/burning (and becoming a carcinogen). I was out of grapeseed oil, so I used coconut oil and it worked perfectly. If you've never cooked with coconut oil, I'd highly recommend it. While the oil itself smells like coconut oil, I don't find in imparts a coconut flavor to what you are cooking. (pic) Look at these beauties! Out of the pan, I simply blotted off the excess oil and sprinkled a touch of sea salt on top.

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For dipping (because every good grab cake needs a sauce) I whipped up a quick 4 ingredient remoulade-like sauce and served my creation with a Purple Kale salad with avocado and chickpeas (I'll add a like to that recipe once I post it).

Lion's Mane mushrooms are a vary rare variety, so the fact that I have access to them now this winter through the market means I'll be making and enjoying this recipe a few more times. I don't know about you, but I think this would make perfect game day grub for the big game a few Sundays from now! If you don't have access to lion's mane can you make this recipe? Absolutely! The unique qualities of the lion's mane do add that texture and slight taste you'd expect from a crab cake, but that's not to say you couldn't use this cooking method with a more common variety, like oyster mushrooms (which have a more mild flavor) and replicate something in the same vain. Go ahead! Be adventurous! As the "mushroom guy" said last week, "can you imagine the first person that decided it would be a good idea to try to eat one of these things?!" Curiosity can pay off. I'm very pleased I got over my aversion of mushrooms and discovered something so delicious to add to my cooking repertoire!  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound (2 pints) Lion's Mane Mushroom
  • 2 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbs Greek yogurt (organic mayonnaise can be used as a substitute)
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup organic bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 egg (you can easily make this recipe vegan by replacing this with a "flaxseed" egg)
  • splash of white or red wine vinegar
  • 2-3 tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • lemon juice from 1/4 lemon
  • 3-4 tbs coconut oil (or alternative) for cooking the cakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

For remoulade:

  • 1/4 cup non or low-fat organic Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs Dijon mustard (I used Trader Joe's Garlic Aioli Mustard)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • juice of 1/4 lemon

DIRECTIONS

  • Dice Lion's Mane mushroom into large pieces. Toss in olive oil and roast in oven, with garlic at 350 degrees for 30-40 mins. Turn halfway through. The mushroom will shrink substantially as the water cooks out.
  • When ready, put mushroom and garlic mixture in food processor and pulse 4-5 times until mix is broken down in smaller chunks.
  • In a separate bowl mix together the egg, soy sauce, Greek yogurt, lemon, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Use a whisk to evenly mix the wet ingredients. Add breadcrumbs, onions* and pulsed mushroom mixture.
  • *If you choose, you can saute the onions instead of using raw onions (this is optional). To do so, cook in a saute pan on medium-low with coconut oil, slowly sweating the onions until translucent (about 5-7 minutes).
  • Use an ice cream scoop or tablespoon (depending on the desired size of the crab cakes) to measure equal portions of crab cakes. With your hands, form into cakes.
  • Heat coconut oil in non-stick pan on medium heat and fry until lightly browned on both sides.
  • Finish with a touch of sea salt
  • For remoulade: Using a whisk, mix yogurt, mustard, parika, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

"Psychedelic" Salad

Maintaining a food blog is a lot like working out; if you take a break, it's hard to start again. I know a lot about both. I love cooking and photography; both allow me to explore my creative side. It was that enjoyment and my desire to share healthy recipes that got me to start this food blog. This past summer was really exciting. We started a small garden, started raising our own chickens and I found myself training for my first 5k! Despite my best intentions of sharing more recipes throughout the summer, as you can tell. It just didn't happen. Without trying to explain myself, or make excuses, I'm simply going to say that there is a lot of work that goes into pulling a post together after the dish is prepare, and frankly, I didn't make that a priority.

But, I'm back and resolved to start sharing recipes again! No surprise, with the start of the New Year, I'm refocusing on my health. I started the year off detoxing and eating completely clean. I haven't even had a drink since New Years Eve! I got back to a fitness regiment and signed up for a 15 class January yoga challenge. Last Saturday, after my 8am Vinyasa class I stopped by for the opening day of a Winter Farmer's Market hosted by a local garden center.

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This was exactly what I needed to start getting inspired again. I arrived about a half hour early, while the vendors were still setting up. It was a smart move because I got to scout out who was going to be there that week, and give myself enough time to line up for Red Fire Farm's stand, who sells amazing produce. Within a few minutes I scored some brussel sprouts, mixed lettuce, purple kale and butternut squash. I then quickly got in line to get some root vegetables from Winter Moon Roots.

I don't like to pick favorites, but of all the vendors that I've seen at the market since I started going two years ago, Winter Moon Roots has one of the most alluring set-ups. Their root vegetables range the full color spectrum, and the bright colors of the beets and carrots pull you in. Not only do they have a wide array of roots themselves (from parsnips to potatoes to turnips to radishes and more), they carry several varieties of each.

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Cleverly they slice open the produce to reveal the beauty inside. This week I couldn't help but pick up some cool looking "Psychedelic" or Chioggia beets. Inspiration for this winter salad instantly came after seeing the name and colors. I couldn't wait to go home and whip up my lunch. It's worth noting that the only thing "psychedelic" about these beets are their cool colors; they are not going to make you "trip"!

Salads are usually easy dishes to pull together, but when making a beet salad, you do have to account for the time it takes to roast your beets.  As soon as I returned home, I got my oven preheated, washed the beet I was going to use for the recipe, splashed it with some oil, wrapped it in foil and threw it in the oven. Cooking time varies greatly depending on the size of your beet, but I knew mine would need to roast for about 40 mins. Rather than wait around, that gave me plenty of time to unload my groceries, wash and prep my other produce for that week, and tidy up around the kitchen.

Around the 40 min mark , I checked the doneness of the beet with a knife. It should be easy to puncture, as if you were checking on a baked potato. Pull it out of the oven and let it cool slightly before handling. With a pairing knife, gently scrape the outside skin. It will peel away easily. Discard. Slice or chop your beet however you choose. My beet was large enough that I saved half of it for other salads later in week. As it finished cooling I started assembling the salad.

I started with super fresh mixed greens from the market - I especially like how there were varying shades of greens and some pops of reddish purple from the red leaf lettuce. To add another punch of color to play with the ruby colored beets, I shaved some red cabbage. I've talked a lot about beets, and while they inspired this salad, I didn't want them to be the star. No, they'd share the stage (or plate) with bright segments of orange.

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Oranges are one of those fruits that make getting through the winter a lot easier. They are a great reminder of warmer months ahead and packs a heavy punch of Vitamin-C, not to mention they taste delicious!  You'll have to feel comfortable with your knife skills to segment out your orange, but after watching a quick video, I realized how easy it was.

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Greens, beets, citrus.... I needed some fat! Yes, all salads need, no, deserve a healthy fat. Avocado was going to be the perfect healthy fat for this salad. It was going to have the perfect creaminess to pair with the citrus notes from the orange segments and the vinaigrette (besides, I am partial to avocado). Seeds are also a great source of healthy fat for salads, and since I also wanted some crunch, I sprinkled on some unsalted pumpkin seeds I had on hand.

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And lastly, the dressing; a bright citrus vinaigrette to bring all the flavors together. Dressing is way to easy to make, so if you are still looking for a resolution this year, try to start making homemade dressing. Classic vinaigrette use equal parts oil to vinegar or something else acidic. My dressings usually use more vinegar and citrus juices, which pack big flavor without a lot of calories, than oil making mine 1 part oil to 2 parts vinegar. But there is really no way to mess it up. I took some extra virgin olive oil and added it to a small mason jar. Then I squeezed the leftover orange juice, plus juice of a lemon to give it a rounded citrus flavor. Finally I added a splash of white wine vinegar and a touch of salt and pepper. I covered the jar and gave it a shake to emulsify the dressing.

When I make dressings, I'll make them in small batches. I only needed about 1-2 tablespoons for a single serving of my salad, leaving me with extra for other salads throughout the week.

So there you have it! A beautifully bright and balanced salad with earthy beets, sweet oranges and creamy avocado to put a smile on your face in the dead of winter!

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Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 medium to large size Chioggia beet, roasted and sliced
  • 2 organic navel oranges, segmented
  • 1 cup shaved red cabbage
  • 1/2 avocado, cubed
  • 1/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 4 cups of mixed organic greens of your choice

Citrus Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice from orange (after being segmented)
  • 1-2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • sea salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

Beets

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Clean beets, leaving skin on, wrap in foil.
  • Bake for 30-50 mins depending on size of beet until tender.
  • Remove and let cool. Once you can easily handle the beet, use a pairing knife to scrape of the skin.
  • Slice or chop to desired size.

Citrus Dressing

  • In a small mason jar, add all the ingredients for the dressing and shake vigorously to emulsify. Use the dressing throughout the week for future meals.

Assembling the salad

  • Add all the salad ingredients to a large bowl. Add 3-4 tbs of the dressing* and toss.
  • *If you are saving half of the salad for a meal later in the week, store without the dressing. Just use 1-2 tablespoons for a single serving.

Linguini with Asparagus & Hazelnuts

I love the simplicity of this recipe and how it allows asparagus, fresh from the farm share, stand out in harmony with a buttery and herbacious lemon sauce. Feel free to use whatever type of pasta you'd like, but I think the wide strands of linguini are the best vehicle for this particular recipe. If you are feeling more daring, I'd suggest making your own pasta. The dough itself, is quite easy (even easier with a food processor, but you can do by hand). The only thing  you really need is a pasta machine, to roll out the thin sheets of dough. I suggest looking at a Homegoods or Marshalls. I've seen them there for under $30 (its an investment that will last a life time).

I have somewhat struggled with dough recipes in the past - especially when I play around with the type of flour I use. I specifically had a bag of whole wheat flour, so I ran a search on the interent for a recipe calling for the same. My first hit was for a recipe by Lidia Bastianch. I didn't need to look any further; Lidia is a goddess in the Italian culinary world. If there was anyone who had a good recipe for pasta, then she did.

I had just walked in the door on Tuesday, after picking up the farm share. I ran to my Kitchen Aid mixer, pulled the recipe up on my iPhone and started measuring out my ingredients. As I opened my whole wheat flour I was pleasantly surprised to see my 1-cup measuring cup that had been missing for several months. It was a good omen. Flour, salt, olive oil and egg. How much simpler does it get? In just a few minutes I had pasta dough ready to work with.

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I wanted the recipe to be simple and focused on one key ingredient: the asparagus.

Before cooking my pasta (which would only take about 2 minutes being so fresh), I used the pot of boiling water to steam half of the bunch of asparagus for a few minutes, and then put in an ice bath to retain its bright green color.

For the sauce, I started melting 2 tablespoons of organic pastuered salted butter in a saute pan. I added sage and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to add some brightness to the dish. Meanwhile, I took a small handful of hazelnuts and toasted them in the oven. It wasnt a necessary step, but I like the deeper flavor it adds than just using raw nuts.

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I mentioned this was a simple recipe, but you have to be a good multi-tasker as everything happens so quickly. Hazelnuts were toasting, butter was melting, and the aspargus was steamed and ready. All there was left to do was through in my fresh linguini into a bot of boiling salted water.

Two minutes later, I pulled the pasta, add added to the pan of melted butter along with diced asparagus. Tossing the pasta in the pan of sauce allows the pasta to continue to absorb some of the flavors, while warming up the asparagus that was cooked in advance.

I split the pasta over two bowls and topped with fresh cracked pepper, shaved pecorio romano, and chopped toasted hazelnuts for myself.

Ingredients:

  • Linguini (measured for 2 servings)
  • A half bunch of asparagus
  • 2 tbs of salted butter
  • tsp of fresh sage or other herbs (optional)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 2 -3 tbs of hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shaved or 1/8 cup of grated pecorino romano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Fill up pot used for cooking pasta, halfway. Using a steaming basket, steam asparagus for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and put in ice bath to retain bright green color.
  • Add more water to pot, full enough to cook pasta.

Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream

The 2014 CSA from Warner Farms starts today! In a few hours I will be picking up my first week's haul of fresh produce. While most of you visit the site for recipe ideas, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share some other kitchen tips, like how to clean produce. I also have a yummy, dairy-free ice cream recipe to share.

Over the past few months I've tried to get into a better habit of prepping my food once I get home from the grocery store. I've let many whole pineapples and melons go bad in my time because I somehow never got around the dicing them up. Now, as soon as I return from the store with things like that, I'll prep and pop them in the fridge so the fresh fruit is ready to enjoy any time throughout the week. The same goes with washing fruit. I've come to learn that your fruit and veggies will keep longer when you clean them when you get home. Here is a really simple way to use Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to wash your fruit & veggies.

I've notice special produce cleaners in the grocery store before, but have never purchased one before. I was always accustom to just rinsing everything off with water. Unfortunately water doesn't really cut it when you want to wash away harmful pesticides (if you arent buying organic) and killing off germs from potential e-coli contamination or even all the people who have touched that piece of fruit from harvesting, to shipping to a food distributor to the grocery store, the other customers checking out that piece of fruit, to the person ringing up your order.

I don't want to gross you out, but really want to stress the importance of cleaning what you get from the grocery store BEFORE it goes into the refridgerator. The good news is, cleaning produce is easy and inexpensive. I've opted in for a more natual way, using RAW Apple Cider Vinegar. The most likley brand you will see in stores is made by Bragg.

I pick out a medium size bowl, fill with water, and then add at least 1 TBS of ACV. There are many how-tos out there that will tell you what ration of water to ACV to use, but truthfully, I just eye it, and pour in a few small "glugs". I'll place the produce in the bath for 5-10 minutes (usually while I am unpacking other groceries or tidying up the kitchen). During this time, the enyzmes in the unpasterized, raw, apple cider is working magic, killing off germs and bad bacteria. Above is a before and after picture of the water I used to clean the strawberries I got from Warner Farms on Saturday.

To be perfectly honest, I thought the berries looked very clean when I got them, and it was tempting to dive right into them without cleaning, but look at how much dirt came off in just a 5 minute soak!

After soaking in the water/ACV bath, rinse your fruit off with clean water, and let air dry before storing away in the refridgerator. You will feel ALOT better about what you are eating knowing that it is clean, plus it will last longer for you to enjoy.

This batch of strawberries was only going to be stored overnight because first thing Sunday morning I got going on a dairy-free version of Strawberry Ice Cream.

I love ice cream; who doesn't? Of course what none of us love is all the calories. While most of my favorite ice cream recipes are full of heavy cream, whole milk, egg yolks and sugar, I wanted to expand my repetoir and add a "clean" low calorie and dairy free option to the blog.

I had two cans of coconut milk in my cupbard (one light and one classic with full fat) that I decided would be the perfect base for the ice cream.

There is only a little cooking required and its very easy to adjust the sweetness as you see fit. Using the full quart of strawberries, I created a compote with dried dates and honey. While warm, I blended 3/4 of the mixture in a blender with the two cans of coconut milk and added the mixture to my ice cream maker.

The tub of the ice cream maker must sit in the freezer over-night before its ready to churn anything into ice cream. I had mine ready to go and poured the strawberry/coconut mixture straight in. After churing for about 20 mins, a soft-serve like consistancey of ice cream had formed, meaning it was almost ready for the feature.

With regular ice cream (using traditional cream) you have to be careful not to overchurn or else the ice cream will turn into more of a butter texture. There is no worries here with over churning a coconut milk based ice cream, but I wanted to make sure it was still soft so I could stir in the last 1/4 of strawberry compote.  I liked being able to have small chunks of strawberry in the ice cream, but if you prefer a smoother texture, just blend everything together from the get go.

Its tempting to dive right in, but you should let it sit the the freezer, in some sort of reusable container before you enjoy. The mixture turns rock hard once its frozen, so you'll want to give yourself 15-20 minutes to defrost when you are ready to eat. Top off with your favorite healthy toppings like almond slivers and raw cocao nibs for the chocolate lover in you.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 13.5oz can of organic coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1 13.5oz can of organic coconit milk (light)
  • 5 pitted dried dates chopped
  • 1/3 cup honey (more if you want more sweetness)
  • 1 quart of fresh strawberries

Directions

  • Set small pot to medium heat. Add chopped strawberries, dates and honey and let cook down to almost a syrup constitency (10-15 mins). Use the back of a spoon or potato masher to break up the strawberries to smaller pieces if you are planning to mix in some of the compote into the base.
  • Take 3/4 of the mixer and place in blender with both cans of coconut milk. When you open the cans the "fat" will have risen to the top, with the clear coconut liquid on the bottom, scrap all into the blender. Blend until smooth. You can add all of the compote mixture if you do not like "chunks" in your ice cream.
  • Place mixture into ice cream maker for about 20 minutes or until it starts looking like soft-serve. Mix in anything you want to add with a spatula at this point (remaining compote, nuts, etc).
  • Let harden in the freezer at least 20 minutes before digging in.

Radish Avocado & Farro Salad

After a long winter, and unseasonably cold Spring, I am so grateful for the weather to be improving. I could have done without the deluge today, but I am sure my garden loved it.

I've been on a bit of a "hiatus" with the blog, but there has been plenty going on at, what now I refer to as, the "Turner Homestead". Most of our weekends have been spent in our backyard, on some exciting projects.

The Garden:

In late March I ordered seeds from Johnny's Seeds, which had a great organic selection. Things were looking promising, with kale, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and peppers sprouting fast.

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In April we "broke grown" and built a raised garden bed to start growing some of our own produce this summer. We have tried to grow tomato plants in pots before, but before we ever had a chance to enjoy their fruit, a pesky squirrel or chipmunk would ravage the juicy ripe tomatoes.

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I was really excited to be growing produce from seed, but once we translanted the little sprouts into the garden bed, many stopped suspended in an infant state. We suspect it was because of the weather, but I'm sure it also had something to do with our little experience in growing vegetables.

With such a short growing season in New England, we purhcased some addtional plants, that were more mature so we'd at least get something out of it. However, in the last week or so, some of what I started from seeds have started growing like crazy. Our kale and boston lettuce is going through a growth spurt and the Rudolph Radishes I planted are ready to pick!

This week for lunch I enjoyed a delicious salad served in a pita pocket using fresh radish straight from my own garden. There is truely something special about eating food your grow yourself. Thats what I love about having a dedicated vegetable garden. I can grow what I want, how I want it, organically, without pesticides and enjoy it FRESH. I am the only one who is handling it before it gets on the plate.

Backyard Chickens:

Speaking of fresh, it doesnt stop at the garden. This year we got chickens. Yup! You heard right, we are raising our own flock of egg

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laying hens. Most of our time the last month or so has been dedicated to builidng a coop for the girls. They've just officially moved out of the brooder we had inside, to the custom coop at the end of May and are LOVING their new home.

You probably have a few questions:

Are you crazy? Maybe, but I'm okay with being a crazy chicken lady. I'll have the freshest eggs on the block!

Are you getting eggs yet? No. They are still too young. And sorry they do not still look like this (warning: the next image may be too cute to handle):

You'd be amazed in just how fast these things grow! I swear, the first couple weeks, I'd come home from work and they'd look totally different than they had that same morning. They are 9 weeks now and resemble mini-chickens. Here is the same girl, all black.

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8 week backyard chickens

If you want to see more pictures of the chicks, you can head to the Mindful Glutton Facebook page. You can expect I will have some amazing recipes using the freshest eggs you can imagine come August. But lets get back to those RADISHES.

A Delicious Radish Recipe:

If you haven't tried radishes, or are looking for ways to use them, salads are perfect. They are slighly peppery, crisp like an apple, and add a great crunch (not to mention packed with awesome vitamins and nutriets).

Ever wonder what makes a perfect salad? For me, its about fresh mixed greens, something crunchy, a creamy fat, and a tasty vinegrette. Chances are, at anytime, I will have all those "essentials" at home. For this healthy lunch option, I employ organic mixed greens, avocado (radish's best friend), some leftover farro I had from earlier in the week, and a tangy soy ginger vinegrette I picked up a few weeks ago.

This lunch comes together so quickly. After warming up the farro in the microwave, I squeeze in some fresh lemon juice, and toss it, with the rest of my salad ingredients into a bowl. Sometimes I will make my own simply vinegrette with a flavored vinegar and olive oil, but I've come to love this store bought dressing,

Tessemae's Soy Ginger Dressing

. I tried a sample at Whole Foods and loved it. They keep their ingredients simple, which I appreciate, and stay away from icky articifial ingredients. I cant speak to all their products, but this one has no preservatives and I can pronounce and know all the indredients listed. I suppose I could make my own, but love this as a quick go-to.

The salad itself is small, so I serve it in pita pocket. My favorite right now is

Joseph's Flax, Oat Bran, and Whole Wheat

version, thats low in calories, but filling. You can certainly opt out, or use half a pita, and eat the rest of the salad as a side.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of organic mixed greens
  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • 2 small radishes, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup of cooked farro
  • squeeze of lemon (optional)
  • 1 tbs of your favorite vinegrette
  • 1 pita pockets

Instructions

  • Mix salad, radishes, avocado, farro, vinaigrette, and squeeze of lemon into bowl and toss. Serve as a salad, or stuff inside of a pita pocket and enjoy.

Garlic & Herb Shrimp

Maintaining a food blog is a lot of work, especially on top of having a busy job. There is quite a lot going on at work, and even though most of the Irish-inspired recipes I planned out for this week are rather simple, it still takes some time to prep everything and have daylight to shoot it all.

Thankfully I had a really quick and easy recipe for Garlic & Herb Dublin Bay Prawn planned out to recreate.

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Fishing towns are scattered all throughout Ireland's coast so I'm dedicating several of this weeks posts to seafood. Dublin Bay Prawns, also commonly known as langoustine, are very similar to look and taste to shrimp.

Prawn and shrimp are in the same zoological class but prawn are generally a bit larger. For whatever reason prawn/langoustine are not common in the states. In fact, I think the first time I had seen a langoustine was when my husband and I were honeymooning in Portugal.

Short story long, instead of using Dublin Bay prawn, I picked up a half pound of shrimp.

For the best flavor I could have purchased them with shells (they flavor the sauce), but to keep it simple I grabbed the peeled and deveined.

So here is what you need:

Ingredients: 1/2 pound of shrimp 2 tbs butter (Kerrygold is a great choice) 3-4 tbs of fresh chopped parsley or other fresh herbs 3 cloves of garlic minced Juice from half a lemon 1/4 cup dry white wine Angel hair pasta (enough for 2)

How it all comes together The longest thing you need to wait for is the water to boil for the pasta. Other than that, be ready to move quick.

While that pot of water is coming to a boil, start prepping your shrimp. Rinse off and pat dry.

In a bowl mix the lemon juice, minced garlic, herbs and the 2 tbs of soften butter in a bowl.

Add the shrimp and massage the butter/herb mixture into the shrimp. Do not leave in this marinade for longer than 30 minutes because the acidity of the lemon will cook the shrimp before it even hits a sauté pan.

When the water looks close to a boil, get a sauté pan set over medium heat.

(Here is where you need to move fast).

Drop the shrimp with marinate into pan and start to sauté. They only need 1-2 minutes per side.

Now drop your angel hair into the boiling water. Check the instructions to cook until al Dente (a slight bite).

Once shrimp has color on both sides, add about 1/4-1/2 cup of white wine to the pan and let reduce for a minute.

Drain the pasta and add to the saute pan. Let cook in pan for another minute. The pasta will soak up all those flavors.

Divide to among two bowls and top with a few fresh herbs.

Ideally enjoy with a glass of white wine, especially if you've had a long day.

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Guinness Mussels with Irish Soda Bread

My anticipation for Spring is at it's highest now that daylight savings has arrived. I'm so looking forward to longer days, warmer weather and the fresh flavors the season has to bring. It's all worth celebrating and St Patick's Day couldn't come at a better time. I, myself, am not Irish, but I've married into an Irish family. Now, as a Turner, I think its important to learn a few things about it. Food is one of the best ways to immerse yourself into a culture and what better time to explore Irish cuisine than the week of St Patrick's Day!

So what exactly is Irish cuisine? Even when you look at the menus of "authentic" Irish pubs around Boston, I see "quesadillas" and "chicken Parmesan" as often as Shepard's Pie. It's certainly not "Irish" just because it has Guinness or whiskey (although a the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes I made last year were some of the best I've made). And  surely, there is more to Irish food than Corned Beef and Cabbage and Bangers and Mash (which I love).

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The Irish have never really been known for their food, not at least the way the French, Italian, German, Spanish etc are. The notion really surprises me because the wealth of ingredients available is incredible. Here is what I've learned so far:

  •  it isn't all about the potato ( it only arrived in the late 16th century)
  • the immaculate green pastoral lands make for great grazing grounds for cattle, sheep and other livestock
  • great grass fed cattle make for some of the worlds best butter, cheeses and milk
  • it's an island (duh) so don't forget about seafood
  • Irish cooking is simple and from the heart. Use what you have (think fresh and local)

This first recipe I'm sharing is all about simple, fresh, and "local" ingredients. The whole meal came together in about a half an hour (fresh baked bread included!)So let's get to it. Irish Soda Bread is a considered a classic. If you are planning on making any Irish meals this week, I beg you to try your hand at making your own bread instead of buying a pre-made loaf (or even worse, a "mix").

Irish Soda bread requires 4 ingredients and chances are you have 3 of them in your pantry already. All you need to buy at the grocery store is buttermilk.

I would have love to get some fresh buttermilk from the local farmer's market, but I didn't see any so I opted for some organic milk at the grocery store. The only thing adding flavor to this bread is the buttermilk, so it was important to me to get some higher quality milk (hormone/antibiotic free).

Preheat the oven to 400 and get ready to get your hands dirty. You will be glad you didn't dig out your mixer (one less thing to clean).

Get your biggest bowl and fill it with the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix to combine. Then make a well in the middle of the flour to pour the buttermilk into. Then, as seen, slowly pour in the buttermilk into the well.

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Then, using one (clean) hand, slowly start mixing the flour into the buttermilk. The dough will come together very quickly. It will feel sticky, but shouldn't feel wet. Once mixed, knead a few times. The dough should feel pillow-y.

In this shot, I was testing out a stone ground flour. I've made this recipe before with traditional all purpose flour, and I could tell be the texture the mix just wasn't right. The flour is much more course and I have a feeling the stone ground flour was much heavier, per cup, than the ap flour.

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 No worries, even with a little blunder, it took 5 minutes to start from scratch and get it right. For the heck of it I decided to bake both. The stone ground came out way too dry. I learned the hard way your can't replace alternative flours cup for cup.

Before popping in the oven, use a sharp knife to cut an "X" on the top and brush with a bit of olive oil or buttermilk for color. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

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At this point you are 30 minutes away from a delicious Irish meal! Crack a beer and kill some time (the mussels only will take 10 minutes).

Seafood goes far beyond Fish & Chips - you have Dublin prawn, salmon, cod, mussels and more! The market had some great looking Maine mussels harvested the day before so I knew I wanted to put together a dish around them. I had seen a Guinness inspired dish online I wanted to try to recreate.

The first thing you must do when you get home is to place the mussels in a large bowl of cold water. Add in a few tablespoons of cornmeal. This will help clean the mussels. Essentially, as they eat the corn meal, they get rid of the sand and other stuff that already was in their stomach (yuk, I know). Set them in the fridge (in water) until ready to cook.

A great mussel dish needs a great broth, and a great broth needs great flavors. This one starts off with a classic mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery (ironically in the colors of the Irish flag).

Get a deep dished sauté pan set over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of butter (I used Kerrygold). Add the finely diced veggies and begin to sauté for 3-4 minutes. You don't want to burn/caramelize them, just slowly sweat them.

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Get ready for the good stuff. Pour in a bottle of Guinness along with a 1/2 cup of chicken or fish stock to deglaze the pan. Add a bay leaf and turn up the heat to bring to a simmer and let reduce by half. Turn down the heat a little and add the half cup of cream. You want to let that simmer and reduce by half again, but need to watch closely that you don't scald the milk. Be sure not to have the heat up too high.

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Now you can add your cleaned, rinsed mussels to the pot. Cover and let steam for 3-4 minutes. The mussels are ready when they open. If they are a few that didn't open, remove and discard. Those were dead before you cooked them so do not try to eat them!

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I love serving this family style and let everyone serve themselves. By now, the Irish Soda bread would have plenty of time to cool. Cut several slices and serve with softened Kerrygold butter. The bread is perfect for sopping up all that delicious creamy Guinness broth.

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As you would pair a nice red wine with a Cog-Au-Vin, it would only seem right to enjoy a pint of cold Guinness along side the Guinness Mussels. That is just how my husband and I had this dinner. I have to admit, there is something really special and romantic about a meal like this. It really amazes me how a few simple, good quality ingredients can come together to make something so delicious.

Fudgey Flourless Avocado Brownies

If you made it this far then congratulations! I know the idea of avocados in baked goods sounds crazy but trust me you may never go back to your old brownie recipe! The avocado makes these super moist and fudgey, and I promise you cannot taste the avocado.

There are several substitute ingredients in this recipe. I try to eat as well as I can, but every once and a while you need to indulge. Even when I indulge I like to try to be somewhat "healthy". You know, have your cake and eat it too (a foodies favorite cliche).

The first obvious substitute is avocado. Most brownie recipes call for canola oil or butter. This recipe uses avocado as the fat...but it's a healthy fat! Seriously though, over the last few months I've found myself removing canola and vegetable oil from my kitchen. I also use a lot less butter. We are so used to using ingredients because of the flavor it gives food, but you won't miss it here.

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The next substitute is almond flour for regular white wheat. Almond flour is used in many gluten free recipes. I'm not gluten free, but I thought it would be good to add a few gluten free recipes to my repertoire. I don't have anything against regular all purpose flour, but it also doesn't have any nutritional value.

Nut flour on the contrary, has healthy fats and plenty of Vitamin E. It also has a low glycemic index as it is high in protein and low in carbs and sugar.

Just so you are aware, almond flour is very calorie dense, so just because there are some healthy benefits with this alternative, doesn't mean you should eat a half a sheet of brownies in one sitting.

The last substitute I used was coconut sugar. I had seen this in the baking aisle of one of my favorite stores and it sparked my curiosity. With further research I've found there a few notable benefits of swapping out your standard sugar for coconut sugar. First, coconut sugar has a low glycemic index (35) and doesn't cause blood sugar levels to spike as would traditional sugar. Secondly, regular sugar doesn't contain any vital nutrients and therefore is consider empty calories. Coconut sugar, on the other hand, retains quite a bit of nutrients such as Iron, Zinc, Calcium and Potassium.

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Now, calorie for calorie coconut sugar is the same as regular sugar. Although I find it to be a better choice, on a day to day basis I keep added sugars out of my diet - regardless of the type of sweetener. Now to get these brownies started!

First you need to melt your chocolate chips. You can either do so in a microwave or over a double boiler. Pay close attention so that the chocolate doesn't seize. If you use the microwave method, heat for 20-30 seconds at a time, and stir. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.

Next, crack your 4 eggs into a mixing bowl along with the coconut sugar. Use a hand mixer or whisk to beat the eggs and sugar together. I'd let the hand mixer go for about a minute to help incorporate air into the eggs and sugar.

To the egg and sugar mixture add the flesh of two ripe avocados. Use the hand mixer again to make sure the avocado gets really incorporated into the mix. Once you know the avocado is blended in, slowly add in the melted chocolate.

Once combined, stir in the almond flour and cocoa powder. When I made mine I also added a tbs of instant espresso powder. Its a trick I use whenever I bake anything chocolate - it adds a really nice depth to the chocolate flavor. Unlike most baking recipes, you won't need to worry about over mixing since the almond flour is gluten free.

The avocado brownie batter is ready to be poured in the pan. One last thing before I put my batch in the oven was to stud the top with a small handful of chocolate chips.

The original recipe said to bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees but I found I needed 30-35 minutes. I'd check at the 25 minute mark and keep a close eye on it.

When they are ready they will fill your kitchen with the aroma of chocolate. It's hard to keep your hands off these but it's EXTREMELY important to let them cool completely (at least 20 minutes). The longer the better. Be sure to refrigerate leftovers. To be honest, I thought they tasted better the next day being chilled.

I took the batch into work the next day because I knew I'd eat them all if I left them at home. People LOVED them!

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