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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.

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.