A park so big we had to visit twice!
A while back I shared an old post about Beth and I hiking at Minuteman National Historical Site in Lexington, MA. Well, this weekend, considering it is the long Labor Day Weekend, and one where most people in this area are quite anxious to get out of the house after 5+ months of being quarantined, we decided to stay local for our hike and go back to the same park, but start in a different place. We visited the Battle Road Trail, starting at Meriam’s Corner in Concord to the eastern border of the park in Lexington. Last time we parked on Liberty Street and walked over the North Bridge and around the North Bridge Visitor’s Center grounds and buildings. Either way, it’s a beautiful place to be. We did notice though, that today there were a LOT of bicycles out on the somewhat narrow paths. Even at 7:30 am we were running into hikers, riders, and runners constantly. Was it because of the holiday weekend? Was it because college students are back in the area and looking for things to do? Not sure, but it is something to be prepared for.
Nowhere to hide!
That’s the sign we saw as we started our walk. It was still early, geese were flying overhead, and the sun hadn’t quite scared the moon out of the sky yet. We started out in the chill of the day and found ourselves walking along a dirt path beside fields of sunflowers, jewelweed, and dewy grass. It was definitely peaceful, and the trail is a great one. Here and there we found ourselves walking on wooden bridges over marshy areas, but mostly it’s solid gravel and dirt paths. Educational signs informed us that during the Revolutionary War, farmers hid along these fields, just within the wooded areas, and the British soldiers found themselves stuck on an open road, or an open field when they were ambushed by these farmers. It struck us how little has changed in this park. There are houses here and there, but some have been here since the 1700s or earlier. And the farmland is still there.
Farmland, paths through the woods, and pigs!!!
As we walked, we ended up in a forested area and discovered horse chestnuts covering the ground. We saw the moon off to our left as it was slowly fading. I’d read about pigs along the trail so we kept a watchful eye and weren’t disappointed. Pigs are such social creatures and were definitely thrilled to run out and meet us, grunting and chatting with each other. We thought 4 or 5 were a lot of pigs til we discovered the party the others were having at the east end of the field. They had a full shaded lounge area to root in. We spent quite a while just watching them. If you hike this area with children, be aware of the electric fence next to the pig area. It’s no doubt for their safety, but we weren’t sure which fence was “live” and made sure to avoid them all!
Pig Parties and a True Pig Pile
We continued past the area where we first discovered the pigs and suddenly heard more squealing and grunting. Wow! When I tell you there were a lot of pigs, the picture will prove it. And the smell stayed with us for a ways past their party, but they’re just so cute! Clean, friendly, and accustomed to random people walking up and talking to them. They didn’t pay any attention to us at all. It was a perfect day to view them though; a bit cool, no breeze, and plenty of shade for them to laze about.
The Road Not Taken
In our case, the fork in the road that we happened on was NOT the one mentioned in Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. In fact, our fork was merely a path separated by a little patch of ground. In the end, whether we took one side or another, we ended up on the same sunlit boardwalk through the woods.
All walks must come to an end
It was a beautiful day for a walk, and here and there we saw the telltale signs of autumn, orange leaves, fields tilled, and the coolness of “back-to-school” mornings. The moon in the sky overhead told us that the sun is starting to rise a bit later each day, and soon our early morning Saturday hikes will need to become afternoon hikes and might include a bit of snow. But hopefully, we’ve got a few months ahead of us that we’ll still be able to explore without wearing boots and winter coats. Fingers crossed!
We ended up walking about 2 1/2 miles on this hike. It went by fast and was probably one of our easier hikes. If you’re looking for a historical walk, with mostly field and forest to wander through, this is a must in the Boston area. But consider planning ahead and catching some of the historical homes in the area as well, like Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott’s home, The Wayside, next to the Orchard House, and lived in by Nathaniel Hawthorne among others, and The Old Manse, where both Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson lived. If you’re into literature at all, it’s an amazing opportunity to walk along the same paths, fields, and streets that so many creative, thoughtful, groundbreaking people lived.
This whole week has felt like Fall, with mornings being a bit cooler, the sun setting a bit earlier. And I’ve been in the mood for soups, stews, and the scent of spices on an autumn day. Is pumpkin spice coffee back in stock at Dunkins? This resulted in my desire to develop a healthy, filling recipe that would be great to come home to after a cool afternoon walk in the woods. It’s healthy, vegan, contains lots of fiber and protein, and once you make it you’ll look for reasons to make it again!
Red Lentil and Wild Mushroom Stew over Mashed Potatoes
This recipe was inspired by a recipe I discovered on The Minimalist Baker; made with green lentils, cremini mushrooms and some traditional stew flavorings. But I had red lentils in my cupboard, no doubt leftover from my experiment with dry dal when I was reminiscing about social studies classes back in high school. But I did a bit of digging and when I discovered the difference between red and green lentils (and red is what I had on hand) I took a detour to include curry spices and lemon. I hope you like it.
Ingredients for Stew:
- 3 TB coconut oil
- 1 1/2 cups rehydrated dried wild mushrooms*
- 2 TB nutritional yeast
- salt and pepper to taste2/3 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 1 – 2 TB chopped fresh thyme
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 3/4 cup mushroom broth (from rehydrating the mushrooms, see below)
- 1/4 TB turmeric
- 1/4 TB cinnamon
- 1/2 TB ground coriander
- 1 1/2 TB curry powder
- 1 rounded TB minced garlic
- 1/2 TB grated fresh ginger
- 1/3 cup petite diced tomatoes
- 1/2 TB fresh lemon juice
- Mashed potatoes (however you like to make them! This could also be good over rice)
- Heat 2 TB coconut oil over medium heat in a pan that has a bit of depth to it. I used an enameled cast iron casserole. Once it’s hot, add the chopped mushrooms and nutritional yeast. Saute for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add thyme, lentils, vegetable and mushroom broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add spices, and continue to heat on low for another 5 – 10 minutes, stirring periodically to make sure everything is well blended. In the last few minutes, stir in the diced tomatoes, lemon juice and the final TB of coconut oil. Add additional mushroom broth if needed to keep the consistency of the stew thick, but not clumpy.
- While the stew is cooking, you can boil your potatoes and put together your favorite recipe. I make mine with fat-free cream, salt and pepper, but if this is to remain a vegan recipe, you might want to try a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of vegan butter.
- Allow the stew to sit for a few minutes when it’s cooked through. This gives you time to finish your potatoes! To serve, place a scoop of potatoes on a plate, ladle the lentil and mushroom stew over the top, and garnish with a bit more thyme and perhaps a shake or two more of nutritional yeast! Enjoy.
Rehydrating dried mushrooms
I was housesitting for a friend recently, and she was cleaning out her pantry, so offered that I could take whatever I liked from her collection of “need to get rid of it items” on the dining table. Amazingly enough, she had a bit container of dehydrated wild mushrooms. I grabbed a baggie full and was determined to find a use. That’s where this recipe originated. Rehydrating mushrooms is simple:
- Place your dried mushrooms in a large bowl, and pour hot water over them sufficient to cover. Since they’re so light, you may need to set another bowl inside to keep them below the surface of the water. I let mine sit in the warm water for two hours.
- When you’re done (no doubt in less than two hours!) strain the mushrooms. Retain the broth; you’ll need it for the above recipe. But its also be a nice addition to any vegetable soup, dip, or any other dish that requires broth.
- Make sure to strain the mushroom broth through a coffee filter before using. This will remove all the sand and grit. Set aside one cup of broth for the above recipe. You can freeze the rest for later. I actually ended up adding a bit more brother at the end so don’t put it in the freezer too soon!
*The difference between green lentils and red lentils:
I have red lentils in my pantry. Not sure why that’s the color I buy, or receive as gifts, but it is. And I’d never done anything creative with them. I decided to do a bit of research to find out the difference between greed and red and stumbled upon the differencebetween.net website. Such a great place to find information. Below is the basic information I discovered:
- Green lentils come in two varieties, Red come in more than two.
- Green lentils remain firm when cooked, red disintegrate more readily when cooked
- Green lentils are more expensive than red
- Green lentils come from France, red are usually found in Indian or Middle Eastern dishes and come in a variety that many times describe their color: crimson, red chief, petite golden, canary gold.
- There are also brown lentils, the most common lentils, usually found at most grocery stores.
See the things you learn when you look things up?
If you liked this post, I hope you’ll read a few of my others, and leave your comments below!
- Apple, Bean, Ham and Turkey Soup with Honey Green Chile CornBread
- Crispy Pork with Char Siu Sauce and memories of ChinaTown
- Curried Autumn Squash Soup and A Fall Day at the Beach
- Two birthdays, a Hot Air Balloon Ride and a Tropical Escape
- Battle Road Hike and a delicious Lentil Stew for later!
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