fruit

Our Annual Apple Picking Trip

Since about 4 years ago Dane and I have enjoyed an apple picking trip at Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, MA. This year was no exception and we were joined by my co-worker Carlton and his lovely fiance Felicia for a day of apple picking, apple cider donuts, and hayrides.

Normally we get a nice, crisp, slightly chilly fall day. Not this year. It was about 78 degrees with 90% humidity making it sweltering outside. I wore shorts and a tank top, which was definitely a first for me on an apple picking trip. Usually I have layers so I can add things as I go throughout the day.

I’m an apple perfectionist. Constantly on the hunt for the perfect, ripest, reddest apples I can find in the orchard. We had 4 bags of apples to fill (8 if you include Carlton and Felicia’s too), so I had my work cut out for me.

I trained Dane well. He’s become a great apple inspector.

And he has a good eye for the perfect apples at the top of the trees. Between the two of us we made short work of our 4 bags.

Come on, look at that apple. Shiny, red, and delicious. We really are an awesome apple picking team.

After we pretty much finished picking, the four of us headed over to the farm store for cider donuts, apple cider and caramel apples. Well, the caramel apple was only for me. I just can’t help myself in the fall. Caramel apples call to me.

Carlton and Felicia had no problem getting their bags filled up quickly too.  After our donuts and cider we have the energy to venture on a hayride over to the pear area. It was only a row or two, much less than the apples, and people had definitely picked the pears over. We did manage to find some good ones near the tops of the trees, which I climbed to make sure we got our choice.

We made the best of the heat and all our climbing during the day. We did go in late September, which is earlier than we normally would, but did not expect such a warm day. It felt amazing to turn on the a/c in the car when we got on the road home.

And at the end of the day we had a huge haul of apples and pears. Enough for plenty of pie and apple crisp!


Here’s hoping for a cooler day next year, still filled with our friends and fun!

Orangeade Recipe

Who’s completely sick of winter? ME!

I was totally feeling stuck inside and done with the cold and wind when I decided to make myself a little treat that reminded me of summer and fun. Orangeade! This came about because I happened to have fresh oranges and was in a cranky mood about the weather. Nothing like a citrusy drink to pick me up, and it goes to show what you can do with things on hand and a little imagination.

Orangeade

  • 5 fresh oranges
  • 1 liter of sparkling apple or tangerine drink from Trader Joe’s OR Sprite/Sierra Mist
  • Fresh fruit for garnish (apple, orange, cherries, whatever you want)

Roll each orange before cutting it to release some of the juices. It really does make a difference with how much juice you can get out of it.

Slice each orange down the middle and squeeze each half with one hand while using your other hand as a strainer to catch any pits before they end up in the juice. You can always just strain all of the juice afterwards to if you prefer to do that.

Once you’ve squeezed all your oranges, add the sparkling juice or soda for some fizz.

Cut up your fruit and drop into the pitcher. Save some for a garnish when you serve. I used granny smith apple slices because I love the apple taste when it’s soaked in the orange juice.

And that’s it! Pretty simple and seriously made me so happy to have a nice tropical tasting drink on a dreary day. Also, totally going to make this again and add some rum or tequila over the summer for a cocktail.

Cheers!

Homemade Apple Sauce

After we went apple picking we had a ton of apples, and wasted no time using them. I got home from work one evening, and Dane was in the kitchen cooking. He decided to make applesauce, which neither of us had made before. He got the idea from a recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook (which I got for my bridal shower), but then just decided to wing it and make it to our tastes (he doesn’t always follow instructions well).

Apple Sauce

  • 4 or 5 apples, peeled and cored
  • about 1/4- 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cut the cored apples into quarters (they cook faster that way). Add the water to a medium saucepan, and put in all the apple pieces. Over medium heat, cook the apples until they begin to break down.

This took a while, and we actually started to think they weren’t going to ever get soft, but have a little patience and they will. Use a wooden spoon to break them up once they begin to break down to your desired consistency. We like a few chunks of apples still in the sauce.

Once at the consistency you like, remove from the heat and add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir it up and enjoy! You can have it warm, or chill in the refrigerator before you eat it.

all done!

Other recipes called for orange zest, lemon juice, allspice, and a variety of other things. I think the best thing about this recipe is you can really add whatever you want to flavor it the way you’d like. If you want to get crazy, you can try it with pears too. If you’re feeling sassy, maybe even add some craisins. It’s up to you! Enjoy!

Apple Picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchards

Every year we make it a point to go apple picking in the fall. There’s nothing quite like those fresh apples from the orchard. We planned our trip this year about a month in advance, which meant a month of excitement leading up to the weekend. It doesn’t take much to make us happy, and I had big plans for those apples we were going to pick.

The past few years we’ve gone to Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, MA. There’s always some apples to pick, and afterward we enjoy some cider donuts, caramel apples, and cider. Plus, the all important hay ride. On a weekend in October, it was definitely busy at the orchard but some patience will get you through while having fun.

We went with a group of friends, which always make the trip more fun, including Tasha and Clint who had never been apple picking before! We brought them into the apple picking world.

We spent a while walking through the orchards, climbing to the top of the tree to get the perfect apple, and trying to get a few of every type of apple that was offered.

Then we found this crate. And my immediate inclination was to climb in it, just to see if I would fit. I did, and was actually quite comfortable. Then Dane decided to join me, and it was a bit of a process.

All for this picture…

We also learned a few things while we were there. I’ll leave it to Scott to show you.

After a long day at the orchard, we headed back to Becca’s house for dinner and dessert. And I made these little guys.

And they were really yummy. I had a mini apple pocket pie mold from Williams-Sonoma that I wanted to try, and it worked great! These little guys were the perfect end to an apple filled day.

Honey Pot Hill is fun, but I will warn you that during October on a weekend you definitely need to have some patience. There were crowds and lines at the concession area with the cider donuts and hot dogs were really long. We were in no rush, so we took our time and had fun with it. In the orchards there is more than enough space for everyone, and the first weekend in October had more than enough apples to go around.

We had a ton of apples coming home, and you’ll see more posts coming up with our apple recipes!

Vermont and Blackberry Picking

A few weeks ago Dane and I headed up to Vermont to visit our bestest friends Sam and Jason in Vermont (while they were home visiting from Minneapolis). They are originally from the Northeast Kingdom (a.k.a. almost Canada) and the area is absolutely beautiful and in the middle of nowhere. Perfect place to relax.

We spent most of our time relaxing with their families and enjoying being outside. I got to learn about sugaring (how you make maple syrup) and am really hoping to make it up to VT again for sugaring season so I can see the process in action.

Sam’s mom mentioned the fresh blackberry patch nearby. She barely finished her sentence before we all hopped in the car to head down to the wild blackberry patch. How much better can it get than fresh wild blackberries?

Maybe about a mile away in a pretty uninhabited area of VT we all picked up our buckets and started picking. Sam’s mom is a champion picker and had her container filled in about 5 minutes. The rest of us were having too much fun with it and we took a bit longer.

Oh and we noticed some of the patch was bent and crushed. Which Sam’s mom mentioned was just because of the bear. No big deal.

Wait, WHAT?! The bear?!

Yes, the bear. He comes around, but we’d totally hear him if he was coming… probably.

Whatever, back to picking.

We ended up with a TON of blackberries and barely made a dent in the patch. There were so many! We had a blast picking them all together.

And then we ate blackberries for days and days. And they were absolutely delicious!

A Sweet Ending to a Cheesy Dinner

After our macaroni and cheese dinner, I decided to be all lovey and mushy for our guests. It was time to break out the fondue pot and melt some chocolate for dipping! I picked up some yummy snacks that would be perfect for dipping, and started the prep.

Side note: The fondue set is from my niece who gave it to me for Mother’s Day when she was almost 1 years old. Or at least that’s what my sister tells me. I have a feeling my sister, Jenna, might have actually picked it out, but who knows. Abby can be very demanding when she wants something.

So back to melted chocolate. I washed and cut strawberries, broke up some pieces of graham cracker, cut pound cake into cubes, and sliced some banana to make a pretty arrangement for dipping. I melted the chocolate, and here’s the key, it was chocolate MADE for melting. If you buy some Hershey bars, you will not get the rich dippable chocolate you think of for fondue. I bought mine in bags at a craft store in the baking aisle. You can also find the chocolate wafers online at sites like Amazon.

Of course we couldn’t just have chocolate fondue. We had some champagne, so we popped open a bottle and served it with fresh strawberries. So yummy.

Then we were ready for some fun. With champagne glass in hand, we got to the dipping. There were a few times that our fruit or cake went overboard and we had to do a search and rescue to find it in the chocolate. I would recommend keeping a spoon or two handy, just in case that happens.

The boys, Dane and Derek, eventually started to play with their food and made sandwiches and went shish kabob style for their dipping, which was entertaining.

But I’ll leave you with this. My favorite shot of the night. Pretty sure there’s nothing better.

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins

On Make Your Own Pizza night, our lovely guests insisted on bringing dessert (which is part of what made them lovely). But, instead of just bringing something, they brought the ingredients to make something: Strawberry Shortcake. *swoons*

They got started as soon as they settled in. Apparently, on the back of Bisquick boxes there’s a recipe for the shortcake part of the Strawberry Shortcake. We modified the recipe slightly to make the shortcake into muffins. Here it is!

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 1/3 cups Bisquick mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 package of strawberries/blueberries (really as much as you want of these)
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • Whipped cream (or you can make your own)

First wash the strawberries and cut into quarters. We used a mix of strawberries and blueberries. Add the sugar and mix so all the berries are evenly covered. Put this in the fridge to chill and to soak up the sugar.

On to the shortcake. This part is super easy. Mix all the ingredients together. It should be the consistency of cake batter, not too sticky. You should be able to spoon it into the muffin cups. Spray a muffin pan (12 muffins) with nonstick spray and fill each cup about 2/3 of the way. Bake on 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. They’re done when you touch the top and they spring back, or if you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Let the muffins cool, then cut in half. Add the fruit on top of the bottom half, put the top of the muffin on, then add more fruit and the whipped cream.

The presentation is great, and this can be a fun way to get everyone to play with their food. This can get a little messy to eat, but it’s so yummy! Thanks to K & B for coming over and making these for us!

Kristen

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