wagon ride through apple orchard

Apple Bread and an apple orchard

Apples are kind of a big deal around here. The University of Minnesota makes news each time it announces a new variety. Apple orchards aren’t hard to come by. In fact, there are so many it can be hard to pick just one. We’ve tried out several over the years and they each offer their own little twist on the experience.

Apples available for pick your own

This year we tried another new one  and we might have just found our annual orchard! Applewood Orchard in Lakeville, MN is close to the cities, but rural enough to be a nice day trip. We recommend getting there at opening, especially on days with gorgeous weather, as the parking lot fills quickly.

Walking through the shed you will find some pre-bagged apples, apple cider, caramel apples, and, of course, apple pies. Grab your picker, basket, and bag before heading out the back towards the orchard. They even offer cute little wagons for free that are perfect for toting several baskets for serious pickers or little helpers who tire out. With sixteen varieties of apples you are sure to find something you like the whole season.

Exploring Applewood Orchard Lakeville MN

Even though the grounds are walkable, there is a hayride offered in a loop that drops you off half-way though the orchards or at the corn maze. Best of all the hayride is free so if you find yourself loaded down with apples you can wait for the tractor to come back around and hop on.

Besides apples and the corn maze your family can find fun on the playground or riding the mini John Deere tractors around the little course. And what would a fall stop be without pumpkins! We walked out with two pumpkins for Halloween along with an amazing apple pie and seven pounds of apples.

It just felt right with the temperatures dipping and all the fun we had picking these apples to turn some of them into a delicious apple bread for family breakfast.

Homemade apple bread

Apple Bread
Servings Prep Time
1loaf 20minutes
Cook Time
45minutes
Servings Prep Time
1loaf 20minutes
Cook Time
45minutes
Instructions
  1. Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  2. Add egg, egg white, applesauce, vegetable oil, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Fold in the diced apples. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with a cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. You can bake it a little longer if you prefer it less moist. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning out of pan.
  5. Slice and enjoy with warm apple cider or coffee for a cozy fall breakfast.

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September Coffee Chat (and some BIG NEWS)

There is something about Fall that makes coffee chats seem cozy and appropriate. All curled up with a cup of coffee, a good friend to talk to, and maybe a book to browse. September was a doozy of a month so this coffee chat might be a little deep and require a few cups of java.

Coffee chat with latte and heart

A few month’s ago I reminded everyone (especially myself) why I started Nomad Momma – to continue to challenge myself to try new things, face some fears, learn, and explore. September definitely stepped if up a notch in the face fears and explore arenas. As an introvert I struggle to reach out to people I don’t know, especially if I think they are doing something amazing. But I did it several times this month. I spent a lot of time reaching out to, meeting with, and getting to know people I think are doing something special by following their passions in food and travel. I’m excited over the next several months to share their stories and inspiration as part of a new series – The Makers Series!

This month I also visited my hometown (central Illinois) for my cousin’s wedding and to visit my grandmother. I love my time back home, but each visit seems a little more bittersweet.

One of my friends recently experienced the same feeling visiting someplace she once lived and she hit it on the head when she said it is strange because the people and places are the same, yet different.

At the wedding I saw so many people that I hadn’t seen in years. People that, to me, went from little kids to adults in the blink of an eye — if that blink lasted 15 years. The realization that time marches on without you never hits me as hard as when I visit my grandma. When I moved away to go to college in 2002 she was still a feisty firecracker of a woman. She still had her little jig for when she got excited, you didn’t cross her because she could swing that wooden spoon harder than any major league slugger, and her comebacks were quick and funny as hell.

Seeing her only a few times a year means each visit she has aged rapidly to my eyes. It is strange to visit and the woman who was always my rock is frail and while still feisty, not burning quite as bright as she once did.

All of this brings me to the Big News. As part of facing my fears and remembering that time marches on even if I don’t follow my passions I’ve launched on online store. For years I’ve been bookmarking sites and pinning ideas for a shop I wanted to open one day. I finally decided why can’t one day be today?!?

So here is Great Moments Kitchen – where I share my belief that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Traditions, stories, and memories are made in this space and I want to share that and help people make it happen in their homes. I have a penchant (ok obsession) with dishes so to kick off the shop I’ve brought together some of my favorite affordable pieces. I hope to add some local items, items from travels to kitchens around the world, and plenty of older items with stories of their own, but there is no time like now to push it out into the world and start making more traditions, stories, and memories. I hope you will join me!

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A Minnesota Fall Bucket List

Although I am not ready for summer to end I know according the calendar today is the last day of that glorious sunny season. Fall is here whether I want it to be or not so I’ll keep myself moving forward with a fall bucket list.
Fall Foliage in Wisconsin

Photo Cred: Autumn Tee XIX

Fall foliage
One of the only parts I enjoy of the seasonal change is the beautiful color of the tree line. Thankfully we already have a little excursion planned to Bayfield, WI which means plenty of hilly back roads surrounded by miles of changing tress. Best of all, according to the fall foliage watch the leaves haven’t turned there yet and we should be perfectly timed for the reds, yellows, and oranges to be out on full display.
Pie
I have a nostalgic love for pie – pretty much all pie (except strawberry rhubarb), but I digress. Fall seems like the perfect season for pie. The days are getting cooler so having the oven on all day isn’t as big of a hassle, but it isn’t such a heavy dessert so it still feels a little lighter like summer. Fruit pies are my favorite and as long as we’ve lived in MN I’ve heard so many opinions about where to get the best pie. I think it is time for a pie crawl!
Open since 1979 this little gem in Northeast has been a quiet powerhouse when it comes to baked sweets – especially pie. I’ve heard amazing things about their fruit pies specifically their Harvest Apple Pie.
This was one of the first places I was told to eat when I moved to MN. Yes, ten years later I still haven’t eaten there so I think it is time to rectify the situation. This place has been open since 1957 so I have a feeling I can’t go wrong with whatever slice of heaven I choose. Maybe a slice of 5 Later Butterscotch, Chocolate Banana,  Apple Strawberry Crunch,  and Bumbleberry . . . Two Harbors, MN here I come!
The best part about pies from this Lowertown gem? Personal sized pies – I don’t have to share!
Apple picking – recommendations?
I love apples! I don’t think one day has gone by in twenty years that I haven’t had an apple. There is just something special about an apple orchard and walking away with five-pound bags of freshly picked apples. And if a little apple cider (or pie) makes its way into the car with us, well even better.
Haunted House
Minnesota is home to the “Halloween Capital of the World” for gosh sake and I haven’t even been there. I adore Halloween and have a penchant for horror movies and I haven’t been to a haunted house in close to 20 years.  I think my hubby owes me a scary fun evening. I’m thinking Haunted Basement or is that to much for the first time back?!?
I think this list should get me through fall . . . winter on the other hand, I’m gonna need a bigger list!

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Wine Wanderlust: Sonoma and Europe

If you know me, or if you’ve only casually read this blog, you know I’m slightly obsessed with food. In college I took food writing and food history classes, studied food science, got a degree in nutrition, and even toyed with going to culinary school. So I’m of course going to geek out over a book that brings together food, history, and travel – Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi does all of that.
Although it was a little more science talk than I expected, I loved the stories of the people on the ground toiling away to bring us some of our favorite culinary delights and how our need for consistency bar to bar and bottle to bottle might be putting these simple pleasures in danger of extinction. It left me craving a spread of some of the best,  guiltily thinking about all of the mass produced homogenous items I’ve consumed thus far, and of course dreaming of some far of places. But it also got me to thinking about some of the people creating diverse products like bread, wine, beer, coffee, and chocolate closer to home.
So over the next few weeks I thought I would give a few ideas for exploring one of these culinary treats closer to home and further afield. Seeing that I’ve had a hectic month I thought we should start with wine. That beautiful end to any sort of day.
Enjoy a glass of wine
Closer to home
In the book she talks about a glass of wine that resulted in a sort of transformative experience in her relationship with wine. This wine and the story behind it took wine from something that she could live or live without to an intriguing character with a life of its own.
This wine with transformative powers? Trousseau Gris grown in California at the Fanucchi vineyard and I want a glass. My own journey with wine has been a slow, transformative process and it only seems fitting that I finally make it to Sonoma Valley and enjoy a glass of this pale golden liquid.
Besides while I’m there I have a few other things I’d like to do and see:
Visit Cowgirl Creamery. I tried this cheese while visiting the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco and fell instantly in love. Seeing the actual place it is made would be a dream come true.
Farther afield
As I’ve said, I have had my own relationship with wine. One that started with pure disgust and has morphed into a happy friendship. So it seems only fitting that the first places I head to on a search for wine farther from home would be France, Italy, and Spain. Three places that I have visited and sadly gulped down malt beverages and hard liquor along the way while abstaining from wine.
Until I get these trips planned I’ll sit here with my glass of today’s choice and enjoy thinking about future bottles of great grapes.

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Coffee: A beautiful relationship

Like any good relationship, my courtship with coffee has evolved and deepened. My first taste of coffee came as a kid when my grandma use to give us milk and coffee. Mostly milk with a little splash of coffee . . . so really light brown milk.

When we met again I was far from home living the craziness that is the first year of college. We often met at The Union in the center of campus, coffee wearing the trendy green straw dressed as a frappuccino. Possibly a step closer to the real thing, but still in that sweet early phase when you can’t get enough. Of course, college ended and jobs and the responsibilities of real life hit me hard. Our relationship had evolved to quick and naked jolts of energy before leaving the house. You know, the time in a relationship where you are past trying to impress and you’re just comfortable and don’t always recognize what they do for you.

As always, life continued to evolve and my first baby came into my life. And my reliance on and appreciation for that glorious taste of sanity grew each day. Of course, then coffee went and surprised me and evolved to a smooth delight with the strength to support me all day. When your love for something you thought you knew forwards and backwards is renewed and strengthened – that was cold-press and me. Now we’ve settled into that phase where we just are what we are. We don’t care who judges us for spending to much time together or thinks we should get out with others . . . we are two cubes in a cup and happy as can be.

The Best At Home Cold Press Coffee

1 lb beans, coarsely ground

1 gallon water

Equipment: large bowl or container with a lid; wire mesh strainer; paper filter

Cold press grounds with water

Add the coarsely ground beans to the large container and cover with the gallon of cold water. Stir slightly so all of the grounds are wet. Cover the container and place in the fridge for 18-24 hours.

After 18-24 hours, place a paper filter in the wire mesh strainer over another large bowl or carafe. Pour the coffee/water mixture through the filter to strain out the grounds.

Finished cold press coffee

Enjoy the cold press over ice with your favorite add-ins and watered down to your desired strength. I prefer to use filtered water and add a splash of almond milk, but you do you.

Cold press can be stored in the fridge for up to 14 days (if it lasts that long 🙂 )

 

 

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Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

August Coffee Chat

Where did summer go? I’m not quite ready for cooler weather and sweaters, but it like everything else in life it will come regardless.
Don’t you just hate that though! That those things you wish you could drag out forever always seem to come to an end before you are ready. Yet, the things that you want to change right away seem to take their sweet time. In fact, there is one thing in my life that I know I need to change, my therapist told me I need to change, and my family says I would be happier if I changed. But of course it is the one thing I can’t seem to change.
So instead I cope and try to distract myself . . . that was really the theme for August.
Food
When something is bothering me or not going my way I often turn to food. I am not an emotional eater, but I am an emotional cooker. Give me a day in the kitchen to knead, mix, and bake my way out of my own head and I’m much happier. So this month I clocked more time in the kitchen than I have in a long time. The family got to enjoy the fruits of my labor of course 😃
Cinnamon Rolls
Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie
Parmesan Zucchini Tots
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Zucchini Bread
(If you didn’t notice we had an abundance of monster zucchinis in our garden.)
Exploring
The other activity that helps put me at ease is travel. In August we didn’t travel far from home, but even a little local exploration was enough. We took our first camping trip as a family of four!
Happy campers Littlest hiker
Father daughter hike
Lebanon Hills is a gorgeous park about 20 minutes from our house with walking trails and full hook-up campsites. Yep, camping for this family means a camper with running water 😃 Hey, we still cooked over an open fire and went hiking with an infant and a five-year-old.
Family
Speaking of infants, our little man turned one on August 1! Where did the time go?! How did we get from the NICU to finger foods and crawling so quickly?
But here we are with an adventurous, flirty, and ornery little gentleman in our lives.
First birthday

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chocolate chip cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Is it just me or has there already been a National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day this year? Oh, who cares though; we don’t need a special day to celebrate the world’s favorite cookie!

our favorite cookiesThis iconic sweet has millions of recipes claiming to be the best and we have tried our fair share at our house. From skookies to browned butter to chickpea based healthy bars we’ve enjoyed them all, but one recipe has stood out as our favorite. This recipe does take more time than your basic recipe, but every extra minute is worth the wait.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (originally appeared on Delish)
Servings Prep Time
24Cookies 20minutes
Cook Time
15minutes
Servings Prep Time
24Cookies 20minutes
Cook Time
15minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs and whip until combined.
  2. In medium bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Stir into the butter mixture and fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  3. Divide dough into 24 balls about 1 1/2-inch each. Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and slightly flatten. Place baking sheets in freezer for 15 minutes.
  4. While dough is in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Remove the dough balls from the freezer and bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown on the edges. Let cool on pan for few minutes before placing on wire racks to cool completely.

Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

It is hard to believe it was a year ago that we welcomed our baby boy to the world. It has been a crazy year adjusting to having two little ones in the house, long commutes, and finding time for ourselves. But one thing that doesn’t take any adjustment is my love for birthdays and celebrating.

Little man turns one

My husband isn’t a huge fan of birthday celebrations, but I think each year is a milestone of accomplishments, lessons learned, growth, and memories. So we ALWAYS celebrate in our house, I’m baking so it is my rules. And really who is going to turn down a special treat . . . no one in my house!

Of course, even when celebrating I want to make sure we are being good to ourselves. So not every special occasion includes a sugar bomb. Don’t get me wrong we LOVE sugar in all of its processed sparkly glory. If you follow me on Instagram you have probably noticed plenty of ice cream cones and crazy donuts 😃 But sometimes it is just about getting something a little sweet without all the bad stuff. Which is why I love this recipe!

Healthy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

healthy peanut butter chocolate chip cookie bars

Ingredients
1 (15oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter (you can sub creamy if you prefer)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips, reserve 1/4 cup for the top
sea salt to sprinkle on top
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 9″ tart pan or glass baking dish and set aside. (I prefer the tart pan because I think the triangles make it feel more special)
2. Put all ingredients except the chocolate chips and sea salt in a food processor.
3. Blend until smooth.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Pour dough into prepared pan and spread out evenly.
6. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips and sea salt.
7. Bake 20-25 minutes until the edges are golden brown.
8. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
9. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.
We enjoy these bars for special occasions or just because we have a massive sweet tooth at our house. Don’t worry though, we are celebrating little man’s birthday over the weekend with some real sugary cupcakes and frosting.

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July coffee chat

Agra Culture coffeeBefore having kids, coffee chats were a weekly part of my life. I worked for myself in a business that was heavily based on networking so I really challenged myself to set-up time with people on a regular basis. Groups make me anxious, but one-on-one over a cup of coffee I blossom.

Even though I often had to talk myself into getting into the car and going, I loved it once it was done. And now that I work full-time and have two little kids I really miss these coffee chats. So I will just make do with my virtual coffee chat. I’ll sip my cold press (yes, it is the middle of the afternoon and I’m still caffeinating) and chat away to all of you about what has been on my mind, what new things I’ve tried that I’m excited for you to try too, and what is keeping me going for the future.

Me time

As a mom, really as a woman, we all seem to be pretty bad at taking time for ourselves and fulfilling our own needs while constantly worrying about those around us. Getting back to this blog is one way I’ve taken time for myself, but July was also a time to regroup about what I need from life. So trying new restaurants, spending time with friends, and working out have found their way onto my calendar in permanent ink.

Fried Chicken Revival St Paul

When a friend and I got together after months of both being super busy we caught up over fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese, and beers. Classy, I know! But this was one classy and amazing meal at Revival in St. Paul. It is a bright space that feels like a group of friends got together on someone’s porch down South for some good home cooking and chatter.

Thankfully, I’ve also been able to squeeze in more consistent workouts along with the extra restaurant trips. Back up to five mile runs!!!! That only took a year and a half, but really who is keeping track?

Exploring

I love being home and we have been slowing making updates to make our space our own little cocoon away from the world, but I have that need because I also love exploring. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this blog is a way for me to keep exploring – through food, new places and experiences, and meeting new people.

July was a month full of cabin visits that included some excursions to places that even after ten years of visiting the region I hadn’t been to. Over the 4th of July we went to Madeline Island for a gorgeous picnic lunch. Then a few weeks later we headed to Hayward for the World Lumberjack Championships. I didn’t even know this was a thing still, but after seeing these men and women compete I was in awe. I mean, how do you even get into these sports?! And what would possess you to climb a 90 foot pole and then pretty much free fall to see who can get down faster? Or stand on a piece of wood and swing an axe between your feet until you cut all the way through? It is impressive and crazy what these competitors from all over the world did and you can tell that they have worked their butts off getting there.

Our taste buds also did a little exploring in July when we tried two new Minnesota made products. First, Maddy & Maize popcorn. We had been seeing it on Instagram and were so excited when we saw that it was coming to our local Hyvee. The first day it was in stock we grabbed a bag of the Bourbon Barbecue popcorn and oh my god it is amazing. It surprised me with a spicy kick, but it is so good. I think Apple Pie a la Mode is the next on the list.

Thumbs Cookies

To go with our something a little spicy, we tried out Thumbs Cookies when Robyn (the owner and baker) offered a limited edition S’more flavor. I had the pleasure of picking them up in person and meeting Robyn at Agra Culture which I love because it was an opportunity to be face-to-face with someone doing what they are passionate about. The hardest part was I picked the cookies up in the morning and wanted to try them as a family so I had the box on my desk at work all day. Talk about will power! The cookies were a hit at our house and we are looking forward to trying the Peanut Butter Sea Salt ones next.

Even though July was a busy month and it wasn’t all good change, I am choosing to keep the blessings and adventures in mind as I move forward to the end of summer, my baby’s first birthday, and our oldest’s journey to kindergarten in September. Cheers to August and a lot more coffee.

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Cattails and memories

It is interesting how the oddest and most mundane things can remind you of a place or person. How some cattails on the edge of a parking lot can make you think of a creek running through some farm land hundreds of miles away.

Cattails

Or how sunlight hitting a windowsill can make you think of your first college dorm room.

Tiny fresh strawberries that take you back to a wooden fence and open fields.

Or how you consider someplace home even though you haven’t lived there in over a decade. I suppose that is part of the reason why I love to explore wherever I am. I don’t know how long I’ll be there or when I’ll be back, but little things can transport us to a place hundreds of miles away or years ago.

Things and people change as days roll on. Subtle shifts occur and we don’t even notice them sometimes until looking back years later. Or until a swath of swaying cattails stops you in your tracks.

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