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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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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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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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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National Ice Cream Day: 5 at home and 5 for the road

There is no denying it is officially summer in Minnesota. The time of year when everyone becomes an avid runner or biker, patio furniture makes its much-lauded return, and my love for ice cream is on full display.

The rest of my family could (and does) eat ice cream even when the snow is flying and the temperatures dip well below zero, but for me to really enjoy the icy cold treat it has to be sunshine and shorts type of weather. That is when the ice cream maker makes its triumphant return from the bowels of the pantry and ice cream cones earn a spot on the weekly grocery list.

Here are five easy homemade ice cream recipes to help you enjoy the summer season:

  • Coffee Ice Cream from Baked by an Introvert : A few chopped chocolate covered espresso beans and whipped topping make this a real treat.
  • Chocolate Ice Cream from Ashlee Marie: This is our go-to ice cream recipe and it never disappoints!
  • Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream – Joy Filled Eats: This is great for when you’re on dairy overload, but still want a little ice cream treat.
  • Strawberry Ice Cream by A Latte Food: Strawberry is secretly my favorite flavor of ice cream and this one reminds me of the homemade ice cream we made with my grandparents as kids.
  • Rocky Road Ice Cream by Barefeet in the Kitchen: Rocky Road is probably my second favorite flavor because it reminds me of my other favorite summer treat – S’mores!

Of course, if you buy all the ingredients, tell your kids there will be ice cream post dinner, but forgot to put the ice cream maker insert back in the freezer (really who would do that! J) there are always these great sweet shops to hit up for a dip or two.

  • Sebastian Joe’s  This ice cream brand has sort of found its way all over the Twin Cities. It can be found in restaurants and shops on both sides of the river, but heading to one of the two scoop shops is still the best way to enjoy the unique flavors the team has to offer.

Flavor recommendations: Pavoratti, Salty Caramel, Raspberry Chocolate Chip, Nicollet Avenue      Pothole, and Joe’s Brrr Bars

Edina Creamery: Smore’s and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

  • Edina Creamery  We love this little shop with red topped tables and there is plenty of window shopping in the area if you want to take your treat to go.

Flavor recommendations: S’mores, strawberry, chocolate milkshake, and peanut butter     chocolate

  • Izzy’s You can find pints of Izzy’s in some stores around the Twin Cities, but we still love going to one of the shops to get that cute little Izzy scoop up on top.

Flavor recommendations: Peppermint Bon Bon, Vanilla Bean, Church Elderberry, and Peace    Coffee

  • Peterson’s This popcorn and ice cream shop has been around since 1977, but only recently moved it’s location to just down the street from us. Not only is it an after dinner walk away, but their homemade ice cream is fantastic.

Flavor recommendations: Black Hills Gold, Mocha Chip, Butterscotch Sundae, and Blueberry cheesecake

  • Grand Ole Creamery Grand Avenue is a great place to spend the afternoon wandering and this is the perfect spot to grab a quick treat. If you are going to make a meal occasion out of it head over to Punch pizza before satisfying your sweet tooth at this cute little shop.

Flavor recommendations: North country crunch, Coconut chip, Maple nut, and Marshmallow Man

Now the only question is cone or cup?

Got another scoop we should try? Please let us know 🙂

 

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View of Bayfield from the ferry

Madeline Island and the glorious staycation 2017

I love to travel to far off lands and experience things outside my norm, but this past week I was reminded of the fun and beauty that exists right outside our front door.
For the long 4th of July weekend we hadn’t planned on taking more than the two extra days off, but things have been a little crazy lately. What is a few more days off? So for the first time in years we went to the Northwoods for a whole week.
Sometimes a staycation isn’t the only thing you can do, it is the best thing to do.
Cabin fun 2017
Between lots of fresh air on the lake, s’mores by the campfire, and runs on country roads, we squeezed in an excursion to possibly one of my new favorite places – Madeline Island.
View of Bayfield from the ferry

View of Bayfield, WI from the Madeline Island ferry

Located just off the shore from Bayfield, WI, Madeline is the southern most island of the Apostle Islands. Getting there is a fun experience all its own. During the summer you can take the Madeline Island Ferry across and witness floatplanes landing in the water near the dock. We haven’t been in the winter yet, but we hear that crossing can be even more interesting as you cross on an ice road when the lake is frozen over and on the Windsled Taxi – part sled, part boat – when the lake isn’t completely frozen solid. But until then we enjoyed the warm breeze and sunshine of our summertime visit.
Although there are several dining options we planned ahead for a picnic lunch and carried over some supplies with us. After disembarking along with the dozens of other visitors we headed down the street to Joni’s beach. This quiet little area is right on the water front with a play area for the kids, shaded picnic tables, and bathrooms. The perfect spot for a little waterview al fresco lunch.
Besides great views and outdoor activities, the island is known for the many artisans that have set up shop there. The main street is dotted with galleries and local stores. Lots of pottery, weaving, woodwork, and small batch foods could have made their way home with us. Thankfully, we showed restraint and only indulged with a new handmade coffee cup and ceramic soap dish from Deena’s Pottery Studio and a beautiful hand made candle from Madeline Island Candles.
All that walking, shopping, and sunshine really worked up an appetite. So off to Grampa Tony’s for some pre-ferry ice cream we went – next time we will be trying the pizza. We gathered with a group of other visitors in the grassy spot next to the building; lounging in Adirondacks and at picnic tables in the shade of old trees. It was the perfect peaceful end to our day.
ice cream at Grampa Tony's

Strawberry cheesecake ice cream from Grampa Tony’s

We never even made it to the historic sites or the Madeline Island School of the Arts . . . there is always next time 🙂

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A visit to Pine Brook Farm

As we drove the winding roads of backwoods Wisconsin I was slightly concerned about the dining option for the evening. Really, what sort of restaurant would survive out in the middle of nowhere? Pulling into the packed driveway all my worries disappeared. In fact, I felt right at home (or at least like I was at my grandparent’s house) as we parked on the grass and approached the farmhouse.

farm houseAs we soon learned, the gorgeous farm was originally owned by Dr. Arthur Gillette whom the Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul is named after. He had used the location as a retreat for himself, his family, and his colleagues. In 1921, Dr. Gillette passed away and left the farm to his great nephew. Throughout the years, several generations of the Gillette family worked the land and called the farm home. The land stayed in the family until it was sold in 2012 to Michele Law and Jason Martell.

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Du Nord Craft Spirits: Behind the scenes

I have certainly had my fair share of beer and wine, but at heart I will always be a spirits girl. There is something about the vast array of scents, flavors, and mouth feel that excites and hypnotizes me. Which is why I am so excited to see a craft spirits movement blooming in Minnesota. People who are passionate about what they are doing draw me in like a magnet and if they have a bottle of vodka to sip while we talk all the better.

It was one of these magnetic stories that drew me in this past weekend. My husband and I found ourselves without a toddler in tow so I decided it was time for an actual adult excursion. With a little searching I came across the Du Nord Craft Spirits Distillery tour and Cocktail Room. The story behind how people came to do what they do and the history of a product have always fascinated me. This tour did not disappoint.menu

We arrived a little before our 3:00pm tour time at a rather non-descript building in an underdeveloped area of Minneapolis. Located just off of Hiawatha and the light rail line I had been past this block hundreds of times and had no idea this was here. Of course, in my defense the cocktail room only opened in January 2015 after Minnesota law changed to allow distilleries to offer more to drink on-site than just tastings. So we partook of the rewards of the law change with a couple of pre-tour cocktails. Both the Bee’s Knees and Du Nord Salty Dog were phenomenal – beautiful color and fantastic balance of flavor.

drinks

With our cocktails in hand we joined a small group of fellow spirits lovers for a behind the scenes look at this small operation. Started by a husband and wife team they are keeping it completely Minnesotan. The name Du Nord comes from the state motto, L’Etoile du Nord (The Star of the North). They are a grain to glass operation – all of the grain comes from Minnesota growers (directly from the farmer when possible), is distilled in house, and bottled for sale at local liquor stores. As our guide Ed told us, you will never see a Du Nord Rum because Minnesota cannot grow sugar cane.

Really keeping it Minnesotan they call the big copper one in the back Zelda - F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife :)

Really keeping it Minnesotan they call the big copper one in the back Zelda – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife 🙂

So they have started with Gin and Vodka and are working on adding Whiskey and Bourbon (takes 2-3 years). The process of how science and art come together to create these elixirs was fascinating. I guarantee after learning about where and how they make the cuts, how good distilleries don’t strip away the flavor, and what goes into creating a unique formula you will have a whole new appreciation for quality spirits and the amazing things being done locally.

Aged barrels ready for their Whiskey and Bourbon . . .

Aged barrels ready for their Whiskey and Bourbon . . .

I am very excited to keep on eye on what Du Nord is up to since they are coming out with a few new formulas, including a new world flavor Gin (will have no juniper) that people will be able to vote on to pick which gets bottled and distributed, that whiskey and bourbon that will be sitting in the aged barrels, and as part of the Minnesota Distillers Guild working with the MN legislature to pass a bill that would allow on-site bottle sales similar to what you can currently do at wineries.

Until then, I will just have to head out to my favorite liquor store and pick up a bottle of L’Etoile Vodka and Fitzgerald Gin (named after famous Minnesotan F. Scott Fitzgerald). Or I can organize a group of friends for a bottling party where I get an even closer look behind the scenes when we get to help bottle the spirits and we walk away with a parting gift of our own. And of course there is always the Cocktail Room with great atmosphere, big windows to look in on the distillery, and even a food truck on-site for some Italian nibbles – happy hour here we come!

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