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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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.

Lemon Muffins and Postpartum

What do lemon muffins have to do with postpartum? In this case a whole lot. Just like writing these words has everything to do with the journey forward.

You see, after finding out we were expecting our second child we knew we would be done building our family. My last pregnancy. An opportunity to enjoy the experience.

I also knew post-baby life would be different than the first go around, but I had no idea just how different. After the birth of our first child it wasn’t all rainbows and flowers, but it was nothing like the past several months.

The constant gnawing anxiety with no apparent source. Doubt and self-defeating thoughts that cloud the brain. Fake smiles and disinterest in everything that once fueled my life. At first, I chalked it up to having a second preemie and the stress of being in the NICU. Then it was the lack of sleep and returning to work full time. The constant juggling of home, work, an active five-year-old, and a not so active infant.

Taking a deep breath before going into work. Another as I arrived home. One as the rest of the family pulls into the garage . . . and on and on throughout everything that was small and mundane.

However, after months of reassuring myself that it would all pass I realized I couldn’t live like this anymore – and I don’t have to! Asking for help is never easy, but some things you just can’t do alone. So I’ve asked for help, I’m taking steps, and I’m speaking about it because I know I am not alone.

Lemon muffins

And these lemon muffins (and these words) are part of the first step to bringing a little sunshine into my life. Even though right now I must force myself to bake and write – two things that always just came naturally – I believe that with work and professional help I will get back to the lighthearted mom I know I am.

Were these muffins the answer? No, but they were a small step in the right direction. An opportunity to get back to a beloved activity and even better was seeing the smiles on my little ones faces when they got to have them for breakfast. So, for now we will enjoy our little clouds of lemony sunshine and hold each other tight.

I hope you enjoy these lemon muffins with your family and friends and find the sunshine you need in your life.

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Giant Irish Soda Muffins (that aren’t green)

It doesn’t seem like we should be talking about St. Patrick’s Day yet. And it definitely doesn’t seem like Easter should be just around the corner.

But here we are, nearly halfway through March. So the green is sneaking up on us . . . even if it is only in the form of glittery shamrocks and leprechaun hats. Hopefully, we will soon see some green sneaking out of the ground and sprouting from our flowerbeds.

Until then I will just enjoy a celebration of the Emerald Isle with some good food. I’ve never really understood the fascination with coloring foods green that should not be green so I am going for some actual greens instead. I suppose when you think Irish cuisine most people don’t think of greens anyway. You think of sausage, fish and chips, and other plain colored items. However, a few years ago I read a wonderful piece in Travel & Leisure that gave me a whole new perspective on Irish cooking.

My favorite still remains the traditional soda bread, but I’ve been getting inspired by a few Irish dishes online as well. Here are a few of our favs and our favorite soda muffins to go along with whatever you choose this St. Patrick’s Day. muffins

Corned Beef and Vegetables

Beef and Stout Casserole with Herby Dumplings

Sausages Baked with Beans and Eggs

Roast Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce

Irish Soda Muffins
Big, delicious muffins that are great for dipping in stew or slathering in butter and jam. This recipe originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Bon Appetit.
Servings Prep Time
6large muffins 15minutes
Cook Time
22minutes
Servings Prep Time
6large muffins 15minutes
Cook Time
22minutes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray six 1-cup muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. 2. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. 3. Using your fingertips, blend the butter into the flour mixture until incorporated as small pea like pieces.
  4. 4. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to blend.
  5. 5. Spoon muffin batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. 6. Remove muffins from oven and let cool slightly on a rack prior to turning out.


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Peanut Butter Banana Bread

As I’ve said before, I love quinoa. It is perfect for cold or warm dishes. You can toss it with veggies, fruits, nuts . . . really anything. It can be the base for a savory or sweet dish.

Quinoa flour, that was something new. I’ve been seeing more recipes that use alternative flours – coconut flour, oat flour, tapioca flour – and I was ready to branch out from my normal whole wheat and all purpose for something a little different. Family breakfast seemed like the perfect opportunity for a little experimentation because who wants to be the only taste tester.

Getting inspiration from Monique over at Ambitious Kitchen I settled on a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe for a first try.

This sweet bread made a perfect Valentine's Day breakfast.

This sweet bread made a perfect Valentine’s Day breakfast.

Note: After doing a little research online I found it is important to toast the quinoa flour to take out some of the quinoa flavor. Monique used the stove top method, but I preferred the oven method and just did the whole bag at once. For this method, spread the flour out on baking sheets covered in foil or parchment paper and bake at 215 degrees for 2 ½ to 3 hours. The flour will lose its quinoa smell and can then be kept in an air tight container in the fridge or freezer for 8 months.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Servings Prep Time
1loaf 15minutes
Cook Time
50minutes
Servings Prep Time
1loaf 15minutes
Cook Time
50minutes
Instructions
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8x4 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. 2. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. 3. In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas, agave, egg, peanut butter, and almond milk until creamy.
  4. 4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  5. 5. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before turning out of the pan.