The temps have started to go down, and it’s finally starting to feel like fall! For our family that means prime climbing season…but it also means the local apple orchards are ripe and ready for pickin’! I love apples, and they are one of Big C’s favorite foods as well, so this year I decided to dedicate an entire week to cooking nothing but apples (well, maybe we’ll cook a few other things too, but apples will be our main theme!) My hope is that we can find a few go-to recipes that we love enough to establish a family tradition (ie “I know it’s fall in our house because it’s time to make ____________.”)
But before we could get cookin’, we had to get pickin’! So this past Saturday I loaded up the kiddos and headed to Carrigan Farms, where we met up with the grandparents (the Crag-Daddy was playing big-shot computer guru at a local Sharepoint conference.) The orchards in the mountains offer a wider variety of apples, but we settled for the closer drive since I was flying solo (and Baby Z can sometimes be a bit squirrely in the car…)
After a well-timed 45 minute drive during Baby Z’s morning snooze, we arrived just in time to sample some fresh-made apple cider before catching the hayride out to the orchard. To be honest, the hayride was a little disappointing compared to other farms we’ve been to. The start of the orchard was literally a 2 minute walk from the parking lot. So the only real “extra” gleaned from the hayride (aside from the ride itself, which Big C did enjoy), was going to the back of the orchard where there is a small pen of farm animals to see (although if you wanted to walk a little farther, you could still easily walk the distance from your car.) Another time I will probably try and convince Big C to just hoof it…
But anyway the actual apple picking part was fun! The trees were LOADED with fruit (mostly golden delicious), and the branches were plenty low enough for Big C to pick to his heart’s content. Between, me, Big C, and the grandparents, we picked over 50 apples, then all sat down for a nice picnic lunch before heading home.
Since I had scoured Pinterest the week before, we had all of our recipes and ingredients picked out…one for each day, and all recipes that we’d never tried before! Here’s how our apple-mania week shaped up:
Day 1: Apple Butter -This was my personal favorite, mostly because of how yummy it was despite being ridiculously easy to make! We used this super-yummy spread almost any way imaginable (bread, fruit, crackers, etc), but my favorite way to eat it was with a spoon right out of the container!
Day 2: Apple Pear Sauce – With a baby in the house, this was a must!
Day 3: Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Bars – Since Big C would eat his body weight in bars on a daily basis if I let him, I thought we’d try this homemade option for him to indulge in. Grated apple, rolled oats, peanut butter, and no added sugar made this recipea fresh, healthy alternative (we also tossed in a grated carrot since I had some on hand to steam for Baby Z!)
Day 4: Apple Cinnamon Roll-ups – Or, as our family called them, “apples in a blanket.” Lots of yum crammed into a two-bite package!
Day 5: Apple Crisp – We surprised our small group from church with this delectable dessert one night! (Actually it wasn’t really a surprise…I told them to supply ice cream.)
Day 6: Apple Volcanoes – Baked whole apples stuffed with all sorts of yummy goodness…butter and sugar and walnuts, oh my! All topped with a dollop of ice cream that “erupted” down the sides.
Day 7: Dried Apple Chips – These were WAY cheaper than the store-bought variety, and even yummier. Perfect snack for on the trail!
We also experimented with some creative ways to eat our apples raw, our favorite being the “apple sandwich.” Cored and sliced horizontally, an apple makes perfect “ends” to your sandwich, and the filling options are endless – nut butters, fruit preserves, cream cheese, nuts, raisins, even shredded coconut.
For me the coolest part about our apple-themed kitchen adventures is that just days before, our apples were hanging on a tree. I love the fact that we were able to gather them ourselves and then turn them into so many delicious things, many of which we were able to share with family and friends! Hopefully it will be a good “where food comes from” lesson for Big C.
For the recipes we used, as well as even more ideas we haven’t gotten to yet, check out . If you are
hungry inspired by all this talk about apples, you can find all the recipes we used (as well as ones we haven’t gotten to yet!) on ourFall Recipes board on Pinterest. Also find us on Instagram at @cragmama1, and check out the hashtag #applemaniaweek, where I’ve been posting pictures of all of the apple-y goodness that has come out of our kitchen every day. Most importantly, feel free to use that hashtag and post your own apple pictures, so that we can glean some more ideas for apple fun!