Annual Apple Picking

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Last weekend we made our annual trip out to Peace Valley orchards. I thought Sophie would enjoy it more, now that she is a little older, but my little grumpy girl had just awoken from a nap as we were arriving. Cora on the other hand was thrilled and excited by the sensory overload.

She could not stop touching all of the gourds! Sophie preferred to stay in my Mother-in-law’s arms.

They didn’t only have apples in the country store on the property, but lots of other locally grown vegetables. We picked up an eggplant, [for the delicious ratatouille I’ve been making lately,] an onion, plums, and 2 peppers in addition to our bag full of apples. Of course, I couldn’t resist letting Cora pick a gourd since she had become so fond of them.

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It seems silly to drive 45 minutes just for some apples, but i enjoy driving the country roads and the atmosphere of the orchards. It really makes me feel like fall is approaching, even if the weather has still been hot and humid.

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I am so excited to share the holiday season with both girls. Sophie is getting older and subsequently more curious and excited about new traditions, while Cora has a curious nature in general. I love watching them explore and experience new things.

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In a few weeks it will be time to find a pumpkin patch, but for now, I need to come up with some truly delicious apple recipes. I have plans for some delicious pork chops and apple hand pies.

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Thanks for reading up on our apple picking adventure!

Fall Bucket List

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Now, before all you summer-lovers jump on my back like, “IT’S NOT FALL YET!” Trust me, I know. I am no lover of fall. Did you know…. after fall comes WINTER? Yeah, you don’t have to convince me that summer is the beast season, I know. So why create a fall bucket list? Simply for the reason that I have to psyche myself up for fall. Now That I have lived in Ohio for roughly 7 falls, I’ve come up with a few favorite things to do here that I can’t necessarily do in California.

Here is the list:

  1. Apple picking – it’s just not the same in the golden State!
  2. watching the leaves change color – palm trees have no changing color
  3. bonfire on a chilly night
  4. drink seasonal spirits (spiked cider, pumpkin ale, etc.)
  5. photoshoot at the pumpkin patch with the kids
  6. put up seasonal decor
  7. go to a fall festival
  8. toast pumpkin seeds
  9. go on a hayride! (so many more local farms here!)
  10. curl up under blankets and watch a movie with hot cocoa
  11. make pumpkin bread
  12. jump on crunchy leaves
  13. get a fall themed mani/pedi (I like dark red)
  14. get out your football fan gear! People are more serious about their football out here.
  15. EAT CANDY

Ok, so that last one every one can do regardless of state or season… but its so much more fun when they come in festive little fun-sized packages!

Hope this helps you look forward to fall, even if you’re a summer-lover like me

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Peace Valley Apple Orchard

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Some of you may have seen our adorable family photos from the apple orchard up on facebook, but I saved some of them specifically for this blog post. That’s right, EXCLUSIVE adorable photos, right here. Now, up until last year, I had only really dabbled in photography and blogging. It wasn’t until our last trip to the apple orchard that I decided I had enough skill, time, and dedication to commit to this as a hobby, Our latest trip out to Peace Valley only reaffirmed that I love food, photography, and my babies, and have an indefinite amount to say about all three.

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The weather in Ohio is actually pretty nice this time of year. We occasionally get some rain and blustery days, but for the most part the sun is out and its warm without being humid [a huge relief for people in this area]. It was supposed to be cloudy yesterday and a bit “chilly” but it turned out to be sunny for most of the afternoon and warm, with just the faintest breeze.

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These orchard are a good 45 minute drive away from us. I thought our little town was “rural” when I first arrived some 5 years ago, but was I so wrong. We have things like a kroger and Walmart! Out in the boonies, where the farms and orchards are, you’re lucky if they have a Dollar General and you can expect to see a decent amount of Amish.

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OK, by “decent amount” I really mean you might see a horse and buggy, but hey – I’m guessing that’s more than you’d typically see in your hometown. Rural though it is, the drive is actually quite nice. Twists and turns through the Ohio valley, with the leave just beginning to change, was the perfect way for us to kick off fall.

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Since the orchards are among farms, there is a cute country store on the property that sells seasonal produce as well as jams, salsas, and preserves made locally. We ended our little adventure with warm apple dumplings served a la mode. YUM. Even though it’s a bit of a drive “just for apples,” I still like that our trip to the orchards has become a little tradition.

Apple Bars with Maple, Cream Cheese Frosting

This is my variation on FitFoodieFinds recipe! As you know, I’ve already posted several apple recipes. Luckily, with the discovery of the past 3 recpies, I can say my apple repertoire has officially expanded! I love this recipe not only because of the fresh chunks of apples it call for, but because it calls for  my homemade applesauce as well! [not to mention this batch, was made gluten free!]

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Wet Ingredients:
-1 cup of applesauce
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 egg [large]
-3 TBS coconut oil [partially melted]
-1/2 cup, unsweetened almond milk

Dry Ingredients:
-1 cup all-purpose, gluten free flour
-1/2 cup oat flour
-1/2 white rice flour
-1/2 cup coconut sugar
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 tsp baking soda
-2 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly chopped

Frosting Ingredients:
-8 oz. low-fat cream cheese
-6 oz. plain greek yogurt
-4 TBS maple syrup
-a lil’ bit of brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon

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In a large mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients, EXCEPT for the apple chops.

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I didn’t have oat flour, so I took a 1/2 cup of steel cut oats, and blended them in my nutribullet.

Next, add all of the wet ingredients to your dry ingredients in a stand mixer. alternate between speeds 2-4 until ingredients are all fully incorporated. Then add you apple chunks, folding them gently into the batter.

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Spray a 9×11 pan with coconut oil, or some other non-stick spray. Pour mixture into your pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

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For the frosting: mix all ingredients in mixer on high, until light and fluffy, and all ingredients have been fully incorporated. Do not smear this delicious frosting on your bars, until they have completely cooled.

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Final touch: sprinkle some of that brown sugar on top, and add a little bit more cinnamon! The brown sugar may start to melt on top, depending on how cool your bars and the frosting are.

[For a more guilt free version: you may forego the brown sugar…]

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I recommend keeping these bars in the fridge if they are not all to be consumed in a day! Enjoy!

Homemade Applesauce

Believe it or not, this apple sauce has no refined-white sugar. I used 2 Honeycrisp apples and 2 Buckeye Gala’s which are both naturally sweeter. Then I used Organic Coconut Sugar [naturally less-sweet than white refined sugar…] to balance out the sweetness of my apples. The result was awesome!

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All you need:

-3/4 c. water
-4 apples
-1/4 c. coconut sugar
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon

First, I peeled all my apples. I then put the water, sugar, and cinnamon in a sauce pan on the stove over low heat. While the water was warming up, I cored each apple and cut them into 1/2 inch pieces. Place all of your apples into the sauce pan and bump up that heat to medium-high. Let all the apples simmer in cinnamon goodness for 15-20 minutes, until apples are soft. When the apples are done cooking they will look a little brown, this is mostly due to the brown coconut sugar.

before:

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after:

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This recipe only makes around 3-4 cups so I was able to throw it in my nutribullet, instead of mashing it by hand.

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It can only handle a few pluses before the apples become too thick for it to blend. For me. I only needed a few pulses for it to be the texture I wanted.

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Chill in the fridge for an hour, at least. Enjoy!