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Fall has arrived! While summer will always have my heart, early fall is definitely my second favorite time of year. Sure, I hate the early darkness and slowing garden productivity, but brilliant blue skies and sunny days, apple picking, and fall cooking all help a little. I’ll let you in on a little secret.  . . as much as I live for summer produce, I really love fall cooking! I love roasting and braising and making hearty, comfy one pot meals to pair with red wine.

Last weekend we got an early start on autumn fun with a trip to Belkin Family Lookout Farm. I am obsessed with local food and growing or picking my own fruit and vegetables, and I was excited about the variety at Belkin. This Natick farm, founded in 1651, can be found after a really lovely drive through Wellesley, and had several types of apples, Asian pears, peaches, and plums, in addition to pumpkins, cider donuts, caramel corn, and tons of other fall flavors. For families, they have children’s play area. To get anywhere on the property, everyone must take a train, which is fun for all ages!

apple picking near Boston

We arrived and caught the train out to the orchards to get picking. We filled a giant bag with fruit and may have sampled a few pieces along the way. The air was fresh, the weather was perfect, and it felt amazing to have such a beautiful outdoor space to spend the day in.

apple picking plum

apple picking


pumpkin picking


cider donuts

On the way out of the orchard, we browsed the farm store and picked up the requisite cider donuts, which we tucked into immediately. I don’t even like most donuts, but man, a fresh cider donut is pretty incredible and these were some of the best I have had.

Right on the property also sits the Lookout Farm Taproom, serving hard cider that they make, along with food items like charcuterie and flatbread. Of course we had to go in for a tasting! We shared a cider flight, with the two standouts being the pumpkin cider, which had nice baking spice notes, and the summer cider, which had lemongrass and ginger notes. All were crisp, refreshing, and easy to drink.

Lookout Farm Cider Lookout Farm hard cider cider at Lookout Farm

A visit to Belkin Lookout Farm is easy from Boston, and it opens up your day to a beautiful area with lots of open space. It’s only 20 minutes from Boston but feels like a real getaway. If you are looking for fun apple picking followed by delicious adult beverages ( and a TV for football), definitely add Belkin Lookout Farm to your fall fun list.

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Tags: apple picking, apples, autumn, Boston, day trips from Boston, fall, harvest, New England, peaches, pears, plums, Travel

Fall Saturdays

Fall in New England leaves no shortage of weekend activities, especially when the weather is fine, and it’s a wide open Saturday. This past weekend we slept past high tide, meaning we couldn’t take the boat out for a final brunch at Liberty Wharf, as planned. But sometimes sleep is needed more than boating, and our plans quickly changed to a trip to Concord to check out the leaves and see what else we could find along the way.

Concord, MA

First, we found tons of traffic heading to our hopeful first stop, Walden Pond. We decided to drive toward Concord center instead, and remembered that Verrill Farm was somewhere nearby. A quick GPS search and a few miles later, we were pulling up to the farm, which was having a harvest festival. The festival turned out to be for kids, so instead of going on a pony ride, we decided to put a dent in our week’s grocery shopping at the farm store.



The farm store at Verrill Farm is pretty great, featuring baked goods, prepared foods, local milk, eggs, and cheese  in addition to their own homegrown produce and their free range, Concord beef. If my grocery budget was larger, I would shop exclusively at a place like this. We figured buying some locally produced food was better than nothing though, and I love how the New England terroir shines through in the food we did buy.




Since we were so close to Acton, we HAD to go to the new-ish Bueno y Sano there. The Bueno y Sano in Amherst was one of my favorite parts of college. Their tacos and hot sauce are addictive, and I could eat them every day. If I could only find the hot sauce recipe somewhere, my life would be complete.

Bueno y Sano


While we had a really great day, I do have a confession to make. I’ve recently decided that I dislike fall almost as much as winter. It’s been too cold for me already, dark too early, and the dreary Sundays have meant little fall boating. The fall recipes I make tend to be delicious, but they’re ugly in photos, photos that now lack natural light because it’s dark too early!  The one thing I love is fall produce, the beautiful colors and funny shapes and the plethora of uses in food and drink. Our trip to Verrill Farm helped me to shape our week’s meal plan around local produce, something that excites me probably a lot more than it should.

On the menu this week:

pulled chicken sandwiches with vegetable bbq sauce – with apples, onion, and zucchini from Verrill Farm

roasted pumpkin, kale, lentil, and goat cheese salad – with sugar pumpkin from Verrill Farm

chicken sausage skillet – with potatoes and chicken sausage from Verrill Farm

roasted turnips and a turnip gratin

apple cider cocktails – apple cider from Verrill Farm, plus whiskey and pumpkin pie spice. . . yum!

What are you cooking up this week?

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Tags: apples, autumn, Concord, fall, fall foods, farms, New England, pumpkins, Travel

When I received an email about participating in the latest Kitchen PLAY event with Calphalon products, I was incredibly excited. It has been almost a year since I last participated in a Kitchen PLAY event, and I looked forward to getting a little creative in the kitchen. I soon found out that I would be receiving a Calphalon 4 Qt. Digital Slow Cooker, part of their new Kitchen Electrics line. My assigned course was appetizer, which threw me for a second. When I think of slow cooking, I often think of main courses like chili, soups, and slow cooked meat. While I waited for the slow cooker to arrive, I slowly pulled together an autumnal recipe that would be a great appetizer, Spicy Maple and Apple Pulled Pork Sliders, served on fresh corn muffins.

Calphalon Slow Cooker

When the slow cooker arrived, I opened it right away and instantly loved its modern stainless finish and the very easy digital display. I couldn’t wait to get cooking, and with the weather the way it has been, it was the perfect timing for a cozy meal.

calphalon slow cooker

First I assembled the ingredients for the slow cooking portion of this dish. If you have the time, you will want to get it started as early as possible, on low, so that it cooks all day long and just falls apart.


1 pork butt, fat on (You can remove it later in the cooking as I did, but the meat gets a lot of flavor and moisture from leaving it on!)

2 cups pickle juice, preferably from some zesty homemade pickles

1 cup white vinegar

4 tsp chili powder

4 tsp paprika

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

5 apples, cored and chopped

1/4 cup maple syrup

Grillo's Picklesimageimage

I mixed the chili powder, paprika, pumpkin pie spice, and crushed red pepper and set it aside so that I could get the pork situated in the slow cooker (Note, you have to take the string off. Winking smile Doing so made me think of the butcher on the Brady Bunch). It fit perfectly in the four quart space, not touching the sides but there also wasn’t so much room that I felt the need to fill it with liquid which I sometimes do after a little slow cooker burning incident. I poured the pickle juice (from a local pickle maker, Grillo’s) over the pork, following that with the white vinegar. Then I sprinkled about 1/4 of the spice mixture on the side of the pork that was not in the liquid.

slow cooker pork

I set the digital timer on the slow cooker to 7 hours and cooked the pork on low for the entire time. Every couple of hours, I went in, turned the pork, sprinkled the newly exposed top with spices, and let it do its thing. All of the spices can go in at once, if you are not home, but I liked how each time I did this, the top kind of got a spice crust, really sealing in flavors and moisture. And when the pork started to fall apart, I used tongs to pull off as much fat as I could. Fat’s good for cooking, but you definitely don’t want a ton of it in your pulled pork!

slow cooker pork

At around the 6th hour, I chopped my apples and placed them on top of the pulled pork, closed it up and walked away.


slow cooker pork

Because the apples have sugar in them, I didn’t want to cook them all day. An hour made them soft and imparted their sweetness on to the pork, but it wasn’t enough to burn them. The last step was to turn the slow cooker to warm and to mix in the maple syrup.

maple syrup

I left the pulled pork and apples in the slow cooker on warm while I made some homemade corn muffins. When we were ready to eat, I assembled little sliders of pork, apples, and cornbread. The flavors were all over the place, sweet from the apples, pie spice, and syrup, but nice and spicy from the chili powder and crushed red pepper. And the vinegar offered a nice tang, along with helping to make the meat super tender. These would make an awesome appetizer for a casual fall party, watching football, or a pot luck. I love making pot luck dishes in the slow cooker; it’s so easy to pick it up and bring it along, keeping everything nice and warm!

pulled pork

What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes? Do you ever make dishes other than main dishes in the slow cooker?


Calphalon Kitchen PLAY Calphalon is also sponsoring a wonderful giveaway at Kitchen PLAY. Simply recreate any one recipe from this month’s Progressive Party, post about the experience on your blog and provide a link to your post on Kitchen PLAY to enter. All qualifying bloggers in each course will be entered to win a Calphalon Kitchen Electrics prize valued at $100 (6 prizes total). The deadline is November 30, 2011. Please review the complete contest rules before entering. Good luck!


Thanks so much to Calphalon and Kitchen PLAY for allowing me to participate in such a fun online event! I did receive the Calphalon slow cooker free of charge, but my opinions are my own.

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Tags: appetizer, apples, Calphalon, Kitchen Play, pork, sliders, slow cooker

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