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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.

pumpkins

pumpkins

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.

apples

cranberries

turnips

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.

Ingredients

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.

apples

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

It’s my last day! It’s my last day! It’s my last day! I am not feeling much better, but I have to suck it up to go into work, wrap things up, and most importantly, turn in my bathroom key. Otherwise I could be in big trouble! Bathroom keys are in demand.

I think I am going to try to have a nice dinner out with the hubby, but we shall see how I feel. I have a big weekend ahead, judging a cooking competition in Portland, ME, and I want to make sure I am healthy for that!

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, and I thought I would share a few new-to-me discoveries for this fall. Every year I look forward to some of the same fall traditions, but it is always fun to discover tasty new treats!

Homemade apple butter! Why have I waited so long to make apple butter? I had some just-okay apples from Smolak Farms, so I consulted a bunch of recipes online and decided to make apple butter with the peels on! I could say I did this for the nutrition in the skins, but really? I was just feeling lazy and didn’t want to peel 25 apples. 

apples

So I made my own recipe. A whole bunch of apples, chopped into small pieces and tossed into the slow cooker, and lightly coated with cinnamon and our neverending supply of Grenada nutmeg, then covered with a cup of apple cider.

chopped apples

I put the slow cooker on low for 8 hours (no peeking!), and when I finally returned, it looked like this.

apple butter

I let it cook down for another 2 hours, used my immersion blender to make it smooth, and this apple butter made the dreamiest topping for oatmeal for an entire week. Simply delicious, and ridiculously easy! I don’t know why I have never made my own apple butter before.

Other fall  discoveries? King Arthur Flour’s mixes, and in particular, their pumpkin cheesecake bars. These are SO amazing and easy to make. Just add a few ingredients to the packaged mix, and bake.

pumpkin cheesecake bars

I also recently discovered Sam Adams’ Harvest Pumpkin beer. I am normally pretty set in my ways, loving Shipyard pumpkin the best of the pumpkin beers I have tried, but the Sam Adams pumpkin beer is quite delicious, lightly spicy and sweet without the overwhelming “potpurri” taste I get from some seasonal beers.

I am excited to spend the weekend in Portland where I am sure there will be plenty of Shipyard pumpkin beers, lots of great food, and fun. In addition to the competition, we are also celebrating my friend’s birthday with dinner and drinks out. I just hope it isn’t too cold up there! Wish me luck on my last day at my full-time job! I am starting to have the feeling that exciting things are to come!

Have you discovered any new delicious fall treats this year?

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Tags: apple butter, apples, pumpkin beer, pumpkin cheesecake

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