Autumnal Frolicking: Apple Picking and Apple Baking

This past weekend, a few of my coworkers and I decided to drive out to a farm a little ways out of town for an autumnal treat: apple picking. Sadly, it’s the very end of the season, so pickings were slim (or rather, split and attacked by birds), but it was still a lovely outing. We were treated to stunning views of the countryside in an area where the mountains start to roll a bit and the weather was sunny and yet crisp.

We arrived at the farm in the late morning to a bustling scene of fall fun. A few children and a few more dogs joined in as we gathered our peck bags and headed up the hill. The best apples were at the very top of the hill, so we were able to kill two birds with one stone and take in the views as well. After a little time scouring the trees for apples that were ripe but not overripe, we adjourned to the bins of harvested apples at the ends of the rows of trees to fill out our bags. As I knew most of my apples would be used for baking, I erred on the side of taking a few of the greener apples from the trees. And Fiancé had joined us as well, making it easier to get some of the higher-up apples.

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In addition to gathering apples, we also bonded socially, which is something I’ve lacked with my new coworkers, even after being almost a year into my new job. We carried our apples back down the hill and paid for them, along with some cider. After that, we took ourselves to a nearby town for a sandwich lunch and dessert at an adorable bakery. And then home again to consider our spoils.

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Back home, I found myself tired and busy, so I had limited time to bake this weekend. But I found myself awake on Sunday morning with a desire for something baked and no desire to go out. So I had Fiancé grate some apples and set to work baking a batch of Apple Pecan Muffins.

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Now, I always grate the apples in my apple muffins because I don’t like biting into big chunks of cooked apple and I find it gives them a nice apple flavor and a moist texture. You can feel free to dice them if you like, though you may need to add a bit more liquid to make up for the juices that won’t release.

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I added pecans to my muffins, as well as more spices than just cinnamon. I have a love-hate relationship with cinnamon. Fiancé likes to quote The Hangover and call me a tiger whenever the subject of cinnamon comes up, which is cute, sort of. But I find that the oft-neglected other fall spices add an almost savory-spice to the mixture. It’s a rather old-fashioned flavor and brings to mind spiced mixtures from the Middle Ages, at least to me.

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Finally, if you can find the If You Care muffin liners, try them. They are the only muffin liners I’ve found that the muffins truly release from, no spraying needed. They’re probably easier to find at a hippie natural foods store, which happens to be where I do most of my shopping, but they’re so worth it if you hate having a quarter of your muffin stick to the paper.

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Apple Pecan Muffins
(makes 12 muffins)

Ingredients:

The Dry:

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking steel-cut oats
1/2 cup or so of pecans, chopped
1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. of baking powder
2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of ground ginger
1/2 tsp. of ground allspice
A pinch of salt

The Wet:

1/2 stick of salted butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup of fresh sweet apple cider
1-2 apples, grated (I used one large and one small)

The Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Spray the liners if you are not confident they will not stick. Or use my favorite liners.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients, making sure to break up any clumps of brown sugar.
  3. In a large measuring cup or a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, 1/2 a cup of the cider, and the eggs. Really whisk it together to form an emulsion between the cider and butter.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, along with the grated apple, and mix gently. If the batter is a little dry, add the rest of the cider until it’s a good consistency. Make sure you moisten all the little pockets of flour.
  5. Spoon into the muffin papers. Your cups will be rather full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until quite brown and springy. Cool as long as you can bear it in the pan and then eat, slathered in butter, preferably alongside a cup of tea or a mug of hot cider.

A Busy Weekend and a Busy Monday

Sunday morning, we woke up and realized that our front garden bed was woefully neglected. We hadn’t weeded in weeks and the weeds were almost as tall as the azaleas. So that we didn’t get too much sun, I suggested we go out and weed in the early morning. The front of the house is shaded until about 9:30 a.m., so we had plenty of time to pull most of the worst offenders in the weed department. We’ll have to get out a couple of weeks in a row before fall to keep things under control and then put down more mulch as the weather cools. We also gave them a bit of water since it was drier than usual last week and they were looking crispy.

After that, we decided it would be nice to walk to the store to get supplies to make waffles. I had most of the ingredients already, but we were out of maple syrup and butter. I was really excited to find Kerrygold Irish butter at the supermarket, and at a surprisingly good price. So I got fancy butter and went home to make waffles. I stirred up the batter and Boyfriend took care of cooking them. Waffles with butter and syrup was the perfect post-weeding treat! We did get a little down time for a couple hours while we ate breakfast, and I used the time to start watching Series 3 of Downton Abbey on Amazon, and do a deep conditioning treatment for my hair.

I’ve decided to officially try to grow my hair out again, and to that end, I’ve re-joined the hair forum of which I was a member many years ago. There’s a few treatments that have attained near-cult status and I knew one of them worked for me, so I put together a treatment with conditioner, honey, and aloe. I managed to use the last of my Griffin Remedy conditioner, but since I don’t want to order online when we’re going away soon-ish, I’m trying a brand from the natural food store where do our normal shopping. I’ve used it in the past and always thought of it as expensive, but it’s not actually that much more expensive than Griffin. Anyway, I let my treatment sit for an hour under plastic wrap and a bandanna, and then rinsed it out. It left my hair very soft and shiny. I let it dry hanging over one arm of the sofa while Boyfriend showered, and then put it up while we went to the store to shop.

After shopping for the week, I set to work, baking muffins and putting together lunch things for the week. I found the absolute best whole-grain blueberry muffin recipe last week, which I made again this week and froze for breakfasts. They’re fabulous with a cup of tea at my desk after I’ve made my smoothie at home. I also made a chopped salad, and hard-cooked some eggs for protein. I’m finishing out my healthy July re-boot strong!

Sunday evening was nice because we took my mother out for a birthday dinner. I was able to have a cocktail and a nice meal with her at one of her favorite restaurants. We even all got dessert and coffee (except I had tea!). It was nice because the slightly larger dinner served me well the next morning because I got up to go running early. I’m experimenting with only washing my hair three days a week and adjusting my running schedule so I run on days I already plan to wash my hair. This allows me to skip showering on some days, saving water and my skin, which has started to get more dry lately. We’ll see how it goes.

After running and a full day at work, I spent my Monday evening at an audition to which I’ve been looking forward for a long time. It was very busy and lasted longer than I would have liked, but I got to read for both characters in which I’m interested, AND the director remembered me by name without prompting, even though he asked almost everyone else to remind him of their names throughout the evening. So maybe that’s a good sign. Either way, it was fun to get to read something from the script. It would be a fun show to be in because it would further indulge my vintage loves!

I managed to make it home very late and fall into bed, but not before eating some pizza Boyfriend saved for me. He really is so sweet!