Monday, September 29, 2008

An apple a day... well, I think we need to eat more like 5!

Do you remember what we did around this same time last year? Yep, we kept with tradition and met up with my family again to go pick apples! Woo!

We made the drive down early yesterday morning to meet up with my family in Winona - we then moved through various locations to pick apples, see the sights and stop at a few craft stands. Get ready for a picture-heavy post!

Here is our first stop every year...

This time, the trees, with their wild limbs, were abundant with apples...

Another row that still looked almost untouched!

Mom has lots of plans for her apples and got right to work trying to find the best ones...

Our niece Bria came with this year - here she is luggin' a box they just started filling.

Here is Gus, quite limp and exhausted... he spent lots of puppy energy running around, helping us pick the apples.

Just before leaving, we always try to get a shot of the mountains (well hills, I guess) that are full of trees - they have just begun to change, so I hope we get a chance to go back soon once they have turned into those beautiful autumn red, orange and gold colors.

After some driving around, we ended up at the lock and dam that is also a must-see...

We happened to catch an old-fashioned paddle boat that was leaving the passage way.

Gus also happened to get plenty of love from Mom... I think Jeff was afraid she was going to try and puppy-nap him back to the farm!

While it was pretty overcast when we started, it turned into a beautiful day on the way home... most of our drive back is along the Mississippi river, so we had gorgeous views the whole way.

Dad, Jen and Steve were all too fast for the camera, so unfortunately we didn't get any snaps of them!

It was dark when we got home last night, but we took the apples out this morning so we could get a look at our haul.

It was over 42 pounds... (and to think, my family picked at least 3 times this amount!)

The varieties we ended up with were Granny Smith, Fire Side, Golden Delicious and a mess of our favorite, pictured below, Honeycrisp!

Of course, Gus wanted in on the action and had to pose...

Then he decided was was hungry for some apples - look at him lickin' his chops!

I also made dinner last night, so let's move on to that - a few weeks ago, I asked Jeff to pick up some endive from the store... sound familiar? While he was roaming through the store, he also picked up a few things he thought we needed because they were on sale... you know, M&M's, bananas (even though we had more than enough already) and a package of stuffing mix. I don't have a guess on how that fit in, but whatever! So, now I've been wondering what else I could do with that box besides the obvious.

After browsing around for inspiration, a recipe for this Bruschetta Chicken Bake popped up and looked like it would be just the quick ticket for dinner after being out and about pickin' apples. I played around with the recipe a bit to add a little more depth, so here is what we ended up doing.

To the stuffing mix, we added fire-roasted diced tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, vegetable broth and a few cloves worth of minced garlic. Rather than using all chicken breasts (which you could certainly do), I used a combination of breast meat and thighs - once sliced into bite-sized chunks, I tossed them over the bottom of a large baking dish and seasoned them with dried basil, crushed red pepper and fresh ground black pepper. I skipped any extra salt at this point because the box mix is fairly salty already. The moistened tomato and stuffing mixture is scattered on top of the chicken, followed by a sprinkling of Parmesan and a shower of Mozzarella cheese.

Once it had a few minutes to rest after the trip through the oven, we were able to cut this dish into clean squares - the duo of chicken covering the bottom was still plenty juicy, the stuffing mixture on top was moist, yet not mushy and the cheese on top was gooey and browned. Topped off with a few shreds of fresh basil from the deck, we both thought this was quite good and comforting after a long day! The cherry tomatoes added a pop of freshness while the canned fire-roasted tomatoes backed them up with a deep flavor. The original recipe called for using water to moisten the stuffing mix, but I used vegetable broth as I figured it would just add one more layer.


  1. Wow! Time flies, I remember your post from last year Joe! Can't believe it's been a year already... this year did go fast.
    Your apples look so crisp and delicious. I too like the Honeycrisps, they are delicious just to eat out by themselves!
    Can't wait to see the great recipes that are going to show up here using those apples, and during the fall, with a little cinnamon apples are a great treat!
    (ohh, now I want apple muffins, I love apple muffins!)

  2. ooh, honeycrisp are my favorite too!! and gus is too cute ;-)

  3. I remember really well. I love those posts with the great pictures. And this year with Gus, it's so cute. Can't wait to see what you are going to bake.

  4. Great pics, Gus is adorable - I have tried a similar recipe for chicken bruschetta bake and enjoyed it too - good for a quick and easy but still tasty dinner!

  5. what a little ham that Gus is...but a very cute little ham....

    ..never had a Honeycrisp... Macs are still the only apple that tastes like an apple to me...

  6. I love Honeycrisp apples! I can't wait to see what good apple recipes you share with us. Makes me ready for fall!

  7. I love apples! Any type. Yummm

    I can see why you were concerned about Gus being Puppy napped, he blends in with her festive seasonal jacket.

    I see lots of praise for the apples, but the easy dinner of chicken brushetta caught my eye. How can you go wrong with boxed stuffing? I'll try this one!

    Happy Fall.

  8. What a fun time apple picking. Our store just got Honeycrisp apples in--for $3.49 lb. Crazy! We gotta go pick our own. Can't wait to see all you do with them!

  9. Wow just look at all those gorgeous apples. You just can't beat a crisp and crunchy apple, all sweet and juicy.
    We don't have nay places you can go apple picking here in the UK. Its such a shame as I love apples. Looking forward to some apple-tising posts :)

  10. It looks like it was a fun day! I am going apple picking this weekend! I am geekily excited about it :o) I don't think we will go quite as far as Winona, but I will definitely be getting Honey Crisps! Have you ever tried Honey Gold? I got some last weekend at the Minneapolis farmers market, and they are amazing! I hope to find some of those too...


  11. Great pictures! Would you believe I have never heard of Honeycrisp. I don't think they have them here in Virginia. Just made a Jewish Apple Cake and think I will get more apples and make another one......

  12. Ana - I agree... this year has flown by!

    TTFN - Thanks!

    Helene - Me too... I need to figure that out!

    Razz - Definitely quick and easy.

    BV - You must find a Honeycrisp! They are too good!

    The Mcree's - I'm not sure I'm ready for the cooler weather just yet though!

    Thistledew - Yes, but thankfully Gus made it back to us!

    Katrina - Exactly! Thats why we wait until we can pick them ourselves!

    Katie - That is too bad! Apple picking is quite fun!

    Courtney - We have had ginger golds before (so good!), but I don't think we have tried Honey Golds yet.

    Debbie - Really? You should be able to find them in Virginia! We had no problem getting them in MD.

  13. So, did you leave some apples for the rest of the state??? I have never heard of honeycrisp, I'll look for them - debbie if anyone would have them in VA I'm guessing it would be Wegmans.

    I printed out the chicken recipe for the entire office. Who can resist stuffing?


  14. OMG - Gus is absolutely GORGEOUS!! I hope you will include more shots of him!!!

  15. Quinn - We left a few... we love apples!

    Goldengirl - we've posted several of him already! :)

  16. I'm pretty sure Honeycrips were invented in MN. Typical dachshund with that look( and tongue). I give my boys apple pieces as a treat, they love them!!( there isnt to much they dont love really)

  17. Randi - Yes, I believe they were just a few years ago. Gus loves little bites of apples too!