Archive for September, 2011

Apple Cider Doughnuts {and Where to Pick Apples}

Friday, September 30th, 2011

L’Shana Tova to our Jewish readers out there. It’s customary to ring in the Jewish new year with apples dipped in honey — one tradition taken very seriously by my apple-addicted son. In fact, apples and honey comprised his and his friends’ entire meal last night at dinner — at least until hours later when they were reminded that dessert was reserved for those who had eaten the main course. My son went on a buying spree last weekend at Black Rock Orchard’s stand at the farmers market — where the hand-sized Empire apples were selected as lunch-box worthy, one jumbo honey crisp for that afternoon, Jonamac, Jonathan, and Macoun apples for snacking/baking, and several toddler-hand-sized Seckel pears included for the baby. Even though we’d already gotten bottles of apple cider with our milk delivery, we couldn’t pass up a small jug of honey crisp cider to consume in the park. (Playing Transformers Tag makes one thirsty, after all.)

empire apples black rock orchard

I recently bought a doughnut pan and, in the spirit of the season, decided to test it out with baked cider doughnuts. Now they were delicious, but I’m still on the fence about the use of the word “doughnut” to describe a baked item. Healthier, yes, but really I’d have to say they’re more like muffins in the shape of doughnuts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I just wanted to warn you in case you were going into this expecting that crisp fried crust of a traditional doughnut. On the bright side, you can enjoy these every day of the week without the guilt — and they’re safer to bake with kids who aren’t old enough to safely man the deep fryer.

baked apple cider doughnuts

Recipe: Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons boiled cider*
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup  white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Instructions:

*For the boiled cider: If making your own boiled cider, reduce one gallon fresh cider in a large, non-reactive pan over medium heat (it should boil gently). It took approximately 2.5 hours for mine to reduce down to a syrup-like consistency. Stir occasionally,  particularly as you near the end of the cooking time to make sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom. The cider should begin to thicken and coat your spoon, looking almost like maple syrup, when it’s done. Remove from heat to cool, then pour into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator.

For the doughnuts:

Preheat oven to 400*. Butter a six-count doughnut pan.

In the mixer bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and spices on medium speed. Add the cider and egg, continuing to mix for another minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk and mix on low speed until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the doughnut pan, being sure to wipe the centers clean of any stray batter. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes, before turning them out onto a rack.

I dipped each doughnut’s bottom into fresh apple cider, than a bowl of cinnamon sugar for a little extra oomph, but you can serve plain or top however you wish. I’m thinking of a boiled cider glaze (like maple glaze) for next time. Makes 6 doughnuts.

Notes: Making boiled cider is easy and makes your house smell fabulous. I’m glad I made a small batch (1 gallon) so I have an excuse to make it again later in the season.

Where to Pick Apples in Northern Virginia: These are some of our favorite local orchards. They are true orchards, not the “fall fest” type of farms with entertainment and hay-rides, just fyi. Pack snacks (if you require more than fresh-picked apples for sustenance), water and bug spray and wear appropriate shoes for hiking around the orchard, potentially in mud given our soggy September. And always call or check the website before heading out to make sure they’re open for picking.

1. Crooked Run Orchard, Purcellville, Va. (540-338-6642). I’m not aware of any truly organic orchards in the are, but Crooked Run is a “low spray” orchard, meaning they use alternative pest control and fewer pesticides than conventional apples found in the supermarket. They typically have pumpkins and gourds available for purchase as well. 

2. Hollin Farms, Delaplane, Va. (540-592-3574). Hollin Farms has a corn maze, pumpkins and gourds and fall greens available to purchase. 

3. Stribling Orchard, Markham, Va. (540-364-3040). Stribling has a farm store and bakery on site so be prepared to bring home extra goodies. They’ve had very tempting caramel apples in the past.


View Pick-Your-Own Apples in Northern Virginia in a larger map

Lunch Box Lessons {and Giveaway!}

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The foodie boy began kindergarten yesterday (sniff), and now that I’ve successfully packed my first two brown bag lunches I thought I’d pass on my expert advice. Kidding — but I am employing a couple strategies learned from our summer experimentation. And I welcome any tips from those of you with more experience than I!

3 Strategies for a Successful School Lunch

1. Ask your child. Whether it’s asking them for a list of approved items or letting them select ingredients at the grocery, buy-in is key for ensuring they’ll eat what you pack. (Just take care to avoid the junk food aisles if you can.) And if your kids are old enough, have them help prepare their lunch, too.

2. Embrace comfort foods. I wouldn’t call the boy a picky eater, but he does tend to go through phases — particularly in times of change — where he may ask for macaroni and cheese each night. (He even requested it for his birthday party.) We’re taking things easy this first week and using his favorite snacks as building blocks — nuts, berries, cheese, etc.

3. Think outside the bread. We don’t eat a lot of sandwiches at home (aside from grilled cheese), so I shouldn’t have been surprised that the boy is slow to warm up to the idea of a cold sandwich. More appetizing, in his opinion, have been almond butter on rice cakes and cream cheese on cinnamon raisin English muffins. Meat and cheese roll-ups were also a hit.

He ate every morsel of his lunch yesterday, so I think we’re off to a good start. What have you packed for lunch this week?

I’m also pleased to share a giveaway and special offer to help you pack all-natural lunches for your kids:

Annie’s Homegrown, Stonyfield YoKids, Honest Kids and Seventh Generation have teamed up to help families toss their brown bags this back-to-school season by offering a free Kids Konserve lunch sack with the purchase of participating products through September 30, 2011.

Consumers are invited to visit Annies.com/bts11, print out the form then mail in proof of purchase of all four brands. Eligible products include:

  • Any Annie’s Homegrown item
  • Stonyfield YoKids Organic Yogurt 6-packs or Squeezers
  • Honest Kids Organic Drinks 8-pack carton or 64-ounce bottle
  • Seventh Generation Disinfectants (sprays or wipes)

BACK-TO-SCHOOL GIVEAWAY: FIVE FoodieTots readers will win a free lunch sack with coupons from each of these brands. Simply leave a comment below telling us something you’ve packed for your child’s lunch, before 11:59pm on Sunday, Sept. 11. Winners will be selected at random and notified by email on Monday.

For additional chances to win:

* “like” FoodieTots on Facebook, and leave an additional comment below telling me you did so (or already do),

* “follow” FoodieTots on Twitter, and leave an additional comment below telling me you did so (or already do), &/or

* “subscribe” to FoodieTots via RSS or email, and leave an additional comment below telling me you did so (or already do).

Thanks for entering — and I hope you’re having a smooth transition back to school if your kids started this week!

Disclosure: I received a free lunch sack in exchange for hosting this giveaway, but these brands are well-loved by the FoodieTots family. As always, all opinions expressed in this post are our own.

What We Ate During Summer Vacation

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

watermelon for breakfast … on Whidbey Island, Washington

breakfast on whidbey island

and fabulous coffee, cheese & donuts in Portland, Oregon

foodie tots eat portland

we rode on planes (4), trains (2), boats (2) and automobiles (many); saw cool critters (at the Oregon Zoo/Multnomah Falls); and there were birthday cakes, too (x 2)

on the road

& you?