Archive for September, 2012

Virginia Grown: Apple Picking at Stribling Orchards

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

#foodietotsapplefest

We were recently in a small market in our neighborhood picking up one or two things, when the boy picked up a shiny red apple and tossed it in the basket. I admit I felt more than a little silly telling him to put it back — but we had a bag full of fresh, local apples at home. The last time we were in the same market, I let the kids buy two of the waxy, Grown in Washington labeled apples, only to have them take a few bites and toss the rest. My kids are apple junkies, but there’s no time like fall in Virginia to appreciate the difference between supermarket fruit and fresh, local varieties. There are a number of orchards within an hour or so drive from Washington, DC, but we tend to return to Stribling Orchard just off I-66 in Markham, Va.

picking apples at stribling orchard

Stribling has a couple perks that make it the ideal apple picking destination for the 5-and-under crowd:

  • You can pick up bags, but then drive into the area of the orchard where you want to pick.
  • Sticks. Sure, the small trees have plenty of fruit within easy grabbing reach, but these cool picking sticks can be used to reach the primo fruit up high. If you have boys, you know what a powerful draw this is!
  • Bathrooms. Actual running water bathrooms — for the essential hand washing before picnicking.
  • Food. On the weekends they set up a grill offering burgers and hot dogs, and sometimes full barbecue (ribs, chicken and pulled pork). There’s also the bakery and store where you can find fresh baked cider doughnuts, pies and preserves.

apple picking sticks at stribling

Of course, it can also be quite crowded on the weekends so try to arrive early and be prepared for lines at check out and those bathrooms. Here are a couple tips gleaned from our annual apple-picking adventures.

Tips for a Happy Apple-Picking Outing:

1. Hats and sunscreen are essential. Stribling, and many other local orchards, are on top of hills which offer gorgeous views — and full sunshine.

2. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting mucky and put kids in long pants. There’s a lot of spoiling fruit on the ground and the kids will be traipsing through tall grass and other brambly undergrowth.

3. Try to find the variety you most want first. Once kids get on a roll picking, there’s no slowing them down and they may fill their bag at the first tree.

favorite find at stribling orchard farm store

apple by nikki mcclureGIVEAWAY: So you’ve gone apple picking and now you’re wondering what to do with all those apples? I’ve started an Apple Fest board over on Pinterest. Pin your favorite apple recipe, then share a link in the comments here so I can repin it to the board — or tag your pin #foodietotsapplefest & I’ll find it!

Every apple recipe posted below or tagged on Pinterest will give you one chance to win a copy of the gorgeous book Apple by Nikki McClure. You can “like” FoodieTots on Facebook and leave an additional comment below for an extra entry (or note if you’re already a fan). Contest is open to US residents only and will close at 11:59pm Eastern on September 30. Good luck, and happy apple eating!

blue skies at stribling orchard

New MOM’s Organic Market Opens in Merrifield

Friday, September 14th, 2012

We’re long time fans of MOM’s Organic Market, but moving away from the Alexandria location has made it harder to visit — until now. MOM’s has opened it’s newest Virginia location in Merrifield. (Technically it’s in Fairfax but just outside Falls Church.) Merrifield is the site of the coming-soon Mosaic District shopping center which will also have a Red Apron Butcher (yay!) and Target (for those less organic needs). The ninth store in the local MOM’s family, the Merrifield store is holding it’s grand opening celebration this weekend, Friday 9/14 through Sunday 9/16, with lots of great samples and kids activities. The littlest foodie tot and I got a sneak peek today.

mom's organic market merrifield

It may have helped that it was lunchtime, but the tot walked through the aisles exclaiming, “Purple milk? I LOVE purple milk. Bread? I LOVE bread. Cheese? I LOVE cheese,” and so on. (We also took home two free loaves of Spring Mill bread — a locally-baked favorite.)

local products at mom's organic market

After we finished shopping, we shared a beet burger and blueberry muffin from the Naked Lunch counter. (They’ll have kombucha on tap, if you’re into that sort of thing.) If you’re local, you’ll want to head on down and check it out!

Naked Lunch at MOM's Merrifield

MOM’s Organic Market – Merrifield
8298 Glass Alley
Fairfax, Va.
momsorganicmarket.com

Sweet Corn Chowder with Shrimp

Monday, September 10th, 2012

With fall on the way, I had the idea of a fresh corn chowder teeming with local sweet corn before it disappears from the markets. I kept it as simple as possible to really let the corn shine. To make a meal out of it, I sauteed some wild Key West shrimp in garlic, finished with a splash of white wine, and served those on top of the chowder for the husband and I. The kids don’t like their foods to mix….so they had their shrimp on the side. If you have less finicky eaters, you could even stir the shrimp into the chowder for the final minutes of cooking. But I’ll give you the chowder recipe straight up and leave those tough decisions up to you.

sweet corn chowder with shrimp

Recipe: Sweet Corn Chowder
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped small
  • 4 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock*
  • 2 cups half and half (or whole milk)
  • optional: 1/2 pound cooked shrimp, smoked paprika to garnish

Instructions:

1. Heat olive oil in soup pan over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic just until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add salt, pepper, thyme and potato, and cook, stirring, another minute.

2. Add stock and raise heat to medium high until it begins to boil. Reduce heat, stir in half and half or milk, and let simmer for 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

3. Remove from heat and serve, topping with cooked shrimp if desired, and a dash of smoked paprika.

*If you want to really let the corn flavors shine, check out my friend One Hungry Mama’s corncob stock — brilliant!

At Market: Apple Fennel Salad

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

These early days of September are full of mixed messages at the farmers market. Summer peaches can still be found, but are quickly edged out by the teeming bins of apples. Cherry tomatoes and okra share table space with the first acorn and butternut squash. Rosh Hashanah is quickly approaching (September 16) — the Jewish holiday that is marked by apples dipped in honey to symbolize the wish for a sweet new year — but when the temperatures are still topping 90 it’s hard to even think about baking with apples just yet. And so this apple fennel salad is the perfect cooling dish when summer heat is overstaying its welcome. Serve alongside fish or even hot dogs on the grill. Simplicity is key when coping with the end-of-day exhaustion of freshly back-to-school kids (and their parents).

apple fennel salad

Recipe: Apple Fennel Salad
Makes 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 Honey crisp apples
  • 1 fennel bulb, core removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

1. Thinly slice the apples and fennel, cutting down to bite-sized 1/2-inch pieces if serving little ones. Place in salad bowl.

2. Whisk together salt, honey, apple cider vinegar and olive oil.

3. Drizzle dressing over apple and fennel and gently toss. Garnish with a little of the leafy fennel fronds, if desired.

september at ballston freshfarm market

These particular apples were purchased at the FRESHFARM Ballston market, held Thursdays from 3 to 7pm just across from the Ballston Metro station. (Wondering why the honey crisps are more green than red this year? Blame the heat, says Mrs. Wheelbarrow in the NY Times Diner’s Journal.) We stopped by to sample the new goats-milk cheeses from Peachy Family Dairy in Pennsylvania (the foodie tot was smitten with their Lady’s Gouda Blessings, an almost candy-like treat), picked up some skirt steak from Gunpowder Bison, and sampled the new Savvy Popsicles). Local favorite Westmoreland Berry Farm is there, and Shells Yes!, a Maryland “true blue” certified crab company who makes a fresh and tasty crab and corn hummus. (And crab cakes, of course.)

What’s your favorite food at the market in September?