Saturday, September 29, 2012

Apple Picking

A few weeks ago, Travis and I went apple picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchards.  We usually end up going apple picking in mid to late October, but this year we wanted to make sure we got some honey crisp apples (my favorite), which ripen earlier in the fall.  Since we usually go later (after most have had their apple fill), we'd never experience the madness of the crowds.  It was CRAWLING with people, but we still had a lot of fun!

So far I've made a honey mustard and apple pork tenderloin and two apple cakes!  I love apple season!

In addition to picking apples, we went through the hedge maze.  Honey Pot has two hedge mazes - the one we conquered and another down the street that is the largest hedge maze in the country!  It's 1.5 miles long, has 6 "outlook" bridges to help people scout out their path, and takes about an hour to complete.  We'll have to go back another day to do this one!

 We also looked at the farm animals...

 ...and ate hot dogs and apple cider donuts!

Have you gone apple picking before?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mini Pumpkin Pies

One of the girls at work, Arielle, loves making “tiny” food, and inspired me to try some mini pumpkin pies.  I LOVE pumpkin pie, but usually only eat it on Thanksgiving because Travis isn’t a fan (who isn’t a fan of pumpkin pie??), and I can’t possibly eat an entire one myself before it goes bad.  These mini pies seemed like the perfect solution – I can get my fix and easily share the rest with neighbors and friends.  Did I mention they are super cute, too?

I compiled several recipes to come up with the below…and it was delicious!

Mini Pumpkin Pies (makes 3 dozen)

2 (15 ounce) cans pumpkin
2 cans Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon salt

2 boxes of refrigerated pie crusts (4 crusts total)

Mix together pumpkin, condensed milk, eggs, sugar, spices and salt. 

Unroll each pie crust.  I took my rolling pin and made the crusts a little thinner.  Using a 4” round cookie cutter, cut out crust circles.

Spray a muffin tin with Pam and put one crust into each hole.  You can tap a few small holes in the bottom of each with a fork to make sure the crust doesn’t bubble as they cook.

Fill each crust (almost) to the top with the filling mixture.  Using an ice cream scoop works really well!

I rolled out the extra crust and used Fall cookie cutters to make cute little toppers for each. 

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and cook for another 20 minutes.  Let’em cool before you eat, and top with cool whip or vanilla ice cream!

Travis will be taking 2 dozen of these to Brandeis tomorrow, my neighbors will get several…and we’ll have some.  Turns out that after this, Travis does like pumpkin pie!

Everyone loves it when I bake...including Toby!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Easy Apple Cinnamon Cake

A few weeks ago, after going apple picking, we had our friends Ann and Terence over for dinner.  Dinner was going to be an apple/honey mustard pork loin, but I also wanted to use some of my freshly picked apples in our dessert.  Since I didn't have long to prepare (and have even less experience with gluten free baking - Ann is GF), I decided to get a gluten free box mix and try to "sup it up".  

It turned out so well I decided to try it again with a non-gf mix - it's a winner...and SO easy!

All you need is:

Your favorite yellow boxed cake-mix (plus the ingredients needed to make as directed)
3 T brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


2.5 cups of apples
2.5 Tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon


First, mix the cake mix according to the directions on the box.  Then add 3 Tablespoons brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

To make the drizzle, melt 2.5 Tablespoons of butter.  Stir in 3/4 cup of brown sugar (or more if you'd like) and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Peel, core and chop up 2-3 apples (you'll need about 2.5 cups).

Now to put it together!

Spray a 9x13 pan.  Pour in half of the cake batter

Drizzle the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture and 3/4 of the apples on top.

Spoon on the remaining cake batter, then top with the remaining cinnamon sugar mix and apples.

Bake according to the directions on the box mix!

Top with cool whip or vanilla ice cream, and enjoy!

Gluten free cake mixes usually make enough for a 9x9 pan, so adjust the extra ingredients accordingly.  The "dump" method works well.   :)

So easy...and you'll never know the base is from a box!

Monday, September 24, 2012

What to do in Boston

When we moved to Boston in 2006, Travis and I thought we might only be here for two years (while he got his Masters in Music Composition from the New England Conservatory).  We wanted to make sure we didn’t leave this awesome city before we had done EVERYTHING exciting, so we sat down and made a “Boston Bucket List”. 

This list consisted of everything from Walden Pond, to watching fireworks on the 4th of July from the Esplanade, to riding the end of each green line…and every time we heard of something else interesting to do here, we’d add it to our list.  Every time we had a free weekend, we’d pull out our list, pick an attraction, and go!

6 years later…still living in Boston…we’ve done almost everything there is to do (sometimes 5 or 6 times), and it doesn’t get old!  A lot of people ask us what our favorite things to do are when they are coming into town – here are a few!

Where to stay:

Since we live in Boston, I haven’t stayed here myself, but have had friends/family say these places are wonderful!

350 Main Street
Cambridge, MA

This was my parents’ favorite place to stay when they came into town (before we had a spare bedroom).  The Kendall is just over the river in Cambridge, but right next to the T, so it will only take you about 5-10 minutes to get into the heart of the city.  Originally built in the 19th century, The Kendall was a firehouse and designed to accommodate stables, coal bunkers and sleeping quarters for the firemen.  Now every room has its own, individual design (by a local artist) and is decorated with antiques!  

Marriott - Brookline
40 Webster Street
Brookline, MA 02446

Another place that is pretty reasonably priced is the Marriott in Brookline, which is about a mile from Fenway  I've never stayed here, but I know the staff well and they are FANTASTIC (I park in their garage every day for work).  The hotel is right on the T (the subway), so getting into the city is easy.  Fun fact: Terry Francona stayed in the hotel for about 6 months after the Sox debacle last year and almost ran me over a handful of times.  :)

Where to eat:

There are SO many delicious places to eat in Boston – here are a few of our favorites that tourists should not miss!

286 Hanover Street
Boston, MA 02113

Ristorante Saraceno on Urbanspoon

The “North End” is Boston’s “Little Italy”…and man is it delicious!  Our favorite restaurant in the North End is Ristorante Saranceno.  You won’t go wrong with anything here, but some of the favorite dishes are the lasagna (it’s HUGE), Linguini with Seafood, Rigatoni all arrabbiata (spicy)…or just the spaghetti with meatballs!  One thing to note – refills on soda are NOT free…so order a water too.  We have no idea how their dessert is, because we always skip it here and head next-door to…

300 Hanover Street
Boston, MA 02113

Mike's Pastry on Urbanspoon

There is an ongoing battle in Boston about which is better – Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry.  We’ve sided with Mike’s, but you can certainly visit both and pick for yourself!  (Modern Pastry is a few buildings down from Mike’s.)  On a normal evening, there’s a line out the door and the store is packed with customers waiting to place their orders.  You won’t really get a chance to see all the pastries, so you should just know what you want…and trust me…you want a cannoli (there are 17 varieties of cannolis).  Travis’ mom also loves the lobster claw.  There won’t be room to sit and eat your snacks inside, so they’ll box your treats up for you to take with you and eat later. 

41 Union Street
Boston, MA

Union Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Ye Old Union Oyster House opened its doors in 1826, making it the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the country  The history of the Union Oyster House is a mile long and includes things like being the residence of a future king of France, the first place the toothpick was used in the US, and a favorite stop for JFK.  Located in Government Center, there are plenty of things to do while you wait for a table, and food is just as delicious as the history is impressive.  This is also home to my favorite clam chowder, (hands down) the best cornbread, and where Travis had his first Boston “lobstah”!

84 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108

Cheers on Urbanspoon

Where everybody knows your name!  Please, please…if you eat at Cheers in Boston…make sure you go to the original!  You’ll recognize the front of the building from the TV show, but the real name of the restaurant is The Bull & Finch Pub.  The inside doesn’t look like what you saw on the show (they used a set in Hollywood for this), but it’s a fun (you guessed it…) pub that has great bar food named after the characters in the show.  If you’re a beer fan, ask for Boston Brick Red – it’s a Sam Adam’s brew that’s only available on tap a few places throughout Boston!  Also, make sure they seat you downstairs (the upstairs looks like a bad Howard Johnson’s). 

Going Fancy?  Try Top of the Hub or L’Espalier

Top of the Hub                                           L’Espalier
800 Boylston Street                                    774 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199                                    Boston, MA 02199

These are two of our favorite (really) nice restaurants in Boston.  Top of the Hub is located at the top of the Prudential tower – 52 floors above Boston’s Back Bay – and the views are what make this restaurant so spectacular!  In addition to dinner, they offer a Prix-Fixe Lunch menu Monday – Saturday that’s reasonably priced.  If you want the views without the cost of the restaurant, check out the SkywalkObservatory.  L’Espalier is a few steps down Boylston street and has some of the most amazing food I’ve ever tasted.  If you can plan far enough in advance to attend one of their Cheese Tuesdays, by all means…sign up!

What to do:

I could go on and on about things to do for hours.  Here’s the short list of some of our favorites and “must-dos”.

There’s a 2.5 mile red line that meanders through most of Boston called the Freedom Trail.  Stop by the Visitor’s Center (located at Boston Common) and purchase a $10 self-guided tour book to follow along with as you go, and you’ll be able to see 16 historic landmarks at your own pace.  (Several of the restaurants I mentioned above (Union Oyster House and Saraceno) are located on the trail and would make nice stopping points for lunch or dinner.)  If you do not want to walk the whole trail, check out one of Boston’s Trolly Tours that will let you on and off at each stop, or a Duck Tour which travels on both land AND sea (well, really the Charles River).

Fenway Park, “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark,” is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and the behind the scenes tour is really neat – even if you’re not a baseball fanatic.  The tour, led by one of their experienced guides, is about 50 minutes long and will lead you through the park, where you’ll see Pesky’s Pole, sit on the Green Monster, and even spend a little time in the press box.

There are lots of really great museums in Boston (MFA, ICA, Museum of Science), but one of the most unique I’ve ever been to is the Isabella Stewart Gardner.  Isabella Steward Gardner was one of the foremost female patrons of the arts in the late 19th century, and her home – a 15th-century Venetian-style building filled with paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts, and rare books – shows it!  At her death she willed that her home remain just as she had arranged it, so much so that if any one piece changes, the entire estate is to be sold at auction.  It truly is a one-of-a-kind sight you won’t find anywhere but Boston.

A few other favorite attractions/places are:

NewburyStreet - Boston’s 5th Avenue
Sam AdamsFactory Tour - Includes a tasting.  I like it because there's root beer if you're not a beer fan.  :)

What are some of your "Boston must-sees"?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Get a Long Little Doggie - The Cape Cod Doxie Day!

What's cuter than one adorable dachshund?  One HUNDRED adorable dachshunds!!

Today, we traveled down to the Cape for Cape Cod Doxie Days.  This is an annual event held each September to support the Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue, which is dedicated to rescuing Dachshunds and Dachshund mixes all across the country.  They raised over $5,000 from today's festival!!

Never EVER have I seen so many dogs - let alone dachshunds - in one place, and it was by far the most fun I've had in a long (haha) time!  The day started out with information on how to approach other dogs and a silent auction, then went into the "superlative" competitions.  The categories were hilarious - Best Ears, Teeniest Weenie, Longest Doxie, Loudest Bark, Senior Star, Most Prized Puppy, Owner/Pet Look Alike, Hairiest Hound, Handsome Hound, Best Trick, Foxiest Doxie, Best Smile, Best Kisser, Best Waddle, and Best Tail Wagger.  The winners for each category got Olympic- style medals!

Who's got four legs and won "Best Tail Wagger"?  THIS GUY!
Another category winner, resting up after the fierce competition.
Jessica and Paris...lookin' fine for the look-alike contest.

There was also a fashion show (so funny) and a dachshund race.  There were so many participants in the race, they broke the pups into "heats", and then had semi-finals and a final race to determine the winner.  Toby was NOT a fan of the dachshund race, even though he won his heat!  Toooo many screaming people!

The starting blocks for the race!

Here are some other pictures from the day!

My favorite dachshund leash ever!  
Three to a leash?  Quite impressive!
There were ramps to go up...
...and down!
There were dogs in strollers...
...dogs in t-shirts...
...and dogs in costumes (someone gave Toby a hotdog costume!)

Did I mention there were a LOT of dogs?


17 years old!  So sweet!

Jessica and Paris

Toby and Paris - hanging out while the competitions were going on.

Ridiculous ears picture!  
Suuuper sweet guy!

Can we do this every month?  :)