Friday, October 23, 2009


Rusty red and golden brown leaves blanket the ground while tree branches kiss the grass heavy with apples…it is picking season.

Apple picking is a tradition for many New England families, though even in Ohio I remember taking a field trip to the apple orchard. I recently convinced the BF to go to Brooksby farm in Peabody, MA for an afternoon of crisp fall weather with the promise of collecting as many apples as Johnny Apple Seed could carry.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather as we were handed an empty bag and ventured off into the miles of apple trees. We strategically headed away from the little kids running through the orchard and pounding fallen fruit into apple sauce.

Any professional apple picker will tell you that hidden at the back corner of the orchard you will always find the best choices. The largest apples are easy to spot high above little kid reach. We found some extreme apples heading down the farm. Easily larger than my hand, the shiny red fruit begged to be picked. The branches sprung back to life after the weight of the world was lifted and our bag was filled.

With no more room to fill our pockets or bag we headed back to the car until the perfume of apple cider donuts distracted us. The farm store bakes up fresh donuts and pies and if you weren’t hungry before picking you will be once you catch a whiff.

Apple cider donuts are hit or miss with me. If they don’t have enough cinnamon they taste just like cake donuts. The folks at Brooksby know a good apple cider donut. Here is a recipe to make your own.

While apple picking is a great outdoor activity, you do end up with a lot of apples. Trying to figure out inventive ways to use them before they go bad is a skill. There are archives of apple crisp pie and baked apple recipes to choose from. It is easy to be overwhelmed, however the size of the champion apples that we found lent themselves to only one thing apple dumplings.

The Cheesecake Factory serves giant apple dumplings on their menu and I set to making my own. All it takes is peeling, coring the apple and then rolling them in cinnamon and sugar and stuffing the middle with butter. Once this is finished a pie round tucks the apple into a lovely wrap. To cover our Frankenapples it took a nine-inch pie round ...a piece

Once tucked in, the dough is given a wash with egg whites and a sprinkle of sugar and then popped in the oven. It took two days for the BF to eat just one.

Oompa Lumpas in NH

"Greetings to you, the lucky finder of this Golden Ticket, from Mr Willy Wonka! I shake you warmly by the hand! Tremendous things are in store for you! Many wonderful surprises await you! For now, I do invite you to come to my factory and be my guest for one whole day - you and all others who are lucky enough to find my Golden Tickets.

I, Willy Wonka, will conduct you around the factory myself showing you everything that there is to see, and afterwards, when it is time to leave, you will be escorted home by a procession of large trucks. These trucks, I can promise you, will be loaded with enough delicious eatables to last you and your entire household for many years. If, at any time thereafter, you should run out of supplies, you have only to come back to the factory and show this Golden Ticket, and I shall be happy to refill your cupboard with whatever you want."

~Willy Wonka

I’ve been volunteering with the group Ovations for the Cure in Natick, MA in support of Ovarian Cancer research. In Sept. the organization held one of their largest fundraisers, the Night of the Monarch Gala.

For months I have been calling and soliciting artists, shops and restaurants for donations to the fashion show & gala’s silent auction. I was overwhelmed by the responses I got and was invited into the underbelly of the Taza chocolate company’s warehouse as well as the Lindt factory in NH to pick up a basket of chocolate to raffle off.

I had been offered the golden ticket... leaping at the chance to be Charlie and taste Willy Wonka's word, I adventured off to pick up the donation at Lindt. I imagined that the building would have been oozing chocolate with bars for bricks and frosting for mortar. The company paddle boat would float me through the river of chocolate to the front door just as Charlie felt going to the Willy Wonka factory.

The hour drive north from Boston only increased my anticipation of what the factory would be. My little yellow car flew up the winding road and past the Timberland factory until the familiar Lindt blue awnings greeted me. No, there were no Oompa Loompas or gumdrop trees or even a chocolate river (really the only way to travel) but the scent of cocoa whispered hello.

Anyone who has ever been even to the regular Lindt stores can tell you that the shopping experience is only sweetened by the free sample at the door. At the Lindt factory store there is not only a greeter with a basket of tempting truffles, but a café with Lindt hot chocolate and pastries.

I giddily placed my request for the raspberry truffle iced hot chocolate. The barista selected bits of real truffles and poured in steamed milk on top of ice cubes. The first sip can only be described as swimming inside the rich center of their raspberry chocolate treat. This was not just a cup of chocolate milk with raspberry syrup, but the reinvention of my favorite chocolate piece.

While the cashier went to the back to get the extra large basket of donated chocolate, I floated around the store. My nose leading me to pieces of chocolate I had never even seen before including the cherry & chili dark chocolate bars. Better yet, these bars were hiding in the sale section.

My godmother once told me that broken cookies have fewer calories, and I believe that this idea carries onto broken chocolate bars and the bags of chocolate sea shells and bunnies that never made it to the big show. Not only are their less calories in these pieces, but they are even cheaper. It is obviously more economical to buy the 10lb bag then only buy one piece!
After loading my car with the giant basket of chocolates for the event and chugging the chocolate drink, I can declare my afternoon as Charlie a success.