Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Super easy apple pie

I promised in my previous post that I would upload the pictures and details of my rushed attempt at an apple pie after our trip to the apple orchard.  I didn't have time or ingredients to make my own pie crust so I decided to use the Pillsbury refrigerated crust and also used their Perfect Apple Pie recipe found on their website and also on the box. It is probably the easiest recipe I've ever tried and I plan to try it again with my own homemade crust soon. The best part of it, is that it doesn't require a lot of ingredients; aside from the apples and the crust, all you need is flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and lemon juice.

I started out by peeling and thinly slicing six apples.  Is it sad to admit that I'm somewhat of an apple expert? I can peel, core and slice them up in seconds after making so many batches of apple sauce! When I first started out making apple sauce for my daughter last year I found it a bit tedious peeling, coring and cutting up all the apples so I decided to try the corer & slicer duo shown below by Good Cook

It cores and slices the apple into 8 wedges all at once, which sounds like an excellent time saver in theory, but over time I realized that it was much faster just doing it the old fashioned way with a regular knife and peeler. The corer only works for apples of a specific size and shape and actually ended up being slower in the long run, because more often than not it would not fully remove the core, and it still needed to be peeled.

So when I was making the pie I just used my regular peeler and knife and sliced it as thin as I could be bothered to.

Once I was done slicing them up, I placed them in a gallon size ziploc and added all the other ingredients. I chose to use a lot less sugar than the recipe called for and I decided to use a ziploc bag over a bowl because I felt it was the easier faster option. This also allowed me to store it in the fridge whilst I was figuring out the pie crust.

The premade pie crust is unbelievably easy to use. I just unrolled it and placed it inside the glass pie dish and then poured the apple filling into the dish.

Once I had all the apples in the dish, it seemed that 6 apples were too much for the size of the pie dish, and I thought about scooping some of the filling out out to avoid over stuffing the pie.  But ultimately I decided to leave it alone so I went ahead and put the second layer of crust over the pie and folded it over the bottom layer; sealing in the apple filling. I used a fork to reinforce the edges and then I just hoped for the best.

I planned to use my fork to poke a few holes in the top, but I guess you could say I went a little "fork happy"

Once I was done stabbing the pie a billion times with the fork, I  wrapped the edges of the crust in foil and placed the pie in a preheated oven set to 425F. After about half an hour I removed the foil wrap to allow the edges to brown, and about 15 minutes later I had my very own apple pie!

I really didn't have high expectations for this pie as I didn't put much effort or planning into it, but it was scrumptious! The smell of it alone was worth it; my kitchen smelled amazing for the rest of the day. My daughter was not interested in the pie at all and didn't even want to taste it which worked out great for me. My husband and I on the other hand couldn't get enough of it, I'll absolutely be making this again.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Toddler Activities: Apple picking & pumpkin patch

Although I have my moments when I really miss my daughter being a squishy newborn, I must admit I am really having fun with the toddler phase. Aside from the fact that she loves to say no to ever single thing, it is so much fun to introduce her to new places and new activities. At this stage it doesn't take much for her eyes to light up with excitement and for things to captivate her for hours.  For this reason I'm always open to new ideas of fun activities for us as a family to try.

Once I got over my denial that summer was really over I decided to take her to an apple orchard and try out the apple picking experience. I had heard from other moms that their kids couldn't get enough of this experience and that my daughter would definitely love it. They were right! Its amazing that something as simple as a farm can be so captivating. As usual I researched the heck out all the orchards and farms in my area and decided to pick an orchard that was not too big but still had a lot to offer. This particular orchard had pretty much a little bit of everything, the only thing missing was a corn maze but we were fine with that. The orchard attractions were;

                                                                  A small petting zoo
An apple orchard
Pumpkin patch
Pony rides
A bakery & ice parlor! 

The Apple Orchard

For me this was definitely the main attraction, and my primary reason for wanting to go in the first place.  I needed a large amount of apples to cook up a big batch of apple sauce for my little one and what better place to get apples than straight off the tree! I usually buy them from the farmer's market or from the supermarket, but I'm sure you know that the apples in the store are usually covered in "delicious" chemical preservative sprays and "food grade" vegetable wax to make them look nice and shiny and extend their shelf life.  So during the fall months when the apple harvest is ready, I think its the perfect time to cut out the middle man and pick my own apples.   

Most orchards will provide a daily list of which varieties of apples they have available for picking that day, as some ripen faster than others. On the day we went I was glad that they did have a good variety ready for picking; they had Fuji, Gala and Golden delicious as a well as few others that I wasn't particularly interested in. I really wanted the Fuji apples so I was pleased that most people were flocking to other kinds of apples and we had an entire row of apple trees to ourselves. At my local Shoprite each different type of apple retails for a different prices ranging from $1.69 to about $3.99 per pound,  but at the orchard all the different types were  the same price; $1.89 per pound, which is about 10 cents cheaper than the current price of Fuji apples at my supermarket. Nevertheless it was worth it to me. 

As you can see from the photo above, the apple trees are staked in the such a way that the apples are well within the reach of toddlers and so very easy to pick. My daughter had so much fun picking and packing them away in the bags they provided us with. it was surprisingly a lot more fun than I expected it to be!

Pumpkin patch

For many parents, picking and buying the perfect pumpkin to decorate for Fall/Halloween season is their main reason for visiting a farm at this time of the year. But lets be honest here, if you know anything about me, you'll know I couldn't be any less interested in pumpkins and I definitely am not a fan of halloween. I guess you could call me the scrooge of halloween, I even posted about here. I am not at all motivated to have anything remotely resembling a jack-o-lantern  so I planned to skip the pumpkin altogether.  However when we arrived at the orchard, there were pumpkins everywhere and their bright orange color really captivated my daughter. she wanted to touch them, sit on them and  play with them, so it is a genuine miracle that we were able to leave the farm without buying one. 

I did like the fact that they had all different sizes available and we had the option to either buy one already picked or go out to the patch and pick one ourselves.

The petting zoo
My daughter like all other toddlers her age loves animals, so the petting zoo was great, she got to come close to  few farm animals such as rabbits, ponies, sheep, goats, donkeys and ducks. They also offered carrots for children who wanted to feed the animals. It was fun to see her reaction to the animals and recognize them from out of her little story books.

The hayrides
There is something magical about a hayride to a 2 year old child, even if the ride doesn't lead anywhere special. She enjoyed the bumpy experience and wanted to go on it again and again.

The pony rides.
This particular orchard offered pony rides for $7, I'm not sure if that is a good deal or not but we decided to opt out because she was a little scared of being on the pony alone... we will have to give it a try next time

The bakery & ice cream parlor
This ended up being the best part of our visit! Their freshly baked apple cider donuts were just too awesome to express in words and the smell of all the delicious fruit pies straight out of the oven made me never want to leave! They also had their own homemade ice cream in the most scrumptious flavors!

We walked out of that place with our arms full of the yummiest goodies and once I came home and realized I had bought way more apples than I could ever use in a lifetime I decided to bake my own apple pie too. I chose the lazy option and used a pre-made pie crust by Pillsbury (gasp!) and also used their recipe that came on the box!  It was so much easier than I thought it would be and smelt heavenly, I will post about that next. I plan to try this apple recipe again when I have the time to make my own crust from scratch and I believe that will transform it from a great pie into an awesome pie!