'Tis the Season

We had our first frost of the season last week.

I missed it.

I was tucked away in bed as it came and went, but the kind man at the apple orchard on Thursday told me that it indeed had come.

That's why, he said, the pick-your-own season is over. They have to get the remaining apples off the trees fast once the first frost comes, or the apples will be ruined.

And that would be a shame.

My niece Mica and I were a little disappointed to learn that we couldn't pick apples on Thursday. We're lucky live close enough to the beautiful Solebury Orchards that we make regular trips there for our apples, and when we have the time, we like to pick them ourselves.

Picking season may be over, but, thankfully, apple season is not. Solebury's late-ripening apples, which are kept cold storage, will be available in their market into the winter. So, though we couldn't pick them ourselves, we still walked away with a half-peck of Keepsakes on Thursday. 


While nothing tops an apple just off the tree, apples from a bona fide farmer's market are the next-best thing. They're crispier, juicer, and more flavorful than the supermarket variety. I don't know why, but they are. Get to your local farmer's market, and take a bite--you'll see what I mean.

Then, get baking. 

Jewish Apple Cake

I made this in October, as a birthday cake for my sister. It was hit with everyone but the kids. If they'd tried it, they may have liked it, but the idea of apples in cake was too much for them. That's ok--more for us. I served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and an apple cider reduction that was so easy to make. It's a very moist cake. 

Make this, or your favorite apple recipe, with farmer's market or supermarket apples--whatever you can get your hands on. It's autumn--and apple season--after all!

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup apple sauce (or cooking oil)
4 eggs
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup orange juice
5-6 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons nutmeg

For the apples: Use a few different kinds, if possible. The various flavors will combine in the batter to produce a gloriously complex apple flavor. I recommend this with any baking or cooking you do with apples, and especially when making apple sauce. In this cake, I used Braeburn, Keepsake and Sundance. 

Beat eggs, baking powder, vanilla, salt, and orange juice. Mix in another bowl the flour, sugar and oil. Add to egg mixture and combine. Note: This is different than most cake recipes in which you cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs.

Mix the cinnamon, nutmeg and 6 tablespoons of sugar with the sliced apples and mix well.

In a greased tube or bundt pan, pour 1/3 of the batter, then 1/2 the apples, then another 1/3 of batter, then the rest of the apples, then the remainder of the batter. 

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 1/2 hours or until tester or knife comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan to cool on wire rack. I recommend that you run a knife along the side of the pan to loosen the cake before turning the pan onto the rack. 

Apple Cider Reduction

Apple cider
a pat of butter (1-2 tablespoons)

A reduction is basically a liquid that has been cooked down to make a sauce. The effect is a thicker and more intense version of the original. 

To make an apple cider reduction, cook the apple cider down to your desired thickness by boiling the cider and stirring occasionally. At the end, whisk in a pat of butter to thicken it a little more and to further enrich the flavor of the reduction. 

How much cider you start with and how long you boil it depends on how much you need and how thick you want it to be. I started with 5 cups of cider and cooked them down to 1 cup. 1 cup was plenty to serve as a sauce for the cake. I could have used fewer than 5 at the start, but then my sauce would have been less sweet at the end. You can play around with it and see what works for you. You really can't mess it up.

Note: If you make the reduction to serve with this cake, remember that it's a sauce, not a glaze. Don't pour it over the cake until the cake is sliced and plated. 


Treat, Of Course

When I was growing up, Trick-or-Treating wasn't a big part of our family culture.

We didn't boycott Halloween, or anything like that. We enjoyed other activities related to the day, such as carving pumpkins, hay rides and dressing up in costumes, but going door-to-door just wasn't something we did.

You see, we lived on a busy highway, so, instead of driving us to the nearest neighborhood to knock on doors, my parents loaded us into the car and took us around to our grandparents' and our great-aunts' and uncles' houses, where we posed for many photos and helped ourselves to dishes candy corn, apples and other treats.

Still vivid in my memory is the eerie feeling of sitting on the sofa at Uncle Sam's and Aunt June's, knowing that the door at the end of the hall opened into the funeral parlor they ran.

From there, we would drive nearly 20 minutes to Aunt Elizabeth's and Uncle Georges's. Through the woods and along the gravel road, which today remains one of the last unpaved roads in Bucks County, my dad told us stories of the Boogie Man. My sister would laugh and tickle the back of my neck at just the right moment, while I cringed and looked over my shoulder constantly.

When we arrived at their old mill, we were greeted by the barking of what I remember to be at least fourteen jack russel terriers, though there probably weren't more than five. The lights were always dim inside the mill house, but it was warm too, and we were greeted with mugs of apple cider and frisky pups leaping up to lick our faces. It was always our last stop, and I always left with my bag heavy with treats and my fists full of quarters. At least, that's how I remember it.

I got older, and we moved from that busy street to a neighborhood of seven houses. It was too small to draw any trick-or-treaters, and the few kids who lived on that little road didn't waste their time on it. Instead, they trudged up the hill to a much larger neighborhood and made a killing there. I don't recall ever going with them. I do remember Halloween roller-skating and bowling with family and church groups instead, and I think I went trick-or-treating once or twice with friends from school. It was pretty nice to go home with a bag-full of candy, but I was freezing the whole time, and it seemed a little over-rated to me.

Even so, I don't think I'm a Halloween grinch; trick-or-treating just wasn't a big part of my childhood, and when it comes around each year, I don't give it much thought. Since Graeme is from Australia, where Halloween is not a big deal, or any deal at all really, on Sunday afternoon, when we both realized it was October 31, we scrambled to figure out what to do.

Should we buy candy, or should we escape?

We called our friends with whom we went to the movies on October 31, 2009, but they didn't pick up the phone. Hm. 

I insisted that no one but family would be knocking on our door; only one child lives in our apartment building, and he's under the age of five. Nonetheless, Graeme went out and bought two small bags. Meanwhile, I got busy making some long-over-due gingersnap cookies. They're a fall favorite, and I hadn't made any yet this year. 

At 8:30, we got our first and only trick-or-treaters: our niece and nephew, with my sister and brother-in-law. After a chilly evening of trick-or-treating, they enjoyed their homemade treat, and they walked away with a big stack. I'm still working on the York Peppermint Patties.

Adapted from AllRecipes.com

1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/3 cup white sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, mix together brown sugar, oil, molasses and egg. 

In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Then, stir into the molasses mixture.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Dip one side in the sugar, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet with the sugar side up.

Bake for 8 minutes.



A week ago this morning, I woke up in my own bed for the first time since August 29. My head was thick and heavy from travel and a very long sleep, and my body was achy. I stretched, and, comfy in my sweatpants and bare feet, I stumbled into the kitchen to put the coffee on and prepare this:

It was the best bowl of cereal I've ever had.

After 46 days, 19 beds, 17 concerts, 2 sinus infections, 1 busted suitcase, and countless stories, adventures and experiences, it is good to be home.

Shortly after finishing these bowls of cereal, we heard a knock on our door and were delighted to find our 4-year-old niece and our brother-in-law on the other side. She couldn't wait any longer, Jamal told us. It was after lunchtime, after all.

The last seven days have been filled with visits from family and friends, as well as unpacking, laundry, organizing, and clearing the layer of dust that settled while we were away. We've also been getting back into the routine of work and catching up on related details.

That's why it's taken me until now to fulfill the promise I made so many weeks ago: that recipe for meat pie.

We love this dish, and, in my opinion, it's perfect for fall. Try it at the park, on a chilly Friday evening, with friends.  It's also great in winter, or whenever you have a hankering. Pair it with roasted carrots and parsnips, and you've got a meal.

Fall 2009
If you make this dish, please please please tell me about it. I'd love to know what you think.

Chunky Meat Pie
Adapted from Coles

When making meat pie, plan ahead. It's a long process, though largely unattended. Several steps, such as making the crust dough, cubing the meat, even cooking the meat, can be done ahead of time. You can simplify it by buying ready-made pastry crust, but if you have the time and inclination, you should make your own. It's always better. And cheaper. Modify this recipe to suit your own taste by throwing some veggies into the pot to simmer. Next time, I'll be trying it with hearty mushrooms.

About 1 tablespoon oil
750g (about 1.6 lbs) stew meat, cut into small pieces, about 1/4 inch
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
11/2 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
double batch pie crust, any recipe OR 2 sheets ready-made pie crust from freezer section
1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water

For filling:
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Heat oil in a large wide saucepan. Cook beef in two batches over high heat for 5 minutes, or until browned. DRAIN fat from pan. (I have found this step to be very important. Without it, you'll have a fatty gravy at the end.) Return all meat an add onion and garlic; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in flour for 1 minute. Add the stock, thyme, tomato paste and worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Simmer uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until sauce has reduced to a gravy. Remove to a bowl and cool.

For crust:
Roll out half of pie crust dough or one pre-made sheet into a circle about 1-inch larger in circumference than your pie plate. Trim the edges. Prick base several times with a fork. Stand in the freezer for 10 minutes or in fridge for 30. Cover pastry base with baking paper then top with dried beans or rice and cook for 10 minutes. Remove paper and beans or rice and cook extra 8-10 minutes until just firm and beginning to color.

Fill the pastry shell with the meat mixture and brush edges with egg. Roll other half of dough into a circle and place on top on meat filling. Trim. Pres dough into edges of crust. Cut 2 small slits into the top of the pie. Brush pie with egg mixture. Bake 25 minutes or until browned.


This Journey's End

Our revels now are ended.

As you read this, we are probably out for dinner in Byron Bay, celebrating the finish of the final concert and the successful tour. Or, we may be back at our accommodation, organizing our bags for an international flight on Monday morning. Or, we may already be enroute to LA where we'll visit friends for a couple days before finally landing in Philadelphia on Thursday evening.

Six weeks.

It's a long time on the road, living out of a suitcase, sleeping in a different bed every couple of nights, eating out for nearly every meal. It's a long time for me anyway. There were times when I itched for a routine and for my own home, but it has been both an exciting and a restful time.

I said I wanted to see more of Australia and her contrasts, and to a great degree, I believe I have, from dry and seemingly-deserted country towns to bright and busy capital cities. I have a greater vision of the land that my husband will to some extent, regardless of how long he lives in the United States, call home.

Thanks for coming along with us. I've enjoyed sharing this journey with you.

Though I started this blog just before our trip began, I didn't start it just for the trip alone. As I mentioned in my first post, it's a place to practice the craft of writing, to explore ideas and to appreciate the many pleasures that life holds. It's still a pretty new thing for me, so it's hard to say exactly what you can expect, but I imagine I'll be talking mostly about food and food-related stories.

And I hope you'll stick around.


Australia in Pictures-Part Two

Aldinga Beach


Parliament House in Canberra

Parliament House from the side.
It's built into a hill.

In the Senate.
House of Reps is blue.
View of Parliament from the War Memorial

War Memorial

Shoalhaven River in Nowra

At the Nowra Wildlife Park

A few cute houses

See previous posts for pictures of other destinations, including Sydney and country towns.


Australia in Pictures-Part One

Funky Tree in North Adelaide

Kangaroo in Aldinga

Wattle in the Aldinga Scrub

Fuel pump in a country town
It's right on the street

Elephant Rocks

Graeme and a Giant Tree at
Walpole National Park

The view from the Treetop Walk
40m above the forest floor

Graeme and Me in the treetops

Nick and Graeme on the Pathway of the Ancients

The view from Albany

Natural Bridge

Albany Wind Farm

Kangaroo Paw
King's Park, Perth

Lavendar, maybe? 


Kangaroo Paw