Pumpkin Stew baked IN the Pumpkin!

A small pie pumpkin has been sitting in my kitchen awaiting its destiny for about a week. I purchased it at Giant with no plan or recipe in mind. I knew only that I wanted to cook or serve food IN the pumpkin. I pictured a stew of sorts, with sausage and white beans (two of my favorite foods), plus fresh sage and, of course, pumpkin. I scoured the internet in search of such a meal and came up empty. How has no one made this feast before??

Real recipe or not, I was determined to give my lonely little pumpkin a purpose. I found two separate recipes – one for a stew, another for how to bake a different dish in a pumpkin – and combined them into my own pumpkin creation. I sent a cell phone picture of the finished dish to my mom just before digging in and she texted back “You need to put this in your blog!!” so here ya go, Mom, this one’s for you. Continue reading

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Birthday Hike at Binky Lee

Smile, it's Friday!

Smile, it’s Friday!

A few weeks ago Matt and I took Piper hiking at Binky Lee Preserve in Chester Springs, PA. It was my birthday so Matt was extra patient when I stopped to take dozens of photos of fall foliage, grasses, and (of course) Piper. Piper was less tolerant of these numerous delays – she prefers to be moving full speed ahead at all times – but I was still able to capture a few shots of her against the gorgeous fall landscape.

Here are some photos from our hike. This really is what Southeastern Pennsylvania looks like in the fall. Isn’t it pretty??!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is what a German Shorthaired Pointer with a mouthful of water looks like! I think she was trying to bring some of the creek along for the rest of the hike. 😄

389 mouth fulla water

If you find yourself in northeastern Chester County looking for a place to hike I’d definitely recommend visiting Binky Lee. For more information check out the links below. Happy Friday!

Binky Lee Preserve
1445 Pikeland Road
Chester Spring, PA 19425
Web Site  |  Trail Map  |  Google Maps

455 Piper in fall

Piper visits Newlin Grist Mill

Regal Piper Pup

As you might expect, Piper’s arrival has had a big impact on our daily routine.  Matt and I are waking up earlier on work days, stopping home 2-3 times to let her out during the day, and (still!) taking turns setting an alarm for a middle-of-the-night potty break.  We are also making sure to do at least one mentally and/or physically stimulating activity with Piper every day to tire her out.  On weekdays it’s practically dark when we get home from work which limits us to activities around the house like wobble-disc practice in the kitchen or epic games of fetch in the back yard. (Fetch is, of course, frequently interrupted when Piper gets distracted and tries to eat deer poop, but I digress!)  Weekends, however, are a whole different story… daylight means that we can go hiking!

Hike hike hike

Since Piper is still very young, meandering hikes in the woods are a great way to tire her out without causing too much stress on her joints.  To keep things interesting, we’ve been visiting a different local park or trail each weekend.  This has been a fun way to re-explore some of our old favorite hiking spots that I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while.  One such local gem is Newlin Grist Mill.

Newlin Grist Mill is a 160 acre park and historical site in Glen Mills, PA.  You can read more about the park’s history, working grist mill and educational programs on their web site.  I’m sure that all of that historical stuff is cool (convincing plug, right?) but WE visit the park for its miles of secluded nature trails that wind along an abandoned rail line and a beautiful stream.  Here are some photos from our hike a few weekends ago…

Newlin Grist Mill’s trails are well maintained and clearly marked, but I have not been able to find an actual detailed trail map of the park.  There’s a basic map at the parking lot showing park boundaries and general right-of-ways, but it’s missing most of the side trails that we actually hiked on.  Luckily, the park is relatively small and most of the major trails tend to be oriented east-west along the old rail line and stream.  This makes it hard to get lost and fun to explore… perfect for hiking with a 10-week-old puppy!

Oh Hi!

If you’re in the western Philadelphia suburbs and are looking for a low-key, relaxed hike with lots of stream views and history, I’d definitely recommend spending an afternoon at Newlin Grist Mill!

Newlin Grist Mill
219 South Cheyney Road
Glen Mills, PA 19342  (map)
www.newlingristmill.org

The Darlington Trail (Piper-style!)

Darlington Trail Hike 10-31-14On Halloween Matt and I took Piper hiking on the Darlington Trail.  The Darlington Trail is a public hiking trail in Middletown Township, Delaware County, PA that winds along Chester Creek and an abandoned section of railroad that once connected Media to West Chester.  Naturally, I brought my camera along to document this adventure and wanted to share a few of my favorite shots here.

Warning… lots of cute puppy photos ahead!!! 😊

Piper loved climbing around on the train tracks and even walked on one track balance beam-style for a few steps.

Piper on the train tracks 3Piper on the train tracks 1Piper on the train tracks 2

In order to get a good photo angle of little Piper I ended up lying down on the tracks, which put me at the perfect level for a surprise puppy attack!

Surprise puppy attack on the tracks!

Piper was a total ham on the hike and kept pausing to look at the camera.

Piper 3PiperPiper the GSP PuppyPiper 2

Even when Piper got a break from walking she still made a point of looking at the camera!

Piper keeping an eye on me Piper takes a break from hiking

At the end of the hike little Piper happily snoozed in my arms on the drive home.  She is such a sweetie.

Piper sitting in the grass-

That’s it for this hike, but don’t worry, I have photos from a more recent hiking adventure that I will share soon!  🙂

Apple Crisp

It’s October, which means that mornings are starting out clear and cool, evenings are getting darker sooner, leaves are changing colors, and we finally closed the windows in our bedroom (but don’t worry, the heat won’t be on for another few weeks!).  You know what else happens in October??  APPLE CRISP SEASON!!!  Yes, it’s officially the best time of year to enjoy warm, cinnamon-y baked apples with a sugary, spice-filled topping and a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream on top.  YUM!!

Apple Crisp

Matt’s dad visits up state New York every fall and inevitably returns with dozens of freshly picked McIntosh apples.  When we were at Matt’s parents’ house last weekend we loaded up a big grocery bag full of apples and then set about finding an apple crisp recipe worthy of the season.

Like many of my favorite recipes, the recipe below is from our trusty cookbook, The New Best Recipe.  I can’t stress enough how fantastic this cookbook is.  It has detailed, easy to understand instructions, long intros about how and why the authors chose certain ingredients or cooking methods, and tons of illustrations.  Not that you really need an illustration for apple crisp, but that feature has definitely come in handy for some of the more complicated recipes that we’ve attempted.

Apple Crisp

With this back story in mind, it should come as no surprise that this recipe for apple crisp turned out perfectly.  The McIntosh apples melted into a flavorful, applesauce-like filling and the firmer Granny Smiths held their shape and gave the crisp a good texture.  There’s just the right amount of tart lemon to offset the sweetness of the apples and the topping was absolutely delectable.  In fact it’s making my mouth water right now just looking at the photos!!! 🙂

Apple Crisp (serves 5-6, from The New Best Recipe)

For the topping…
6 tablespoons Flour
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar, packed
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Salt
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted Butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup coarsely chopped Almonds, Pecans, or Walnuts (I used sliced almonds)

For the filling…
3 McIntosh Apples, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
3 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon Grated Zest and 1 1/2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar

Vanilla Ice Cream

Directions:
Start by making your topping.  Combine the flour, sugars, spices and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Blend for a few seconds to mix.  Add in the pieces of butter and pulse the food processor 10 times for 4 seconds each.  Don’t overmix the topping.  Accordingly to the original recipe, your topping will first look like dry sand, then like coarse cornmeal.  Add in the nuts and pulse again 4-5 times for 1 second each.  Refrigerate the topping for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling, combine the apples, zest, lemon juice and sugar in a large bowl and mix well to coat the apples.  Use a spatula to transfer the apple mixture to a 9-inch deep dish pie plate (make sure to scrap the sides of the bowl to get all of the sugar and lemon flavor!). 🙂

Sprinkle the chilled topping evenly over the apple mixture.  Bake the crisp in a preheated 375° oven for 40 minutes, then increase the heat to 400° and bake for another 5 minutes until the topping is golden brown.  Remove the crisp from the oven and allow it to cool slightly for 10-15 minutes or as long as you can wait… it will smell GREAT at this point!  Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

1171 Apple Crisp

Farewell Summer Flowers, Hello Pumpkin Beer!

Happy October!  I love this time of year.  Cool, crisp mornings, changing leaves, lots of apples and, soon, pumpkin-flavored everything.  Call me crazy, but I like to wait until it really feels like autumn before going on pumpkin overload.  (My one exception is pumpkin beer… Southern Tier Pumking is the best!)

The only thing that I don’t like about fall is that my once-lush summer garden inevitably wilts and dies as the temperatures drop and the days get shorter.  Luckily it appears that my garden hasn’t yet gotten the memo about it being October because everything is still vibrant and perfect as of today.  It’s hard to believe that in a few weeks I’ll be tearing out those zinnias, dahlias, pepper plants and other summer growth as I prep the garden for winter.

I took numerous photos of the flowers in my garden over the summer and thought that October 1st would be the perfect day to share their summer beauty before the garden transitions to fall.  Farewell, summer flowers, and hello, pumpkin beer!!

Is there anything about autumn that you don’t like?
Does the arrival of pumpkin beer make up for it?  🙂
What’s your favorite pumpkin-flavored item at this time of year?

Birthday Walk at Ridley Creek

Last Friday was my birthday, woohoo!  Because we were entered to run in the Trinity 5K at 9AM Saturday morning we kept Friday’s celebrating pretty low key.  We got breakfast at Manhattan Bagel (my favorite) and worked a full day while hydrating like crazy for the race.  After work we took a nice walk with Bailey at Ridley Creek State Park before eating a pasta dinner and getting a good night’s sleep.  Here’s a photo of my Ridley Creek walking buddies… the perfect birthday companions!  🙂

380 Matt and Bailey

The weather was gorgeous during our walk.  Since we weren’t planning on doing any running in the park I brought my camera along to capture the beautiful autumn colors and my favorite photo subject, Bailey.  Here are a few of the photos I took:

Bailey hasn’t been to Ridley Creek State Park since I hurt my foot in late September.  She was so happy to be out and about again!  She was sporting her new ‘walkeez’ fleece harness and she paused for lots of photo ops.  She’s such a good dog!

Bailey

Hiking in the park with Matt and Bailey was the perfect way to spend my birthday.  What’s your idea of the perfect birthday afternoon?