A Day at the Orchard

In the spirit of fall and my strong desire to escape the city for a couple of hours, I decided to go apple picking this past weekend. Granted, in the end I never even touched an apple, I still enjoyed my day out in the orchard.

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Apple Ridge Orchard in Warwick, NY was where we spent our day. Here, they have acres upon acres of apple trees, a pumpkin patch, some farm animals and a hayride that goes through the entire orchard. There is a small barn area where they sell delicious apple cinnamon donuts, apple cider, fruit preserves and honey, with a bee farm right next to display, so you know it’s real. Everything is reasonably priced ($1-$8) and for an apple picking bag, $29. In my personal opinion, it’s pretty pricey. But the apples are grown organically and if you have a big family, it may be worth it. Price definitely factored into the reason why we didn’t pick any apples. However, many families, mostly of 3 or more, definitely got their twenty-nine dollars worth, as they should!

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To the side of the orchard, surrounded by beautiful views, there is a small area filled with goats, sheep, cows and rabbits. The orchard sells a bag of hay for just a dollar so that kids can feed the animals. While many were terrified of the farm animals, plenty were more than happy to feed the hay to them. And the animals really enjoyed it.

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At the pumpkin patch, there were too many pumpkins to choose from! Perfect for this time of year, kids were very quick to claim their pumpkin of choice. The pumpkins are a great size to carve, just slightly bigger than a basketball. Also at the pumpkin patch are scarecrows, miniature houses and plenty of photo opportunities.

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My favorite part about the entire orchard was the fact that there were plenty of young kids working there. One at the entrance/exit, marking bags of apples and checking pumpkin tickets. Two young girls collecting tickets for hay rides, two young boys watching the animals (making sure no kids feed them anything funky) and a couple of older kids selling apple bags and tickets.

Traveling to Apple Ridge Orchard on a Sunday afternoon was a complete mission to say the least. If you have a car or have access to one, I 100% recommend you drive up there. From the city, it’s about an hour and ten minutes drive. But by transportation, expect at least a two hour commute. Spending multiple hours on a bus on a beautiful Sunday wasn’t ideal, but it made for great quality time and there is a lot of beautiful scenery along the way.

Would I do this all over again? Absolutely. But next time, I’ll drive!

Puerto Rican Pasteles

This typical Puerto Rican dish probably is the most fascinating food I have ever tried. At first, I didn’t like it even though all the ingredients were very familiar to me. Nevertheless, after I tried many more times, or I should say after I tried my mother-in-law’s pasteles, I began to like it and very much enjoy it. This year, in memory of my mother-in-law, I and my daughter made it the way she taught me. Typically, this dish is eaten during the holiday season and is very similar to what most know as tamales. I share this recipe with you all.  Happy Cooking!!

For this dish, you will need to make sofrito, a cooking base used in many Latin American dishes.

Ingredients:

SOFRITO

Blend green pepper, onion, garlic, cilantro, recaito in the blender.

FILLING

  • 1 cup of chop meat (pork or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup of alcaparado (chop green olives)
  • 3 spoonfuls of sofrito

Sautee meat until light brown and add sofrito and alcaparado. Add garbanzo beans when the meat is cooked. Let it cool.

PASTELES INGEDIENTS:

  • 1 cup of shredded plantain (green banana)
  • ½ cup of shredded pumpkin
  • ½ cup of shredded white yautia
  • ½ cup of carnation milk
  • ½ cup of achote oil (mix achote seed and oil, heat it up in low heat)
  • 1 small envelope of sazon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red roasted pepper (canned)
  • Paper (banana leaves is good too. It adds flavor).
  • Cooking string to tie

Use wooden spoon or spatula to mix all Pasteles ingredients. It should be a very smooth mixture and nice shiny light orange color. It is ready to be wrapped.

On a piece of paper, put a dollop of the pasteles mixture, a generous amount of meat with its juice and a slice of roasted red pepper. Fold the paper and tie it with string.

To cook, place the pasteles in boiling salted water for about 45 minutes. Pasteles goes well with simple white rice or with rice and gandules.

Freeze extra batch for future consumption.