Fall festivals: five delicious ways to celebrate

fall festivalsThere’s something really depressing about seeing the last of the tomatoes, corn, and stonefruit at the farmers market, the withering vines in my neighbor’s gardens. But fall is also an exciting time for produce geeks, what with all the peppers and squash, pomegranates and persimmons.

If you love yourself some good food and drink, here are five reasons to welcome fall. No matter where you live in the North America, at least one of these is guaranteed to be coming soon to a town near you.

1. Hit a harvest festival
From the hokey (corn mazes, hay rides) to the downright debaucherous (late-night live music and beer gardens, camping in orchards), harvest festivals are a blast, no matter what your age. A great harvest festival will include delicious food; local craft beer, cider, or wine; farm tours and seminars; a children’s area and special activities; live music, and, if you’re lucky, a beautiful, bucolic setting in which to experience it all. Some festivals run the span of a weekend, providing an opportunity to take in more of the educational offerings.

Below are some of my favorite festivals, all of which have an educational component to them. Should you find yourself in Northern California in early October, it’s worth a detour to attend the famous Hoes Down Harvest Festival (Oct.1-2) at Full Belly Farm in the Capay Valley, near Davis. It’s one hell of a party (there’s also a top-notch children’s activity area, so little people will have fun, too); definitely plan on camping in the orchard and bring your swim suit; the farm is located beside Cache Creek.

Other great celebrations of fall: Vashon Harvest Farm Tour (Sept. 25), Vashon Island, WA; CUESA Harvest Festival (Oct. 22), Ferry Building Farmers Market, San Francisco, CA; Annual Harvest Festival, Sustainable Settings (mid-Sept.; date varies, but mark your calendars for next year!) Carbondale, CO.

September 22nd, from 7:30-9pm, the 16th Annual Harvest in the Square is being held in Union Square; online tickets are still available until tomorrow at noon for what is one of New York’s premier food and wine events. Some general admission tickets will be available at the event for a higher price.

[Photo credit: Flickr user zakVTA]fall festivals2. Check out Crush
In North America, the wine grape harvest is held in September or October, depending upon weather patterns. In Napa Valley, “Crush” has just started, and with it, fall colors on the vines; barrel tastings; special winery tours, wine-and-cheese pairings, and up-close-and-personal views of the Crush itself. Even if you’re not an oenophile, it’s by far the most beautiful time to visit Napa and it’s neighboring wine region, Sonoma Country. For Napa wineries and event listings, click here. For California’s Central Coast wine region events, click here.

Check out wine harvest events in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Washington state’s Yakima and Walla Walla regions, and British Columbia’s Fraser and Okanogan Valleys (go to Wines of the Northwest for events calendar on all of the aforementioned); for New York’s Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley, and other regions go to Uncork New York!

3. Go apple pickingfall festivals
With apple-growing regions scattered all over North America–from Virginia and Pennsylvania to New York, Washington state, British Columbia, and California–there’s no shortage of opportunities to attend festivals or U-picks. This traditional fall pastime is a fun activity for kids and supports the local economy and foodshed. Put up apple butter, -sauce, or freeze a pie for Thanksgiving, but be sure to save enough for winter (all apples and pears are placed in cold storage once the growing season ends, so the fruit you buy later in the season won’t be freshly picked). Store in a cool, dry, dark place. P.S. Don’t forget to buy some cider doughnuts if they’re available.

Please note that due to unusual weather patterns (aka “global warming”) this past year, the harvest is delayed in many parts of the country, including Washington. Check with local farms before heading out.

4. Visit a cidery
If you prefer your apples fermented, there are some excellent craft cideries throughout North America. The tradition of craft cider distilling hails from Western Europe, but domestically, the hot spots are the Pacific Northwest (including British Columbia), parts of the Midwest, and the Northeast.
fall festivals
5. Feast at a farm dinner
For food lovers, few things beat dining outdoors in an orchard or pasture, surrounded by the people and ingredients that made your meal possible. Farm dinners are a growing national trend; they may be hosted independently by the farm (Washington’s Dog Mountain Farm, Colorado’s Zephyros Farm, and California’s Harley Farms Goat Dairy are my picks) or hosted by companies like Portland, Oregon’s Plate & Pitchfork and Boulder’s Meadow Lark Farm Dinners. Many farm dinners are fundraisers to help protect local agricultural easements or wetlands, but your participation also supports the farm and local foodshed.

Farm dinners are also held at wineries, distilleries, craft breweries, mariculture farms, and creameries; a tour should be included. The best part, however, is when the guests include everyone from the local cheesemaker, rancher, fisherman, or winemaker, to the potter who made the plates. It’s both humbling and gratifying to meet the people who work so hard to ensure local communities have a safe, sustainable food supply.

[Photo credits: grapes, Flickr user minnucci]

Wine Tasting Room Etiquette

Road trip: Healthy snacks that satisfy your kids’ cravings

Taking a family road trip is one of the great experiences each summer, but when hunger sits in the car quickly turns from family fun to ravished scavengers looking for a feed. Thankfully, with a little pre-planning and preparation, you can avoid the fast-food rest stops and offer everyone in your car a fun and healthy snack to keep them satisfied on the road.

We gathered our Seed.com writers and asked them to submit their favorite road-trip snacks. Next time you head out on the road, consider one of these yummy treats that travel well, taste good and are a healthy alternative to greasy french fries and milkshakes (just don’t tell the kids).

Peppy Popcorn

12 cups air popped popcorn
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
cooking spray

Mix salt and chili powder in small bowl. Spread popcorn out on large baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt mixture. Stir popcorn to coat evenly. Scoop into sealable plastic bags. Makes 12 – 1 cup servings.

Not Quite Kettle Corn

12 cups air popped popcorn
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
cooking spray

Mix salt and powdered sugar in small bowl. Spread popcorn out on large baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with sugar mixture. Stir popcorn to coat evenly. Scoop into sealable plastic bags. Makes 12 – 1 cup servings.

Contributed by Mary Berg


Apricot Bars

1 tsp baking powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup uncooked quick oats
2 tablespoon sunflower seeds
15 dried apricot halves (diced)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 Coat an 8 inch baking pan with cooking spary
Mix dry ingredients (wheat flour, brown sugar, quick oats, sunflower seeds)
Whisk in butter and eggs
Mix in diced apricot halves to batter
Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top
Bake 20 minutes or until bars are firm
Cool and cut into bar size of your choice

Contributed by Melissa Johnson


Peanut Butter Banana Tortillas

This easy to make recipe is both filling and nutritious. As an added bonus, you don’t have to refrigerate this snack since there are no ingredients that will spoil. Whether you’re planning a road trip for adults or your entire family, everyone can enjoy this fun snack.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
Flour tortillas
Peanut butter
Bananas
Crushed walnuts

1. Spread peanut butter on one side of a flour tortilla.
2. Chop a banana into thin slices and place the slices on top of the peanut butter.
3. Sprinkle crush walnuts over the bananas and peanut butter.
4. Roll the tortilla up like you would a burrito and store in a plastic bag.

Contributed by Wendy Rose Gould


Tart Cherries and Chocolate Trail Mix

A well-designed trail mix combines nuts, dried fruit ,and maybe just a taste of chocolate to satisfy the palates of children and adults. Dried cranberries and raisins are common ingredients in many traditional trail mix recipes. In our family favorite mix, we substitute dried tart cherries for the cranberries for a delightful change of pace. The dried cherries are larger and chewier than dried cranberries or raisins.

This is a heart healthy, low-sodium trail-mix packed with protein, healthy fats, and anti-oxidants.

Ingredients:
2 cups roasted, unsalted almonds 2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts 1 cup dried tart cherries (Montmorency cherries are great-find them at Trader Joe’s among other places) 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For an extra layer of flavor, substitute 1/2 cup of roasted, unsalted cashews for 1/2 cup of peanuts.

Contributed by Doug Donald


Strawberry and Cream Cheese Sandwiches

1 tablespoon of reduced-fat cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
2 slices of whole-wheat sandwich bread
2 medium strawberries, sliced

Combine cream cheese with the orange zest in a bowl. Spread bread with the mixture. Place sliced strawberries on 1 piece of bread, top with the other.

Contributed by Dana Hiles


Road-trip Pizza

2 flour tortillas (white or whole wheat)
2 TBS. pizza sauce or thick marinara sauce, or 1TBS. prepared pesto sauce
1 oz. shredded or crumbled cheese (mozzarella, feta, blue, etc.)

Optional ingredients: mushrooms, olives, peppers, pepperoni, thinly sliced cooked chicken, ham, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts or whatever else strikes your fancy — be creative!

Directions:

Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium. Spread your choice of sauce on one tortilla and place it in the pan, sauce side up. Sprinkle the cheese on top, and then add optional ingredients. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese and cover with the second tortilla. Cook until the bottom tortilla begins to brown and the cheese begins to melt. Carefully flip the pizzadilla over, and cook the other side until lightly brown. Place on a cooling rack and cook the rest of the pizzadillas. When thoroughly cooled, cut the pizzadillas into quarters, place in storage bags or containers, and refrigerate until ready for the cooler.

Contributed by Julie Thompson


Pumpkin Muffins

These pumpkin muffins are a healthy version of a delicious treat that my mom and I developed while doing weight watchers, so they are family friendly and heart healthy.

1 1/2 cups of ground oatmeal (a blender will grind it into a fine powder
1/2 tsp of pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp salt Combine these ingredients, sift well and set aside to begin working with the ingredients below.

1 cup of Fat free plain yogurt
1/2 tbsp of vanilla extract
3/4 tbsp of splenda (you can use real sugar here, we use splenda because it has no calories)
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup splenda
1 cup canned
100% pure pumpkin (no sugar added)

Instructions:
1. In a large bowl combine yogurt, egg whites, 3/4 tbsp of splenda, and vanilla and beat with whisk until thoroughly blended. 2. Add pumpkin and 1/2 cup of splenda whisk to blend.
3. Stir in oatmeal mixture and mix well. (Note: if the batter is too thick add 1-2 tbsp of water and 1-2 tbsp of yogurt until smooth batter forms.)
4. Spray a mini muffin tin.
5. Cook at 350 degrees for 8-15 minutes depending on the oven. Watch closely. 6. Refrigerate after cooling for 5-10 minutes.

Contributed by
Jessica Meschke


Foraging for Berries

1 1/2 cups of blueberries
1 1/2 cups of strawberries
1 1/2 cups of red raspberries
1 1/2 cups of blackberries
1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon

Wash and drain all the berries. Slice the strawberries in half. Place all your berries into a bowl and add the 1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon. Mix gently and let stand for 30 minutes.

Place in sandwich bags for individual treats.

Contributed by Patricia Mason


Sesame Coconut Bars

3 cups sesame seeds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. It will seem dry. Do not add water! Empty onto the prepared baking sheet and press the mixture down evenly. Bake for 30 minutes or until browned. Let cool and cut into bars. Wrap individually in plastic wrap, or place in a covered container to take on the road.

Contributed by Sylvie Branch


Ham Scoopers

6 Kaiser Rolls
2 cups of cubed ham
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of chopped black olives
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup of mustard

Directions:

Mix together all ingredients except for bread.
Store in a container and place in the ice cooler.
Cut off the tops of rolls.
Hollow out the rolls, keep bread in plastic bag for freshness.
When ready to eat, scoop the ham mixture into the bread and enjoy.

Contributed by Eve Gandy


Spicy Sugar Nuts

This easy recipe provides the perfect road trip snack. With nuts as the primary ingredient, this on-the-go munchy includes protein, fiber and healthy fat. Bake the entire recipe in one shot and then divvy it all up so passengers have their own serving. Or to put it another way, they don’t have to share. Since the finished product lasts five days, assuming you don’t polish it off before the first toll, you can get a few miles if not states out of it.

Ingredients:
1 egg white
1 tsp water
3/4 cup of sugar
1 1/2 tbsp of cinnamon
1 tbsp of cayenne
4 cups of roasted salted nuts

Instructions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk egg white and water together. Continue until consistency is frothy. Fold nuts into egg white/water mixture. Add all remaining ingredients and stir until nuts are well coated. Pour mixture onto a large sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes. Let cool before using a spatula to release the nuts from the pan. Store in a sealed container to maintain freshness.

Contributed by Paige Levin


Oatmeal Bars (with a twist)

Ingredients:
2 cups of old fashioned oats
1 cup of skim milk banana
1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup of Splenda
1/2 cup of eggbeaters
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Cooking Directions Preheat oven to 325. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with baking spray. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until well mixed. Pour the batter in the baking dish and bake for roughly 45 minutes. Allow to cool completely and cut into 8 equal pieces.

Contributed by Benjamin Williams


Apple Sandwiches

I’ve served these apple slice sandwiches to my daughter’s classroom and my ladies’ dance class. Everyone thinks it’s a platter of cookies until they notice they are apples. It’s a tasty, easy, surprise treat that everyone likes. One apple makes about 3 sandwiches. I like to use Braeburns or Granny Smith varieties. If you have peanut allergies or prefer not to use the peanut butter, the apples sliced and dusted with cinnamon are great all by themselves.

To make:

Use an apple corer to remove the center of your apple/s.
Next slice the apple (leave skin on) horizontally into 1/8″ rounds.
Dunk the slices into a mixture of water and lemon juice so they won’t turn brown.
Pat dry and spread a layer of your favorite peanut butter on one slice, add some raisins or dried cranberries if you like.
Top with a second apple slice and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

Looks like a cookie, but oh so much healthier! Store in an airtight container.

Contributed by Jane Nichols


Happy Trails Hummus

2 15-oz. cans garbanzo beans
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
3 to 4 tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Drain garbanzo beans, reserving liquid.
2. Combine beans, tahini, lime or lemon juice, curry powder and olive oil.
3. Process in a food processor until smooth.
4. Add enough of the reserved bean liquid to make desired dip consistency.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Contributed by Nanette Wiser





SkyMall Monday: A Cornucopia of Foods

Writing about SkyMall products can generate a real man-sized hunger. Living in New York, I’m surrounded by culinary options from around the globe. I can easily walk from the the SkyMall Monday Headquarters to any number of restaurants specializing in the cuisines of Thailand, Nepal, Italy, Afghanistan, Turkey and Canada (yes, Canada), just to name a few. But sometimes I want to experience the flavors of the world without leaving home. Sure, I could have those restaurants deliver, but I want credit for cooking these meals. And by cooking, I mean constructing and heating up meals that one can only hope freeze, travel and defrost well. Thankfully, SkyMall understands that you don’t need to travel to experience the food of other cultures. Quite frankly, it makes more sense to let the food do the traveling while I stay put. Food doesn’t have to get patted down at the airport or deal with the chatty guy in seat 13F who smells like farts and disappointment. When food comes to you, it makes you more special than the meal. Because you were the one worth visiting. So, what myriad treats can SkyMall deliver to your door? I hope you’re hungry, because I’m going to be putting a heaping helping into your mouth today.Famous Fast Food Bundle (Pictured above) – Containing a Vienna Beef Hot Dog Kit, Original Philly Cheesesteak Co. Kit and Anchor Bar Buffalo wings, this all-in-one party-in-a-box comes with the fixings for 16 Chicago-style hot dogs, six Philly cheesesteaks and two pounds of Buffalo wings. Invite your best girl over for an intimate evening and be sure to contact your lawyer to get your affairs in order before ingesting all that brain food.

Sausage Lovers BundleHere’s what you do: Invite over each and every one of your best bros. All the fellas from the gym. The lads from the office. The guys from your cuddle parties. Gather ’em all up and then unfurl your Sausage Lovers Bundle on their asses! They won’t know what hit the backs of their throats as they take in those two pounds of Vienna Beef Polish sausage, 2.25 pounds of Usinger’s Cooked Brats and eight ounces of Vienna Beef Frankwurts. It will no doubt be the hottest, juicest and zestiest sausage party that those men have ever attended. Your party, like the frankwurts, will be “enormous!” And remember, pack plenty of condiments, because while the “natural hog casing gives it a distinctive snap,” it’s up to you to give it a protective wrap.

Johnnie’s Pastrami Dip – Typically, I like my pastrami to be made by someone named Morty or Schlomo, but only Johnnie can turn this delightful meat into something so classy. Because all it takes is “one bite of the pastrami and you know this is real fine dining.” Tablecloth, butler and silver platter not included.

Angelina’s Crab CakesOne bite identifies the meat as 100% domestic blue crab, the exclusive, expensive variety that’s worth every succulent nibble.” Because when you have to be told about an items exclusivity and price, you know it’s classy. Just ask the Real Housewives of [insert name of any city that has been featured on that show].

Fruitasia Easier to navigate than its cousin Southeast Asia and significantly more delicious than it’s sibling, euthanasia, Fruitasia is a treat for all of your senses. “A feast of flavors and sweet nectars – 16 pieces of fruit in all – this selection offers harvest-fresh morsels from every corner of the grove. Equally opulent is its dramatic presentation, making it irresistible to lavish on someone special.” That’s a grandiose way of saying that it’s a basket with three kinds of pears, two kinds of apples and some navel oranges.

Rocky Mountain ChocolatesPerhaps no region is more world-renowned for its confections than the American West.

I could go on, but, well, I’m starving. Check out all 50 food items offered in the SkyMall catalog when you have some time. Assuming you don’t eat any of them, it will be a great use of your time.

As for me, I have to get the invites out for my upcoming Presidents Day Sausage Party. They’ll be delivered in shipping tubes. I hope to see you there.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Get out and go: Events around the world this week (September 24-29)

Happy Hump Day, Gadling’ers! The weekend is approaching, so it’s time to look at the festivals and events happening around the world this week. If you’re close and have time, then you have no excuse to get out and go!

  • Kentucky World Chicken Festival: Did you know the World Chicken Festival is held in London, Kentucky? Neither did I. Apparently, it is a family event with fairground rides, stalls, live entertainment and fried chicken. The festival runs from September 24-27.
  • London – ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ opens Friday, September 25 at Shakespeare’s Globe in London and will continue through October 10. It is a play about the King of Navarre and his courtiers who have forsworn every kind of pleasure.
  • Maine AppleFest 2009 will take place at the Monmouth Museum in Maine this Saturday, September 26. There will be a series of family activities to celebrate the apple harvest.
  • Singapore – The Singapore Grand Prix will take place on Sunday, September 27. The race is part of the Formula 1 World Championship season.
  • Brighton – Last, but certainly not least, the UK Air Guitar Championships will take place Tuesday, September 29! According to its website, sweet moves and an outrageous costume are a must!

If you make it to one of these events, let us know how it was.

‘Til next week, have a great weekend — the last of September!

Photo of the Day (11.04.08)

With everyone getting all riled up about the elections and all today, I thought that I would pick a more gentile subject for the photo of the day: delicious, delicious treats. This photo of a row of candied and chocolate covered apples was taken by uncorneredmarket among the myriad Christmas Markets in Germany, several of which I was supposed to make it to this year. We’ll see if I have the time.

There. Now don’t you feel better about the outcome of the election?

Have any cool photos you’d like to share with the world? Add them to the Gadling Pool on Flickr, and it might be chosen as our Photo of the Day.