We made the drive down early yesterday morning to meet up with my family in Winona - we then moved through various locations to pick apples, see the sights and stop at a few craft stands. Get ready for a picture-heavy post!
Here is our first stop every year...
This time, the trees, with their wild limbs, were abundant with apples...
Another row that still looked almost untouched!
Mom has lots of plans for her apples and got right to work trying to find the best ones...
Our niece Bria came with this year - here she is luggin' a box they just started filling.
Here is Gus, quite limp and exhausted... he spent lots of puppy energy running around, helping us pick the apples.
Just before leaving, we always try to get a shot of the mountains (well hills, I guess) that are full of trees - they have just begun to change, so I hope we get a chance to go back soon once they have turned into those beautiful autumn red, orange and gold colors.
After some driving around, we ended up at the lock and dam that is also a must-see...
We happened to catch an old-fashioned paddle boat that was leaving the passage way.
Gus also happened to get plenty of love from Mom... I think Jeff was afraid she was going to try and puppy-nap him back to the farm!
While it was pretty overcast when we started, it turned into a beautiful day on the way home... most of our drive back is along the Mississippi river, so we had gorgeous views the whole way.
Dad, Jen and Steve were all too fast for the camera, so unfortunately we didn't get any snaps of them!
It was dark when we got home last night, but we took the apples out this morning so we could get a look at our haul.
It was over 42 pounds... (and to think, my family picked at least 3 times this amount!)
The varieties we ended up with were Granny Smith, Fire Side, Golden Delicious and a mess of our favorite, pictured below, Honeycrisp!
Of course, Gus wanted in on the action and had to pose...
Then he decided was was hungry for some apples - look at him lickin' his chops!
I also made dinner last night, so let's move on to that - a few weeks ago, I asked Jeff to pick up some endive from the store... sound familiar? While he was roaming through the store, he also picked up a few things he thought we needed because they were on sale... you know, M&M's, bananas (even though we had more than enough already) and a package of stuffing mix. I don't have a guess on how that fit in, but whatever! So, now I've been wondering what else I could do with that box besides the obvious.
After browsing around for inspiration, a recipe for this Bruschetta Chicken Bake popped up and looked like it would be just the quick ticket for dinner after being out and about pickin' apples. I played around with the recipe a bit to add a little more depth, so here is what we ended up doing.
To the stuffing mix, we added fire-roasted diced tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, vegetable broth and a few cloves worth of minced garlic. Rather than using all chicken breasts (which you could certainly do), I used a combination of breast meat and thighs - once sliced into bite-sized chunks, I tossed them over the bottom of a large baking dish and seasoned them with dried basil, crushed red pepper and fresh ground black pepper. I skipped any extra salt at this point because the box mix is fairly salty already. The moistened tomato and stuffing mixture is scattered on top of the chicken, followed by a sprinkling of Parmesan and a shower of Mozzarella cheese.
Once it had a few minutes to rest after the trip through the oven, we were able to cut this dish into clean squares - the duo of chicken covering the bottom was still plenty juicy, the stuffing mixture on top was moist, yet not mushy and the cheese on top was gooey and browned. Topped off with a few shreds of fresh basil from the deck, we both thought this was quite good and comforting after a long day! The cherry tomatoes added a pop of freshness while the canned fire-roasted tomatoes backed them up with a deep flavor. The original recipe called for using water to moisten the stuffing mix, but I used vegetable broth as I figured it would just add one more layer.
Bruschetta Chicken Bake