The Thanksgiving holiday was always a big event at our house. When we were kids, I remember this huge turkey looming over me as I looked up from below the kitchen counter, and my mom trying desperately to remove that metal hook stuck in the turkey, and Dad finally getting the pliers to pull it out. Then there was the attempt to put the colossal bird into one of her mom’s big black enamel roasting pans. (If there were no wings on the serving platter, we knew that she had to chop them off to make it fit into the pan!)
Mom always got the biggest turkey she could find and many times she would get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to finish the prep to get “Tom Turkey” into the oven. The whole day is steeped in family tradition and memories. Maybe that is why I consider autumn so special. I feel like I come alive October 1st and the three or four months surrounding the holidays are magical. I love the cold weather, the turning of the leaves, especially out here on the farm, and I like to sit outside all year round too, just bundling up when it gets cold.
The only down side of November is that all of my favorite farm markets are closing, but not to worry! I just found a produce outlet across the street from work in the Magnolia and Main little strip mall, “D’Agostino’s Produce.”
They have all of my favorites—carrots, parsnips, butternut and acorn squash, brussels sprouts, berries, dried beans, rice and grains, and, a wonderful variety of apples! The store is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Make sure you give them a try!
Here is a simple but delicious recipe for baked apples, great on the Thanksgiving table as a side dish or wrapped up in a square of puff pastry to be warmed up and eaten later.
4 large apples, like Cameo, washed and cored, leaving a nice size cavity for stuffing
Real butter, real maple syrup, brown sugar and real vanilla, along with either apple cider or white wine
Mash up a mixture of butter, syrup, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla—the amounts depend on the size of apple opening so use your best judgement.
Stuff the apples, sprinkle a little cinnamon on top and place in baking dish with at least a two-inch side. Pour about 1 cup of cider or wine in bottom of dish and bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 to 25 minutes, test for doneness; it should be soft and slightly slumped.
Serve as is, or when cooled, place in the middle of a square of puff pastry (I found it at ShopRite), fold up sides and bake at 425 degrees F. for 12 minutes or until pastry is puffed and browned. You not only get a nice side dish for dinner, but leftovers in pastry make a great breakfast treat the next morning! n
Jean Hecker is a full-time travel agent at Magic Carpet Travels and a part-time foodie. She has a BA in Home Economics Education from Rowan University and enjoys exploring all facets of the food and restaurant industry.