Thursday, September 25, 2014

Get Up & Go! Fall Apple Picking

Autumn in Massachusetts means delightfully crisp temperatures and even crunchier apples. This week’s Get Up & Go! offers five local orchards where Macintoshes, Cortlands and more are ripe for the picking. So, this weekend, get up and go have a taste of the fall harvest!

Each year, Smolak Farms offers fresh seasonal produce, pick your own apples and a series of Harvest Festivals each weekend. From now until October 26th visitors can enjoy hay rides around the farm, a 10ft high corn maze and decadent, homemade apple cider donuts.

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315 South Bradford Street, North Andover, MA 01845

Located in East Bridgewater, this family owned and operated farm offers apple picking as well as pick your own raspberries (yes, they’re still in season!) and pumpkins that are perfect for carving. For a full day of fun on the farm, check out the annual Harvest Hoedown held on Columbus Day Weekend where youngsters can enjoy a giant moonwalk and pony rides.

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325 South Street, East Bridgewater, MA 02333

Honey Pot Hills Orchards was one of the first farms in the country to offer “pick your own” apples to visitors. Set against the backdrop of beautiful, Stowe, MA, Honey Pot is an ideal location for an autumn afternoon whether you spend it apple picking or on a hay ride around the farm.

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138 Sudbury Road, Stow, MA 01775

The Belkin Family Lookout Farm was established in 1651, and is one of the oldest operating farms in the United States. In addition to apple picking, Lookout Farm offers a full day’s worth of activities for kids. Little ones can enjoy the children’s play area, moon bounce, train rides and more!

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89 South Pleasant Street, South Natick, MA 01760

Connors Farm in Danvers has no shortage of fall activities. Head to the farm for apple picking face painting, hayrides, and even try your hand at the mechanical bull. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, the farm offers a number of delicious food options including Bob’s BBQ Pit, Connors Country Kitchen, and The Corn Crib.

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30 Valley Road (Rt. 35), Danvers, MA 01923\

For more of the best apple picking spots in Massachusetts, check out this week’s Boston Globe article, “Where to pick-your-own apples in Massachusetts.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

@Commons Cooks: Tailgating Treats

Be the consummate football party host this fall with delightful, easy and tasty meals. This week’s @Commons Cooks offers three crowd-pleasing dishes perfect for a Game Day party or tailgating excursion. That means spending less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the game with friends and family.

Chicken Gumbo
Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

·         3 tablespoons vegetable oil
·         1/3 cup all-purpose flour
·         2 red bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed), chopped
·         1 medium onion, chopped
·         4 garlic cloves, chopped
·         1 teaspoon dried oregano
·         Coarse salt and ground pepper
·         1 package (10 ounces) frozen, cut okra
·         8 ounces smoked (precooked) Andouille sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1 inch thick
·         1 rotisserie chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), skin and bones removed, meat shredded (about 4 cups)

1.       In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium.
2.      Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes.
3.       Stir in bell peppers, onion, garlic, and oregano; season with salt and pepper.
4.      Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
5.      Add 4 cups water; stir in okra and sausage.
6.      Bring to a boil.
7.       Stir in shredded chicken, and warm through, 1 to 2 minutes.
8.      Season with salt and pepper.

Required Equipment:
·         Large skillet

Recipe Credit:

Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes
Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooke Time: 15 minutes

·         1 lb. ground beef/sirloin
·         1 onion, chopped
·         1/4 c. steak sauce
·         1 c. beef stock
·         1 green pepper, chopped
·         1 pkg. sliced mushrooms
·         Provolone cheese, cut into slices or pre-sliced
·         Salt & Pepper to taste
·         Buns/Rolls

1.      Preheat broiler.
2.      Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
3.      Add onion, green pepper, and mushrooms. Cook another 3-4 minutes until they start to get tender. Stir in steak sauce and beef stock, season with salt and pepper, bring up to a bubble and cook about 2 minutes.
4.      Split rolls, place one slice of cheese on one side and toast under broiler while keeping watch so they don’t burn.
5.      Place a scoopful of the meat on the bottom half of bun, drizzle with steak sauce and place cheesy bun on top

Required Equipment:
·         Large skillet

Recipe Credit:

Chili Mac
Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

·         1 pound corkscrew shaped pasta with lines or elbows with lines
·         2 pounds ground sirloin
·         2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan in a slow stream) extra-virgin olive oil
·         1 sweet onion, chopped
·         2 jalapeno peppers, seed and chopped
·         4 cloves garlic, chopped
·         3 tablespoons dark chili powder
·         2 tablespoons cumin
·         2 tablespoons cayenne pepper sauce
·         Coarse salt
·         1 cup beer or beef broth
·         1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
·         1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
·         Chopped scallions, for garnish

1.       Boil pasta until al dente in a large pot
2.      Meanwhile, use a big, deep pot to brown beef in oil over medium high heat. Add onions, peppers, and garlic. Season meat mixture with cumin, cayenne, salt, and chili powder.
3.       Cook together for 5 minutes, stir in beer or broth, and reduce by half for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.
4.      Drain pasta and add hot pasta to chili pot, stirring to coat pasta evenly. Remove from heat and garnish with chopped scallions.

Required Equipment:
·         Large Pot (2)

Recipe Credit:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Get Up & Go: Fun on the Freedom Trail

Boston is arguably the signature destination for tourists who want to experience a bit of the American Revolution. At the heart of this fascination lies the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile walk marked by a red line that passes through sites significant to our nation’s path to independence. This week’s Get Up & Go! gives you five destinations along the Freedom Trail that are steeped in history—and perfect for a fun fall day in the city.

Park Street Church

Founded in 1809, The Park Street Church has been known throughout history as a site of human rights activism and social change.  But, did you know that for 36 years, between 1810 and 1846, the church was the tallest building in the U.S. boasting a 217 ft. steeple? Author Henry James called the church “the most interesting mass of bricks and mortar in America.”

Massachusetts State House

Once a patch of land where John Hancock’s cows grazed, the Massachusetts State House is today recognized among the most stunning public buildings in the country. The State House’s iconic gold dome was initially wooden but was covered in copper in 1802 after the roof leaked.  It was re-gilded once again in 1874 with gold leaf. The dome was continually re-gilded every five to ten years throughout the late 19th century and early 20th century. It was last re-gilded in 1997.

USS Constitution

Standing 207 ft. tall, the USS Constitution is distinguished as the oldest commissioned warship still afloat in the world. Named by George Washington, the ship famously saw action during the War of 1812 with Great Britain. During the war, a crew member remarked that cannon balls fired at the ship appeared to bounce off as if the boat were made of iron. Hence, the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

The Blackstone Block

At the corner of Union and Hanover Streets is The Blackstone Block in Faneuil Hall, the oldest preserved city block in the country. Built during the early 18th century, the historic block is home to Union Oyster House, America’s oldest restaurant. It was originally constructed in the 1700’s as a silk shop, but has served fresh, local seafood since 1826.

Paul Revere House

Paul Revere, famous for his legendary midnight ride, left his home on the night of April 18, 1775 to warn Bostonians of the enemy’s approach. The home later housed hundreds of Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants throughout the 19th century. Converted to a museum in 1908 the restored dwelling is now downtown Boston’s oldest building and stands as an important historical landmark that embodies the lore of colonial America.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

@Common Cooks: Sandwiches in a Snap

Whether you’re packing a fall picnic or a quick lunch for work, sandwiches are an easy and irreplaceable go-to-meal. They’re endlessly customizable, a cinch to transport and not to mention, delicious! This week’s @Commons Cooks offers five different varieties of this All-American staple the will enliven your sandwich repertoire in only 30 minutes or less.

Pressed Turkey Reuben
Prep time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 sandwiches

·         8 slices rye bread
·         2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
·         2 tablespoons Russian dressing
·         8 slices roasted turkey or chicken
·         1 cup sauerkraut
·         8 slices Swiss cheese
·         1 tablespoon olive oil
·         3 cups potato chips
·         1/2 cup sliced pickles

1.       Spread 4 slices of bread with mustard and 4 slices with Russian dressing.
2.      Spread turkey, sauerkraut, and cheese over slices with mustard.
3.       Top with remaining slices of bread.
4.      Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
5.      Place the sandwiches on the oiled skillet and cook until golden brown. Use the back of a spatula to press down on the sandwiches.  3 to 4 minutes per side.

Required Equipment:
·         Cast  iron skillet

Recipe Credit: psfreeman via

Apple PB&J
Prep time: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 wraps

·         1/4 cup(s) peanut butter
·         4 (10-inch) sandwich wraps
·         2 tablespoon(s) apple jelly
·         1 apple, cored, halved, and cut into thin slices
·         8 slices cooked bacon

1.      Lay the wraps on a clean surface and spread peanut-butter on to ½ of each wrap.
2.       Spread the apple jelly evenly on the other half of the wrap.
3.      Place 4 or 5 slices of apple on the peanut-butter mixture and 2 strips of bacon on top of the apples. Fold the tortillas into wrap sandwiches.

Recipe Credit: Adapted slightly from

Ham & Mozzarella Wedges
Prep time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 sandwiches

·         1 round loaf (12 to 16 oz.) focaccia bread (9 inch)
·         1/3 cup sandwich spread mayonnaise
·         ½ lb thinly sliced cooked ham
·         ½ cup very thinly sliced red onion (optional)
·         6 Slices mozzarella cheese (3/4 each) mozzarella cheese
·         2 or 3 leaves of lettuce

·         Cut bread in half horizontally to make 2 layers.
·         Spread cut sides with sandwich spread.
·         On bottom half of bread, layer ham, onion, cheese and lettuce.
·         Cover with top half of bread.
·         Cut into 6 wedges.
·         Serve immediately, or wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Recipe Credit:

COLT Sandwich (Caramelized Onion & Tomato)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 sandwiches

·         1 large onion, sliced
·         3 tablespoons olive oil
·         1-2 large tomatoes, sliced into thick slabs
·         8 leaves of lettuce
·         4 tablespoons mayonnaise
·         salt
·         pepper
·         8 slices sourdough bread
·         salt & vinegar potato chips

Required Equipment
·         Cast  iron skillet

1.       Heat a skillet over medium-low heat, and add olive oil and onions. Let them caramelize for about 15 minutes, and then turn the heat up a bit for the last few minutes to get them a bit crispy.
2.      Spread mayonnaise on the slices of bread. Add a slice (or slices) of tomato to cover one half.
3.       Sprinkle the tomato with salt and pepper.
4.      Stack the lettuce atop the tomato, then add onion, and put the lid bread on.
5.      Optional: Add salt & vinegar chips to the sandwich for added saltiness and crunch

Recipe Credit:

California Veggie Sandwich
Prep time: 12 minutes
Yield: 1 sandwich

·         1/4 red onion
·         Red-wine vinegar
·         2 slices bread (multigrain recommended)
·         Fresh goat cheese
·         Thinly sliced cucumber
·         Alfalfa sprouts
·         Sliced avocado
·         Carrot, grated

1.       Toast bread
2.      Spread 1 slice with goat cheese and layer with cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, onions, avocado, and grated carrot.
3.      Top with other slice bread

Recipe Credit: Adapted from