Breaking routine to enjoy the best of Michiana autumn

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk

After a very busy week, Sunday is our downtime. Usually we follow a pretty regular routine. We do not set the alarm clock; we sleep until we are done.

I then take the dog for her morning walk while Jim makes the coffee. I pop a few Danish and sometimes a down under from Rachel’s Bread into the oven to warm up and, along with fresh orange juice, we are ready for our leisurely breakfast. It comes with the soundtrack of our musical library and a Sunday paper or two, and it might last an hour or two.

Sunday is the day for renewal and we are quite good at it.

On this Sunday, about an hour in, the routine veers off course. We decide to take a Sunday drive to one of our favourite spots, Pokagon State Park.

It is the perfect day: autumnal blue sky, warm sun, trees starting their colour journey. We pack what we need for a cookout, put on our running clothes, grab the dog leash and some water, and we’re off. Today will not come again. The bushel of MacIntosh apples meant for the canner will have to sit and wait for our return.

The one hour drive takes us through some beautiful fall foliage. At the park gate, we discover it’s free entry day and the gatekeeper gives our dog a bone.

We run up to Hell’s Point and down the other side, soaking in autumn’s spell, along the lakeside, through the forest, up and down the hills. The food we eat tastes better out here in nature and even the pesky yellow jackets give us a break as we open our home-canned jars of pickled beets and salsa. Stella, the dog, is content, sniffing the air and laying at our feet.

We take a walk on one more trail before packing up and heading on home. This five hour trip is just as good as a five day vacation.

We moved out of our familiar routine to experience this season at its best. We left behind our worries, our projects, our need-to-dos. We breathed in the fresh air, the beauty, this earth, these trees. We come home smiling and refreshed.

And yes, we will have the energy to tackle those apples and turn them into applesauce. We will cook and we will can. And when the day is done, we’ll end it with a delicious meal, and my new favourite baked apple. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it.

Baked Apple with Wine
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 MacIntosh apples, peeled and cored
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 4 t. butter
  • 1/2 c. red wine

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl.
  2. Cut four foil pieces to wrap around each apple. Place cored apple in the middle of the foil. Fill with a fourth of the brown sugar mixture.
  3. Take one teaspoon of butter and dot it around the apple. Pour 2 tbsp. wine onto and around the apple. Wrap up foil. Repeat with next three apples.
  4. Place in a glass baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. Check to see if the apples are tender. If not, continue baking until they are firm but tender, up to 15 more minutes.
  5. Remove from oven. Carefully open foil. Transfer the apple to a bowl with its liquids and sprinkle with granola. Delicious.
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