As expected, Minnesota Fall weather has been finicky: dropping into the 30’s one day and soaring into the 70’s in the next. Well as they say – Make hay while the sun shines, right?
On a beautiful sunny (shall I say, perfect?) fall day, we piled into our RV with our friends Ivan and Diane and their kids, who were all in town with significant others for a family event. Yes, missing our own kids, who have all flown the nest, we do borrow other people’s children (especially if they are as lovable as these happen to be…)
Camper ready to be loaded
Off we went south-east from Minneapolis towards Hastings, Minnesota and Prescott, Wisconsin to the Fischer Apple Orchard. Everything for a perfect apple orchard experience was available to us: pumpkins of all shapes and color, goats to pet and be licked by, apples to pick or to purchase, a wagon ride full of joyfully shouting kids with their haggard parents and to top it all – an RV sunk 1.5 foot into the soft ground…
So, we huffed and we puffed, but the camper would not budge – so one hour later and $200 poorer (Thank you tow truck guy!) we were off towards Red Wing, Minnesota. Our intended focus was the Art Fair set down Main street in Red Wing. However, you know what else is situated in the heart of town?? The Red Wing Shoes Factory. And – wouldn’t you know it – they just happen to have a 70% off sale that same day… Need I say more? A side trip ensued and more wallets were emptied…
Downtown Red Wing, MN
Speaking of empty – You don’t think that any one of us was traveling on empty stomachs, right? In the camper we had coffee and tea, homemade pumpkin spice muffins and cranberry pecan bars (recipe below), banana bread, cheese and crackers as well as (of course) deliciously fresh honey crisp apples from the orchard. We did not even have room for lunch and knew Diane had a sumptuous dinner waiting for us back in Minneapolis, so onward we went!
Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal bars
Next came an educational stop at Wabasha’s Eagle Center, coming face to face with our national symbol. Close and personal – we were struck speechless (did not last long…). Their size, strength, intelligence and beauty were awe inspiring! Here’s an interesting factoid we learned: Bald eagles can spot a rabbit from 3 miles away!! Amazing!
One of the bald eagles at the center in Wabasha
The mighty Mississippi flowing in Wabasha
As the sun was setting, we headed back into our camper and settled in for the drive with the canvas of the blazing skies unfolding alongside us. Beautiful! As we approached home, all the nappers were shaken awake, the Rv was tidied up and bellies were rumbling. So, off to Diane & Ivan’s house we sailed! Diane’s dinner of Leek Soup, Cauliflower Pie and salad was delicious and hearty as expected and we polished off some more of my cookies and my Pumpkin Biscoff Parfait (recipe below).
Biscoff Pumpkin Spice Parfait
A little shopping, some nature, apples and pumpkins and a lot of sunshine and laughter with friends – A perfect Fall day in Minnesota!
Haralson Apples at the Fischer Apple orchard
Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal bars
2 cups pitted whole dates, (about 24 dates – medjool or similar)
1/2 cup maple syrup, (or agave, honey)
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups chopped raw pecan
3 cups oats
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1. Chop the dates: Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain (about 1 minute). It should form a “dough” like consistency.
2. Toast the oats and nuts: Toast your oats and pecans in a 350 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. The toasted factor adds another layer of flavor and crunch.
Place oats, almonds and dates in a large mixing bowl – set aside.
3. Binder: Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until thoroughly combined, add vanilla and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout.
4. Form Bars: Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 9×13 inch baking dish lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.
Press down firmly until uniformly flattened – use something flat, like an offset spatula, to press down and really pack the bars, which helps them hold together better.
Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let firm up in fridge or freezer for 15-20 minutes.
Remove bars from pan and slice into 24 even bars. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days. Bars can be placed in the freezer to keep them extra fresh, but it isn’t necessary.
They can also be wrapped individually.
1. Substitute cranberries with currants, raisins or any other dried fruit.
2. Use a mix of nuts instead of just pecans. Almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts work well.
Adapted from the Minimalist Baker: HEALTHY 5-INGREDIENT GRANOLA BARS
Biscoff Pumpkin Mini Parfaits
1 1/2 cup Biscoff cookie crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 package (small) instant pumpkin spice pudding mix
2 cups whipped cream or whipped topping
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces semi sweet chocolate, chopped
8 ounces heavy cream
- Make the crumb mixture: Place the Bischoff cookies in bowl of food processor and pulse until fine crumbs are created. Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse to combine. Set aside.
- Make the pudding mix: In the bowl of a standing mixer combine the pudding mix, pumpkin spice, puree, vanilla and 2 cups heavy cream. Whisk all together until light, fluffy and creamy.
- Make the ganache: Pour 8oz of heavy cream into a 4 cup glass measuring cup and heat in microwave on medium until it just starts to simmer. Place chocolate in the hot cream and let stand for 1 minute or so. Whisk together until smooth and creamy.
- Assemble: Place about 1T of the crumb mixture in the bottom of each cup and tap down. Pipe in about 2 T of the pumpkin mixture and then drizzle with about 1T of the chocolate ganache. Top again with the pumpkin mixture followed by the chocolate and then sprinkle the top with some of the Bischoff crumbs. Refrigerate to set.
Mini parfaits can be made 1-2 days in advance.
Notes: Made in 5oz disposable clear plastic cups.
Adapted from Every Day Savvy Pumpkin Parfait recipe