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How Do You Like Them Apples?

Posted by / Friday, November 4th, 2011

Image: Raffalo/Shutterstock

 No, really…that isn’t a disparaging phrase, it’s an honest question.

You can bite them, slice them, peel them, cook them, coat them in caramel, dip them in peanut butter…oh, yes, the list is endless.

The sun is shining (hopefully), the sky is blue, the air is getting crisp but not too cold, grocery stores are more stocked with apples than they’ve ever been, and all the local farmers markets and orchards are up and running. So go out there and get yourself some apples!

This week’s recipe:

Hot Apple-Rum Cider

This week’s recipe is for the adults. As it’s officially November and the weather is getting colder, how does a mug of hot apple-rum cider sound? Just about perfect, yeah? Mmm, I want one now.



This hot cider is the perfect way to imbibe your alcohol on a chilly night. It’s ridiculously easy to make, too, and smells oh-so good as you’re cooking it over the stove.

All you need is apple cider (store bought in one of those plastic jugs works just fine), spiced rum such as Captain Morgan’s or Bacardi Gold, chopped apples, and cinnamon, and you will be in a rum-soaked hot and spicy heaven.

I love drinking warmed alcohol because it goes down so smoothly and warms your whole body instantly. This drink does the trick.

(Makes about 8-10 servings)

-2 chopped apples (any variety of your liking!)
-3/4 tablespoon cinnamon
-2 quarts apple cider
-1 cup spiced rum

Combine all ingredients except the rum in a big saucepot on the stove. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Once the apple cider mixture is heated and the apples are cooked tender enough for your liking, lastly, add the rum, as you don’t want the alcohol to cook off. Let heat for one more minute, ladle into a mug and enjoy! Keep the rest on low heat to keep warm and enjoy throughout the night.

Northern Virginia Apple Orchards (in alphabetical order):

Crooked Run Orchard (37883 East Main St., Purcellville; 540-338-6642)
Hartland Orchard (3064 Hartland Lane, Markham; 540-364-2316)
High Places Orchards (121 Winesap Lane, Flint Hill; 540-635-5537)
Hill High Farms (933 Barley Lane, Winchester; 540-667-7377)
Hollin Farms (11324 Pearlstone Lane, Delaplane; 540-592-3574)
Great Country Farms (18780 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont; 20135)
Graves Mountain (Graves Mountain Lodge, Route 670, Syria; 540-923-4231)
Mackintosh Fruit Farm (1608 Russell Road, Berryville; 540-955-2161)
Marker-Miller Orchards Farm (3035 Cedar Creek Grade, Winchester; 540-662-1980)
Nichols Farm (1832 Chapel Road, Middletown; 540-869-1258)
Richard’s Fruit Market (6410 Middle Road, Middletown; 540-869-1455)
Rinker Orchards (1156 Marlboro Road, Stephens City; 540-869-1499)
Stribling Orchard (11587 Poverty Hollow Lane, Markham; 540-364-3040)
Virginia Farm Market (1881 North Frederick Pike, Winchester; 540-665-8000)

-Julia Harbo


Fredericksburg Area Food Bank’s 8th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drive

Posted by / Friday, November 4th, 2011

The season of giving is upon us – and the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank is gearing up!

Image: La Fleur Magique/Shutterstock

This year, nearly 15,000 people across the Fredericksburg region are receiving food each month through the food bank’s network of 74 food pantries and food assistance organizations. The need has remained steady.

5,000 turkeys, in addition to other food, will be needed to make sure that the area’s hungry do not go without this Thanksgiving.  The Fredericksburg Area Food Bank is asking the community to step forward and donate turkeys as well as the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner. A wish list is available on the web site.

This year’s Thanksgiving food and fund drive will kick off tomorrow, November 5th, with a “Turkey Drive By” event at Spotsylvania Towne Centre from 9 a.m.- noon.  For the past 5 years, the food bank has been working alongside former football greats; that means everyone who makes a donation on Saturday will be entered to win an autographed Mike Nelms jersey. Also, this year, Pat Fischer, former Washington Redskins cornerback, has agreed to step in as the guest of honor. Pat will be available to sign autographs for anyone making a donation on Saturday.

“Thanksgiving is just around the corner”, states Oya Oliver, Executive Director of the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank.   “Please remember our neighbors in need this year.”

The Fredericksburg Area Food Bank secures and distributes more than 3.6 million pounds of donated food and grocery products annually! They also lend their support to approximately 74 local charitable agencies, operating more than 190 programs including emergency shelters, food pantries, Club Kids after school snack programs, Food for Life senior feeding programs, Food 4 Kidz weekend feeding sites, and soup kitchens.

Donations of turkeys or other food can also be delivered to the food bank’s warehouse located at 3631 Lee Hill Drive, Fredericksburg.  The food bank is open to accept donations Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours on Wednesday until 6 p.m. Monetary donations are also accepted and may be utilized to purchase additional turkeys.

After all, this is what Thanksgiving is all about- helping your fellow man! What will you be thankful for this season?

For more information on the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, please visit their website.

Fredericksburg Area Food Bank - 3631 Lee Hill Drive, Fredericksburg
P: (540)371.7666

Turkey Drive By Event - 137 Spotsylvania Mall, Fredericksburg
P: (540)786.6660

– Jennie Whistler


Real Food for Kids Food Day Event Brings Color and Life to a Long-Overdue Issue: Real Food in Schools

Posted by / Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Good day, Gut Checkers!

Great news to share: last week’s National Food Day/Real Food for Kids event at Wolftrap Elementary School Fairfax was a rainbow of success! Unfortunately, I wasn’t there to experience it first-hand, but today I’m gladly sharing a wonderful report on behalf of Kathryn Luwis of Real Food for Kids. (Photographs by Laura Goyer)

Real food makes happy children!

“We are a nation of increasingly overweight people with unhealthy diets that lead to serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.  We don’t eat enough of nature’s colorful fruits and vegetables.  The good news?   It turns out that somewhere over the rainbow, there are schoolchildren actually excited to learn about and enjoy ‘real’ food.

On national Food Day, October 24, 250 children were running around in rainbow colored t-shirts that said: ‘Get Real!’ The t-shirts were handed out by Real Food For Kids, a grass-roots organization of concerned Fairfax County parents and community members, who hosted the countywide event in an effort to highlight the need for change in school food.  The day was a huge success, with upwards of 400 people in attendance, including parents, members of the school board, school board candidates and the press.  The community pulled together to send a message regarding school food and to educate children by providing them with wholesome food and fun.

Renegade Lunch Lady Ann Cooper talks to Wolftrap kids

Nationally-known chefs Ann Cooper, a.k.a. The Renegade Lunch Lady, and David Guas, of Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar and Eatery, led an interactive food demonstration, with both chefs engaging the schoolchildren with questions about seasonal fruits and vegetables. The fun demonstration culminated in the making of enormous salads, tossed in kiddy-sized pools using child-sized rakes and shovels. The produce had been harvested by many of the children present just the day before at Maple Avenue Farm, a local organic farm run by Chris Guerre, who donated all of the produce. Many of the children had never seen a radish and were delighted to see the many colors they come in. For some children, it was the first salad they’d ever eaten. This exposure to whole, real foods is exactly what Real Food For Kids set out to offer.

The enormous salad

After the demonstration, the children quickly made their way to the psychedelic M.A.X. (Maple Avenue Express) food truck, manned by chef and owner Tim Ma, of Maple Avenue Restaurant.  Beef sliders, made with 100 percent grass fed beef, were served on whole wheat buns and dressed with local, organic ketchup sweetened with agave–instead of high-fructose corn syrup.  Just for fun, the chefs also made an enormous burger to be shared by many.  In support of the cause, Whole Foods Market  provided crocks of butternut squash soup along with bushels of honey-crisp apples that were quickly devoured.  Children climbed aboard a 1957 farm tractor and, ironically, ate as children in 1957 did–whole foods rather than the highly processed, preserved and high sugar diet of today.

Kids and the giant burger

For Real Food For Kids organizers it was an idyllic fall day: hundreds of children clad in rainbow-colored shirts moving through space eating apples, greens and grass-fed beef.  Ready to continue full-steam ahead with their initiative, the group is bolstered and encouraged by the response to their event.  ‘It’s amazing how many parents have called and e-mailed me to find out how they can help,’ says Hammermaster.   At the close of the day as chefs, farmers and volunteers packed up their wares, a light sun shower sprayed the grounds of the event.  ‘Look up in the sky!  There’s a rainbow!’  Perhaps their goal is a lofty one, but seemingly divinely inspired.”

A successful rainbow!

Great thanks to Kathryn Luwis and Laura Goyer for sharing about such an inspiring day. Though National Food Day has passed, Real Food for Kids continues to move closer toward its goal to improve children’s health in Fairfax County schools.

-Julia Harbo


DC Metropolitan Cooking and Entertainment Show This Weekend!

Posted by / Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

The Washington D.C Metropolitan Cooking and Entertainment Show will be going on this Saturday and Sunday, November 5 and 6, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. This is the premiere cooking & entertaining event complete with celebrities, local vendors, demos and more!

Featured among the 300+ exhibitors will be local vendor Alicita*Salsa®, developed by Suzanne Fields in Great Falls, Virginia.

Alicita* Salsa!

Named after her mother Alice, who now resides in Maryland, Alicita®Salsa will be exhibiting all five flavors of their tangy, not–too–hot staple at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertainment Show this weekend!

I’m always on the lookout for flavorful, healthy new ways to spice up my meals and these people do it right! With no preservatives, all natural ingredients and sugar-free salsas, Alicita*Salsa® can accommodate even the most picky eaters.

In addition, they deliberately avoid as many “top nine” allergens as possible and proudly list the ingredients and nutritional value on their products page.

“We’ve had great success with each new flavor we release,” stated Alicita’s founder and owner, Suzanne Fields, “I am confident in Alicita’s ability to continue producing salsa that is neither too hot for children, nor too bland for adults. We want the entire family to enjoy our product.”

Alicita*Salsa® is now available at ALL Giant Foods in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, local Walmarts, select Bed Bath and Beyonds as well as the new TODOS store in Woodbridge.

Tastings at the event will be available at booth T-16.

Alicita*Salsa® is a privately held company that donates part of its proceeds to over 20 Children’s Charities, such as Feed The Children, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, FoodAllergy Network, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and others.

This event is going to be huge- with more to do than you could ever think to fit into two days. Buy your tickets now, support your local vendors and check out some of the best food that DC and Virginia have to offer!

For more information about the DC Metropolitan Cooking and Entertainment Show, visit the website.

For more information about Alicita*Salsa®, visit their website here, “Like” them on Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter!

– Jennie Whistler


The Vices That Made Virginia

Posted by / Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Photo Credit: Neighborhood Restaurant Group

 At first glance, any event that’s described as a “rollicking outdoor celebration” with “a night of oysters, cigars, bourbon & bluegrass” sounds pretty hard to beat.

At second glance, The Vices That Made Virginia is an amazingly planned event for a great cause, put on by Arcadia, Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture.

And the list doesn’t stop at oysters, cigars, bourbon and bluegrass–the celebration also includes a pig roast, local cheeses and veggies, local braised lamb, bison short ribs, autumn spirited desserts, and a bountiful supply of beverages from local Virginia wineries, breweries, and distilleries.

The party goes from 4-8 p.m., Saturday, November 5, at the historic Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria, one of George Washington’s former farms at Mount Vernon.


Tickets are $125 per person, but remember, it’s for a great cause (and, bonus, it’s tax deductible!). You can purchase your tickets here and feel good about it, as all proceeds benefit Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture and Woodlawn, a National Trust Historic Site.

The event will support Arcadia’s mission to improve the health of our community, the viability of local farmers, and preserve our environment for future generations by combining education about healthy food and its sources with better logistical connections between local farmers and the urban and suburban core of the region.

-Julia Harbo


Thanksgiving Raffle and Canned Food Drive at City Square Cafe!

Posted by / Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

City Square Cafe in Manassas

Well, kids it’s November and you know what that means- Thanksgiving is just around the corner! And this year you can donate canned goods and enter a raffle to win free homemade Thanksgiving dinner for 10!

City Square Café of Manassas is gearing up for their Homemade Thanksgiving Dinners-To-Go, preparing dinners to serve 10 guests at $16.99 per guest, and offering a Thanksgiving Day Dinner raffle, where participants drop-off canned goods and enter to win a free Thanksgiving Day dinner-to-go for 8-10 people. Raffle entries will be accepted now through Nov. 15. The canned goods will benefit SERVE, a program of Northern Virginia Family Service, dedicated to helping individuals and families find new paths to self-reliance and brighter futures.

“Our canned good raffle for SERVE is off to a great start,” said Susana Barolin, co-owner, City Square Café. “And we’re hoping help stock their food pantry over the holiday season and encourage everyone to stop by our restaurant and drop off their food donations.”

The menu for the dinner includes traditional whole roast turkey and gravy, cornbread stuffing, classic cranberry sauce, steamed French green beans almandine, choice of mashed potatoes or sweet potato pudding (additional $1 per guest), butternut squash soup, focaccia bread and optional homemade desserts, pumpkin pie, apple pie ( additional $1 per guest) or pecan pie (additional $2 per guest).

SERVE, a program of Northern Virginia Family Service and a private nonprofit serving Northern Virginia, is dedicated to helping individuals and families find new paths to self-reliance and brighter futures.  SERVE distributes $2 million worth of food annually to an average of 900 families each month, as well as providing shelter for homeless families, and emergency assistance to prevent families from becoming homeless. 

Each year, NVFS helps more than 20,000 people find affordable housing; utilize counseling and child development programs; access low-cost medical and dental services; make use of foster and respite care; participate in job training; benefit from torture and trauma recover; and much more.

For more information about Northern Virginia Family Service, visit

City Square Café - 9428 Battle Street, Manassas; (703)369.6022

– Jennie Whistler


Maple Syrup Imposters?

Posted by / Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Image: Stephanie Frey/Shutterstock

How do you top your pancakes? For me, it’s hands-down with a smear of butter and drenched in warm pure maple syrup. Skip that imitation Aunt Jemima Pancake Syrup, made with high fructose corn syrup and caramel color (okay, so it doesn’t taste BAD). I like me some of that 100 percent pure maple syrup, straight from the sap of maple trees. The only problem with the legit maple syrup is the high price. So how can you get the real maple syrup without the high cost?

Not by buying imitation syrup. Aunt Jemima isn’t pretending their syrup is of the maple variety, and there’s no hint of the word “maple” in their product– but that isn’t true with other syrups being sold in the syrup market.

Did you know that if you’re caught fraudulently selling maple syrup, you can be put in jail for up to a year? (There’s the reason why Aunt Jemima’s syrup is marketed as “pancake” syrup.) But some people believe this punishment isn’t enough.

A recent CNN article calls attention to the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement (MAPLE– how nicely does that acronym work out?!) Act introduced by Vermont and Maine Senators Patrick Leahy and Susan Collins. The Act could make the “fraudulent” sale of maple syrup a felony offense, with up to a five year punishment. Sure, I like legit maple syrup better than the frauds, but is five years in prison really fair punishment for selling a mislabeled pancake product?

Image: GoodMood Photo/Shutterstock

The forces behind the MAPLE Act make a strong point about the importance of protecting the maple agriculture industry and honesty to consumers, which I’m in full support of.

When I was in elementary school, I remember taking a field trip in to a cold forest somewhere to learn from some lumberjack-looking man how to tap into a tree and get maple syrup. We got to sample some fresh maple syrup, and I went home with sap all over my hands, face, jeans, and sneakers. Everyone benefited (except my mom, who had to clean off my sappy self).

Some people may be mocking it, but I’ll support the MAPLE Act. I don’t think any maple syrup imposters are making shady deals down dark alleyways with faux maple syrup, but can’t we at least let Vermont and Maine have their maple syrup?

-Julia Harbo


2011 Farmland Feast on November 7!

Posted by / Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Local farms, fresh food.

Join in celebrating the farmers, producers, customers and the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay. This premier benefit supports a core mission of running their 11 farmers markets, which surprise, educate, transform and inspire!

Enjoy a seasonal cocktail and a five-course dinner created by an extraordinary team of local chefs and paired with local wines.

This annual Farmland Feast showcases prestigious Chesapeake Bay farmers and producers. Local chefs will prepare a spectacular five-course autumnal dinner with local food and local wine pairings.

Their mission driven, selective auction takes place online for the first time this year and will end during the seasonal cocktail hour; a live auction is held during the dinner. This benefit is a prominent part of the local-food movement in the Washington, DC area; it was named “the locavore party of the year” by DC magazine in 2010, and attracts more than 350 diners as well as local and national media attention.

Funds from the 2010 Farmland Feast go straight to local farmers markets and with the help of more than 150 loyal farmers and producers, FRESHFARM Markets will bring fresh, healthy and local food to more than 360,000 customers this year. And with events such as the Farmland Feast, they are able to reach a significant number of shoppers: friends, families, neighbors, environmentalists, gardeners, health professionals and, most important, healthy eaters.

FRESHFARM Markets strives to build and strengthen the local food movement in the Chesapeake Bay region. They use markets to create vibrant urban and community places, to provide economic opportunities for farmers and to showcase our region’s agricultural bounty. They also aim to create a sustainable urban-rural partnership that brings the blessings of healthy local food to our communities and sustains the working landscapes that feed us.

This dinner features local Virginia chef Tarver King from The Ashby Inn & Restaurant in Paris, VA and a whole slew of greats from DC. Don’t miss out on your chance to support local farms, farmers and markets!

Individual tickets for the feast are $250. For those attending the event, $200 is tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law.

The 2011 Farmland Feast will take place Monday, November 7, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC.

RSVP early at

– Jennie Whistler



Halloweeni Candy Corn Martini

Posted by / Monday, October 31st, 2011


I hope you are enjoying some candy today!

Image: val lawless/Shutterstock

Candy corn is one of those treasured or loathed Halloween essentials, love it or hate it. Personally, I love it. Anything made with loads of sugar is great in my book.

For my fellow candy corn lovers, I have a great adult Halloween treat for you.

Candy Corn Martini

It sounds a little gross, but you basically make a sweet vodka drink by infusing the vodka in candy corn. When the candy corn vodka is mixed with some orange liqueur, lemon juice, and an egg, it turns into a frothy, sweet and festive beverage.

Here’s the recipe (from Food Network):

Makes two drinks

-1/2 cup candy corn
-1 1/2 cups vodka
-2 ounces orange liqueur
-juice of 1/2 lemon
-1 egg white
-candy corn, to garnish

Allow at least three hours to infuse your vodka. Combine the candy corn and vodka in an airtight container and let sit for at least three hours. When the vodka is done, strain it, and add the remaining ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, and pour into martini glasses.

Enjoy your Halloween!

-Julia Harbo



Happy Halloween Boils and Ghouls!

Posted by / Monday, October 31st, 2011



The air is crisp, the leaves are a palette of vivid fall colors and it’s time to collect some candy!

I love Halloween.

I also love getting into the spirit (har har) of things in an over-the-top sort of way. Take this past weekend for example.

We hosted a Halloween party this past Friday for 20 of our closest friends in an apartment made to hold roughly 5 people. And we went all out. Hanging skeletons, cobwebs and fake blood abound turned our living space into a nightmarish vision. We even changed out all the regular light bulbs into orange or black ones.

We still haven’t changed them back, but that’s beside the point.

Anyway, my favorite part of getting way too into Halloween  is the food. It allows you to be completely creative and gross out your friends in a delicious way. This year, I wanted to serve something so gross looking, that people might be too afraid to eat it.

That’s what Halloween is all about, right?

Let’s start with the severed fingers. A logical place to start.

There was an accident at the saw mill...

My severed finger cookies were a huge hit. They look disturbing and taste great- which is exactly what you want at your Halloween buffet.

You will need:

2 tablespoons red food coloring
30 sliced almonds
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil and set aside.
2. Place food coloring in a shallow bowl. Dump your almonds into the bowl and fully coat. Set on a paper towel to dry.
3. Separate 1 egg. Set aside the white. In a small bowl, whisk together yolk, remaining egg, and vanilla. Set aside.
4. With an electric mixer (handheld or upright) combine butter, confectioners’ sugar, granulated sugar, and salt. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add egg mixture, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic, and chill until firm, 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Divide the dough in half. Work with one piece at a time, keeping remaining dough covered with plastic wrap and chilled. Divide the first half into 15 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece back and forth with palms into finger shapes, 3 to 4 inches long. Pinch dough in two places to form knuckles. Score each knuckle lightly with the back of a small knife. Transfer fingers to prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.
*Small note: make the fingers longer and thinner than you might think looks “normal” because the cookies will expand while baking.
6. When all fingers are formed, brush lightly with egg white. Position almond nails; push into dough to attach.
7. Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Cool completely.
8. Once cooled, dip the “severed” ends into more red food coloring to give it that just chopped off feeling!

Gross, right? But it makes a tasty shortbread-type cookie that everyone will LOVE.

Now let’s move on to eyeballs.

Monstrously fun!

Everyone loves deviled eggs, and I found a way to make them into a spooky and delicious Halloween treat.

You will need:

12 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon white vinegar
blue food coloring, as needed
24 slices of green olives
Tabasco sauce


1. Peel the hard boiled eggs and slice in half lengthwise. Scoop the yolks out into a medium bowl and reserve the whites until needed.
2. With the back of a fork, mash the yolks until smooth.
3. Add mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Mix well.
4. Add a few drops of blue food coloring to turn the yellow mixture a soft green. About 4 should do the trick nicely.
5. Spoon green yolk mixture into the cavity in each white half, dividing evenly.
5. On top of each yolk filling, place one green olive slice.
6. Mix together the ketchup and Tabasco until it’s somewhat thick. Use extra red food coloring if you want the color to be deeper. With a toothpick dipped in the mixture, draw red veins on the egg white’s surface.
7. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

These items are sure to be a hit at your Halloween party. So stay creepy, my friends!

Oh, and Happy Halloween!!

– Jennie Whistler


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