September. At long last. Andrew started preschool last week, which was – hard. He did great though, and is really enjoying being in a classroom environment. His little brother and I miss him in those morning hours, but we’ve been enjoying having some time as just the two of us too. We went apple picking this week, to the local orchard up the street, Vessey’s. They’ve had a rough year – in January they lost the matriarch of the family, Mrs. Nancy. The woman could talk your ear off about apples, or anything else for that matter for hours, and had peony bushes the size of small homes.  She was a gem, and is truly missed by many folks here in our community. Then, to make matters worse – it seemed like every crop took a nosedive. Flooding got to strawberries and then the dryness and intense heat in July fried the peaches. This week they mentioned that the pumpkins aren’t looking too hot either, so keep your fingers crossed!

But, I’m happy to report that the apples looked great. It was still a little early for picking, so I’ll probably go back in a couple of weeks to get a couple of bushels to make applesauce with. We settled for a peck, and promptly went home and make this pie. I’ve made it several times now, and it always comes out great. Which, speaks volumes considering pies have never been my strong suit. So many apple pies are so cloyingly sweet and cinnamon-ey, and I love this recipe because it isn’t. Hints of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg – and just enough sugar to make it sweet.  With a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top? What a perfect way to welcome fall!

Peach cobbler was always my favorite dessert as a little girl, and my mom makes a great one. I’ve made her version too many times to count, but it uses Bisquick – and I really wanted a to come up with a homemade recipe for the cobbler portion. I tried a couple of different recipes, but they were too puffy and biscuit-like for my taste. I like my cobbler to ooze into the fruit and bake, almost making for a bread pudding type consistency. When I stumbled over this version and tried it, I knew I had found a winner.

With the all the oppressive dry heat we had during July, peaches are about coming to an end here in Maryland. But, I’m hoping to take one more trip to my local orchard for a peck or two before they’re gone for good. Aside from prepping the peaches, this comes together in minutes. Who doesn’t love that kind of dessert? More time to spend outside having fun!

If there is a drink that is synonymous with our beaches here in the summertime, it’s Orange Crushes. Harborside Bar & Grill in West Ocean City claims they are the “home” of the original. But, with these simple ingredients – it’s hard to imagine someone didn’t think of it first! You’ll find them on the menu in pretty much any place you go to around here. But, if there’s not a big bowl of oranges on the bar counter – beware!

The fresh juice is the key component here. Well, besides the vodka obviously! While I keep a box of OJ in the fridge, this isn’t the place for it. They are traditionally made with an orange press – which does add a certain something, squeezing out more of the essential oils from the peel I suppose. Never the less, a regular old citrus reamer or juicer is just dandy if you don’t have a citrus press on the ready.

Once you make one, you’ll be hooked. They’re deliciously light and refreshing on a hot summer evening!

Had originally planned another recipe to share with you today, but after enjoying this meal on Friday night – I had to share it with you guys ASAP. I’d had it on my list since I saw it in the Lee Brothers cookbook, and couldn’t wait to make it. We have a couple of fig trees (bushes?) in our yard, which produce two crops of giant, juicy figs a year. Once in the early summer, once again in the fall. They aren’t the traditional dark-skinned Mission fig that you usually find in the store, either. They have a very pithy white skin, that usually proves a bit complicated when going to make something like preserves with them, and I end up having to give them a peeling first. Didn’t matter for this dish, they just cooked right down into a delicious gravy.

And the Madiera. My God. I’m sold on this stuff as a marinating liquid! The pork has a relatively quick 1 hour soak in the Madiera, then is seared off in a cast-iron pan and finished off in the oven. Madiera is a sweet, fortified wine that I always have hanging out in my liquor cabinet. Great for a quick deglaze, and after-dinner drink, or a marinade. The sugars in the wine helped to give the most gorgeous caramelized crusts I’ve ever seen on a hunk of meat. No joke. Then, you add the marinade to the pan, along with the figs – and put it all in the oven for about 20 minutes. What comes out is sheer perfection. I served with some steamed broccoli and garlic rice pilaf. If you have figs available to you – whether in your back yard, or at the grocery store – add this to your menu plan. I can’t wait to make it again!