kid-friendly · Recipes

Classic Apple Crisp

It’s apple season, and lucky for me, Georgia takes after her mom: she LOVES all things autumn! From apple picking to hayrides, cider, fruit crisp, Halloween, pumpkin patches and cinnamon donuts, she can’t get enough and is the best companion for fall fun. We go to the apple orchard every year for u-pick, and stretch our peck of Macoun and McIntosh for weeks with cozy recipes and snacks. Last month, I shared an easy apple topping for pork chops with a promise to follow soon with an apple crisp recipe. Here it is!


Classic Apple Crisp

INGREDIENTS

  • Half a dozen apples (enough to fill a 9×13 baking dish) peeled, cored & sliced
  • lemon juice and cinnamon to taste
  • optional: nutmeg if you like the flavor

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oats (quick cooking or old fashioned are both fine)
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 and butter or grease the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish. I like to use that size pan, but you can absolutely make it in an 8×8 instead.

Spread the sliced apples in the pan and then top with the lemon juice and cinnamon (I just eyeball it) and nutmeg if using; stir.

Mix together the softened butter and the dry ingredients until well combined, then spread on top of the apples.

Bake about 30 minutes or until the topping is brown and the apples are tender.

Serve warm with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream!

Tips:

If it’s not apple picking season and you’re grabbing some at the grocery store instead, I always go for Granny Smith. You want something nice and tart that can withstand being baked without turning totally mushy, and they’re also a great size.

When it comes to softening the butter, I prefer to heat a sauce pan on low and put the butter in, then add the dry ingredients once it gets almost melted. Turn off the heat, stir together, and set aside.

If you’re taking this to a potluck, it also cooks up well in a disposable foil pan instead of a glass baking dish.


My philosophy when it comes to apple crisp is to keep it simple.

We have some top-notch apple crisp makers in my family, and the recipes are all kept in mental filing folders. I’ve picked up most of the makeup along the way as I’ve made my own, only adding some oats to the topping because that’s what I like best. Otherwise, it’s a formula taken from the Betty Crocker cookbook many years ago — as with the cookie recipe on the back of the Toll House chocolate chip package, sometimes the most basic, time-tested ones are the best ones and stay classic for a reason!

I hope everyone had a fabulous Halloween. Rapunzel’s wig survived the festivities, and now I have SO MUCH CANDY in my house, bound for my office candy dish ASAP!

Thanks to the freezer meal workshop I did earlier this year, we all ate a huge pot of chicken chili with beans, and I can’t wait to share that recipe with you. It was so easy and fed the entire eight-person crowd last night, with some delicious sides of guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce, extra sharp cheddar cheese and corn muffins made by my mother in law. I’ll post about that soon! Meanwhile, have a great start to the month of November. Boy is this year flying by. Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here, and I’ll have to turn on the heat in my house. 😉

Meanwhile, enjoy a few images from our recent apple picking adventure to Smolak Farms in North Andover, Mass. (our family- and budget-friendly favorite!) They are offering half-priced apple picking now because it’s the end of the season, so now’s the perfect time to go and grab a bushel for your Thanksgiving pies!

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes · Uncategorized

Healthy Green Smoothie

Happy almost weekend! I’ve come down with a summer cold, so I’m stepping up my eating habits to nourish myself back to health. Nothing helps kick an icky illness better than eating right and resting. The body needs real food to recover! Sunday night, when I felt this one coming on, Georgia and I grabbed the last lettuce from the garden and some fruit from our weekend grocery haul, and got down to business. This smoothie is refreshing, re-hydrating, energizing and nutritious. Sip happily!

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Green Smoothie

Makes enough for two servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 slices watermelon
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 apple, cored and quartered
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 head of romaine, rough chopped
  • optional: 1 celery stalk, chopped (I love adding celery to smoothies :))

Using a fresh banana is fine, too. You may want to add a couple ice cubes to keep it cold if you do that. Subbing a lime for the lemon is also OK; you can also swap the romaine for any kind of lettuce, and any type of apple will do. This is a flexible smoothie that tastes sweet, not super green. My only advice would be to keep water as the base or it will get too heavy and won’t have the same smooth drinkability.

DIRECTIONS

Adding the water, lemon juice and watermelon first, then the other ingredients, blend on high until smooth. Enjoy cold! Keeps well for up to a week in the fridge, or double and freeze extras to have throughout the week.

🎉 Happy Independence Day everyone! 🎉

 

 

Recipes

Roasted Squash Pizza

Yes, squash! And kale, and caramelized onions, and apples, and  a balsamic reduction. The secret sauce that pulls it all together? Greek Yogurt!
You all know that I love substituting Greek Yogurt into baking recipes. I’ve done it in baking, and in place of sour cream atop all my chili recipes, and in smoothies left and right. But recently it struck me: why not put Greek Yogurt onto a white pizza? It’s tangy, it’s a little sweet, and in recent years the flavor options have exploded. I briefly considered making a reworked Hawaiian pizza, with pineapple Greek Yogurt, diced ham, onions and mozzarella, but after recently trying some unexpectedly delicious squash tacos, it got me thinking about the versatility of root vegetables and gourds. For this recipe, I used an acorn squash, since the skin is edible and it cooks down into a very sweet, mellow taste when diced and roasted. I pre-cooked the ingredients for this pizza in a saute pan ever so briefly, then assembled it on the pie and popped into the oven for just ten minutes of crisping. Voila!

Kale wilts a lot when cooked, and is a well-documented nutritional powerhouse. It can be tough to eat raw, so even when I’m using it in a salad I like to mix it with a variety of leafy greens chopped very fine. Kale, like other cruciferous vegetables, supports a healthy heart and digestive system, and provides an irresistibly earthy flavor to any dish. If you don’t like it or prefer not to use it, spinach would be an acceptable and tasty substitute.

This recipe makes use of several ingredients that you’ll probably have in double, simply by virtue of the quantity in which stores sell squash (which is whole) and kale (which is in large bunches). It also only calls for half a container of Greek Yogurt, so you could easily buy or make two pizza pies and then cook two of these babies back to back, and use up all your ingredients.

I know it may seem odd, but I actually chose Coconut Blended Chobani as the sweet base for this pizza. Why? Well, coconut seems unexpected, and I like that! I personally love the flavor, and this is a standby choice for me to keep in our house to share with Georgia alongside fresh fruit as a snack. She also loves the mango and pineapple flavors, which I send to daycare with a side of granola. And, just like coconut oil imparts a faint aroma and flavor to the food it cooks with, this yogurt provided a creamy, sweet foundation that made you say “hmm, what’s that I’m tasting?” with every bite of the finished pizza.

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Roasted Squash Pizza

The quantities below are for one pie; to make two, simply double. Many store-bought pie crusts are sold as a pair anyway, and you can always refrigerate the spare for another pizza recipe, or to make homemade oven chips tossed with oil and seasoning for a savory little snack.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pizza crust, homemade or store bought
  • 1 package Chobani Coconut Blended Greek Yogurt
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 acron squash, cubed into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small bunch of kale, shredded into pieces and stems discarded
  • 1 tart apple, cut into bite sized pieces, peel on
  • salt and pepper to taste

optional: balsamic reduction for drizzling (but you really should keep this step, even if it means buying a bottle of glaze instead of making your own!)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 or whatever temp the dough calls for, if you’re using packaged crust. Cut up the apple and set aside.

In a medium-sized saute pan over medium-high, heat a bit of olive oil and add the sliced red onion, stirring, until they just become translucent. Add the kale and cook for a couple of minutes until it just starts to shrink but hasn’t fully wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cubed acorn squash to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the kale is fully wilted, the onions have begun to caramelize, and the acorn squash is browned and becoming tender. Remove the pan from the heat.

Prep the crust by spreading about half the package of yogurt onto the surface in an even layer, adding the kale, onion, and squash directly from the pan, distributing evenly over the pizza.

Sprinkle the cubed apples over the pie and drizzle gently with the balsamic reduction, using a light hand.

Place the completed pizza into the oven for 10 minutes or however long the packaged crust calls for; check to make sure the edges aren’t burning. It’s done when the crust is beginning to brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool briefly, and dig in!

I rough cut my homemade pizzas in six or eight pieces depending on my mood, always using kitchen shears. Depending on the type of pizza stone you have, you may need to add more oil or flour to prevent sticking. I have one like this and love it. These slices reheat very well, too. Just pop a few into the microwave for 1 minute or reheat over low in a small nonstick frying pan until warm. Enjoy 🙂

Looking for more ways to use Greek Yogurt in cooking and baking? Check out  my Strawberry Yogurt CakeOrange Creamsicle Cake, and this Spicy Penne Rosa with Shrimp, which has a creamy tomato sauce, a kick of heat, and some heart-healthy spinach. Lately I’ve been making my own parfaits with the seasonal granola selection at Trader Joe’s, grapes, and apples, since those are the two fruits we have in abundance these days due to toddler preferences and our recent orchard excursion. Greek Yogurt makes an awesome addition to overnight oats, too! Be sure to head on over to Chobani’s recipe page to get even more inspiration.

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Have a wonderful week, and I’ll be back soon with some Thanksgiving ideas … plus a sneak peek at our Christmas card photos, which I can’t wait to share with you (teaser above!) Let me just tell you, portrait sessions with a two year old are NO. JOKE!  🙂

Special thanks to Chobani for inspiring this post.

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Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes

Caramel Apple Dip (EASY!)

A few weeks ago, we went to the 1st birthday party of a close high school friend’s baby girl. Her mom had made the most delicious dip for sliced apples, and adults and kids alike were gobbling it up. When I asked her for the recipe (as Georgia kept digging into it!), she said it had just three ingredients that sound gross when you list them out separately, but tasted perfect when combined together. They are cream cheese, caramel sauce and granola. Weird, right?

But just like she said, it comes together magically. Thanks, Judi!

I love how fast this is to make, and how easy it is to find these ingredients. It tastes like a caramel apple that you’d buy at the orchard after a full day of apple picking! And the best part is that, for $10 in ingredients, you can feed a gigantic crowd of people, because a little bit of this goes a LONG way when served alongside fruit and crackers. I had friends over Monday night and made it, and six of us polished off half the pan; my co-workers took care of the rest when I brought it to work today!.


You can buy any brand of cream cheese, granola or caramel sauce. I picked up Trader Joe’s cream cheese and caramel and Bear Naked granola at the Roche Bros. downtown because TJ’s didn’t have any normal flavors of granola left. This can easily be made with a nut-free or gluten-free version if you so desire.

Caramel Apple Dip

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 container whipped plain cream cheese (full or low fat, your preference)
  • 1 jar of caramel dip (such as T. Marzetti) or sauce, like you’d find near the ice cream cones and toppings
  • about two cups of granola, any flavor you like
  • sliced apples and/or simple crackers to eat alongside

DIRECTIONS

In a pie plate or large bowl, layer the whipped cream cheese, caramel sauce (softening for 1 minute in the microwave if necessary) and granola evenly and serve at room temperature with sliced apples, cut large enough to scoop out the dip. Enjoy with a dozen friends!

This pairs especially well with cheese on an appetizer spread. Just like that slightly odd New England tradition of eating slices of cheddar with apple pie, right? What I especially like about this is how it doesn’t melt, congeal, separate, or otherwise morph into something inedible or gross-looking when left out at a party for a couple hours. You can also make it a day ahead, refrigerate, and it’s ready to go as soon as you are.

See our recent apple picking adventures here, and stay tuned for an apple crisp recipe coming soon. And for another easy fall recipe, be sure to check out my brown sugar kielbasa in the slow cooker! It’s perfect for Sundays spent watching the game with family and friends.

I’m signing off to get those darn wisdom teeth out tomorrow, so wish me luck and I’ll be back soon! XOXO

Baby & Toddler · Grow Your Own Way · Recipes

Sneaking veggies into food (with toddler-friendly risotto recipe)

Well, I suppose it was inevitable: the day where my toddler figured out junk food exists in the world, and that she’d prefer to eat cookies, fruit juice and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese than mom’s home cooking. Hoping it’s just a short-lived phase, I’ve adapted by sneaking in greens where I can and holding a firm line on her requests to snack the day away. “More?” “Cookie!” and “Mine” are her new favorite words, especially when pointing to mom’s coffee, a bag of fruit snacks or (cringe) the drive-through menu.

There are a couple key things I’ve done to get through this temporary eating issue.

One is to make smoothies with greens like celery and lettuce blended in, since they add nutrients without turning the flavor detectably non-fruity.

Secondly, we’ve gone back to sending fruit & veggie pouches to daycare for snack time. She sucks them down as readily as her applesauce pouches without realizing there are greens mixed in with those pears and apples.

Since she loves mac n’ cheese so much, I’ve tried to make my own more often, and to buy better boxed versions from Trader Joe’s and Annie’s — as well as to mix in peas, diced green beans or broccoli, since covering them with cheese seems to get her to accept more veggies. 

I also shredded carrots into my homemade marinara, and she was none the wiser.

Finally, last week I realized I had a very adaptable recipe in my arsenal: risotto. By finely dicing carrots, onions, celery and celery greens with cut up sweet chicken-apple sausage, and swirling in a spoon full of low-fat cream cheese right at the end, I made a toddler-friendly version of one of our favorite dishes.

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She not only finished some off of our plates, she ate it by herself for lunch the next day, and even scooped a handful out of my bag while I was packing up leftovers to take to work! So we know it’s a keeper.

Here are my other two favorite risotto recipes:

An important note: I do choose to leave in the step with white wine, even while cooking for Georgia, because it’s a critical component to the final texture of the arborio rice. However, omitting it won’t ruin the dish completely, if that’s what you’d prefer to do.

In other news, Mark and Georgia planted our garden this weekend! This year, we are having strawberries, peas, tomatoes and basil:

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This is a kid who loves getting her hands dirty! I went online pretty much right away and ordered her this gardening play set from Green Toys, and already it’s a huge hit. She loves to help daddy with the soil, seeds and plants!

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Have a great week everyone and get out there to enjoy some nice weather now that it’s here to stay 🙂

Holidays · Recipes

5 Great Pies for Pi Day!

It’s Pi Day (in the U.S., anyway) and what better way to celebrate 3.14.15(92653…) than with a roundup of my favorite PIE recipes, starting with one I just saw yesterday that I haven’t made yet but cannot WAIT to try, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen:

Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie from Smitten Kitchen

That’s zooming to the top of my must-make list!

Next up comes my Key Lime Pie, which I often make for Easter. Either that, or Strawberry Shortcake, which is also inside that key lime post, because one year I made both and my lucky relatives got to eat it all up.

Then there’s the classic Raw Pecan Love Pie from Kimberly Snyder, which I just love.

And who can resist this go-to Chocolate Pie by Pioneer Woman, so easy and so good. Mark just eats this up.

Next is something a little bit different: a Pumpkin Pie Smoothie!

Which can’t hold a candle to my Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp filling, which can be used just as easily to make a pie, as I have done and will continue to do every year.

And what’s a post about pie without some savory options?

Like Shepherd’s Pie, or Roasted Zucchini & Tomato Ricotta Pie, just to name a couple of examples.

But here’s the embarrassing part.

My favorite pies — pumpkin and apple — are two that, believe it or not, I DON’T have recipes for on this blog yet! So I am hereby setting a goal to rectify that this year.

Maybe I can get my mom to guest blog about her famous lemon meringue pie, and then eventually I’ll have to share my family’s recipe for Swedish Apple Pie, too. And come to think of it, what about Ricotta Pie??

Clearly, I have a lot of catching up to do! Stay tuned, and hopefully there will be some new desserts coming your way in short order.

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What about you? What are YOUR favorite pies? Tell me in the comments 🙂 And have a great weekend.

Recipes

Trader Joe’s Tag: Chimichurri Rice with Chicken Sausage

Y’all know I love me some Trader Joe’s. So when I discover a new recipe that only uses TJ’s ingredients, I’m doubly excited! We go there for groceries probably every two or three weeks, pick up a few of our favorites plus a couple of new treats, and fill in the regular food haul from Target, the farmer’s market, or (if we have to) Shaw’s or Stop n’ Shop (so expensive!) This one has a slight kick that’s balanced nicely by the sweet sausage. It goes freezer-to-table in a flash.

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This has a moderate level of spice to it, and easily turns from a side dish into a full meal with the addition of sausage links and fresh vegetables. You can use any variety of sausage you prefer. The seasonings in the rice include garlic, ginger, creme fraiche, cilantro and pepper.

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Chimichurri Rice with Chicken-Apple Sausage & Fresh Peas

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bag Trader Joe’s Peruvian-style Chimichurri Rice (frozen)
  • 1 package chicken sausage, any variety you like (we chose apple)
  • 1/2 pound fresh sugar snap peas, ends trimmed

DIRECTIONS

In a good-sized skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage slices until just starting to brown. Add the veggies (in my case, peas) and cook for just a few minutes. Add the entire bag of frozen chimichurri rice to the pan and cook, stirring, until heated through. Enjoy hot with a glass of crisp white wine!

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I had lots of extra peas left over from the huge farmer’s market bag after eye-balling the amount for this recipe. I eat them raw, dip them in ranch dressing, or steam them, sometimes garnished with lemon zest or mint. And of course, they make the perfect addition to any stir-fry or grain salad. And they’re so plentiful right now!

In baby news, we suddenly have a big girl on our hands — her first birthday party planning is in full swing, she took her first steps this weekend, and she’s moving into the “transition room” (1-2 years) at day care today (SOB!) She’s not shy about exploring our house these days, including the stairs, cat food dishes, DVD player and breakable vases. It’s never a dull moment. Last weekend, she and daddy had a special breakfast date together while mom got her nails done!


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