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!

kid-friendly · Recipes

BLT Pasta Salad

Hot nights call for cold pasta salad! Here, I’ve taken flavors pretty much everyone loves — that of a BLT sandwich — and modified slightly to use a combo of ranch dressing and barbecue sauce instead of mayonnaise for dressing. It tastes light and sweet, and if you use salad bar bacon bits like I did, it’s actually vegetarian to boot. (Did you know most bacon bits aren’t made of meat? It’s true!) This is a sneaky way to get some vegetables into your kiddo for lunch or dinner, too. Consider it Georgia approved!

BLT PASTA SALAD

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta, cooked and drained
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup bacon bits, or about half package bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
  • 1 head of romaine or other lettuce variety, chopped
  • ranch dressing and barbecue sauce to taste
  • pepper, seasoned to taste

DIRECTIONS

Put a pot of pasta on to boil and prep the remaining ingredients: chop the romaine, bake and crumble the bacon (or use bacon bits pre-crumbled from the salad bar, as I did, to save time) and dice the tomatoes. This entire recipe is flexible, so add more or less of any ingredient to your preference.

Cook and drain the pasta until it is al dente, making sure not to over-cook so they don’t turn mushy when mixed into salad. Let cool.

Toss together the tomatoes, bacon, lettuce and pasta in a large bowl, and drizzle ranch dressing to coat, using your judgment as to how heavily dressed you’d like the pasta to be. I would start with about a quarter cup and work upwards from there. Season with pepper and drizzle barbecue sauce over top. Toss once more and serve warm, room temp, or cold right out of the fridge. Will keep very well outdoors for a picnic, potluck or cookout. Enjoy!

BLT pasta salad

Recipe inspired by Life in the Lofthouse.

kid-friendly · Recipes

Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberries

It’s strawberry season in New England! These berries have a very short window of availability each year, and this summer the crop is peaking late — like right now — so it’s time to pick up some fresh berries at the farmer’s market and get baking. My brother’s girlfriend Michelle, who you may remember from this popular Stuffed Mushroom recipe at Christmas, makes one of the best strawberry treats I’ve ever had: strawberries stuffed with sweetened cream cheese. Auntie Shelly, as Georgia calls her, brings these to every summer gathering and they are always the absolute most popular item on the potluck, including last weekend when we had a barbecue for Mark’s birthday at our house. They were gone in a flash and I felt lucky to grab a couple before they disappeared. In addition to being a crowd pleaser, they are very simple to make. Read on to find out how.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberries

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 packages of fresh strawberries
  • 8 oz of regular cream cheese
  • ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Graham crackers (optional)

DIRECTIONS

First, take the cream cheese out of the refrigerator. It needs to be at room temperature in order for everything to blend well.

Wash the strawberries, and remove the stems. Cut the bottom off of each strawberry where the leaves are so they can stand up on their own.

Make an “X” cut on the pointed side of each strawberry and set them aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and start mixing on low speed. Start slow to make sure the confectioner’s sugar doesn’t splatter everywhere! Increase the speed to medium/high until the mixture is a light, fluffy texture. This usually takes about 3-5 minutes.

Put the cream cheese mixture into a piping bag with a small tip. An easy way of doing this is to use a tall, empty drinking glass, which holds the bag so you can have both hands free when pouring the mixture.

Insert the piping tip into the middle of the “X” cut on each berry, and squeeze the filling in until you can see it starting to peek out the sides.

Finally, an optional last step is to put some crushed graham crackers on top of the berries. This can make them look extra fancy!

{{ Serve at room temp and watch guests devour }}


If you really, really love strawberries — as Georgia does — try these Strawberry Mini Muffins, my Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, this Strawberry Yogurt Cake or my Creamy Strawberry Smoothie. We really love strawberries in our house!

Looking for places to pick your own strawberries this month? Here’s a great guide to you-pick spots and local strawberry festivals in and around Boston in June. Or, just follow the Facebook and Instagram posts from your family and friends for of-the-moment tips. Happy picking!


Tiny Prints - Flash Sale

Recipes

Brown Sugar Kielbasa

I’m letting you in on my secret go-to potluck dish: Brown Sugar Kielbasa, a crowd pleasing recipe that only has two ingredients and cooks all by itself in the slow cooker while you’re at work. The only downside is that it’s not vegetarian, but it sure does feed a bunch of people with very little effort! I bring this to every Super Bowl party, baby shower, and potluck around, and everyone always asks for the recipe after.

Copy of SPRING FETTUCCINE

All you need for ingredients is 3 packages kielbasa, any variety — I use turkey, because it’s a little less fatty and greasy — and 1 package (1 lb.) of dark brown sugar (light brown sugar is OK if dark is unavailable). 

You want a rough ratio of two or three packages kielbasa to one package sugar, but this recipe is flexible enough that you can add or subtract a kielbasa link and it’ll turn out fine. The sugar cooks over either low or high heat until it forms a liquid sauce. 

To cook it, slice the kielbasa into quarter-size pieces and place them in the slow cooker, then pour the entire box of sugar on top of the kielbasa, and stir quickly to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours (or on high for 2 1/2 hours). It will look very, very dark when it’s done. And that’s it! Ready to serve warm.

Set it overnight or while you’re at work, and when you get home you can take your slow cooker directly to the potluck or party. You’ll have perfectly cooked kielbasa chunks swimming in a sweet, syrupy brown sugar sauce.

IMG_3901

Variations work very well with this recipe — mustard, onions, green peppers, fruit preserves, canned fruit, jelly, beans, bacon, garlic and chilli are all great additions here. Just read the comments below for even more inspiration! I think my favorite reader suggested change is to add in some ginger beer. How good does that sound? If you make tasty modification, don’t forget to share them!

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