Apple Crisp

This past weekend we ventured out with some friends and participated in a great New England Fall tradition…apple picking 🙂

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We went to Nashoba Valley Winery, which has apple picking, a winery and a brewery so we turned it into an adult apple picking adventure.  Everything is better with a little wine!  The girls did some wine tasting while the guys did some beer drinking.  And, after a nice picnic, we made our way out to the orchard and picked us some apples. It seems like apple orchards have a lot of rules these days.  I remember going as kid with my entire family and I don’t remember seeing signs saying “No Climbing”.  That is one of the best parts of apple picking…climbing the trees to get to the best apples.  Well, we took the rules as more of a “suggestion” than a “rule”.  If you are looking for a good place for apple picking Nashoba Winery was great because of the other activities, but the actual apple selection was just ok.  I was not overly impressed by the number of different kinds of apples.  But, overall we had a great time.  The weather was perfect, the company was great and now I have an abundance of apples to eat.

So, my first recipe with apples (there will probably be a lot over the next few weeks considering the number of apples I have), a traditional apple crisp.  Again, my husband hates any dessert with fruit in it and kept telling me he wasn’t going to eat it.  Well about 10 min after walking in the door he was already eating it, so I would say it was a success.  It is a super easy recipe so enjoy!

Apple Crisp - LiveDineParty

Adapted from Ina Garten, via foodnetwork.com

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • About 6-8 medium/large McIntosh or Cortland apples (you may need more/less depending on the size of the apples)
  • 3 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 14-inch baking dish.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the lemon juice, sugar, and spices. Pour into the dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Crumble evenly over the apples.

Apple Crisp - LiveDineParty Apple Crisp - LiveDineParty Apple Crisp - LiveDineParty

Bake for 1 hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly.

Apple Crisp - LiveDineParty

Of course, serve warm with a side of vanilla ice cream.  Is it Thanksgiving yet???

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Pound Cake with Fresh Berries & Whipped Cream

Pound Cake with Fresh Berries & Whipped Cream - LiveDineParty

I love pound cake, but when I started looking for a recipe, the amount of butter and eggs used in a “true” pound cake recipe really made me nervous about how unhealthy it is.  So, I found this recipe from Ina Garten.  And although it is still not a healthy recipe by any means, which I wasn’t expecting to find anywhere, it seemed a little more reasonable than using a full pound of butter :).  Plus, Ina has never disappointed me!

I recently served pound cake topped with fresh berries and homemade whipped cream when my in-laws visited and it was a hit.  It can also be served plain or you can get creative with other seasonal toppings.

Adapted from Ina Garten, via foodnetwork.com

Makes 2 loaf cakes

Ingredients

For the Pound Cake:

  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Berry Topping:

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon water (optional)

For the Whipped Cream:

  • 8 oz. heavy whipping cream, cold
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

For the Pound Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and granulated sugar using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, beat in the eggs, 1 at a time.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla. If you do not have buttermilk, whole milk will also work.  Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes. Take them out of the pans, place them on a baking rack and allow them to cool completely.

Pound Cake with Fresh Berries & Whipped Cream - LiveDineParty Pound Cake with Fresh Berries & Whipped Cream - LiveDineParty

For the Berry Topping:

In a medium bowl, combine the slice strawberries and blueberries, sugar and lemon juice.  Cover and refrigerate until it is time to serve.  I will usually mix this the morning of a party in order to let it sit and absorb the natural juices.  If there is not much juice, add a little water.

For the Whipped Cream:

Chill the mixing bowl and the whip in the freezer or refrigerator before starting.  Whip the cream and vanilla using an electric mixer fit with the wire whisk attachment at medium/high speed. When the cream begins to thicken, slowly add the powdered sugar.  Whip until peaks form.  Do not over whip.

Slice the pound cake and top with the berries and whipped cream and now you have a fabulous dessert to serve!

Lemon Risotto

I remember my first risotto like it was yesterday.  I was studying abroad in Italy and my parents were visiting.  After struggling a little (well maybe a lot) to actually get to San Gimignano, we stumbled across this little restaurant just outside the city walls (Trattoria Rigoletto for anyone traveling to the area) and I ordered the risotto with tomato sauce, eggplant and fresh mozzarella.  Needless to say, it changed my life and risotto is now one of my favorite dishes to cook and eat.

Risotto is an Italian rice dish that is common in Northern Italy.  The type of rice and the cooking technique is what makes risotto.  It is made with Arborio rice, which is a high starch rice.  It is fairly common and can be found at most grocery stores.

Although my arm generally gets a little tired from the constant stirring, I really enjoy making risotto.  It intimidated me at first because everyone kept saying that it is not that easy to get the consistency and texture right.  Well I completely disagree!  It takes a lot of attention and patience, but once you get the basic recipe down, you can pretty much add any flavor combination you are in the mood for to create a great side dish or a main course.  My husband loves risotto and trying my new flavor combinations that come and go with the seasons so it has become a staple meal in our house.

The lemon risotto I made to go with the grilled steaks and grilled veggies we served when my in-laws visited is amazing and surprisingly light.  The fresh lemon taste and creamy texture from the mascarpone complimented the grilled steaks perfectly.  And, you know it was good when there are no leftovers!

Lemon RisottoLemon Risotto

Adapted fromGiada De Laurentiis, Everyday Italian via foodnetwork.com

Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, diced (you can substitute an onion if you don’t have a shallot)
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 a lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium saucepan bring the chicken broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer.  Keep hot over low heat.

In a medium, heavy sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until tender but not brown.  Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Toast the rice until the edges of the rice turn translucent.  Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated.  Gradually add the broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of the broth to absorb before adding more.  The rice should be gently simmering during this process. The rice will become creamy and should be tender but still firm or al dente, about 20 minutes (now you know why your arm gets tired after 20 min of constant stirring 🙂 ).  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, mascarpone cheese, the lemon zest and juice, and the salt and pepper.

Serve immediately.   This is the key to risotto.  If it sits for even 10 minutes the texture will change and you will lose that creaminess.

So, give it a try.  Trust me you won’t regret it, even if it doesn’t come out perfect the first time!