Sunday, January 13, 2013

Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp with Salted Caramel Drizzle + Annual Team Appreciation Lunch

On Friday I hosted my annual team appreciation lunch.  I believe this is the 10th annual celebration that I have hosted at my house.  Each year I invite my direct reports to enjoy an afternoon of appetizers, lunch and dessert along with spending time away from the office to simply enjoy each others company.  We have a small gift exchange and I leave my Christmas decorations up for everyone to enjoy.

It is a small way of showing my direct reports how much I appreciate all that they do on a daily basis to have our region hit our budgeted numbers.  We had many reasons to celebrate since 2012 gave us many victories and some challenges.  Our challenges only help us to strive for excellence.

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Left to right: Christine, Me, Jessica, Catrina, Debby, Matt, Amy, Lisa S and Stefanie

When planning my menu, I kept in mind that I work long days and needed to work backwards to get everything accomplished for the luncheon.  That meant planning the menu to be both easy and delicious.  A “list” is my best friend when entertaining.  The one piece of paper includes the menu, the shopping list by store and the timeline to complete everything.  A great tip is to run the event preparation through your head then review the written list to see what steps you are missing.  In addition, always shop a day or two ahead of time, so you can concentrate on preparation.

Speaking of preparation, cut, slice, assemble, toast, pre-cook as many items as possible, so the day of the event you are simply heating, assembling and serving.  One of my employees Christine has worked with me for close to eight years and volunteers to be my helper for assembling and serving the plates to the group.  She is one huge help on the day of the event.  This year, she said to me that she just marvels in watching me get everything together. Smile. I guess we all have our methods of entertaining and after years of mastering my craft, it is rewarding to share with others.

Many of the items on the menu are proven favorites along with being crowd pleasers.  We started with appetizers including:  Watermelon Cubes with Feta, Mint and BasilOlive Oil, Roasted Grape Crostini with Ricotta and Thyme and Mozzarella and Mini Heirloom Spheres with Basil.  After appetizer hour we adjourned to the dining room for the main event.

We started with Kale Salad with Oranges, Almonds and Manchego and Garlic & HoneyVinaigrette. This was the winner of the day.  Half of the team had not experienced kale and were now converts.  Our main course included Baked Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken (blog post coming soon) with Roasted Mini Fingerling Potatoes and Haricot Vert.

The finale to the day was Ina Garten’s famous Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp.  I added my Salted Caramel Drizzle and a scoop of vanilla ice cream to kick it up a few notches.  We returned to the family room to have a bit of fun with the gift exchange.  At first everyone was polite and did not steal gifts, however that quickly changed with the bottle of Chopin PotatoVodka mading an appearance and the stealing began.  All in all a fun day away from the office and great kick off to the weekend.

Old-Fashioned Apple Crisp with Salted Caramel Drizzle

5 Pounds McIntosh or Macoun Apples
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grates zest of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ Cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg


1½ Cup flour
¾ Cup sugar
¾ Cup brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon salt
1 Cup Oatmeal
½ Pound butter, cold

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9 by 14 by 2 inch oval baking dish.

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

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, 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.  Scatter evenly over the apples.

Place crisp on a sheet pan and bake for one hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly.  Serve warm with a bit of the salted caramel drizzle and vanilla ice cream if desired.

Recipe slightly altered from here

Salted Caramel Drizzle

1 ½ C. sugar
¼ C. water
½ t. lemon juice
1 C. heavy cream
2 t. Grey Salt

Stir sugar, water and lemon juice in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat; boil without stirring until the mixture turns deep amber brown. This should take about 9 minutes. Take off the stove and hold over the sink before pouring the cream mixture into the sugar mixture. It will boil and bubble. Once calmed down, add grey salt and set back on the burner and reduce slightly over medium low heat for about 8 minutes. Chill until thickened. Put into another container and slightly heat when ready to use.


  1. Old-fashioned apple crisp is the best! I'm drooling over that salted caramel drizzle. Your team was certainly in for a treat! :)

  2. What a lovely team, and what a special occasion you planned for them! The apple crisp looks wonderful...nothing like the warmth of a comforting apple crisp!

  3. That drizzle looks fabulous! Great classic recipe. One of my Favs!

  4. You have the luckiest team! Talk about work benefits :) In all seriousness, the menu was just fantastic, Lisa, and there's nothing better than a classic apple crisp. Yum!

  5. I'm in love with that salted caramel drizzle pair with apple crisp. Such a great combo!
    Your team must love you for throwing such nice parties, everything on the menu sounds delicious!

  6. That's so cool that you do that for your team. I'm sure they loved it. I can't wait for the chicken recipe, that sounds so good, well actually everything did. I probably shouldn't be drooling over all this food especially dessert so close to bed, lol.

  7. Looks lovely, salted caramel sauce is so good and I bet it was fabulous on your apple crisp. I really love all the parties you have and the neat things you so for them!

  8. Oh my goodness! salted caramel drizzle! and that table setting is SO gorgeous! I echo Liren you definitely have a very lucky team :)

  9. Lisa, I wish I was on your team! What a wonderful post, so helpful with so many great tips. It's crazy that you can pull something like this off in the midst of a work schedule! Sounds like a lovely, delicious menu and the apple crisp, I know was enjoyed by all, it's such a universal crowd pleaser.

  10. This looks amazing.......salted caramel.......yum!

  11. Wonderful way to celebrate Lisa!! Love your menu and the apple crisp-way to wow 'em;-)

  12. Lisa, I'm your secret admire when it comes to home party. You've been inspiring me with your table setting and it's always so fun to see how you host parties! How nice of you to invite your direct reports for luncheon at your home! I'm sure they know you are a big foodie and must be so excited for your home cooked meals! Apple crisp with salted caramel... yum!

  13. On these cold winter days nothing seems more comforting than a bowl of warm apple crisp. Yours looks delicious and the salted caramel drizzle is the perfect addition!

  14. What a great lunch, I am sure they all appreciate it so much!
    The apple crisp sounds like a fabulous way to cape off your lunch!

  15. That's an impressive menu! We'll be thinking about that chicken for days...

  16. What a wonderful dinner! It certainly has a special occasion feel to it - the attention to detail, from the printed menu down to the last dessert details. This apple crisp is a perfect way to end a home made dinner that's both simple and elegant! Are you a party planner on the side? hehehe...

  17. The next time there's a job opening at your office, I'm applying. Then I'd get to attend these annual appreciation lunches. :)

  18. Are you hiring? :) What a deliciously fun way to show your appreciation...and what a gorgeous crisp!


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