An Apple a Day

The other day I was talking with a friend, trying to come up with easy recommendations for increasing his daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Like many, if not most, people, he is challenged to meet the recommended daily allowances of fruits and vegetables (essentially 4 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables a day for the average adult). So I thought I’d start with an easy one, especially considering the season. “Why not add an apple a day to your diet?” I asked. His response stunned me: “I don’t like apples.” I was speechless. What? Really? Who doesn’t like apples? So I talked with him about the plethora of delicious varieties available today and he agreed that he would try some new ones.  A few weeks later, I was telling this story to another friend and she responded, “Yeah, I get that. I didn’t like apples until a year or two ago.” This friend made me realize that, to many, an apple meant one of those red, somewhat mealy fruits that we used to eat in our youth. The ones that, when sliced, the skin would bleed into the white flesh of the apple. The ones with little to no taste. The ones I didn’t like.

I have been taking our amazing array of Washington-grown apples for granted. I didn’t realize that many people might not be aware of the tangy crunch of the Honey Crisp or the tart yet sweet bite of the Braeburn. And I myself get confused and overwhelmed by the incredible selection of apples piled high at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. So I can understand that people might just go with what they know – which might be standard “Delicious” variety. And I really don’t want to disparage this brand as it might do the trick for many. I’m only hoping to expand the horizons of those looking for more flavor, more crunch. Just more.

Considering I rarely remember which apples are best for what purpose, I wanted to feature a few links that summarize which are most appropriate for baking, canning and just plain eating. The Washington Apple Commission has a great usage chart that summarizes some of the most popular varieties. Tiny’s Organics, one of my favorite apple vendors at the Ballard Farmer’s Market, features detailed information on their apples including when they are harvested and available. The friendly guy at Tiny’s stand even told me the other day that they are working on a new variety called the Jolly Rancher that will taste of watermelon. Just imagine!

The “apple a day keeps the doctor away” adage isn’t just an old proverb. Apples are packed with fiber and phytonutrients that have been found in studies to lower blood cholesterol and may be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes and some cancers. And they can be easily added to a daily diet. Because apples are so readily available during the winter, I find myself substituting them in salads for tomatoes and peppers which are not grown locally this time of the year. And a favorite snack is a Braeburn sliced and paired with locally made Marilyn’s Nut Butter – the “Pistachio with Fennel” variety is blissfully savory concoction that only serves to heighten the sweetness of the fruit. With apples, there exists an indefinite array of tastes and textures and applications and I’ve included a few of my favorites below.

Finally, I am happy to report that my friend with the apple aversion is today a new man. He is happily eating an apple a day. Hurray!

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Fresh Apple Cake

Growing up, we were lucky enough to have an apple tree in our front yard. Mom would make this cake throughout the harvest. I remember sneaking into the drawer were it was kept, protected by tin foil, and trying to carve out a hunk without anyone being the wiser. More recently, dad has become quite the baker and whips this one up for birthdays and family celebrations. I’ve substituted some whole wheat flour for some of the all purpose flour. Which makes me feel a bit better when I slather the cake with Butter Rum Sauce. I’m including the recipe for this sinfully decadent delight after the cake recipe. And please know that the apple cake is definitely tasty enough to stand on its own. However from time to time, a girl’s gotta indulge.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups apples (approximately 5 large apples – I like Braeburn)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon mixed with 1 tablespoon white sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare apples by peeling, coring and chopping in a ¼ inch dice. In a large bowl combine eggs, sugars, vanilla and oil.  Fold in apples.

In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.  Mix into apple mixture.  Fold in the walnuts.  The batter will be very thick.

Pour into a lightly oiled and floured 9×13″ baking pan.  Pat out evenly.  Mix cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle over the top.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick can be inserted and come out clean.  Serve alone or with Butter Rum Sauce (recipe below) and ice cream of a decadent treat.

Note – this cake freezes exceptionally well.

 

Butter Rum Sauce   

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup cream
  • 2 tablespoon rum or 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

Bring butter and brown sugar to a low boil.  Mix in cream and rum or vanilla and remove from heat.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator and reheat in microwave before serving.

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Baked Apples with Cherries & Almonds

The following is loosely based on a recipe I found from the Mayo Clinic – which means it is packed full of healthy ingredients. Use a good baking apple like a Granny Smith or Jonagold. It’s a delicious light dessert or can be paired nicely alongside roasted pork.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped almonds
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ
  • 1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 small apples
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, toss together the cherries, almonds, wheat germ, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Set aside.

The apples can be peeled or left unpeeled. I find that leaving the peel on helps maintain the shape. Working from the stem end, core each apple, stopping about 3/4 inch from the bottom. Check to ensure all seeds have been removed.

Divide the cherry mixture evenly among the apples, pressing the mixture gently into each cavity. Arrange the apples upright in a heavy ovenproof frying pan or small baking dish just large enough to hold them. Pour the apple juice and water into the pan. Drizzle the honey evenly over the apples and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the apples are tender when pierced with a knife, approximately 50 minutes.

Transfer the apples to individual plates and drizzle with the pan juices. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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One Response to “An Apple a Day”

  1. Emma V. says:

    Love this! Will most definitely be trying the cake (oh, sigh) – if only every fruit had the benefit of such a cheerleader. :)

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