Posts tagged apples
Empire. McIntosh. Ginger Gold. Honey Crisp. There are literally thousands of different kinds of apples to try. Around 7,500.
When I was a kid I thought apples came in just two varieties–cardboard-like Red Delicious and too-tart Granny Smith. Today I look forward to trying a new-to-me apple variety each year (or more!). Last year my kids and I discovered Pink Lady apples. And this year my oldest is a fan of Jonagold apples (not to be confused with Jonamac) while my youngest can’t get enough of Honey Crisps.
Looking to spark an interest in trying new things in a stubborn picky eater? Grab an apple. Grab several. Let him know that you want to figure out what kind of apple is his favorite. Let him go crazy–make up a chart on paper to record his reactions to each new variety he samples. At our local grocery store, Miles Farmers Market, you can mix and match different apples all in one bag. I let my kids choose a few to compare at home.
Head to the orchard. We found at our local orchard–Patterson Fruit Farm–that they had samples available of at least a dozen different apples. They had signs, too, that described the characteristics for each. The woman working at Patterson’s asked each of my kids what she liked in an apple. Did she like it crisp or soft? Sweet or tart? Or does she prefer a mixture of all four characteristics? The woman encouraged my daughters to take samples of each type of apple available until she found her perfect apple.
Your turn–what’s your favorite apple?
The other day my daughter desperately wanted her tooth to come out. She wiggled it. Pulled at it. She even went digging for dental floss to try the whole attach-it-to-the-door-and-slam technique. (Does that ever work? Really?)
I gave her a different idea: eat whole foods. Apples. Carrots. Pears. Biting away at fruits and vegetables, I explained, might bring that tooth out. Her face lit up and she went for the bowl of fruit I try to keep stocked on the kitchen table (admittedly, sometimes it becomes the depository for coupons, orphaned paper clips and the like, but I do try).
First bite of the Empire apple didn’t bring out her wiggly tooth. Neither did the second, third, and we both lost count. You can see what remained of her apple. And the tooth? It’s still in, but hey, my daughter now has a great excuse for taking big bites of fresh produce.
Your turn: Anyone else ever enlisted the fruit bowl to help your kids lose a tooth?
When I picked up the phone this afternoon at first I thought something was wrong. On the other end, my mother-in-law just didn’t sound like herself. When I asked what was up, I had to laugh at her response: “Kris, I finally tried Nutella today. It was a-m-a-zing.”
Even though she spent part of her childhood overseas, my mother-in-law had never tried Nutella. She’s hooked now. We talked about all of the ways she could use it, but one of my newly discovered favs has to be rocky road pizza. Bonus: these mini dessert pizzas are fun for kids or grandkids to make!
Prep time: 15 minutes + baking
Servings: 4 mini pizzas with 4 slices each
1 package pizza dough
1-1 1/2 cups Nutella
1-2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup smoked almonds, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking oil.
- Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll each one out to a 6-8-inch circle.
- Spread Nutella on each pizza round using a kitchen knife.
- Place the mini pizzas onto the baking sheet.
- Sprinkle marshmallows, nuts and chocolate chips (if using) on top of the Nutella.
- Bake the pizzas for 20 minutes or until the marshmallows become golden.
- Cool before slicing.
Kids’ reactions: As you might expect, all of my crew, including Mr. Squid raved about these mini pizzas. We also tried mixing apple slices with Nutella on pizzas too. The pizzas were harder to slice than the rocky road version but at least I felt like they had some nutritional value. I’m thinking when raspberries are in season it would be tasty to spread the pizzas with Nutella and white chocolate chips and once they came out of the oven I’d pop on fresh berries.
Muffins are my comfort food. So this week as the temperatures dipped into the teens and the snow finally came rolling in (it’s still a blur of white outside the window), I decided to play around with the ingredients of an apple muffin recipe I’ve had since high school.
The original recipe calls for mixing in the buttermilk and apples separately just before turning out the batter into the muffin cups. Recalling an oatmeal cookie recipe that keeps the raisins soft by marinating them in whisked eggs and almond extract, I thought I’d try letting my apple dices take a dip. I wanted them to bathe in flavor so I mixed in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon zest too.
I wasn’t done experimenting. I wanted to keep the calories and fat to a minimum in these snowy day treats, so I used Land ‘O Lake Light butter that nixes half the fat of the good stuff (my take: using it in baking is fine, but it’s too stiff for spreading and using in frosting as you would regular butter).
Now for the sugar. I cut part of it, and then replaced it with something I found at my local natural foods grocer, Mustard Seed Market. Coconut sugar. I love the flavor of real coconut anyway. I’m not convinced that there’s any real health benefits from the coconut sugar, the brand is Madhava and it’s organic. It still has 15 calories per teaspoon just like your average table sugar. But what intrigued me was the flavor: kinda a cross between molasses and shredded coconut, the package calls it “a caramelized maple flavor.”
You don’t have to use light butter or coconut sugar in your muffins, but please, do soak the apples!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Servings: 16 regular-sized muffins
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup white sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups diced apple
1 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
3 tablespoons ground flax (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Peel and dice the apples and then soak them in the buttermilk, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if using) for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cream the sugar with the butter until it’s light and airy.
- Add the egg and mix well.
- In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients.
- Gently stir the dry ingredients in with the creamed mixture, then add the buttermilk-soaked apples and nuts.
- Divide batter in 16 regular-sized muffin cups and top with a few oatmeal pieces.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until just browned.
I saved my favorite bistro pizza recipe for last. Layered with tart apples and a hardy cheese, this pizza was inspired by one of my favorite snack combos, Cortland apple slices with either sharp New York cheddar cheese or whatever strong cheese I had on hand, Fontinella, Fontina, Gruyere, even Parmesan works.
A few things that make this recipe work:
The size. The less traditional mini-size pairs well with the less traditional ingredients. I can’t imagine eating a big slice of apple pizza, can you? But a hand-sized one seems perfect.
Fresh ingredients. The apples are at their flavorful peak right now. I like something with a bit up a bite that holds up to baking. I used Cortland apples, but Granny Smith would be a good choice too.
Deli dough. You can make the dough from scratch, but I stop by my neighborhood Italian deli and pick it up to make the meal prep even faster (they have white or whole wheat dough available).
Sweet slather. Before putting on the apples and cheese I brush the dough with agave nectar. You can use honey too, but I prefer the consistency and slight maple flavor of agave.
Even though my kids like the margarita and the meatball pizzas, apple was the surprise winner in our week of bistro pizzas and this was the only recipe I didn’t plan out beforehand. I had extra dough so I looked through my fridge for inspiration and came up with these pizzas. (Side note: I knew I had a good recipe when my daughter asked if she could bring an apple pizza to school with her for lunch.)
Servings: 4 mini-pizzas
1 bag pizza dough
3-4 tart apples, sliced thin
8-10 small slices of strong cheese (about 8 ounces, Fontinella, Parmesan, Gruyere)
Agave or honey
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Divided the dough into four equal pieces using a floured knife.
- Roll each dough piece out into a 5-6 inch circle, then place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
- Brush each dough piece generously with agave or honey
- Layer the apple and cheese slices on top.
- Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is golden.
Warm peach slices with a crumbly, buttery filling, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream was a summertime tradition growing up. Of course, I’ve got to continue that one! When I see peaches at the grocery store or farmers’ markets, I figure it’s peach crisp baking time. And I like to take it one step farther and make ‘em mini. You can still use a regular dutch oven or casserole dish, but for change I’ve included the instructions for using ramekins (sorry, using a muffin pan for this one is a no-go).
I looked through several recipes—and even tried one that literally fell flat—before deciding on the one below. In my mind, fruit crisp has to have oatmeal in it (that’s so you can eat it for breakfast on day #2 and feel like it’s nearly as healthy as oatmeal on its own). But most recipes relied just on oatmeal without including flour, which made for a less crisp crust.
Another point on the crust—I like to cut the butter in with a food processor versus doing it by hand. But the first time I added in all of the dry ingredients from the beginning, then my oatmeal was reduced to crumbs. Ditto for the nuts. To keep my oatmeal and nuts from disappearing, I processed the dry ingredients with the butter first then added in the oatmeal and nuts at the very end. Two pulses so the pieces are still chunky.
Tweaked from The American’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Prep time: 20 minutes + baking
6 Tablespoons flour
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup rolled oats (not instant)
¼ cup almonds
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
About 10 peaches
Blueberries or blackberries (optional; I had some handy so I threw ‘em in)
- Bring water to a boil in a large cooking pot. Place the peaches in a large mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over them.
- Allow the peaches to sit in the hot water for about 3-5 minutes. Pour out the hot water and rinse the peaches with cold water.
- Peel the skins off the peaches, remove the pits, and then slice into ¼” pieces. Place the pieces into a mixing bowl and toss with the cornstarch and cinnamon.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a food processor place the flour, sugars, salt. Pulse twice. Add the butter in pieces and pulse until the mixture resembles crumbs.
- Place the oatmeal and almonds into the butter mixture and pulse twice to four times (you don’t want to pulverize the nuts and oatmeal just break them up slightly).
- Lightly grease a 9” casserole pan or dutch oven (preferred). Place the peach slices into the pan and then add the butter mixture on top.
To make ‘em mini
- Grease one 7-ounce ramekin per peach.
- Distribute peach slices into ramekins (keep in mind the peaches will shrink by almost half when cooking so this will seem full but they’ll go down–promise). Toss the berries on top.
- Carefully top each ramekin with crumb mixture, pressing it down as you go.
- Bake on a cookie sheet (I overfilled one and it bubbled over but it still tasted good).
- Serve to smiling kids.
Apples in lemon juice. The temperature topped 95 degrees yesterday when we went to the zoo–the humidity was nearly as bad. For a refreshing treat that’s easy to pack, apples are my go-to snack. I don’t like carrying them whole, but I slice ‘em instead. That avoids the problem of the kids grabbing a couple bites then asking me to carry the rest, half eaten.
I make thin 1/4″ apple slices then squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a freezer bag or a tupperware (above I packed them in my favorite bento box). I toss the lemon in too–sometimes one of my kids asks to suck on that while we walk. Often I’ll also pack peanut butter for dipping (and energy:). I found aluminum foil ash trays at my local party store that make the perfect-sized tray.
Your turn–what’s your favorite snack for hot summer days?
Here’s what I wanted:
2)No sugar (I like ‘em tart)
1)Part of the reason you have to cook the fruit beforehand is to make it smooth and to dissolve the sugar. Cutting out the sugar helped eliminate one reason to cook. The next? A smooth consistency. A hint from purchased fruit leathers helped solve that: apple sauce (that’s my interpretation for the first ingredient–no matter the flavor it’s always ‘apple puree concentrate’). Using apple sauce makes the leathers smoother and cuts the cost. You’re going to need 5-7 cups of pureed something, mixing apple sauce with strawberries cut the amount of fresh fruit I needed.
2)Instead of sugar some recipes use honey. I wanted another option so I tried agave. It worked perfectly. (I also added in a squeeze or two of lemon juice for a sour punch.)
3)Well, there’s no real way to make fruit leathers fast. Prep fast, yes. Actual drying, nope. I did decide to up the temperature from 140 degrees (that’s what I saw listed again and again) to 170, which seemed to maybe trim the time a bit, but count on this recipe taking the better part of the day (or two). Unattended, mind you.
Step #1 Cut fruit
You need 4-5 cups for roll-ups (pictured) or 6-7 cups for thicker leathers (which will take longer to cook). I used half apple sauce, half cut up strawberries, and I recommend a 1:1 ratio.
Step #2 Blend fruit
Easy, peasy. I squeezed in a bit of agave, fresh lemon juice, tasted, tweaked, done.
Step #3 Pour fruit
Line a cookie pan with parchment (over the edges). Pour.
Step #4 Bake fruit
10-12 hours at 170. Yup, it takes time, the edges will cook faster then the center, so you can cut them off as they finish, feel with your fingers if the fruit is at the right leathery consistency for your taste. I let mine cook over a couple days so that I never left the oven on unattended.
That’s it. I kept the parchment on the leathers so they were easier to pack in lunches. These leathers were a hit with my kids–my middle daughter who doesn’t like strawberries or apple sauce (but strangely enough loves cut apple slices) downed half the pan and was the first to ask me to make more. My oven has been on non-stop since.
Your turn–what are your favorite healthy snacks? Habits?
2-½ cup pastry flour
1-teaspoon sea salt
½ cup all natural palm fruit oil
½ cup cold butter
Mix oil and butter into flour mixture with fingers until crumbly.
½ cup chilled water.
Do not over mix at this point. Dough will be sticky. Cover with plastic wrap or wax paper and allow to rest in refrigerator for 1 hour.
Divide dough in half. Roll out onto a lightly floured surface into an 11” circle to fit pie pan.
7 cups thinly sliced Northern Spy apples
½ c. sugar
¼ c. brown sugar
¼ c. flour
½-1 t. cinnamon
3 T. butter
Toss until apples are well coated; pour into bottom crust and dot with butter.
Roll out top dough disk, cover pie and crimp edges. Flute top crust for steam to escape while baking.
Brush top crust with water or egg and sprinkle with 2 T. sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees for 1-¼ hours or until golden brown and apple are tender.
If apples are not tender yet crust is becoming too dark, lower over temperature to 350 and continue to bake until apples are tender. Insert a fork into the middle of pie to test the tenderness of apple slices.
*Note that Wendy Achatz suggests using Northern Spy apples. I couldn’t find any at the grocery store so you might need to substitute another variety.
Special thanks for Wendy Achatz for sharing her recipe with MKES!