Yay fall!!- easily my favorite season of the year. Can’t get much better than the changing colors of the leaves, football games, sweatshirt weather, switching back to hot coffees from my homemade iced cold brews, Halloween, all things pumpkin, and yes – apples. Apples are a great source antioxidants and flavonoids, and are very high in the dietary fiber department. All the more reason to try and get some in during your everyday meal plan. Apples are available all times during the year, but they are most abundant and most flavorful when they are first picked during their major harvest season, which is fall. To me, all apples are great but I must admit that I am a Honeycrisp apples snob. Nothing is worse than buying produce just because it is less expensive and then having it go to mush in the refrigerator crisper because you ultimately just didn’t like the flavor of it. Yes, Honeycrisp apples are probably the most expensive but I’ll be damned if any one of them is going to go to waste in my house.
Some of our favorite quick and easy ways to get our apple fix in during our every day meal plans include:
-adding chopped apples to a salad
-snacking on apple slices dipped in our favorite nut butter (a note from Lauren: sometimes the name of the snack and the shape of the fruit makes all the difference. Make these into rings and call them “donuts” or “flying saucers.” Apple wedges with drizzled nut butter can be nachos.)
-layering them in a sandwich (grilled turkey and cheese with apples…mmmmm)
-adding them to our favorite pancake mix
-and – of course – eating them straight out of hand
However, with a little bit of imagination, you can try apples in a whole new way in meals, giving yourself some added crunch, sweetness, and fiber to boot. I’m including some of my favorite recipes, which are also family friendly, easy, and minimally invasive in the kitchen.
We all know that jelly is king, but it has a TON of sugar in an itty bitty serving – and NO ONE uses just one serving. However, if made without any added sugar, apple butter can actually be considered A SERVING OF FRUIT. It is great on toast, mixed in with oatmeal or yogurt, or even by the spoonful right out of the jar if I need something sweet. If you are a true Pennsylvania Dutchie, I dare you to go ahead and try it on some cottage cheese. This recipe is only 2 ingredients, and no sugar.
I’m telling you, your kids will think that they are getting a milkshake for breakfast. The fiber in the apples, oats and chia seeds will keep them full for hours and their minds from wandering in class. Sweetness comes from the dates and apples (no added sugar here) and protein comes from the chia seeds and milk. I suggest subbing the vanilla milk with whatever UNSWEETENED milk (cow or plant based) you choose and adding a drop of vanilla extract.
- Roasted Pumpkin and Apple Soup/Bisque
This is a variation of several soups that I have had over the years. It pretty much screams Fall to me. If you have a kiddo that will attempt soup, this is a good one because it is smooth. The amounts are not exact; use what you have, and to your liking. I think precut veggies from the supermarket work really well here to make this a super fast meal. Don’t like onion? – leave ’em out. Have some celery or some carrots? – throw them on the pan, if you’d like. Serve with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries, and a nice crusty multi-grain bread.
– Set oven to 425 degrees Farenheight
– On a greased foiled roasting pan, place cut up butternut squash*, 1-2 quartered apples (based on desired apple-ness), 1 quartered onion (or diced in container at grocery store), and a clove of garlic. Drizzle with 2 tsp. oil and some salt and pepper (if you like some heat, add a dash or two of cayenne pepper). Roast in oven until starting to brown – 30 minutes give or take. Remove from oven.
– Remove food from pan and place in blender. Add broth/stock (chicken or veggie) – start with 1 cup, and then add more depending on how thick you like your soup. If you want it more like a bisque, add some cream or unsweetened soy/almond creamer as well. Blend** as desired. If it is not warm enough for you, you can heat it up on the stove, although it should still be warm from the roasting and from the blending.
* you can use all butternut squash, or a mixture of butternut and acorn squashes and sweet potatoes. Use 1 medium squash or 1 large container of cut up squash at the market.
** so as not to scald yourself, fill the blender a little over halfway and leave the lid opened, covering the opening of the lid with a dishtowel or paper towel. This will prevent you from getting scalding hot soup sprayed all over you. When finished, pour blended soup in a pot and repeat with any remaining unblended soup. Don’t try to be a hero and blend all at once, unless you have a huge mongo blender; it’s not worth it. Trust me.
- Baked Apples
This comes from Lauren the Lazy chef’s kitchen. These little naked apple dumplings avoid the time, the mess and the calories of pie crusts and can even be a yummy weeknight treat. They’re great for the tiniest of kiddos just learning to eat solid foods and they’re fun for the older kids too since you can adjust the fillings and make it into a build-you-own apple party. They can even be a great way to use those few apples that got wrinkly on the counter and no one will eat them.
Choose however many apples you want to make and whatever variety you want to try. Core them about 3/4 of the way to the bottom so you create a little bowl (don’t go all the way through or your filling will leak out). I bought an apple corer to do this since I made them so often, but a knife and a spoon will work fine. Next, choose your filling. It can be any combo of nuts, oats, spices, and dried fruits. Add a bit of honey or brown sugar if you want some extra sweetness. (If making for new little eaters keep it simple with a few raisins and cinnamon). Spoon your mix into the apples and pop the apples into a baking pan (good idea to grease the pan or use foil since you might get some leaky apples. No one wants to be scraping gooey bits off the pan after dessert!). Some recipes call for a little square of butter on the top to melt down into the apple. This isn’t for me, but feel free if you’d like to make them a little more decadent. A few teaspoons of apple juice or ginger ale can work too if you notice your mix is too dry. Now bake them at 375°F for 30 minutes. If they aren’t soft enough, keep them in up to 45 minutes. Bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top wouldn’t be a crime 🙂