Friday, September 18, 2015

Healthy Baked Apples

Last Year's Post: Roast Pork, Fennel and Green Bean Salad
Two Years Ago:  Lavash Chips, Za'atar, Hummus and Green Harissa

Having grown up in the Midwest - one of the prime apple-growing regions of the country - I've always been a big fan of apples in any form.  The University of Minnesota is the largest propagator of new apple varieties and if you go to their Arboretum in the fall they have some of their newest available for sale with charming names like 1016 or 587 - varieties that may or may not make it to the commercial market.  Honeycrisp, the most popular variety ever, is from the U of MN (go Golden Gophers) as is its love child, Sweetango.  If you like Honeycrisp, you'll love Sweetango.  It's fairly new and in limited distribution right now but if you see it at your local store, buy it.

Anyway, baked apples are a great alternative for people trying to eat healthy because they don't involve pie crust but have many of the same flavors as apple pie.  This recipe is particularly healthy because it cuts down on the butter and sugar and is served with yogurt or low fat ice cream rather than whipped cream or maple syrup.

The type of apple you use will influence the ultimate taste, texture and appearance of your baked apples.  Apples that stay firm when baked are preferred because some apples will bake down into mush, which is great for applesauce but not so much for baked apples.  I used Pink Lady apples and was very pleased with their firm texture and sweet apple flavor but I think Honeycrisp or Braeburn would work just as well.  If you like your baked apples a little softer, just cook them a little longer.  Test the apples by sliding a small knife down from the top to see how much resistance there is.

The Lawyer has been known to bake apples whole (without cutting the top off) while possibly choosing the wrong kind of apple because they sometimes tended to come out wrinkled on the top and brown rather than red.  That's another reason to like this recipe - choosing the right apple and cutting the top off makes for a very pretty final presentation.

Are baked apples for breakfast, or for dessert?  The answer is yes.  I tend to think of them as a great breakfast alternative but they would be a spectacular, simple and healthy dessert for any entertaining you do.  And although the recipe says to serve the apples warm, they're also great right out of the refrigerator the next day.

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Healthy Baked Apples
Serves 4

Note: Use whatever kind of apples you like best. Cooking apples such as Jonathan, Rome Beauty, or Granny Smith work well, as do Honey Crisp, Pink Lady and Braeburn.

4 medium apples
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Up to ¼ cup chopped dried fruit, nuts, or granola (optional)
½ cup apple juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tops off the apples. Remove the core and seeds with a small spoon or knife.  Place the apples in an ovenproof baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and optional ingredients. Spoon this mixture into the centers of the apples. Pour apple juice into the baking dish.  Using a small spoon, take a little of the juice from the bottom of the dish and drizzle it on top of the apples to moisten.  Bake apples for 40 to 45 minutes or until the apples are firm but tender, basting them occasionally with the juices from the baking dish.  Let cool for a few minutes.  Drizzle with pan juices one last time.

Serve warm with yogurt or low fat ice cream.

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