If you haven't spent a lot of time in the apple growing regions, you may not know how versatile this fruit is. Apples come in all sorts of shapes, colors, and tastes; not just the two or three you may know from your local grocery store's bagged produce department. Apples grow in just about every corner of the globe. Apples can be used in a variety of dishes from appetizers to main dishes to desserts. Let's get down to the core and see where apples come from and how they earned their rightful place in almost every aspect of our dietary lives.
What is it?
Apples are the fruit borne from, well, apple trees, of course. They come in various shades of red, yellow, and green and most have a white flesh that varies in texture from crisp to soft. Spanning the taste spectrum from sugary sweet to pucker-up tart, apples are one of the more versatile foods in the marketplace.
Apples have been around in one form or another for over 4,000 years. They were first brought to the United States in the early 1600's by explorers and settlers. Apples were highly valued and became a staple food in most households because they stored well fresh and were easily dried, then became the star of the home-canning world. Today, apples are still treated the same way – with appreciation for their versatility in recipes, ease of storage, and variety of preservation methods. For these reasons, apples are enjoyed by thousands around the globe.
Apples have proven to be beneficial in every health aspect from bone protection to alzheimer's prevention, and even diabetes management and cancer prevention. The reason apples are linked to all of these health benefits is because of the two integral layers – the skin and the pulp – both being an excellent source of vitamin C, just to name the most obvious and well known nutrient. Along with the added nutrients, the things that are missing from apples also make them noteworthy under the 'health benefits' tag; namely, apples are fat free, sodium free, and cholesterol free.
Pectin in the meaty part of the apple helps manage diabetes by supplying galacturonic acid which lowers the body's need for insulin. Phloridzin, a flavanoid found only in apples, may help protect menopausal women from the frightening occurrence of osteoporosis. A nutrient found in apple skins, boron, has been found to strengthen bones.
Apple trees can live for many years; sometimes well over a century. There are more than 7,500 varieties of apples grown in the world and about 2,500 of those are grown in the United States. Red Delicious is the most popular and well-known apple in the USA, with Golden Delicious following behind in a close second. Granny Smith apples are fast approaching these two powerhouse apples in popularity. The average American eats more than 70 apples a year, and considering apples are free of fat, salt, and cholesterol, as well as being a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, it's no wonder our doctors are trying to get us to eat one a day.
How to Eat Raw Apples
Eating a raw apple is as simple as diving teeth-first through the crisp skin right into the sweet or tart insides, and letting the juice run down your chin. If you wish to give your teeth a more gentle approach, and keep a neater smile, you can also core and cut the apple into wedges. Once you have these juicy little wedges, you'll be looking for goodies to dip them into. You don't have to look much further than peanut butter for a classic snack.
Apples can be diced and added to a fruit salad, tossed into a crunchy tuna salad with celery, or dipped in chocolate and caramel and topped with nuts. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to eat a raw apple. If you are lucky enough to be around an apple orchard, then there is nothing like picking a ripe apple from a tree, still warm from the sun, and enjoying each bite right in the shade of the branches of the apple tree.
How to Eat Cooked Apples
You can get as fancy as you want or as down-home simple as can be with apples. From apple pie to apple crisp and apple pastries to apple omelets, cooked apples are a favorite food around the world. Looking for something simpler than a pie? Just simmer the apples until they get soft, throw in a little sugar and cinnamon, and mash them into, you guessed it, applesauce. Eat it as it is or serve over ice cream.
What if you don't have a sweet tooth? Apples are often found in side dishes with cabbage, collard greens, spinach, or other savory vegetables. You will find a delightful mix of flavors when you add apples to a skillet full of harvest vegetables, onions, and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette. And, don't forget to try your hand at an apple glaze for your next pork tenderloin. Think beyond apple pie and you'll discover a whole world of recipes for your next bag of apples.
No matter how you decide to eat your apples, just remember the old adage, 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away.' Now we have the scientific studies showing all the nutrients there are in apples, so there's no excuse not to add this versatile fruit to your diet. Of course, that cool, crisp crunch of an apple alone should convince you to take a bite!
Old Fashioned Apple Date Salad
6 medium size crisp tart apples
Â¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
juice of one lemon
1 Tbsp light olive oil
romaine lettuce leaves
Wash and core the apples, then slice each apple into 12 wedges and put into large glass bowl.
Pit the dates and chop into small pieces, then add to bowl with apples.
Toast the walnuts in a dry (no oil) skillet over medium heat until just fragrant, and then add to bowl.
In separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt, then immediately drizzle over salad in bowl.
Cover bowl lightly with waxed paper or parchment paper and put in refrigerator to chill for 10 to 20 minutes.
Serve by arranging romaine leaves on chilled salad plates, then spooning apple date mixture over the top.
Curried Chicken and Apple Layered Casserole
4 cups chicken meat, cooked and diced
2 medium size tart apples, washed, cored, and cut into circles
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Â½ cup butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp curry powder
6 cups cooked brown rice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In large skillet, put onion, celery, and vegetable oil over medium heat. Cook until onion and celery starts to soften.
Into skillet over medium heat, add the butter and flour and stir for 1 minute, then slowly add the chicken broth, stirring continuously.
Turn off heat and add the curry powder to skillet and stir.
In a casserole dish sprayed with no-stick cooking spray, put rice, top with chicken meat, then arrange apple circles on top.
Pour sauce from skillet evenly over the top, being sure to cover everything.
Put tin foil on casserole (or put cover on) and bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until apples soften and everything gets bubbly hot.
Italian Sausage Stuffed Apples
6 large tart baking apples
1 lb. Italian pork sausage
Â¼ cup sweet onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, grated or minced
2 Tbsp golden raisins
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Wash and core apples, scooping out a larger than usual portion of the core so you get a good hollow to fill.
In skillet over medium heat, break up pork sausage and cook until completely browned (no pink color left.)
Add onion and garlic to the skillet and stir into the sausage, continuing to cook until onion is softened and transparent.
Remove skillet from heat and stir in raisins.
Arrange apples in baking dish.
Spoon sausage mixture into cavity of apples, packing firmly.
Divide the brown sugar between the apples, sprinkling on top.
Divide the butter into six sections and lay one section on top of the brown sugar on each apple.
Bake apples, uncovered, in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until apples have become soft.
Remove and let sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 minutes before serving, then serve warm.
1 (21 ounce) can apple pie filling
6 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
? cup butter or margarine
Â½ cup granulated sugar
Â½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
Â½ cup water
Spoon fruit filling evenly down center of each tortilla; sprinkle evenly with cinnamon. Roll up, and place, seam side down, in a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish. Bring butter and next 3 ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Pour over enchiladas. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.
Baked Apple Fritters
1 envelope active dry yeast
Â¼ cup warm water (100-110 degrees F)
Â¾ cup milk, scalded
Â¼ cup (4 tablespoons) margarine
Â¼ cup granulated sugar
Â½ teaspoon salt
3Â½ cups flour
1Â½ teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups peeled, chopped apples
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
Sprinkle yeast over warm water and set aside for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine hot milk, margarine, sugar and salt in a large mixer bowl; let stand until margarine melts. Beat in 1 cup flour. Add yeast mixture, cinnamon and egg, beating until combined. If using a heavy-duty mixer, beat in remaining flour to make a sticky dough. If using a hand mixer, stir in remaining flour with a spoon.
Turn dough onto a floured board and knead 5 to 10 minutes, until soft and elastic, adding additional flour if necessary. Place dough in a greased bowl and turn to grease top. Cover and let rise about 1Â½ hours, until doubled in bulk; or cover and let rise overnight in the refrigerator. Bring dough to room temperature before continuing.
Punch down dough and divide into thirds. Shape one-third of dough into a flat disc. Chop roughly with a sharp knife. Toss with one-third of the apples. Arrange apples and dough in six mounds on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and apples. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Uncover and bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes, or until golden. While still warm, drizzle with glaze made by stirring together powdered sugar and water. When cool, store in plastic bags.
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