Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cool Things to Do With Apples

I raised my seven children in Kennewick, WA--the Columbia Basin, an area considered "the Breadbasket of the Northwest." Just about everything but citrus fruits grows there--this is where those amazing Washington apples come from. And harvest time was truly bountiful for our family.

Orchardists and farmers would open up their groves and fields to the community for gleaning. All we had to do was donate 15% or so of our pickings to the local food bank. Great idea, don't you think?

My children had a love-hate relationship with harvest time--they loved the fresh fruits and vegetables, but hated the work it meant for us. Canning, canning, canning. Freezing, freezing, freezing. I didn't do any dehydrating because we didn't have a dehydrator, but if I had, you can bet we would've. Though now that they look back on those times, they're grateful for the work ethic harvest time experiences instilled in them.

And that's one of the things I love about kitchen work and food preparation. It is the perfect opportunity to teach kids to work, and the payoff is immediate--a good meal, a yummy treat, a great snack, or in the case of food preservation, meals for the rest of the year.

One of the things I wasn't so good at when it came to teaching the family to work, that you're likely doing better at, is making the work fun. I was pretty intense (the kids like to use the word slave-driver). Mary Poppins had the right idea--put some fun in what you're doing. So with this thought in mind, here are some ideas from friends and neighbors on cool things to do with apples. (We can do more than just can them.)

And since it's apple harvest time, these ideas are pretty affordable and fantastically versatile (in terms of food and even decor). So here's to fun times in the kitchen as you work together to make family dinner hour possible!

Baked Apples: Cut a horizontal slit around the top and bottom of each cooking apple (Pippins are super for baking) and take out the core. Stuff the cavities with dried fruit and chopped nuts and drizzle in a little honey, dot the top of each apple with a knob of butter and bake at 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 for about 40 minutes, or until soft.

Apple Muesli: Add a grated apple, a large dollop of yogurt and a drizzle of honey to your favorite muesli, then leave to soak for 5 minutes. Add cold milk for a delicious breakfast or brunch.


Apples on Toast: Fry slices of apple in butter until golden, add a sprinkle of brown sugar and heat until caramelized. Beat 2 eggs with a splash of milk, dip in slices of bread until the eggs have soaked in, then fry in butter until golden and cooked. Top with apples and serve hot.



Apple and Blackberry Crumble: Cook 3 peeled and chopped apples with 3-4 C blackberries, 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of cinnamon in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons water. Place in a baking dish. Cut ½ C butter into 2 ½ C flour and stir in 1/2 sugar. Spread onto the apple mixture and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.

Healthier Waldorf Salad: In a bowl put 1 peeled and chopped apple, 2 sliced sticks of celery, a handful of toasted walnuts and some torn lettuce leaves. Red grapes are good, too. Add a little plain, non-fat yogurt, toss together and season well.

Apple candle-holders: Wash, polish, then core as many apples as you want candle-holders. They should sit flat. Insert candles (short or long—doesn’t matter—depends on the look you want) and set in a line down the length of the table. VERY Martha-Stewartish!

Apple Place Card Holders: Wash and polish as many apples as you need place card holders. Remove stems. Cut 1/4 inch slit across the top of each apple, from one side to the other, to fit your place cards. A touch of color (perhaps the color of the apple) is a nice touch to add along with the name.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Healthy Treat for the Weekend

Don't you love the change of pace weekends offer? It's the perfect time to prepare foods for the coming week's meals as well as work with our children in the kitchen.

With this idea in mind, here's a recipe for a healthy and delicious treat you can serve up as part of a meal, or just as a perfect snack. It's also a recipe children can handle with ease. This recipe is from an email newsletter I get, "Your Health Today," by Jim and Colleen Simmons and I believe it's their creation. So hat's off to 'em--they've got a winner here.

And please do share any of your winners--we're always looking for those our children can learn off of as well as those that are just plain good! Until next time then, here's to having fun in the kitchen with the kids, eating healthy, and making family dinner hour possible!

TROPICAL BLACK BEAN SALSA

1 mango, peeled, pitted and cubed
1 cup pineapple chunks
3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 medium onion, chopped
6 ripe roma tomatoes
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 Serrano chili pepper
5 or 6 baby carrots
2 cups frozen or fresh from the cob corn
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 Avocado
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 dash of chili powder
1 large bed of leafy greens of choice


Add all the ingredients, except the mango, pineapple, corn, beans, avocado, and leafy greens to blender; with variable speed blender begin on the lowest setting and slowly increase until ingredients are chopped (not blended) to a nice salsa consistency. Next, stir in remaining ingredients. Allow mix to combine flavors for 15 minutes or so and then enjoy over a large bed of leafy greens. This is also exceptionally good over a piece of toasted naturally leavened bread, Mmmm! Also, this salsa bean combination can be refrigerated successfully for several days.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

FAMILY DAY Is On Its Way!

LOTS of things have happened in my world since we last talked, and I'll be sharing stuff with you soon. But meanwhile, just an FYI: one of the reasons I started this blog is almost here:

Family Day - A Day to Eat Dinner with Your ChildrenTM is a national movement to inform parents that the parental engagement fostered during frequent family dinners is an effective tool to help keep America’s kids substance free. Family Day reminds parents that Dinner Makes A Difference! Family Day will be celebrated nationwide on Monday, September 27, 2010.

Here's what the website devoted to this cause has to say: "Whether you’re cooking a gourmet meal, ordering food from your favorite take-out place or eating on the go, rest assured that what your kids really want during dinnertime is YOU! Family meals are the perfect time to talk to your kids and to listen to what’s on their mind."

I've had the pleasure of hearing from so many of you that echo this sentiment. We KNOW the difference this experience can make for our families. But if you've only been tinkering with the idea, then this could be a great time to start the important tradition of eating together as a family at least 4 nights a week, or a great time to renew your commitment to this practice.

Summers tend to discombobulate even the strongest and most entrenched routines, so it's nice to have this day--on a national scale--to get us back into the rhythm of things. Now that summer is behind us, Labor Day is past, let's get organized and mobilized and go forward creating wonderful meal time memories for our families. So until tomorrow, here's to spreading the news about making family dinner hour possible!