Inspired by all the colorful varieties of apples in the market right now, we did our own apple tasting this week. There are a lot of lesson plans and educational exercises for apple tasting (google “apple tasting kids” or search on Pinterest — you’ll find a ton). You can make predictions, comparisons, even weave writing and graphing into it if you like. Maybe one day we’ll do a more scientific version of this, but for now we were happy just to keep it simple. We cut up our apples, labeled them A, B, C, D, E and captured a few broadstroke impressions as we sampled and each picked our favorite at the end. The kids absolutely loved it and it sparked some really fun and interesting conversation. My little guy has already asked when we are doing this again. Continue reading
2 videos for apple lovers….. We love this apple peeler/corer contraption and use it all the time. If you’re a pie lover, you can break down a big pile of apples in a snap. Kids (and adults) will also love the fun, swirly apple spirals for snack time. Pick one up here.
While on the topic of apples, I also happened upon this quick and easy microwave (you can call if faux “sous vide” if you like!) applesauce video recipe from the Voltaggio brothers of Top Chef fame. This is pretty much the opposite of our recent endeavor with slow cooker apple-pear butter — but quite a handy little trick for homemade applesauce on the quick. We don’t microwave a whole lot, but I must say it does have its shining moments. I looked into it and famed foodie scientist Harold Magee says that the quick cooking in the microwave actually retains more nutrients and prevents oxidation in certain items (produce/fruit). So thanks, Voltaggios, for giving the lowly microwave its just due.
It’s been an eventful week for us. My little one started preschool which — beyond the obvious “heartstrings” aspect of it all — means thinking about packing a lunchbox on a regular basis. So begins a new chapter in food for our family.
As I was packing up my first lunch, I got to thinking about what would put a smile on my son’s face when he opened up his brand spanking new lunchbox. Something super yummy. A muffin perhaps? Problem was, we were just back from vacation and our refrigerator was really, really bare. Luckily we happened to have a few apples, so I decided to take that as my starting point.
I reached for my “go to” kitchen reference the Gourmet Cookbook and it came through once again with the recipe for “Marion Cunningham’s Raw Apple Muffins” (originally published in Marion Cunningham’s “Breakfast Book“). This is a simple recipe, which requires just a few ingredients and turns out not-to-sweet and very moist muffins. It’s timely, too, with apple season upon us.
[Here’s my little tip: coring, peeling and dicing the apples is the only time consuming step of this recipe. We happen to have one of those apple peeling/coring/slicing contraptions — my husband likes to make pie and this is a fantastic tool for prepping a big pile of apples. I was able to break down my apples into a perfect little dice in no time with very little knife work. Yippee for that.]
Raw Apple Muffins
(adapted from the recipe for “Marion Cunningham’s Raw Apple Muffins” in the Gourmet Cookbook. This recipe was originally published in Marion Cunningham’s “Breakfast Book”)
- 2 apples (peeled, cored and diced — 1/4″ dice is ideal)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup oil (I substituted my apple-pear butter, you could also use apple sauce)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I omitted this since my apple butter already has spices in it)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- muffin tin liners
- Toss the diced apples and sugar in a bowl and set aside.
- Mix egg, vanilla and oil (or apple butter) in a bowl set aside.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, salt, spices, baking soda)
- Add the egg mixture to the apples and mix well. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
- Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees. Start checking for done-ness at 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin should come out clean. Makes about 10 muffins.
I think next time I might experiment with substituting a third of the flour with whole wheat flour and stirring in a couple of tablespoons of oats and a couple teaspoons of flax seed just to add a little extra nutritional punch. After making these muffins, I think I’m definitely going to have to check out the “Breakfast Book”!
- 3 Pounds Mixed Apples and Pears (a mix of sweeter and more tart varieties is nice)
- Fresh Ginger (a couple of inch-long pieces)
- 1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1.5 cups Brown Sugar (or to taste) — I’m sure you could substitute apple cider, agave syrup, maple syrup or other sweeteners you like.
- 3/4 Tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 Tsp Ground Cloves
- 1/2 Tsp Allspice
- Zest & Juice from 1 Lemon
- Cut the fruit into big chunks (including skins, cores and seeds).
- Toss the fruit into a slow cooker with the water, ginger and apple cider vinegar.
- Cover and cook on high for 3 hours stirring occasionally.
- Pass the fruit through a food mill to remove the skins, seeds and stems and return to the slow cooker.
- Add sugar, spices, lemon juice and zest. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your taste.
- Cook on low for 8 hours (or overnight). Taste and adjust again if you need to. If it’s not thick enough for your liking at this point, continue cooking uncovered.
- Whatever you aren’t going to use in the next couple of weeks, you can freeze or can.
We happened upon “Ad Hoc at Home” at the library. Thomas Keller’s idea of simple, home cooking might be more involved than the way most us cook in real life, but there are a lot of great techniques well explained throughout that you really can incorporate into everyday cooking like how to cut up a chicken (8 and 10 piece versions), stocking your pantry and a whole section on “Becoming a Better Cook”. Check it out, you’re sure to find some inspiration in this one.