Warm and Cozy Cinnamon Baked Apples

baked cinnamon apples

The only thing better than biting into a crisp fresh apple is digging into warm, spiced baked apples which are not only delicious but relatively healthy. Baked apples make a great stand alone treat as well as a fantastic topping for ice cream, french toast, pancakes, waffles, toast or even chicken! They are also incredibly yummy stirred into vanilla yogurt, it makes for the perfect filling breakfast. I like to make a big batch of these apples and then keep them in the fridge so I have them on hand all week for my breakfast and snacks.

This recipe is great because nothing really needs to be exact. Feel free to add a little more cinnamon and spice or if you like your apples more “syrupy“, add a little more liquid or even a dash of maple syrup for flavor and stickiness. There really is no way to mess this recipe up so get comfortable playing around with the ingredients and flavor profile.

One quick trick to speed up the prep time is to use an Apple Corer and Slicer which makes the job so much easier. I feel that the apple slices are a little on the thick side so I like to halve them however, you can bake them “as is” just be sure to increase the cooking time. Serve the apples warm right out of the oven, at room temperature or even cold. They will keep for a few day if placed in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 2-3 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 5 large baking apples peeled, cored and sliced to medium thickness (Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, etc)
  • 3-4 tbs water or apple cider

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a large baking dish with 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter. Set aside.

Mix together the brown sugar, vanilla (or granulated) sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss the apples slices in the mixture and coat evenly.

Place the apples into the baking dish and add the water or cider to the baking dish. Dot the apples with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender but not mushy.

Easy Homemade Granola

homemade granola.jpg

Granola can be part of a healthy diet plan however, most of the versions that you find in the supermarket are loaded with sugar and are often fat laden and high in calories. This version comes from the cookbook entitled, The Everyday DASH Diet Cookbook: Over 150 Fresh and Delicious Recipes to Speed Weight Loss, Lower Blood Pressure, and Prevent Diabetes (A DASH Diet Book). The DASH Diet® has long been touted as a great way to eat in order to lower your blood pressure, prevent diabetes and change your eating habits over to a more healthy way of living. It’s not so much a diet as it is a healthy lifestyle change which most of us could benefit from.

My husband was diagnosed with excessive hypertension in his early 20’s and has been on medication ever since. In his case it is genetic however, the DASH Diet® is still a great way for him to keep his blood pressure under control. For myself, having had gestational diabetes and now the start of Type 2 diabetes it is beneficial to me as well to follow a healthier eating plan. I’m looking forward to including healthier recipes such as this into our eating plan for 2019 as it will benefit both my husband and I and our two children.

This granola, while very yummy, is not like what you are used to from the store so it might take a little getting use to. It’s not overly sweet since with most of the sweetness coming from the dried fruit. That being said, if you do prefer a sweeter granola you can always add more sugar, honey or even maple syrup to get that added sweetness. Granola is a great topping for yogurt or served as a cold cereal with a little bit of lowfat milk added to it. The nice thing about this granola is that you can customize it however you wish. Try out different dried fruits such as apples, dates, or pineapples, play around with the spices as well and even add a handful of nuts or sunflower seeds to it. Find the flavor combination that is best for you. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbs water
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup or pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped apricots

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 300ºF.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, water, oil, cinnamon and flavoring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the oats and mix until lightly coated. Spread evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Bake, stirring occasionally bringing the toasted oats towards the center of the pan, until the oats are evenly crisp, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the raisins and apricots. Let the granola cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Banana Walnut Muffins

banan muffin2

Fresh, warm muffins are always a big hit (especially with my children) and because they are so easy to make, there is no excuse to keep using those boxed versions which are filled with additives and chemicals. With just a few basic ingredients you can have a warm batch of muffins ready to be served with your Sunday morning breakfast. Make a double batch and once they are completely cooled, freeze them so that you will always have homemade muffins on hand. A quick defrosting in the microwave and it’s like they were baked fresh that day! Also, because this is such an easy recipe to follow, it’s the perfect recipe for your little budding chefs to try their hand at.

This recipe comes from a great cookbook that was put out by Williams-Sonoma entitled, “Muffins“. Sadly, it is no longer in print but you can borrow it from your local library or buy it on Amazon from 3rd party sellers. I was able to find a copy in great condition for only a few dollars. If you’re fortunate enough to come across a copy, other noteworthy recipes from this cookbook are the Chocolate Chip Muffins, Cranberry Orange Muffins and Vanilla Pear Muffins. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz/235 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz/185 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (3 ox/90 grams) walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-3 medium sized very ripe bananas, slightly mashed to yield 1 1/4 cups (10 oz.315 grams)
  • 3 tbs buttermilk

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a standard muffin pan with cooking spray or use paper liners.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, chopped walnuts, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the oil, egg, mashed bananas and buttermilk until blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat well until evenly combined and creamy.

Spoon the batter into each muffin cup filling it level with the rim of the cup.

Bake until golden, dry and springy to the touch, about 20-25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin should come out clean. Transfer the muffin pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and place them on  the wire rack to continue to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12 muffins.

 

 

Autumn Spiced Apples

cinnamon apples

Spiced apples are absolutely one of my most favorite things in the whole world. They are warm, delicious, cozy and remind me of everything autumn which in my opinion is the best time of the year! This is one of those recipes where being accurate and measuring is completely unnecessary, I like to fly by the seat of my pants with this one. I add a “little bit of this” and a “little bit of that” until I stumble upon the perfect amount of spice and flavor. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different spices and apples, you simply cannot go wrong here. Since this is such an easy recipe to master, try letting your kids in the kitchen with you so they can give it a whirl themselves!

My favorite apples to use when I am making this recipe is a combination of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp. The Granny Smith apples add just the right amount of tartness to balance the sweetness and they hold up well when cooking. Honeycrisp apples are the perfect blend of sweet and tart and work really well in cooking as well but are also excellent apples to grab and eat raw. When making spiced cooked apples you can slice them up in nice big wedges or dice them up as I did above. To get nice, even pieces and speed up the cooking process I used my Vidalia Chop Wizard . It’s a great little gadget to quickly chop and dice veggies and fruit and it’s worth the small investment especially for those who aren’t comfortable with their knife skills.

I love to top my pancakes with a huge scoop of warm spiced apples, drizzle them with a little Apple Butter Syrup and then top it off with a nice dusting of confectioners sugar. It is the perfect Sunday morning treat especially on those cool, crisp fall days. They are also delicious stirred into yogurt or as a topping on your vanilla ice cream. Serve alongside pork, top your chicken, spread on toast or even eat them straight! They are so delicious no matter how you eat them and they are the perfect accompaniment to many dishes. Turn on your creativity and whip up a batch today. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 apples, any combination of varieties
  • 1-2 tbs unsalted butter
  • splash of apple cider OR apple juice
  • few sprinkles of granulated sugar
  • few pinches of ground cinnamon, apple pie spice, baking spice, nutmeg OR other spice
  • dash of pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Wash, peel and core the apples then slice or dice them up. In a small saucepan set over medium heat melt the butter. Add the apples, cider or juice, sugar, spices and vanilla extract. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender but not falling apart. Adjust seasonings as needed and serve warm or store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Homemade Fudge Pops

fudge pops2

Since I was a little girl one of my most favorite summer treats have been fudge pops. They are frosty and creamy and just so delicious. As yummy as they are though, anything that is store-bought is always made with extra fillers and icky ingredients so when I saw this recipe for homemade pops and realized just how easy they were to make we had to give them a whirl! I promise you, once you have these pops you might never go back to the prepackaged ones again!

This fudge pop recipe comes from “Everyday Food with Sarah Carey” and it’s just so quick and simple to make that you won’t believe it. (**see video below**) In fact, my daughter actually made this batch herself, I just assisted with the pouring because the mixture is very hot.

I have made these quite a few times now and while the original recipe calls for whole milk and heavy cream, I actually prefer them just a little lighter so I like to use 1% milk and half-n-half. I think that the “mouth taste” with the lighter ingredients is just a little better but feel free to make these however you wish. Either way they will be refreshing and delicious. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 1 1/3 heavy cream or half-n-half
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

In a 2 qt saucepan whisk together the cornstarch and 2 tbs of the milk until smooth. Then whisk in the remaining milk, cream, cocoa and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring constantly, cook for 1 minute. The mixture will begin to thicken up considerably at this stage.

fudgemixture

Stir in the vanilla and transfer the mixture to a large pouring vessel such as a measuring cup. Fill the ice pop molds and freeze until solid, at least 6 hours. Before serving, run the molds under hot tap water to release the pops.

fudge pops mixture

 

Video courtesy of “Everyday Cooking”

Chocolate Covered Apple Slices

apple slices

Sometimes it can be a challenge to get your kids to eat healthy, I struggle daily with this because I have two pretty picky eaters. Thankfully, my son at least loves fruit but my daughter will put up a fight over anything that isn’t junk food or a hamburger. So I thought that if we dressed up our fruit a little it would motivate her to at least eat something a little better than chips or pretzels. I used dark chocolate which is a bit “healthier” and with such a thin layer of the yummy stuff, this snack really is just fruit on a stick!

The little beauties pictured above were handmade by both of my kids. They were in charge of dipping and decorating and I think they did an amazing job! Plus, they were so excited to eat them since they were the sous chefs in charge. That is the great benefit of letting your kids help you in the kitchen, when they have some ownership over the food that is being prepared they are more inclined to want to try new things. No surprise, my daughter liked them!

For this batch of apples they decided to use sprinkles, diced pecans, mini chocolate chips and toffee bits for their toppings. You can really use almost anything you have in the pantry as a topping such as crushed cookies or graham crackers, mini marshmallows, crushed candy, sanding sugar, etc. This is a great opportunity for your kids to get creative in the kitchen. If you wanted to be a little “naughty” and amp these up a level, dip the apple slices into melted caramel first, let cool and then coat with chocolate. SO good!

Before you dip the apples into the chocolate I recommend that you give the slices a quick dip in lemon juice. The lemon juice will help to prevent the cut apple slices from getting brown and mushy. When you remove them from the lemon juice gently dry with a clean paper towel before you begin dipping them into the chocolate. Do not skip this step as you do not want to introduce any liquid into the melted chocolate because it can cause it to seize rendering it completely unusable. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2-3 unpeeled apples, cored and sliced
  • wooden skewers
  • lemon juice, for preservation
  • 1 bag of chocolate melting wafers or other chocolate
  • assorted toppings
  • wax paper, for workspace

Instructions

Thoroughly wash apples then core and slice them. Place them into a bowl of lemon juice and gently swirl them around for a minute or two. Remove and pat dry with a clean paper towel. Place a wooden skewer in each slice. Sort toppings into small bowls or cups.

apple slices 2

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. Dip the slices, one at a time, into the chocolate and then gently tap them on the side of bowl or pot to remove excess chocolate. Hold the apple slice over the wax paper and sprinkle on the topping.

emme dipping

Gently place the apple slices on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat. Place the finished slices into the refrigerator and allow them to cool and harden for at least 20-30 minutes.  Store them in the refrigerator until serving.

apple slices

“Peachy Pie” Smoothie Monster Pops

pops

With summer in full swing you will no doubt have sweaty, hot kids begging you for a cool treat. Instead of the same old store-bought, sugar laden ice pops why not give them a healthier but equally as yummy treat. Whip them up a batch of Smoothie “Monster” Pops and you’ll feel good about giving them a treat that is healthier for them.

If your kids don’t like peaches, no problem! Just change up the fruit and make a flavor combination that they will love. Try pineapple with a little shredded coconut and a splash of coconut extract for a yummy virgin Piña Colada! Lemon Strawberry and Banana Berry are other really nice combinations to try. Creating your own smoothie flavor is easy, just keep the base ingredients of yogurt and milk the same and then throw in whatever fruit and spices you desire. Enjoy and stay cool!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen peaches, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/2 cup vanilla flavored lowfat yogurt

Instructions

Pour the milk into the blender along with the yogurt, vanilla extract and spices. Add the frozen peaches last. Blend until smooth. Pour into prepared ice pop molds and freeze until hardened.

**Tip – I use a little bit of Truvia® (stevia) to sweeten my smoothies. You can use granulated sugar, agave, honey or not use anything at all.**

“Peachy Pie” Smoothie

smoothie.jpg

Who doesn’t enjoy a refreshing, fruity smoothie? They make a great quick breakfast or treat for any time of day! With summer underway fresh peaches will be at their peak in July and August so why not grab a bushel and make yourself some yummy smoothies to start off your day?

I like to double or triple this recipe when I make it so that I have leftovers. You can freeze the remaining smoothie mixture in a resealable bag and the next time you are in the mood for a smoothie, you’ll just need to add some of the frozen smoothie mix to your blender along with a little extra milk and blend. Easy peasy! I also like to use the leftover smoothie mixture to make Smoothie “Monster” Pops for my kids. It’s a healthier alternative to store-bought frozen pops and they love the creamy texture. I love that I can sneak in all kinds of healthy fruits without them even knowing.

This recipe is really nice because you can play around with the fruit combinations and spices to achieve whatever flavor profile you’re looking for. Another favorite smoothie concoction that I love is pineapple with a little shredded coconut and a splash of coconut extract. It tastes like a delicious virgin Piña Colada! Lemon Strawberry and Banana Berry are other really nice combinations to try. Creating your own smoothie flavor is easy, just keep the base ingredients of yogurt and milk the same and then throw in whatever fruit and spices you desire. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen peaches, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/2 cup vanilla flavored lowfat yogurt

Instructions

Pour the milk into the blender along with the yogurt, vanilla extract and spices. Add the frozen peaches last. Blend until smooth. Serve cold.

**Tip – I use a little bit of Truvia® (stevia) to sweeten my smoothies. You can use granulated sugar, agave, honey or not use anything at all.**

Homemade Yogurt Smoothie

yogurt smoothie

My kids love yogurt smoothies but I hate all of the sugar and additives in the store-bought ones so I decided to make my own version at home. All you need is some milk, yogurt, sweetener (optional) and fresh fruit of your choosing. I used a little bit of honey to sweeten the smoothies but you can use maple syrup, granulated sugar, Truvia® or just leave it out all together. Another nice way to add additional flavor is through the use of extracts. Some good ones to try are vanilla, coconut, almond or even chocolate! Try combining different fruits as well for even more yummy flavor.

Some are my favorite smoothie concoctions are fresh pineapple with a little shredded coconut, apples with warm spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg and fresh strawberries with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Turn these smoothies into a frosty treat by adding crushed ice and blending OR by freezing them into popsicles!

Store the smoothies in a clean, airtight bottle. I like to use large, clear glass bottles which are readily available at craft stores. Mason jars also make great vessels for storage as well as super cute drinking glasses. The yogurt smoothies will keep for about 5-7 days in the refrigerator. Shake well before serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup plain or vanilla flavored yogurt
  • 1 cup chopped fruit
  • 2 tbs sweetener such as maple syrup or honey (optional)

Instructions

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend on medium-low until well combined and smooth. Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour. Shake well before serving.

Homemade Instant Oatmeal

oatmeal

A delicious, warm bowl of oatmeal is a great and hearty way to start your day but the ingredients that are in those instant packets aren’t always the best. Instead of grabbing a commercially prepared packet of oatmeal, grab a jar of your own homemade version! It’s super easy to prep and you can control the amount of sugar you use as well as choose your favorite add-ins. If you’re concerned about your sugar intake you can use less sugar or even replace it altogether with stevia, the Truvia® brand is my favorite.

For the batch pictured above, I used brown sugar, cinnamon and reduced sugar Craisins® however, you can change up the spices and use any other add-in you would like. Try out dried fruits, chocolate chips, or even chopped nuts. You can store your individual serving size oatmeal in cute Mason jars or small resealable bags. Make a few batches at a time, it only takes minutes to pull together and you’ll have a delicious breakfast ready to go each morning. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking or 1-minute oats
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs packed brown sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 tbs mix-ins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.

Instructions

To prepare – Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Store in a small resealable bag or Mason jar. Makes 1 serving.

To cook – Empty the oatmeal into a small bowl or cook right in the Mason jar. Add 2/3 cup boiling water and stir. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes. Uncover, stir again and serve hot.