Here in the Northwest, we’re lucky to live in a place literally surrounded by some of the best apples in the world. Long championed by hungry kids, the apple is the perfect portable snack or halftime treat – and it’s packed full of fiber and vitamin C.
We all know that apples make a mean pie, but here we look outside the pie dish and explore apple’s versatile side with three delicious sweet and savory dishes.
Spiced apple butter
Equally yummy spread on toast or stirred into oatmeal, apple butter should earn a place in your refrigerator. If you have one, put all the ingredients into your slow cooker before bed and let the magic happen while you sleep. You’ll wake in the morning to your house smelling amazing, and have a delicious breakfast almost ready to go.
Makes about 5 pint jars, or 10 half-pints
4 lbs apples
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Peel and core the apples. Cut into rough chunks and place in slow cooker. Whisk together the sugar, spices and salt then sprinkle over apples, stirring to mix through. Cook in slow cooker* on low for 10-12 hours
Add vanilla extract and stir to combine. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender (or transfer to a food processor and blend in batches). If you like a thicker apple butter, continue to cook for an hour or two longer on high with the lid ajar to let the steam escape. Let the apple butter cool, then transfer into clean jars and keep in refrigerator for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
(This recipe makes a lot, as jars of this amazing apple butter make such great gifts, but feel free to halve the amounts if you wish. If you want to cook a smaller amount in a saucepan rather than in a slow cooker here’s a good small batch stovetop apple butter recipe.
Apple Chicken Normandy
Take your family on a trip to France this dinnertime and serve Chicken Normandy, a hearty braise full of savory onions and sweet apples that is the perfect answer to a chilly fall night. Though traditionally this recipe calls for apple brandy (and a dramatic flambé), this version substitutes apple cider, making it perfect for our little culinary tourists.
2 large chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced shallots (roughly 2 large or 4 small)*
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 apples, peeled and sliced roughly ¼” thick
¼ cup half-and-half or crème fraîche
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup chicken stock
Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise so you have four equal pieces. Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper and thyme. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the pan over medium, then add the chicken and sear without turning for 3 minutes. Flip the chicken pieces, then cook for a further 3 minutes until both sides are browned. Remove from pan onto a plate and set aside. Turn heat to medium-low, add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, then add the shallots. Sauté for 3 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, add the apple slices, and sauté for 5 minutes until starting to brown and soften.
Add the chicken pieces back to the pan, along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Add the apple cider and the chicken stock, then cover. Turn heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
Once the chicken is cooked through, transfer to a platter and remove pan from heat. Stir in the half-and-half or crème fraÎche and pour sauce over chicken. Serve over mashed potatoes, rice or buttered noodles.
*If your kids won’t eat onions or shallots, you can skip them in this recipe. It will be a different taste but still delicious.
Not your mother’s apple cake
This recipe breaks the traditional apple cake mold and branches out into new territory. The cake goes into the oven a mass of apple slices covered with a thin crepe-style batter, but emerges a moist, almost pudding-like dessert that the whole family will go nuts over.
Plus, with minimal sugar and butter and a whole lot of fruit, this is a relatively guilt-free dessert that everyone can feel good about eating.
½ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon
Heat oven to 400°F. Butter an 8×8 pan (or line with parchment paper). Beat the eggs and the milk together in a bowl and allow to reach room temperature. Melt the butter in the microwave (covered) or in a pan and allow to cool.
Peel the apples and slice thinly with a mandoline, if you have one, avoiding the cores. If using a knife, try to get the apple slices as thin as possible. Set aside.
Add the sugar and the salt to the egg mixture and whisk for about a minute until the sugar has mostly dissolved and the mixture is a pale yellow. Add the melted butter and the vanilla extract and whisk again to combine. Add the flour, the baking powder, and the lemon zest and whisk again until batter is completely smooth.
Add the apples to the batter, separating the slices as you go so they all get a coating, then transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, spreading it out to the corners until mostly smooth. Bake for around 50 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then cut into slices or squares. Delicious served by itself or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
This article was first published in October 14, 2015.