Thursday, September 18, 2014

Apples are full of goodness

Posted on Nov. 3, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Food & Nutrition

As I gather information and the thoughts that I want to share in this column, I am reflecting on how the weather and seasons affect and determine the foods that we prepare for our families. Just this week we had some nice warm fall days but as I type, the weather is colder, windy, rainy and just not nice to be out in. This kind of weather is all about warm foods such as hot spiced cider, warm apple crisp for breakfast, a snack or dessert and anything and everything you can make with apples.

I would be remiss if I did not at least mention other fall foods as there are some wonderful ones such as cabbage with its unlimited possibilities — coleslaw, fried, cabbage rolls, sweet and sour cabbage and, of course, sauerkraut.

Next there are white and red potatoes — my taste buds say baked potatoes, cheesy potatoes, casseroles and soups. If you have a chance and can find the fingerling potatoes, they are very tasty. I simply rinse and dry them, coat them lightly with oil, then season them with various seasonings and Parmesan cheese and bake them in the cast iron skillet.

Let’s not forget sweet potatoes. I really like the dark orange ones, and they can be prepared any way. I have also already had some wonderful winter squash and they provide unlimited recipe possibilities.

There are so many wonderful fall vegetables and fruits, but to me the queen of fall is a fruit and it is the apple. Talk about a food that tastes good and is good for you and you have to be talking about the apple. What’s great about apples is they’re flavorful, nutritious, low in calories and fat and high in fiber. Apples have no cholesterol and contain a water-soluble fiber called pectin that can actually help lower blood cholesterol levels. The fiber your body can’t completely digest may decrease your possibilities of several other health problems.

The potassium in apples can contribute to the control of high blood pressure. Potassium is also associated with a reduced risk of stroke. In addition, the carotenoids found in apples can actually help reduce the risks of developing some forms of cancer. Each of us needs to effectively fight the stress of everyday life as well as reduce the risk of developing heart disease and some forms of cancer and diabetes.

As adults, we especially need a diet high in nutrients, complex carbohydrates and fiber, but low in fat, sodium and calories. A medium apple only has about 81 calories, is full of fiber, and can help you maintain a healthy weight. An apple keeps blood sugar levels up, making you feel full longer, and the sweet taste and satisfying crunch adds to your eating pleasure.

Apples can also help with the prevention of osteoporosis, the bone-thinning disease that causes bone fractures in women older than 60. Apples contain boron, which is a mineral that works with calcium. Retaining calcium is also important in preventing tooth loss. A recent USDA study showed that boron in apples could help keep you mentally alert by influencing brain function. This fact helps support the need to have a variety of foods in our healthy eating plans.

Locally grown apples should put that fresh crunch into your healthy eating plan. A real plus is that there is a bumper crop of apples this year and they are wonderful. To increase apples in your healthy eating plan, here are some suggestions you might want to try: mix apple chunks into a favorite high-fiber breakfast cereal; the apple chunks add a sweet crunch and extra fiber. Don’t forget apples at a salad bar; they’re great tossed in both fruit and green salads. For a quick, low-calorie dessert, microwave a cored apple in a little apple cider or other fruit juice until tender. Apple slices, low-fat cheese and whole-wheat crackers make a delicious snack or appetizer.

Here is a great recipe for sweet potatoes and apples that I am confident will be a real family pleaser. You can access a copy from our office website at http://www.ag.purdue.edu/counties/elkhart

Harvest Casserole

5 cups diced sweet potatoes

5 cups diced or sliced Granny Smith apples

1 cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar, divided

2 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup butter, cut into pats

1 cup quick oats

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, apples and dried cranberries. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and salt. Add to sweet potato mixture, tossing to combine. Spoon mixture into 13-by-9 pan. Dot with butter pats. In a small bowl, combine oats, 1 cup brown sugar, flour, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Stir in melted butter. Spoon evenly over casserole. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake additional 30 minutes.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is county extension director and an extension educator in health human sciences at Purdue Extension Elkhart County, 17746-E C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528. Contact her at 574-533-0554 or lienhart@purdue.edu.