An Apple A Day

The anticipation of my favorite holiday can be exhausting. I fell in love with Thanksgiving when I was about 7 years old and helped make my first Thanksgiving dinner with my maternal grandmother and great-grandmother. It was a feast of all feasts. Roasted turkey, ham, several dressings (sausage and oyster) and a table filled with sides and another table overflowing with homemade desserts. It awakened my palate as well as my insatiable love of food and cooking.

Over the decades, my adoration for this holiday has never waned and it's a meal I can make with little effort or thinking because it comes so naturally. However, as I get older it includes plenty of plodding and planning. Maybe a bit too much...

I have a draft menu for our 2015 Thanksgiving feast and then I frequently over analyze it wondering if we made the right decisions or not. I have roasted two sugar pie pumpkins as well as the pumpkin seeds which means a pumpkin chiffon pie with Paleo crust is forthcoming. For a little change this year, we have updated our menu to reflect a few twists, tweaks and traditions.

When I first met David, he introduced me to the amazingly delightful popover, a northeast culinary tradition. This summer, I found a Paleo popover recipe and we were quick to agree this was a "must" addition for this year's feast.

We are also changing up what we do with sweet potatoes. While we love our standard sweet potato dish, which I encourage you to add to your menu, we want something different. But with less than two weeks until the big feast, it's time to scrimp on calories for a while so we can enjoy our culinary creations.

Loaded with phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and fiber, apples are one of my favorite fall fruits. At approximately 100 calories per apple, they are a winner and rank high on my list of fall foods. With the bountiful choices of apples these days, it's hard not to come home with different varieties each time we visit the grocery store. Honeycrisp, Envy, Opal, Jazz, SweetTango, Cameo and more, the flavors, colors and textural differences are simply stunning. No longer is the boring (and often times mealy) Red Delicious America's prized apple. The Red Delicious has now been sidelined to let the newer apple players take the lead. And that they do.

Whether you want a crisp and tart (a Granny Smith is still hard to beat in this category) or crisp and sweet (Honeycrisp or Fuji), there is an apple for every palate. The New York Times recently ran an interesting article on the growing (literally and figuratively) apple business with wider varieties and depth of flavor. (Click here for the story.)
To celebrate the abundant apple season, we love to sip on fresh apple cider, add apples to our salads or serve a sliced apple with a dollop of creamy and almost sweet cashew butter for a filling and healthy afternoon snack. I have also cooked mealy apples and turned them into applesauce which goes down much easier--as opposed to throwing them away.

While we definitely dig a classic, all-American apple pie (a la mode, of course), we don't love the unnecessary calories, gluten or sugar, which made an apple pie chia seed pudding we tasted last year while shopping at Whole Foods slide to the top of my "recipes to-make in the fall" list.

This dessert combines the best of fall--apples, apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger--but without any guilt. David's first reaction was, "Wow, this is fantastic." After I made another batch, his reaction was, "Oh. My. Gosh." And it is worthy of both of these reactions.

I think you and your loved ones will be equally effusive when you taste this unique play on apple pie. Consider serving it as a healthful addition to the family's Thanksgiving breakfast or dessert table.

Because you know what they say about eating an apple a day...

Buen provecho!

Other apple recipes from the blog
2010: Squash, pear, apple and fennel soup
2011: Apple-walnut salad with honey vinaigrette
2012: Cinnamon-apple pie with pecan crust
2014: Apple and red cabbage slaw with crumbled cheese and pepitas
2015: Apple-pear cinnamon-pecan Paleo crisp

Apple Pie Chia Pudding
The Cowgirl Gourmet thanks Nativas Naturals for this recipe

Print recipe

As a bona fide chia pudding lover, this apple pie chia pudding won me over in just one bite. With no added sugars, the sweetness comes from apple juice, raisins and apple and I like that. The addition of some of our favorite fall spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg take this pudding to be more like a pie. Prepare this in a quart-sized Mason jar and you'll have virtually no dishes to clean up with this recipe. Top each serving with toasted walnuts, whipped cream or your garnish of choice for more crunch and flavor.

Makes 4 servings

2 cups fresh apple cider or apple juice (I choose cider because it has more flavor)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup chia seeds
1 crisp organic apple, cored and grated (please leave the peel on)
Toasted walnuts, as garnish (optional, but highly recommended to add texture)
Other optional toppings: whipped cream, grated apples, raisins, a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg

In a blender, combine the apple juice, lemon juice, cashews, spices (cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg) and a pinch of salt.
Blend on high into a cream. Pour the liquid into a quart-sized Mason jar with a lid. Add the raisins, chia seeds and grated apple (as well as any juice from the grated apple) and stir well.
Cover. Shake well to combine.

Refrigerate for at least an hour if not overnight.
To assemble, place one cup of the pudding in a serving bowl or glass. Top with garnish, such as toasted walnuts, whipped cream or other additions.
Refrigerate any leftover pudding and repeat often.
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