With Halloween just around the corner, and Thanksgiving and all the December holidays sneaking up right behind it, the almighty apple is getting a lot of recognition right now. From candied and caramel apples to enjoy on Halloween to sinfully delicious pies, streudels and tarts, the crisp, juicy sweetness of the apple is everywhere.
This pleases me immensely. An apple fan since my youngest years, I would be quite content to subsist solely on apple juice, apple pie and tarte tatin for the rest of my life (provided the other Kimberstaples of cheese, dark chocolate and red wine were also available; Poor Girl likes variety). Cookies, cake, soups, salads, brunch – there’s not much the addition of apples doesn’t make better.
One of my favorite low-cost dessert-breakfast hybrids a baked apple. Whether you cook it slowly in an oven or give it a quick zap in the microwave, a baked apple is a quick, more nutritious alternative to heavier desserts like pies or cakes.
Or is it? After all the butter, sugar and other tasty, but evil things that go inside a traditional baked apple, you’re left with yet another unhealthy dessert (or breakfast). Sad, really, because all that time was just invested in using a healthy cooking method, only to have the ingredients negate the health benefits. But all those evil ingredients taste so good! There had to be a way to fix this problem.
Fortunately, there was. After doing some food math, I decided to swap out the usual brown sugar, butter, raisin & nut filling for a heart-healthy oatmeal filling. With some spiced apples and tart cranberries mixed in, it was a delicious alternative to the standard baked apple fillings. Speaking of filling, did I mention one of these little guys will fill you up pretty quickly? I know oatmeal can be pretty satisfying, but when combined with the whole apple and other fruit, this is the kind of breakfast that will keep you fueled well into lunchtime.
My last note on this one: this is not a difficult recipe filled with uber-expensive ingredients. It’s just apples and oats, two very simple, humble, inexpensive ingredients. But after being presented in a unique, aesthetically pleasing way, all of a sudden they’re not just apples and oats – they’ve turned into this lovely dish that just makes you feel good to have in front of you.
A little creativity goes a long way, even if you’re using very basic ingredients. Which goes to show that eating well doesn’t always have to mean spending a lot on swanky, trendy specialty ingredients. Making the most of the basics is a more affordable way to go; and sometimes, more enjoyable.
Baked Apples with Apple-Cranberry Oatmeal (makes 2 servings; total cost per serving: ~ $2)
3 medium Granny Smith apples
1 c rolled oats
1 c dried cranberries
1 c water
3/4 c nonfat milk
1 T raw sugar
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt (optional)
Juice of half lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly spray a small baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Carefully slice off the top third of two apples. Remove the core & seeds, leaving about 1/2″ of flesh on the sides & bottom so the apple is still sturdy. Reserve the flesh in a small bowl and add a few drops of lemon juice to prevent the apple from browning. Discard the seeds & cores.
3. Place the apples (including the “lids”) in the prepared baking dish and bake for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, peel and core the third apple, then cut into 1/2″ chunks. Place in a small bowl and toss together with the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
4. In a medium saucepan, bring the water & milk to a boil. Add the oats, reduce heat to medium low, and cook for about a minute. Remove from heat and stir in the apples & cranberries until completely combined. Check for flavoring and adjust according to taste.
5. When the apples are finished baking, remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Once they’re cool enough to handle, transfer to a small plate and spoon a generous helping of oatmeal into each apple. Return to the oven for about 5 more minutes until apples are tender. Carefully remove from oven, garnish with extra ground cinnamon if you like, and enjoy!