EDITOR'S NOTE: Guest blogger Cynthia Parrott is a busy working woman who manages to find the time for fitness, diet and the writing of great advice for health-conscious women.
I recently went apple picking. I know I can get apples anytime I want right at my local market but I just love picking and filling my own basket of fruit and carting it home.
I chose a nice variety of organic apples, including bright green Granny Smith, Rome and Braeburns. Then i got home and realized as I sat surrounded by all these great apples, what was I now going to do with them?
It dawned on me that I could make apple pies. Everyone loves my apple pie. I love apple pie. Heck, I could eat apple pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Okay, so I really don't need all that pastry, butter and sugar right now. I am still trying to lose a few extra pounds. (Hey, I fell in love this year-- need I say more?) And the holidays are right around the corner.
When I make pies, I go all the way -- no skimping and no low-fat or low-sugar ingredients. I even make my own crusts and I bake them in ceramic pie dishes I have had for years. None of those flimsy disposable aluminum dishes... not for MY pies!
If I am not going to bake pies this year and don't feel like making jars and jars of homemade applesauce (BORING!), what's to become of all these apples?
I came up with a few good, guilt-free, diet-friendly ideas.
Eat them whole... the way nature intended.
An apple is a nutrient-packed fruit. There is nothing more satisfying than sinking your teeth into a crisp, juicy apple. If you have never eaten an organic apple, I suggest you try one.
Go pick a few yourself or invest a few extra pennies at the grocery store and buy some. They are pesticide-free and are not coated with wax. They might not look as appealing as the perfect, shiny conventional apples, but the taste of an organic apple is without compare.
Apples contain fiber and antioxidants. They are also good sources of vitamin C. Eating just one apple a day has been shown to increase the body's immune defenses and promote a healthy heart.
An apple can also satisfy your craving for something sweet and delicious. Toss one in your briefcase or tote bag to bring to the office and pack them in the kids' school lunches.
If you are going to be running errands all day or it will be a long time between meals, sliced apples are the perfect portable, high-energy snack. Take your apple slices with you and munch on them in the car, on the train, or at your desk.
Yearn for something rich and sweet at night when you're curled up in front of the televison? Cut an apple in half and spread each piece with a thin layer of peanut or almond butter. This satisfies your sweet tooth and is full of protein so it will fill you up.
It also curb your cravings for something rich and fattening. You might not reach for cake, pie or ice cream if you have an apple topped with nut butter instead.
Cut apples into small cubes and add them to your tossed salads. Some lettuce, apples, a few walnuts and a low-fat creamy dressing makes for a delicious treat. The apple adds a crisp, healthy, slightly sweet crunch.
One of the best chicken salads I ever tasted had Granny Smith apples in it. When I make chicken salad for the carnivores in my family I always add chopped green apples.
You can cut back on the brown sugar or molasses in your baked bean recipe if you add a grated apple.
Mix cooked apples to your morning oatmeal to make it naturally sweet. You will not need to add as much sugar to it.
For a satisfying side dish, cut up sweet potatoes, mix in chopped apples, and roast in the oven.
You can toss apples into just about anything you want to make it slightly sweet and a whole lot healthy.
My favorite treat is a baked apple. They are so easy to prepare.
Take a few large apples (Rome or Granny Smith apples are perfect), core them, and place in a baking dish. Add a little water to the bottom of your dish (so they will not burn) and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes.
Halfway through the baking time, sprinkle your apples with freshly ground cinnamon and drizzle with maple syrup or another sweetner, if desired. These are so naturally sweet, you might not want to add any kind of sugar at all.
Return to the oven for another 10 minutes, cool slightly, and enjoy. A baked apple is a healthy and guilt-free choice if you are craving something sweet after dinner.
I have to include some kind of apple dessert. It might not be a nice, warm homemade apple pie, but this is so good, good for you, and fat free. If desired, add a dollop of vanilla yogurt before serving to make it extra special.
Healthy Apple Bake
4 medium baking apples
1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal, quick-cooking or old-fashioned, NOT instant
1/4 cup light brown sugar or 1/8 cup (6 teaspoons) of SPLENDA Brown Sugar Blend
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup unsweetened apple juice
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9" baking dish with cooking spray.
Wash, peel, core and thinly slice your apples and place evenly over the bottom of your baking dish.
Using a fork, combine the oatmeal, brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle this mixture over the apple slices.
Gently pour apple juice over the oatmeal.
Cover the dish and bake for 20-30 minutes on middle rack in oven until apples are just beginning to get soft.
Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until apples test soft.
I must confess, I did wind up baking a few apple pies for a church function. I never did get to taste them and that's all right with me.
I just wonder if I am going to get my pie dishes back anytime soon.
About Cynthia: I am a Certified Holistic Health and Nutritional Counselor. My company is Metamorphosis Consulting and I have been in private practice for over 10 years. I believe we can completely transform our lives by nourishing our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. It is my desire to help others achieve their health and nutritional goals, their personal goals, and to live the life they have always dreamed of. Learn more at www.truemetamorphosis.org and www.cyndaily.com.