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Cinnamon Baked Apple

We've all read the headlines about our expanding waistlines, but it can be hard to know how to combat the problem. Well, one of the quickest paths to healthier eating is to cut back on sweets. Refined sugars and the fats that often come with them are mostly empty calories, anyway, and the sugar is bad for our teeth, and the combination predisposes us to chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's.

Fortunately, nature has a delicious solution to the problem of how to satisfy a sweets craving, or even a sweet tooth, without sugar. The natural sugar in fruit is naturally combined with fiber, water, potassium and other vitamins and minerals, and many fruits are chock-full of healthy antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Not everyone wants to eat plain fruit for dessert, at least not every night or after every meal. But baked apples make a delicious and even gourmet dessert; are easy to prepare and cook; and can be repurposed as a healthful change of pace for breakfast. And baking brings out the sweetness of the apple, as does cinnamon, so this doesn't taste like a health food.

Finally, you'll love the way this makes your kitchen smell. It is the perfect way to welcome company or family, especially for the holidays: when they walk in and smell the cinnamon and caramelizing natural apple sugar, it will say "home" to them. The warmth and the seasonality of apples make this a perfect fall and winter dessert.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes prep time, 15 minutes cooking time

Cinnamon Baked Apple Recipe

Ingredients:
6 cored medium-sized Macintosh Apples
Sunflower or canola oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or walnut pieces
1 lemon or 6 tsp lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
Cinnamon and Clove powder
3 teaspoons butter
3 teaspoons real maple syrup

Directions:
Preheat toaster oven or oven to 350 degrees. Grease your toaster oven pan, or a 9 x 13 cooking pan or another sized pan where the apples are close together but not touching, with sunflower or canola oil. Place the cored apples upright in the pan.

Sprinkle 1/2 tsp lemon juice, or partially squeeze 1/6 of lemon into cored apple, being careful to avoid seeds dropping in, then sprinkle just a pinch of sea salt into each apple. Sprinkle the inside of the apples with cinnamon powder and just a dash of clove powder.

Fill the cavity of the apples with walnuts, then repeat the steps in the paragraph above (lemon juice, salt, cinnamon, and clove powder) though this time the seasoning will be spread over the walnuts rather than dropping into the cavity itself. Drizzle 1/2 tsp maple syrup into the cavity over the walnuts.

Place one half pat of butter on top of walnuts. If necessary, press the butter into the walnuts so that it melts into the cavity rather than over the sides.

Bake for 15 minutes. The finished apple will discolor from red to rust brown, and a fork should easily pierce to the center of the apple without resistance. Larger apples may take longer, and if you prefer that the apples hold their shape, cook them for a couple minutes less. After the apples are taken out of the oven, they'll collapse or shrivel, which is normal.

To add protein, especially if you have the baked apples at breakfast, serve with a dollop or more of plain non-fat yogurt. The sour taste of yogurt is a pleasant contrast to sweetness and spiciness of the baked apple, but if prefer a purely sweet flavor sprinkle 1/2-1 packet of stevia powder over the yogurt.

Notes:
The salt and lemon bring out the sweetness of the apple, while the butter accentuates the smooth texture of cooked apple itself, while the crunch of the walnuts adds their own contrast. The amount of butter is so small that the saturated fat is not a concern.

Variations:
Macintosh apples are a classic cooking apple, but other soft varieties work well too. We recommend you try local regional apples. If you buy smaller or bulk apples, you may be able to cook eight at a time. The amount of lemon, salt, cinnamon and clove, butter, and maple syrup can varied to suit your taste, but don't get carried away with the salt, butter, and maple syrup: there's a reason they're used in small amounts only. Other spice combinations we've experimented with include allspice, cardamom, and nutmeg—all in small amounts.

Benefits:
Apples are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The biggest benefit, though, is replacing the refined sugars, white flour, and large amounts of fat in most desserts with a simple, nutritious, and satisfying fruit treat.

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Principal Author: Daniel J. Heller, N.D.
Last Modified: December 13, 2011

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