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Apples and Spice and Everything Nice

Apples have a pretty stellar reputation for being nutritionally sound. We all know the age old cliché, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This prestige for the hearty fruit is due to the many health benefits associated with it. Just how nutritious are they? They offer a hearty supply of phyto-nutrients and antioxidants which boost the immune system and support overall wellness. Let’s review in a little more detail.

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Apples are rich in dietary fiber which promotes heart health. Much of the fiber is found in the skin so maximize nutritional benefits by eating the skin as well. Apples are an impressive source of phyto-nutrients such as flavonoids, polyphenolics, and in particular Vitamin C, which is a powerful natural antioxidant, and beta-carotene. Vitamin C helps the body rid itself of harmful free radicals and to develop resistance against illness. In addition, apples are a good source of B-complex vitamins and minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, and calcium. Apples are simply brimming with nutrition, so eat up!

This popular fruit is found easily at the grocery store year round although the variety available may differ based on the season. Can you guess how many varieties of apples are grown right here in the United States? The answer is 2,500! Now that is a lot of apples! Only about 100 of these are grown and sold commercially. Common types are red delicious, golden delicious, honey crisp, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Pink Lady, and Jonagold. My favorites are Pink Lady and Honey Crisp. These types are the perfect combination of sweet and tart and they have a lovely fragrance and  crisp texture.

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Two weeks ago I visited the Apple Festival in Erwin, Tennessee. I found a farmer locally who grows several varieties of apples. I purchased several types I have never tried before; Mutsu, Cameo, Jonagold, and Stayman. I really enjoyed all of them. The Mutsu apples I sliced in half, scraped out the core, topped with a mixture of brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, and cranberries, and baked in the oven. Talk about scrumptious! And my house smelled heavenly while they baked.

There are an abundance of ways to prepare apples. Of course, everyone loves apple pie, apple dumplings, or even caramel or candy covered apples. I like to keep it simple by making apple chips. It is one of my favorite snacks! Apple chips do not last long in the Hungry Household, they are devoured eagerly! While apple chips are easy to prepare, it does take some time to dehydrate them in the oven.

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How do I prepare my apple chips? I thought you’d never ask! Start by preheating the oven at 200 degrees. The trick to dehydrating apple slices is to cook them at a low heat for an extended period of time. I use a mandolin to slice my apples because this results in very thin slices that are nice and even but you can use a knife to slice your apples if you don’t have a mandolin handy. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the apple slices flat without overlapping, if possible. When the apple slices overlap they tend to stick together.

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Next mix cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, and ground nutmeg in a small bowl or look for pumpkin spice mix in the spice section of your local market or grocery store. Pumpkin spice mix usually contains the same ingredients listed above and it is so much easier. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Place the apples in the oven and let them cook for an hour, then remove the apples from the oven, give them a flip, sprinkle with the spices, and place back in the oven for another hour. Once the second hour is up, turn the oven off and let the apple chips sit in the oven for another hour to ensure they are nice and crispy.

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The apples in the photo above are a little more golden than you would normally expect. I let mine cook a little longer, about 20 minutes extra, as I was trying to get them extra crispy. They did have that nice crunch to them and they were gone in no time. I’ll have to make more next weekend!

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Hopefully you will enjoy this nutritious way to preserve the nutrients in apples and avoid adding sugar to them. If you can keep your family from gobbling them up before you get your share! Happy Fall everyone!

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