All about Apples
Hope you had a great week cooking. Remember, if you know anyone who is interested in cooking and health, pass on the website details and get them to sign up to my weekly newsletter. As you know, I'll always try to use ingredients each week that are seasonal and, if possible, local making them as cheap and fresh as possible. I'm getting great apples from the farmers market at the moment and I know they won't be around forever.. so this week's star ingredients is... The Apple
An Apple A Day.....
Apples are such a rich source of antioxidants that, at this time of year, you should be getting your apple a day to keep up your healthy eating. There a wide variety of apples available now so feel free to pick up Granny Smiths, Jonathans, Braeburns, Golden Delicious, Pippin etc which can be eaten raw or cooked. Or you could even try some cooking apples and start stewing. Fuji and Gala apples are really best when they are raw so try not to use in the recipes below.
When you look at the vitamin and mineral content of apples, nothing particularly jumps out, although they are a good source of Vitamin C. But is when you start looking at the fibre and antioxidants value that you realise how great this everyday fruit is. They are good sources of polyphenols (the antioxidants that make fruit and vegetables the bright colours that they are) and flavonoids (especially quercetin), which works well with Vitamin C. Quercetin is known to be a powerful anti inflammatory agent (making it great for those suffering from inflammatory diseases and heart disease) and especially good for sufferers of allergies. In addition, red apples also contains a special flavonoid, cyanidin 3-galactoside, that has been shown to be an extremely potent antioxidant.
But it gets better.. Apples also have a great mix of both soluble and insoluble fibre making it even better for heart health. The insoluble fibre acts like roughage to keep you regular and it also binds to LDL cholesterol in the digestive tract and removes from the body. The soluble fibre, pectin, softens your stools alleviating constipation and also reduces LDL production by the liver.
Feel free to drink 100% apple juice, as it is very tasty, but please don't count it as one of your 5 to 7 fruit and veg a day as it has lost its fibre and some of its antioxidants by being juiced.
The main season for Irish apples is late summer to early winter so the apples you are buying now should be local - although you should always check where they come from. Even apples from the UK or Europe should be fairly fresh right now if they are organic. Do try to buy organic if possible. If you are not buying organic, try to give the apples a good wash in some water and mild washing up liquid and rinse well afterwards - this will get rid of some of the pesticide residue.
When buying apples, try to buy fully ripe apples that are firm and heavy with a fresh aroma. If you buy apples when they are not ripe, simply put in a paper bag and allow them to ripen in there. If you buy them ripe and want to keep them as ripe as possible, leave 1 or 2 days worth in the fruit bowl and put the rest of them in the fridge.
As a snack!
Having an apple as a snack is a great idea as you are eating it raw, maintaining its nutrient and antioxidant value to the max. I often see people snacking on just fruit and I don't generally advice this, always try to snack with a little protein. The reason for this is that if you snack on something that is easily digested (like simple sugars, i.e. white bread, biscuits, cakes etc) it will raise your blood sugar levels and your body starts producing insulin to remove sugar out of the blood and put into storage. This creates a roller coaster during the day, the high after a biscuit or a coffee, the low an hour or so later, the reaching for another coffee or biscuit, is one of the most dangerous patterns of how we eat. If we learn to have good meals (complete with protein and complex carbohydrates) and if we need it, snack around 11 and 4 on a healthy snack, we can prevent this rollercoaster. All meals I'll be suggesting will be complete and all snacks I'm suggesting are healthy options and are all aiming at evening out the rollercoaster and keeping us satisfied throughout the day.
Snack suggestions with apples are:
A small handful of almonds (the best taste with apples) or other nuts (please note the word SMALL handful)
Sliced apple with a little 100% nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew, hazelnut are all possibilities and are found in good health food stores)
Roughly sliced apples used as a 'dipper' for hummus, Tzakiki or guacamole (available from most good supermarkets, especially Marks and Spencers)
Diced apples with a little chopped cheddar cheese or goats cheese
Diced apples with pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Breakfast suggestion: grated apple on your porridge in the morning with some toasted nuts or seeds for a delicious healthy breakfast.
I've put 2 recipes below for some very tasty apple desserts. I am trying not to use any sugar in my recipes (due to its affect on blood sugar levels, see above) so see how you go with these. I am also trying to reduce the use of the dairy and white flour as Irish people consume high levels already and this newsletter is about making changes!! I always give options when I can.
You can eat these pancakes for a nice healthy eating weekend breakfast - I did this morning with some Gubbeen sausages and it was delicious. You could also simply put a dollop of natural yogurt and a little maple or honey and make them into a dessert. However, I did eat them so quickly that I forgot to take some pictures so the picture here is an image of someone else's apple pancakes.
This recipe makes 4 medium pancakes - if you can make them a perfect circle you deserve a medal as the apple tends to affect the flow of the batter. You can make these like thin crepes or like smaller pancakes - I made them in between!!
|a little peanut oil (or butter)
1 and a half oz of buckwheat flour(if coeliac) OR 1 oz of buckwheat flour and half oz of white plain or spelt flour
1 small egg
3 fl oz of soya milk (or other milk)
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon or a little less
a dash of vanilla extract (if you have it)
dash of water
1 small apple
|Sieve the flour(s) into a bowl.
Make a hollow in the centre and add in the egg and the soya milk (I hand whisked the egg and soya milk with a fork in the measuring jug before I added but you don't have to).
Add the cinnamon and vanilla at this stage.
Quarter and core the apples and grate into the mixture.
Give it all a good stir and add a dash of water.
Heat your frying pan nice and hot - I cooked on number 9 and the highest on my dial is 12).
Put a little of the peanut oil into the pan and swirl around.
Pour in 2 tablespoons of the mixture (or something similar) and swirl the mixture in the pan till you get a even spread. I used the back of the tablespoon to try to round the mixture.
Leave for a minute or so, when bubbles start popping through all over the mixture its generally done. Flip over and cook on the other side for another minute or so.
Place in a warmed oven while you cook the others.
If you feel you need it, add another little bit of oil for each pancake.
This topping might be a leap of faith for some of you who are used to flour, butter and sugar. But we eat so much of this on a day to day basis, this is my attempt at something delicious but good for healthy eating! Only add the sweetener (honey or syrup) if you have a really sweet tooth as I don't think you need it as the cashews are naturally quite sweet). I also grind the nuts and seeds. You live with picky eaters or have children that are picky eaters, grinding is a great way of getting nutrients into them without them knowing (blending is also another way). The cashews and the sesame in this recipe are the same colour as the oat flour and so they don't notice it as much!
Use the apple types that suit cooking well. I am using sweet or everyday apples for this as people tend to add sugar to cooking apples. Everyday apples do not fluff up nicely like cooking apples so I tend to grate them to make them a bit more stewwy.
1 lb of sweet apples (see intro)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cloves (if you like)
A little water
4 oz rolled oats
2 tablespoons cashews (1oz)
1 tablespoon of a seed of your choice (sesame is nice)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup (only if you want to)
Small pie dish
|Either grate or finely chop apples.
Add to a saucepan with the cinnamon , cloves and nutmeg. Add a little water.
Cover and cook on a medium heat for 5 mins (longer if you have chopped the apples).
In the meantime, put 3/4 of the oats into a mixer and grind till they turn into a flour like consistency.
Place in a mixing bowl and add the remaining 1/4 of oats. This adds a lovely bite to the topping.
Place the cashews and the seed of your choice into the mixer and grind till flour like.
Add to oats.
Add in the olive oil and mix. If you want to add a sweetener at this stage do.
Pour the cooked apple mixture into the pie dish and then pour the crumble mixture on top. Place in a medium oven (about 180 oc) for 20 mins.
Serve with some Greek style natural yogurt .