February is apple month, and also heart month.
Both are about food, and apples are one good food choice to help keep your heart healthy.
Substitutions in cooking meals are one way to handle your health issues without impacting those around you quite so much.
So if a recipe calls for butter, and you’ve been advised to watch your intake of high cholesterol foods, you may wish to substitute a soft margarine; or where a recipe calls for a high fat cheese, which is also high in cholesterol, you may substitute a low-fat cheese product. The same advice applies to other dairy products such as whipped cream and sour cream. Fat-free yogurt often makes a good substitute for high-fat sour cream.
High-fibre foods such as fruit like apples and pears are also heart-healthy foods.
Scientists tell us that apples contain not only nutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, vitamins A, C, B6, folate, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, but also a significant portion of fibre, and phytonutrients which have been found to lower blood cholesterol. The consumption of apples has been linked with reduced cancer risk, improved lung health, less heart disease and strokes and lower cholesterol.
They’re also a fat-free, salt-free, crunchy snack that comes already packaged to take with you wherever you go.
You’ll find that retail stores will be featuring B.C. apples this month, and for a terrific selection of different varieties of apples sold right where they’re specially stored for winter, go to the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative store on Clement Avenue in Kelowna’s north end.
Although apples are a fruit, don’t stop at serving them for snacks and desserts. They’re also delicious in a salsa with a pork roast, in salads such as the old standby Waldorf Salad, and fried with a light batter for breakfast or brunch.
We’re incredibly lucky to live amongst some of the best orchard country in the world, so our repertoire of recipes using apples should also be amongst the best in the world.
If we don’t support our local orchardists and other farmers we could see orchards replaced with hog farms or chicken pens. Our landscape could be quite different.
At the same time, we would have to purchase our apples and other tree fruits from other corners of the world; corners where we won’t have any control over the pesticides or procedures used to grow and package our fruit.
Food freshness and food security are issues we all should think about every time we purchase what we eat.
For more apple recipes and ideas for other locally-grown fruit pick up a copy of my book, Jude’s Kitchen, wherever books are sold.
Apple & Berry Crisp
Everyone makes fruit crisps, but this is the perfect recipe for an easy, crisp, but good-for-you topping, over a tangy, fruit-flavoured, gooey mass of fruit. Try different berries in this: cranberries, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, or use a bit of rhubarb. Be creative.
4 c. (1 l) apples
1 c. (250 ml) berries
1/2 c. (125 ml) brown sugar
1/2 c. (125 ml) whole wheat flour
1/2 c. (125 ml) oatmeal
1 tsp. (5 ml) cinnamon
1 tsp. (5 ml) nutmeg
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) cloves
1/4 tsp. (1 ml) allspice
1/3 c. (75 ml) butter
Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Grease a square pan, 8x8x2 inches.
Peel and core about four medium-sized tart apples and slice them into the pan. Top with whole fresh or frozen berries. Don’t use sweetened berries.
Soften butter and mix remaining ingredients thoroughly; then sprinkle over fruit.
Bake 30 minutes or until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown.
Serve warm and, if desired, with light cream or ice cream.
Jan’s Roasted, Stuffed Pears
These are just a delectable dessert, much of which can be made ahead, so you’re not busy in the kitchen between dinner and dessert, leaving your company to fend for themselves. And, they make a stunning presentation.
¼ c. (60 ml) currants
¼ c. (60 ml) rum or water
2 c. (500 ml) dry red wine
1½ c. (375 ml) sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
6 to 8 cloves
6 pepper corns
6 Anjou pears
½ c. (125 ml) cream cheese
Soak washed currants in rum or water for up to four hours.
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Remove cream cheese from the fridge to soften and come to room temperature.
In saucepan, over medium heat, combine wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and
peppercorns. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Select pears that are slightly under-ripe rather than over-ripe. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from each pear, leaving the stem in place.
Using a melon baller and starting from the blossom end of the pear, scoop out
the core and seeds, leaving a neat hollow. Discard the core.
Lay whole, cored pears in a baking dish big enough so they do not overlap.
Add the spiced wine and bake, uncovered, basting every 10 minutes. When they start to soften, gently turn them over and continue roasting and basting until tender, being careful not to overcook them. Cool.
While pears are in the oven, drain currants and mix into softened cream cheese.
When pears are cool, gently stuff the hollowed out centre with the cheese/currant blend.
Thicken wine sauce by boiling down to half volume.
Set each pear in a small serving bowl and top with sauce.