Caramel Apple Blondie

This month’s featured ingredient: apples!

I have to admit that finding my key ingredient this month was a bit of a challenge. It’s such a transitional month here in the Northwest. Some days are as hot as summer and others have me bundled against the first breadth of chill. My thoughts were as drifting as the winds. Should it be the basil, the leaves still full and lush in my backyard? Or the tomatoes, a fruit I love yet a creature that has begun to invade my privacy and infringe on my sense of order. (Does anyone else have tomato plants running amok in their yard?)

The answer came to me as I sat in the parent meeting for my son’s class on Friday night. We were eating fancy cheeses, olives, raw chocolates (my contribution), sipping wine in short wooden chairs arranged in a large circle in the classroom talking about this week’s field trip. A field trip to an apple farm!

When it comes to food, October screams of two yields. . .

pumpkins and apples!

I’m lucky to live in an apple mecca here in the Pacific Northwest. I grew up in one as well. New Jersey is known for its apple orchards. In October my sister and I would layer in last year’s winter clothes and our family would drive to a place called The Apple Orchard. At least that’s what we called it. It was a sprawling indoor fruit stand on acreage of orchards. We’d get cider from the apple press and caramel apples to eat there, one bag of stacked apple cider doughnuts and another of apples, for home. My memories of those trips are fond. The flavors deserved to be revisited with my adult culinary and nutritional perspective.


caramel apple blondie


The apples in this recipe are uncooked. Some people found this surprising yet delightful. Others just dug right in and enjoyed.

blondie layer:

2 cups pecans
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup gently melted coconut oil
4 pitted dates
1/2 tspn sea salt
1 tspn vanilla

preparation:
Place pecans and pumpkin seeds in a food processor and pulse into well broken down. Add remaining ingredients and continue to pulse until a cookie dough consistency is formed. Scoop the dough from the bowl and press into a square pan lightly oiled with coconut oil.

apple layer:

4 medium apples (I used granny smith)
juice of one lemon (to prevent browning)
1 tspn coconut oil (for some binding power)

preparation:
Core and slice apples, using a slicer if you have one. Throw slices into the food processor with other ingredients (it doesn’t matter if it’s been cleaned out from the blondie step). Pulse until small chunks appear.

Scoop apples on top of blondie layer and press them down quite firmly to set. Place in fridge.

caramel layer:

1 cup dried apricots, unsulphered and soaked
6 dates, pitted
2 Tbspns coconut oil
2 tspns vanilla
1/2 tspn sea salt

preparation:
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until a smooth texture is formed. This may be easier to achieve in a high-power blender. Keep working on it for a few minutes, scraping down the sides of your blender to get everything to the base.

Scoop the caramel on top of the apple layer and carefully smear around. Some apple chunks may come up into the caramel. That’s fine. Just aim get a somewhat even covering of caramel over the entire pan.

Place the pan in the freezer for an hour or two to allow the mixtures to harden. Once you bring it out, you can slice it (frozen) and then store in your refrigerator for serving.

Makes about 16 squares and serves up more like cake then a solid bar. Eat with a fork!


an apple a day. . .

Why does this beauty keep the doctor away?

The health benefits of the apple are wide ranging. It contains myriad phytonutrients that act as antioxidants to support our heart health and our immunity.

Compared to most fruits, apples contain an impressive amount of fiber. Natural fiber will help to regulate your cholesterol and keep you regular in other ways as well!

And apples contain potent flavanoids. The flavanoids are plant pigments that express antioxidant activity that can be more effective than vitamins C and E.

So this time of year, when the weather is fickle and the winds are blowing, the immune boosting benefits of the apple just might help to keep the doctor away!

seasonal apple tips:

  • to reduce a fever (especially in children): eat grated raw apple
  • to ease a dry cough: steam apples and eat with raw honey
  • to eliminate mucus in lungs: make an apple and agar kanten (like jello!)
  • to fight bacterial infections: serve chopped apple with sauerkraut–both promote the growth of healthy intestinal flora

how to choose an apple

This task always confuses me. In fact I stood in my co-op contemplating the local apples for a long time in order to decide on the best one for this recipe. So I thought I’d share some tips that I’ve since discovered with you. Of course there are thousands of kinds of apples, and I only list a handful by name here. If you don’t find these, see the descriptions to help you with your purchases. My biggest criterion: local!

apples to eat

Cortland, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Jonathan, McIntosh, Newton Pippin, Winesap
crisp, juicy, firm texture

apples for pie and applesauce

Cortland, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonagold, Jonathan, McIntosh, Newton Pippin, Northern Spy, Rome Beauty
tart and juicy

apples for baking

Rome Beauty, Cropland, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Ida Red, Jonagold, Newton Pippin, Northern Spy
tender when cooked while holding shape and flavor

RecipEmails are provided by Andrea Nakayama at Replenish PDX.

references: The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Woods, The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND, whfoods.com



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Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Is there an ingredient you'd like to learn more about? Is there a nutrition class you always wish existed? Let me know!