- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

An apple a day can help a person stay healthy in all seasons. Or so some believe.

As a child, I ate apples all year in puddings and pies and as baked apples. There was nothing as sweet on a winter morning as waking to the aroma of apples cooking downstairs in the kitchen.

My mother had strict rules about baking apples. They needed to be crisp, tart and juicy. Rather than the well-known Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, she preferred the Stayman Winesap or a good McIntosh.

In late winter, the apple is one of the few fruits that is dependably good in flavor and texture. Once picked, apples like storage at 90 percent humidity and a temperature of 30 to 32 degrees, so they stay pretty fresh in the refrigerator or cool basement. My mother’s baked apples often wake up my taste buds on late-winter weekend mornings. I’ve spiced up her recipe with ginger.

Baked apples

6 large cooking apples

⅓ cup packed brown sugar

teaspoon ground ginger or cinnamon

⅓ cup chopped raisins

1 teaspoon softened butter, optional

Core apples, leaving inch in bottom to hold filling. Place in deep 9-by-3-inch baking dish. In small bowl, combine sugar, ginger or cinnamon, raisins and butter; mix well. Spoon mixture into apple cavities, mounding it. Add 1 cup water to dish around apples. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour in 350-degree oven, or until apples are very soft. Serve hot or cold, spooning any cooking liquor over apples. Makes 6 servings.

Cranberry-pear applesauce

Another favorite morning treat when I was growing up was homemade applesauce. This one is a little more sophisticated, with the addition of cranberries and pears.

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

2 cups peeled, sliced cooking apples

1 cup peeled, diced Bartlett pears

cup unsweetened apple juice

cup brown sugar or mild honey, or to taste

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, or to taste

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, combine cranberries, apples, pears and apple juice; simmer 30 to 45 minutes, or until fruit is soft. Let cool slightly, then puree in blender until smooth. Stir in sugar or honey and cinnamon to taste. Makes about 2 cups.

Maple-baked yams, apples and red onions

This brunch side dish is delicious served with a frittata or omelets.

2 large Garnet yams, sliced into rounds

4 apples, cored and sliced

1 red onion, peeled and sliced into rounds

cup maple syrup

1/3 cup apple juice

Nutmeg

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon butter, optional

In ungreased 9-by-13-inch baking dish, alternate layers of yams, apples and onion. Drizzle with maple syrup, then apple juice. Sprinkle with nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Dot with butter. Cover with foil. Bake in 400-degree oven 1 hour, then uncover and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until yams are soft and syrup is thick. Makes 8 servings.

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