Apples and cinnamon: a wonderful pair

Cinnamon apple muffins 
(Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Cinnamon apple muffins (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Days are short. Nights are long and chilly. Leaves are falling. Geese are flying. It’s time for apples! And the spice you need to season all those apples you pick at a local orchard is cinnamon!

Once prized and rare, today cinnamon is one of the more common spices. Native to India, the cinnamon tree is now cultivated in warm, humid climates like the Caribbean. The bark is rolled into cinnamon sticks or ground into powder. In India, cinnamon is used in savory dishes. In the west, it is mostly used in sweet fare: apple pie, pumpkin bread, mince pies, spiced cider and other mulled beverages.

In addition to great flavor, cinnamon has many health benefits. It helps improve blood levels of glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides, so it is important in the fight to control both diabetes and heart disease. A study carried out by the nutrition lab at US Agricultural Research Service found that cinnamon increases responsiveness to insulin. Its anti-inflammatory properties can be helpful in alleviating muscle pain, stiffness, and arthritis. In ancient times, it was used to cure congestion, colds and flu, aid circulation, and soothe the stomach, easing nausea and diarrhea. In India, it has been used for centuries to warm you up and stimulate the appetite. And the aroma of cinnamon stimulates the brain and boosts circulation, so simply sniffing cinnamon can enhance alertness and motivation.

Cinnamon really enhances the flavor of apples! That’s why it is common in desserts like apple pie, apple bread, apple tart, apple Betty, apple crisp or apple muffins. Few things can compete with the sweet fragrance of baking apples and cinnamon!

Apples are versatile. We use them in so many ways! They’re great in desserts: pies, crisps, cobblers, breads and muffins. Or just bake apples for an easy, simple treat. But they’re also great in salads. Their sweet tartness enhances both meat and vegetable dishes.

Baked apples
(Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Baked apples (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Apples are healthy. Everyone has heard that “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Although we don’t know the origin of this 19th century saying, scientists at Cornell University have confirmed that apples are good for you. The phytochemicals in apples have been credited with everything from protecting brain cells from diseases like Alzheimer’s to preventing cancer and heart disease. Specifically, apples contain important antioxidants (such as quercetin and various flavonoids) that bolster the immune system and help control levels of LDL cholesterol.

A medium apple contains about 80 calories, is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K, as well as a diuretic and an astringent. Boron, an essential trace element found in apples, has been shown to strengthen bones. And fructose, the sugar in apples, breaks down slowly, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels.

For a simple, portable snack that combines apples and cinnamon, cut up an apple. Dip slices in lemon water, then dust with 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Place in a zipper-lock plastic bag. Carry with you in an insulated lunch bag (with a freezer pack) to eat at lunch or as a snack. It tastes like apple pie, without the crust or the sugar.

Simple Cinnamon Baked Apples

Ingredients:

4 large apples

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 dried cranberries

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the apples. Quarter and remove the core. Slice the apples as for a pie and transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle first with lemon juice, then with cinnamon. Toss to combine and set aside.

Lightly oil 4 individual ramekins, or a baking dish. Combine raisins, dried cranberries and nuts; spread in bottom of baking dish. Top with reserved apple slices. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon, if desired. Pour the maple syrup evenly over all. Bake in oven 20 – 30 minutes, or until apples are tender but not mushy.

Serves four.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal for one

Ingredients:

1/3 cup oats

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup water

1 Tablespoon maple syrup or other sweetener, to taste

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 Tablespoon chopped nuts or raisins, optional

1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped

Directions:

Place all ingredients in saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until oats are cooked, about 5 minutes (this may depend on the type of oats you’re using). Serve with additional milk and sugar, if desired. Serves 1.

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

Ingredients:

1½ cups Apple Sauce

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

1/2 cup oats

1 apple, cored and diced but not peeled

3 tablespoons of brown sugar plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon, for topping

Directions::

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter muffin tin or spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine applesauce, maple syrup, sour cream and eggs. Mix well.

In another bowl, stir together flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet; stir until thoroughly combined.

Stir in oats and apple.

Pour into greased muffin tins.

In small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle evenly on top of muffins.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, or until done when tested with a toothpick.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com, yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on Facebook as Author Yvona Fast.

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