Easy Apple Chips

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This is a fantastic after-school kitchen project for kids, not nearly as time consuming as making a full dinner, but just enough to get them cooking. Plus the apples and cinnamon will make your whole kitchen smell like autumn.

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples (try gala or golden delicious)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¬†Pinch of salt
  1. Use the large slicing hole of a box grater to slice the apples (or, alternatively, cut into thin slices with a knife).
  2. Combine the sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Add the apples and toss to coat.Apple Chips (1)
  3. Arrange the apples in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with greased foil.Apple Chips (2)
  4. Bake at 250 degrees F for 1 hour, rotating the pan from the bottom rack to the top rack half way through.Apple Chips (4)

Old-Fashioned Apple Slump

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It’s apple picking season and we recently returned home with a bounty of ginger golds from a local orchard! It was the perfect opportunity to test out a recipe near and dear to my heart.

The recipe comes from Louisa May Alcott, known to many as the author of Little Women. Alcott lived in my hometown, and her story and life have always been an inspiration. So when we recently attended a local apple festival and brought home the recipe, Travis and I couldn’t wait to find out what an 1800’s apple dessert tasted like! We updated it slightly for a modern kitchen and vegan lifestyle.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tart apples
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¬†1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 6 tablespoons melted Earth Balance butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  1. To prepare the apple base, peel, core, and slice the apples. Place in a bowl and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, stirring until the apples are coated.
  2. Spoon into a 9×13-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the topping: In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, Ener-G eggs, milk, and butter, stirring gently until combined.
  4. Pour the flour mixture over the apples, spreading slightly, and sprinkle evenly with the walnuts. Bake an additional 25 minutes.

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Carved Fruit Swan

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As a fun bonus to compliment his Taste of Thai recipes, Travis learned to make a fruit sculpture today, a popular activity with a rich history in Thailand!

To start, juice one lemon.

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Add the lemon juice to a measuring cup and fill with water to equal 1 cup. This will prevent your apple slices from browning as you work – be sure to dip each slice in the mixture before adding to the “swan”.

Cut an apple into three pieces vertically, so you have two rounded sides and the core.

Make two slits in the core piece to resemble the shape of a swan’s neck, as shown; discard the rest of the core, but save two seeds for the eyes!

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Now cut the round edge from one side piece, so it sits flat.

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Add the swan neck, securing with a toothpick. The toothpicks were Travis’s favorite part, and when our actual sculpting was complete, he loved adding a few more toothpicks just for fun!

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Thinly slice the remaining side piece of apple. Start adding to the base of the swan, using the largest pieces first and ending with the smallest.

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This was not only a great craft, but a fantastic snack as well. There was something about tearing apart a sculpture before eating that greatly appealed to Travis, too – go figure!

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Apple Art for Tummy Time

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This is an adorable black-and-white art project you can use to enhance baby’s tummy time – and big sibs might want to get in on the craft, too!

First, I cut an apple in half, and painted the halves with a thick coat of black paint.

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Press the apples onto sturdy white paper. I made a row of three apples per page.

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To vary the image, you can also paint in full apples with little stems.

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I invited Travis to have a go at making a print, too, and we came up with this more abstract version:

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For Veronika’s tummy time, we folded the papers in half so they could stand upright, and surrounded her with a little apple forest. These are great for pointing too, and talking about the image.

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We also sang “One little, two little, three little apples…” etc. to the tune of Ten Little Indians. You could also make up stories about apples!

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What is your baby looking at for tummy time? Please share in the comments!

Crunch Time

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After a fun snack time making and eating apple nachos, we had a big green apple leftover on the counter. I realized I could easily entertain Travis by turning this last apple not into a snack but into a building material. This activity is great for keeping kids busy, whether you’re nursing a younger sibling, cooking a family dinner, or prepping for a big holiday feast later this month!

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Travis and I started with a firm base, and I showed him how he could attach two apple pieces together with a toothpick.

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Pretty soon he was off and running with it, building up up up.

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He loved seeing how horizontally-added toothpicks helped stabilize the structure – a little engineer at work!

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Kids can make the design as simple or as complicated as they like. We finished ours with a triangle tower on top.

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And soon it was home to a Duplo bunny.

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How do you keep kids entertained while you’re busy in the kitchen? Please share in the comments!

 

Apple-Butter Bars

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It finally feels like fall, after a strange spike back into 80 degree weather, and today simply called for this apple dessert. The flavors and smells practically scream out autumn.

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 (6-oz) Gala apples
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple butter, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  1. Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Core and finely dice the apples, then combine in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons apple butter. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, remaining teaspoon cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and mix with your fingers until the mixture starts to clump. Stir in the oats.
  4. Press 1 and 1/2 cups of the flour mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread with the remaining 1 cup apple butter, then top with the Gala apple mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining flour mixture.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan for 2 hours before cutting into 20 squares.

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Apple Prints

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It’s officially fall, and that means it’s time for apple picking! Apple prints are an activity that never grows old, whether you’ve plucked your apples fresh from the tree or pick them up at the farmers’ market on a crisp autumn morning.

That’s exactly where Travis and I headed today. We set aside most of our bounty to eat, but saved an apple or two for artwork, thanks to the prompt in our latest Ranger Rick Jr.

Cut one apple in half, to make large prints. Cut a second apple into wedges. Dab the cut sides of the apples dry with a paper towel.

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Squirt paints onto a paper plate (or a piece of foil works, in a pinch). Dip the apples in paint, and press down on construction paper or watercolor paper.

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We didn’t make a flower like the magazine suggested, but it was fun to have two different shapes to work with. Travis said his picture was footprints – perhaps a dinosaur?

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We decided mommy’s print looked like some sort of buzzing insect.

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What will you make with your apple art? Happy fall!

Farmers’ Market Fun: Homemade Fruit Leather and Apple Chips

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Farmers Markets are fantastic this time of year, featuring the last of the summer fruits (think berries, peaches, and plums) and the first of the fall harvest (apples!). To celebrate the end of summer, we headed to the market on a warm Sunday morning, then brought our bounty home to turn it into delicious fruit leather and other snacks.

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Bonus: The following recipes are perfect for packing in your kids’ lunch boxes for school.

For our first batch, Travis and I used peaches. He was so proud helping me peel the skin from 4 large peaches (parents, use discretion on whether or not your child needs help with this tool).

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I sliced the peaches and Travis was in charge of transfering them to the blender, so proud to do so!

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We added 2 tablespoons agave nectar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. It was Travis’s very important job to be the taste tester, and I asked him if it needed either more agave or lemon. Nope, just right!

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Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. Bake at 170 degrees F for 4 hours, leaving the door of the oven cracked open just slightly (this step made me slightly nervous, but I guess it can be done!).

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Cut into slices (leave the plastic wrap on for easy backing) and store in an air-tight container.

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To prepare an apple chip version, we pureed 5 apples (cored but not peeled) with 1/2 cup water until smooth. Note: next time I would use less water.

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Pour into a 13×9-inch baking dish lined with plastic wrap. Again, bake at 170 degrees F for 4 to 5 hours, leaving the door cracked. Because I used too much water, our apples turned out more like another fruit leather, not true apple chips. But still yummy!

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Don’t stop there! Try strawberry fruit leather in late summer, or pear fruit leather as autumn arrives. For the strawberry version, use 4 cups strawberries in place of the peaches. We had to give this one a full 6 hours in the oven!

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The pear version ended up being our best and favorite! For this one, I used 3 pears and cooked for 4 and 1/2 hours.

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Happy Apple Discs

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What is it about a cored apple cut into circles that just makes you feel happy as you eat it? I remember a far-from-gourmet dinner from my childhood called Happle Apple Bagels, (a round sliced apple on a bagel with melted cheese, enough said!) and certainly that was all it took to make us happy for dinner. These Happy Apple Discs are fantastic for an after school snack or a protein boost first thing in the morning.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 4 tablespoons non-dairy cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Non-dairy chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life)
  • Shredded coconut
  1. Core the apples and cut each into 8 thin slices; set aside.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the cream cheese, peanut butter, and cinnamon until blended.
  3. Spread the peanut butter mixture evenly over the apple slices. Serve as is, or add mini chocolate chips and shredded coconut as toppings, if desired!

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Apple Experiment

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Wondering what to do with any leftover haul of apples from fall apple picking? This experiment introduces kids to several concepts, namely: oxidation (the apple turning brown); PH levels (a quick overview of acids and bases); and of course the fun of making a hypothesis and testing to see if it was correct!

To start, we needed to cut two apples into wedges. Travis insisted on being my helper for this step. Use a butter knife or other child-safe knife.

We then divided the apple slices among 5 cups.

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Now it was time to add our 5 solutions. Fill one cup each with the following:

Vinegar

Lemon juice

Non-dairy milk

Water

Baking soda solution

Note: for the baking soda, stir about three spoonfuls of baking soda into water and dissolve first, then pour over the apples.

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Travis instantly guessed that the vinegar would stop the apple from browning, and ran to share the news with his dad that we had to wait until morning! I loved that he understood a) that we were doing a scientific experiment and b) came up with his own hypothesis with no prompting.

In the morning, it was time to check on our solutions. We discovered that 4 of them had turned quite brown.

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As grown-ups will have guessed, it was the lemon juice that did the trick. Give your child a quick lesson on how the lemon is acidic, and prevents the enzymes in the apple from reacting with the oxygen in the air.

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Overall, I found this to be an easy and seasonable way to introduce a few scientific concepts.

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