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September, 2009

Baked Stuffed Apple

By Dennis Linden

While the competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home cooked meal together, it is not impossible with a little planning and can even be fun.

Cookin with the Kids Image
Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. Each “Cooking with the Kids” feature will offer a simple, healthy and delicious recipe that can be prepared by a child or a group of children working together under the supervision of an adult. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where help might be especially needed.

This is a great way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories that will remain in your hearts forever

Take advantage of the early fall apple season with this simple, healthy and absolutely scrumptious baked apple dish that your kids will have great fun preparing with just a little adult supervision. The bananas and raisins in this recipe provide just enough natural sweetness for most apple varieties on the marketplace today; there is also an optional cinnamon sauce made with Melissa's Low Glycemic Organic Agave Syrup that could be used with a tart apple like a Granny Smith. So many baked apple recipes include brown sugar to sweeten a perfectly flavorful fruit, especially considering many apple varieties have a high content of natural sugars, like the Gala and Fuji. The bananas and raisins are fresh ingredient sweeteners loaded with nutrients that are certainly a lot healthier than the empty calories in processed sugar.

Organic Apples
Get things started for your kitchen helpers by removing the stem and slicing off about a ¼ inch off the top of the apples. Each child can hollow out his or her own apple using a melon baller, which is much safer and considerably more efficient than a knife. Supervise as they first dig out the core and seeds, being careful not to go through the bottom of the apple. The idea is to make a small cavity for the stuffing mixture, similar to carving out a pumpkin. However, this cavity should have a fairly thick wall of pulp so that the apple will keep its shape during the baking process and they’ll have a good amount of tasty baked apple to enjoy.

The first apples of the season to be harvested are Galas and Golden Delicious. Both are excellent for baking, just be careful not to overcook them, especially the Golden, as this fruit has a tendency to split and lose its shape. This recipe calls for an initial 15 minutes without the stuffing, and then another 15 minutes once they have been stuffed. During this second phase, check them once, at about 10 minutes in the oven, just to confirm that all is still firm. If an apple’s skin has taken on a slightly tan tinge from top to bottom, remove from the oven right away; it will cook a little more as it cools.

As the picture for the recipe demonstrates, the stuffing can be done in two ways. Older kids can slice the bananas and then alternately layer raisins and bananas until the cavity is brimming full. Actually, a younger child could be given a lesson in safely slicing using a dull plastic knife on the soft bananas. However, that little one might do better and have more fun if allowed to simply manually mash up the bananas and raisins together in a small mixing bowl. While this second approach may not be as visually pleasing, the contrast between the two stuffings does provide the opportunity for a conversation with your older sous chefs about the importance (or not) of appearance of the food on the plate. Either way, the whole family will enjoy this quick dish that rings in the fall apple season deliciously!

Baked Apples Stuffed with Banana & Raisins
Baked Apples Stuffed with Banana & Raisins
(Serves four)

4 Organic apples (topped, cored, hollowed out)
2 Organic bananas
1 cup raisins
4 Tbsp. butter (softened)
4 tsp. apple juice (no sugar added)
6 oz. Agave Cinnamon Sauce (optional)

Agave Cinnamon Sauce:
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
6 oz. Melissa's Organic Low Glycemic Agave Syrup

Combine and heat for 20 seconds in microware just before serving.

What the supervising adult should do:
- Stem and slice ¼ inch off the top of apples
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Handle the two phases of oven baking the apples.

What kids can do:
1. Hollow out apples with melon baller.
2. Slice bananas into ¼ inch rounds (or see #3 option).
3. Mash bananas and combine with raisins in a small bowl.
4. Measure and combine Agave Syrup with cinnamon.
5. Measure out apple juice for each apple.
6. Fill each half-baked apple with bananas and raisins.

Coat the inside of each apple cavity with 1 tsp. apple juice. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, cool to touch. Fill each apple with stuffing ingredients using half a banana and ¼ cup raisins per apple. Each apple can be filled with either alternating layers of bananas and raisins or a mashed mixture of both together. Top each apple with a small dollop of soft butter. Bake the stuffed apples for 15 more minutes at same temperature uncovered. Drizzle a small amount of cinnamon sauce over each apple and serve.