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Simple Sides: Fig Stuffed Apples

By Dennis Linden
Image of Figs stuffed apples
Children in this country consume an estimated 12 percent of their calories from fast food, and 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in the car! The consequences are predictably unhealthy. Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a bit of planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy, and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks that will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability and to identify where adult attention might be needed.
Image of Cookin' with the Kids
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic; this is by design. We hope these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience and confidence in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach a child basic culinary skills, and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.

Honeycrisps are one of the first new crops of apples harvested in late August through September. This variety is aptly named for its extremely high sugar content and tends to be quite large; both characteristics make it the perfect apple for baked desserts. A delicate varietal that does not store well and bruises easily, Honeycrisps were developed by the University of Minnesota for taste instead of the usual commercial goals of maintaining quality even after being shipped long distances. The noticeable sweetness of the Honeycrisp makes them a natural kid favorite. Stuffing and baking Honeycrisps with fresh figs (another limited fresh crop available in September) makes for a simple and very special family dessert, indeed!

Using a melon baller to hollow out each apple is not only a good skill for your kitchen helpers to master, but it’s also a safe tool, making it possible to include even your youngest sous chef in the fun. The quality of the hollowed-out “cup” is not the goal here; involving your child in the preparation is. The supervising adult can get the apple coring started and leave the easier scooping for young kids to finish.

Besides being one of the tastiest fruits on the planet, figs are a healthy kid fruit. According to the CDC, 9 out of 10 kids don’t eat enough vegetables, and 6 in 10 don’t eat enough fruit—two of the best sources of fiber. Since fiber slows digestion, it keeps your kids feeling fuller longer and may prevent weight gain and obesity. Adding figs to your kid’s diet can be a great way to add more fiber. A half-cup of raw figs contains nearly 3 grams of fiber. Figs also contain calcium for strong teeth and bones, plus potassium which supports your child’s growth and the function of nerve cells in the body and the brain. With cold and flu season upon us, feeding your kids figs may prevent them from getting sick, based on a recent study that showed figs might have an immune-boosting benefit.

The recipe below is very kid-friendly: a short ingredient list and just enough prep work to keep the kids engaged without being tedious. Actually, the baking time is longer than the preparation of this luscious dessert. The one downside to the process is the increasingly strong aroma of baked apples wafting from the kitchen as everyone waits for the oven bell to ring DONE!

Fig Stuffed Apples
Serves 6
Image of ingredients for Fig Stuffed Apples
Ingredients

6 Honeycrisp apples
¾ cup pine nuts, finely chopped
1½ cups fresh Black Mission Figs, stem removed and halved
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, softened, divided
1½ cup apple cider
2 oz. gorgonzola dolce, goat cheese or other mild, creamy cheese variety

What the supervising adult should do:

It might be best to start hollowing out the apples for younger children and let them finish the “cup.” The only knife work involved is trimming and halving the figs, which should be supervised closely. Handle removing the hot pan of baking apples from the oven at the 20-minute mark, but let the kids do the basting, then return the pan to the oven.

What the kids can do:
Image of melon baller and apple
Use a melon baller to core the apples. Work down through the center from the top, removing all the seeds but leaving a sizeable base intact. You’re essentially looking to turn each apple into a thick cup.
Image of apples in baking pan
Place the fruit in an oven-safe casserole that just barely accommodates the fruit, so they stay upright.
Image of figs, pine nuts and filling
Combine pine nuts, figs, cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Use a fork to mash the fruit and combine the mixture. The mixture should be clumpy with bits of fruit.
Image of apples filled with stuffing
Use a small spoon to fill the cavity of each apple with filling. Fill each apple to the top, then evenly distribute the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the top of each filled apple and pour cider into the bottom of the casserole.
Image of Figs Stuffed Apples baked

Cover casserole with aluminum foil. Bake covered for 20 minutes at 375°F, remove the cover, baste apples with pan liquid, return to the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes longer, until apples’ skins are wrinkled and golden.

Plating: Top each apple with a small piece of soft cheese and serve hot.
Image of Fig stuffed apples
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