Bless Your Spoon: Fall’s harvest a hands-on pleasure

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 5, 2023

By Stephanie Williams Dean

When walking through an apple orchard, there’s a feeling of connection with the ground and what’s born from it — a simple grounding to the dirt. Whether harvesting home garden vegetables, gathering blueberries from bushes in a meadow, or plucking apples from your backyard tree — the feeling is authentic and primal. These experiences make up a few of the most pleasurable moments in life.

When you can walk outdoors, pick fruit from a tree and sink your front teeth into its juicy flesh, it’s so self-satisfying. There’s almost a sense of art in the handpicking of a bushel of apples and then preparing and baking a delicious, homemade apple grunt, bread or layered cake in your oven. When you gather at the kitchen table and share such deliciousness with family, these simple acts take pleasure to a whole new level.

Apple season is upon us, and I for one couldn’t be happier. Foods symbolize the bounty of harvest time. It never feels like I’ve experienced the season of fall unless I’ve spent time in an orchard. Anytime I can handpick a basket of fresh, sweet heirloom fruits, it’s worth a road trip to get there. But if you can’t make the trip, you can find a delightful assortment of apples at your local farmer’s market.

The apple is a favorite fruit — it’s just so versatile. For culinary inspirations, look no further than a pottery bowl filled with shiny green and red apples on your table. As the new season takes command of our kitchens, we begin to move from summer’s quick and easy meals to the slow-cooked, hot foods of fall. But don’t completely abandon summer yet. Just when you thought salad season was over — surprise! You can still enjoy your savory greens with slices of autumn’s sweet, fresh fruit.

God’s message in Isaiah 65:8 shows us that one bad apple doesn’t always ruin a whole bushel — there are still plenty of good apples left.

“As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and men say, ‘Don’t destroy it, there is yet some good in it’.” (NIV)

What God means is that even if some folks aren’t living in a Godly way and acting more like hypocrites, we should not ignore or reject anyone. Let’s be who we are while continuing to share the Gospel. Let us not think in terms of good vs. bad apples. A bruise doesn’t always sully an entire apple, either — there’s still some good fruit flesh. And there’s always hope, so let’s focus on sharing and winning souls. Many bruised folks have a deep need for God in their lives and are actively searching. Let us walk with them and be like a healing salve to their spirit and that of a guiding light to their path.

Apple, Cherry and Nut Salad

• 5 ounces or 10 cups mixed baby greens

• 2 cored, strip-cut Granny Smith apples

• ½ cup dried tart cherries

• ½ cup toasted chopped walnuts

Maple Dressing

• ¼ cup premium mayonnaise

• 1/3 cup pure maple syrup

• 3 Tbsp. white wine/champagne vinegar

• 2 tsp. sugar

• ½ cup Wesson vegetable oil

• Salt and pepper, to taste

For the salad, toss greens, apples, cherries and ¼ cup walnuts in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. After tossing, serve with remaining walnuts sprinkled over top.

For the dressing, in a bowl, whisk mayo, maple syrup, vinegar and sugar. Gradually whisk in oil until mixture thickens slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate. Re-whisk before using.

Taffy Apple Salad

• 8 ounces crushed pineapple/juice

• 1 beaten egg

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar

• 8 ounces Cool Whip

• 6 cut-up Red Delicious/MacIntosh apples

• 1 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts

In a saucepan, drain pineapple juice and set aside the fruit. To the fruit juice, add the egg, sugar, flour and vinegar. Stir over medium heat until thickened. Set aside until completely cooled. When cool, fold in Cool Whip, ½ the peanuts, and the pineapple fruit. In a bowl, add the cored and unpeeled, cut-up apples. Pour the Cool Whip mixture over the apples. Top with remaining ½ cup peanuts.

Party Apple Salad

• 4 large red apples

• Fresh lemon juice

• 1 cup diced celery

• 1 diced large banana

• 1/3 cup chopped pecans

• Mayonnaise

• Yellow mustard

• Salad greens

Poppy Seed Dressing

• 1 ½ cup sugar

• 2 tsp. dry mustard

• 2 tsp. salt

• 2/3 cup vinegar

• 3 Tbsp. onion juice

• 2 cups Wesson vegetable oil

• 3 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Core apples, leaving bottoms intact. Cut off tops. Hollow out apples, leaving a ½-inch shell. Sprinkle the apple cavity and pulp with fresh fruit juice. In a bowl, dice the apple pulp. Add diced celery, banana and chopped nuts. Moisten just enough with mayonnaise to hold together. Add a bit of mustard, to taste. Mix well. Refrigerate. When ready to serve, cut apples in an X pattern but keep bottom intact. Spread out four apple sections. Pile apple mixture up in center of apple. Chill and serve on salad greens. Drizzle with poppyseed dressing. For the dressing, in a processor, combine sugar, mustard, salt and vinegar. Add in onion juice and mix well. Add oil slowly while processing until thickened. Pour into a jar. Add poppy seeds and shake for a few minutes. Refrigerate. Shake before reusing.

Classic Waldorf Salad

• 2 cups diced apples

• 1 cup 1-inch cut celery sticks

• ½ cup chopped walnuts

• ¼ cup premium mayonnaise

• 1 Tbsp. sugar

• 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

• Dash of salt

• ½ cup whipped whipping cream

In a bowl, combine apples, celery and nuts. In another bowl, blend mayo, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Whip cream and fold cream into mayo mixture. Fold the cream/mayo mixture into the apples. Mix well. Chill for several hours. Yield: 6

Golden Waldorf Salad

• 3 medium red apples

• Fresh lemon juice

• 3 ounces lemon Jello gelatin

• 1 cup hot water

• 1/8 tsp. salt

• ½ cup premium mayonnaise

• 1 cup diced celery

• ½ cup chopped walnuts

• ½ cup whipped heavy cream

• Salad greens

Core apples but don’t peel. Take 2 apples, dice them, and set aside. Cut the others into thin slices and set aside. Sprinkle diced and sliced apples with fresh lemon juice. Arrange the slices, peel side down in the bottom of a 5-cup dish or mold. Refrigerate. In a bowl dissolve gelatin in the water. Refrigerate until slightly thickened. Then add salt and blend in mayonnaise. Fold in the diced apples, celery, walnuts and whipped heavy cream. Turn into the dish with the sliced apples in bottom. Chill until firm. Unmold on top of greens.

Apple Almond Salad

• ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds

• 4 slices fried, crumbled bacon

• 12 ounces thinly sliced fresh apples

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 6 Tbsp. salad oil

• 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

• ¼ tsp. each salt and dry mustard

3 Tbsp. crumbled blue cheese

• 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• Large head of favorite lettuce

Toast almonds to light brown in a 400-degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Set aside. Fry bacon until crispy, drain, crumble and set aside. In a large bowl, combine apples, with lemon juice, then cover and refrigerate. In a jar, combine oil, vinegar, mustard, cheese and pepper. Shake to blend and chill. Before serving, add torn lettuce to apple mixture. Pour dressing over lettuce mixture using just enough to thoroughly coat. Add bacon and nuts and toss to mix well.

Warm Spinach with Apples and Brie

• 4 large Granny Smith apples

• ¼ cup pure maple syrup

• 8 cups torn fresh spinach leaves

• ½ pound cut-up brie cheese

• ½ cup toasted pecans

Dressing

• ¼ cup apple cider or juice

• 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar

• 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

• 1 minced clove garlic

• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, cut apples into ½-inch slices, and toss with maple syrup until coated. On a baking sheet, place apples in single layer and broil for 5 or more minutes until slightly brown at edge. In a large bowl, place torn spinach. For the dressing, in a saucepan, combine apple cider, vinegar, mustard, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Whisk dressing together while heating to a simmer. Remove from stove and pour over spinach. Toss and then add small cut-up pieces of brie cheese, apple slices and toasted pecans.

Roasted Pork with Apple Topping

• ½ tsp. sugar

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. dry mustard

• 1 tsp. caraway seed

• ¼ tsp. sage

• ½ tsp. rosemary

• 1 ½ tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. black ground pepper

• 5 pounds boneless pork loin

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

Topping

• 1 ½ cup chopped apples or applesauce

• ½ cup brown sugar

• ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

• ¼ tsp. salt

• Water for gravy

In a bowl, combine sugar, flour, mustard, caraway seed, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper. Rub mixture over pork loin. Place fat side upwards in roasting pan. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 1 ½ hours until meat thermometer registers 160-degrees. In a bowl, combine apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Evenly spread over top of roast. Bake for an additional hour. To make excellent gravy add a little water to the pan.

Savory Raisin Prune Apple Stuffing

• 2 cups peeled, chopped tart apples

• ½ cup chopped cooked prunes

• ½ cup seedless raisins

• 5 cups toasted bread cubes

• ¼ cup melted, salted butter

• ¼ cup packed light brown sugar

• 1 zested lemon

• ½ tsp. paprika

• ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1 tsp. salt

• ¾ cup apple cider or juice

In a large bowl, combine apples, cooked prunes, raisins, toasted bread cubes, melted butter, light brown sugar, lemon rind, paprika, cinnamon, salt and apple cider. Use as a stuffing for chicken and pork. Makes 8 cups.

Apple Pancake Fold Over

• 4 peeled, cored, tart apples

• 1/3 cup melted, salted butter

• 1/3 cup sugar

• ½ tsp. ground nutmeg

• ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

• 2 eggs

• ½ cup whole milk

• ½ cup all-purpose flour

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 2 Tbsp. each, butter and sugar

• Melted butter and confectioners’ sugar

Slice peeled, cored apples. In a saucepan, sauté apples in butter for 5 minutes. Add sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon to the apples. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Cool. In a mixer bowl, beat eggs and add milk, flour and salt. Beat for 2 minutes. In an ovenproof skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. butter. Pour batter into hot pan and bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 15 minutes. When batter puffs up in center, puncture with fork and repeat. Lower heat to 350-degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon 2 Tbsp. melted butter over the pancake and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar. Spread apple mixture over half of surface and fold pancake over on it. Spoon melted butter over top and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Apple Brown Betty

• 4 cups small bread cubes

• ½ cup melted, salted butter

• ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1/8 tsp. salt

• ¾ cup dark brown sugar

• 4 cups peeled, chopped tart apples

• 1 cup heavy cream

• ½ tsp. ground nutmeg

In a mixer bowl, combine bread cubes, melted butter, cinnamon, salt and dark brown sugar. Mix well. In a ½-quart baking dish, alternate layers of the mixture with chopped apples. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 1 hour or until apples are tender and top is browned. Serve warm topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with nutmeg.

Apple Filled Cake Squares

• 1 cup softened, salted butter

• 1 ½ cup sugar

• 4 eggs

• 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

• Apple pie filling

• Powdered sugar

In mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add flour, vanilla and lemon juice, and beat 3 minutes. Evenly spread into bottom of a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking sheet. Using a knife, score top with 24 square indentions. Into the middle of each square, drop a teaspoon of pie filling. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Sift powdered sugar over top of cake. Cut in 24 squares. You can also make a glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp. milk instead of sifting sugar, and pour over cake.

Cinnamon Apple Turnovers

• 1 roll Pillsbury Crescent Dinner rolls

• 2 Granny Smith/baking apples

• cinnamon

• 1 melted stick, salted butter

• 1 cup water

• 1 cup sugar

Wrap one triangle of dough around each ¼ apple slice. Tuck under and place each side by side in a baking dish. Sprinkle top of dough with cinnamon. In a saucepan, melt butter and add water and sugar. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and evenly pour butter mixture over the top. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes. Serve with ice cream.

Topsy Turvy Apple Pie

• 4 Tbsp. softened, salted butter

• ½ cup pecan halves

• ½ cup brown sugar

• 2 9-inch pie pastry shells

• 6 cups pared, cored, sliced tart apples (5)

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

• ½ tsp. ground nutmeg

In the bottom and up sides of pie place, evenly spread butter. Press pecan halves, rounded sides down into butter on bottom of plate. Pat brown sugar evenly over pecans. Roll out pastry for crust, place over sugar and trim edges. In a bowl, cut apples and sprinkle with lemon juice. In another bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Toss the flour mixture with apples. Turn apples into pie plate and spread evenly on bottom. Roll out second crust leaving ½-inch beyond edge. Tuck extra edge under lower crust to seal juices. Flute edge, and prick top of pie with fork. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Place a serving plate on top and invert the pie. Carefully remove pie plate. Serve warm with ice cream or room temp.