It’s finally fall! Something about this year has had me extra excited about the season and reminiscent of my childhood growing up in the Pacific Northwest where it was all about savoring the last of the rain-less days, frolicking in piles of burnt orange and red leaves, my dad’s football and golf on in the background of every weekend, the buzz of college students returning to town (living so close to campus in Eugene, Oregon, this was a memorable part of growing up), scheming about Halloween costumes, and of course, the excitement of a new school year.
But most of all, it was that feeling of home. I loved those fall nights after school and would look forward to our evenings together as a family. My parents music would be playing as we did homework or crafts and my mom cooked dinner. New smells would waft from the kitchen of roasting veggies, hearty stews, fresh pesto…I have my mom to thank for raising us on home-cooked, healthy, real food. Even as a working mom, she made it a priority…something I’m more and more thankful for the older I get. We always tried “just a bite” to see if we liked new flavors and dishes and because of this, we became appreciators of a wide variety of foods. My mom made us part of the process, letting us help out where we could (even when we made a mess or things came out far from perfect).
I have memories of my little sister covered in flour, spooning butter into her mouth. Or the day my mom told me that I was too old to be wiping my hands on my shirt. She explained to me that if I didn’t stop using my shirt as a napkin, she’d make me a shirt out of napkins! Well, the next evening when I (probably deliberately) wiped my hands on my shirt, she followed through and calmly came back to the table with clothes pins and cloth napkins and promptly fashioned a little “tank top” of sorts. I, of course, thought this was pretty neat. But, sure enough, after a couple nights the fun wore off and I decided for myself that I was too old to be wearing napkin shirts and was old enough to use a real napkin. Ahh the power of reverse phsychology :-)
My sister and I loved to help in the kitchen and one of our favorite things to do was homemade fruit roll-ups! My mom had an awesome 80’s dehydrator (did it have a brown-and-orange-flower pattern on it, or was that our slow cooker?) lol. We would cook apples with lots of spices, put them through a strainer, and then spread all the soft applesauce out onto the dehydrator trays. Waiting hours or over night for our fruit roll-ups was like torture for my impatient little self (but a much-needed lesson in patience now that I look back on it!). When they were ready, we loved peeling them off the trays, carefully cutting, and rolling them to keep for snacks and to put in our school lunch boxes. Now my favorite flavors of the season remain…figs, pomegranates, pears, pumpkins, apples, and everything spiced!
Recently my friend gave me a whole bag of beautiful apples from her apple tree and I needed to figure out how to use them. At the same time, in my holistic nutrition class we had been talking about digestion and how the pectin-rich skin of apples and pears is so beneficial for gut health, digestion, skin health, and even cancer prevention. Pectin is a type of soluble fiber that acts as a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in our gut and kick-starts the digestive process. We learned that when you cook apples, it actually boosts the pectin’s effectiveness. I was so excited at the synchronistic timing and couldn’t wait to make make up a new dish.
So, I decided to give the apples a rough chop, throw them in a big pot along with ample spices, a spritz of fresh lemon juice and peels.
I added in some organic raisins, covered with a snug lid and let it all stew together on the stove.
An hour later, the house smelled like a “warm hug” (as my boyfriend described it). I plopped a dollop of butter on top and a sprinkle of sea salt and it was ready to enjoy.
SPICED AUTUMN APPLES
(makes ~ten 8-oz. servings. Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 60 minutes)
- 20 medium-small apples
- 3 strips lemon rind
- juice of two lemons
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1 cup raisins
- 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
- dash ground nutmeg
- dash ground cloves
1. Wash apples and lemons.
2. Give apples a rough-chop, removing the core, and adding to your pot over medium-low heat (make sure it’s a pot you have a lid for).
3. Add water lemon juice, lemon rinds, raisins and spices. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Reduce heat to low and give the apples a good stir. Replace cover and cook an additional 30 minutes. If you prefer smoother, you can stir along the way, but if you like chunks of apple like I do, don’t stir again until the end. The apples on the top layer will stay firmer and the ones at the bottom of the pan will be softer and more applesauce-like. Once mixed at the end, it makes the perfect combo!
Suggested serving: I love eating this mixture strait after it’s been cooked - heated with a dallop of butter and dash of sea salt. It’s great served over slow-cooked oats or vanilla ice cream. You could also eat it cold, like applesauce or put in your kids lunches!
I scooped the rest into mason jars, which seal nicely once you pop them in the fridge, and have been enjoying almost daily for breakfast or a snack. I made it again last week and added a couple pears to the mix - super yummy!
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do and feel peace of mind knowing that everything in it is nourishing for your body - soluble fiber and quercetin-rich apples, vitamin C-rich lemons, raisins, which are wonderful sources of iron, potassium and antioxidants, and cinnamon with its anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and immune-boosting effects. Combined, this dish is a wonderful remedy for keeping your cholesterol in check and preventing heart disease, healing leaky gut, increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods and even preventing cancer.
Somehow making this dish brought me right back to the cool, crisp autumn evenings of my youth, along with the comfort of routine and family. There’s nothing quite like the smells and sounds and flavors of this season.
Happy fall to you!!!