Since the Standard (our city’s newspaper that I write for) no longer published all of their articles on line, I thought I would post it here after the obligatory waiting period.
My last article was surrounding fall’s top fruit: the apple! (And a couple delicious recipes to boot).
Originally published in the St. Catharines Standard October 2011.
When you think of fall flavor, there’s one top fruit that immediately comes to mind: the apple.
And we’re pretty lucky; fresh, local apples are pretty much at our disposal whenever we want them here in Niagara.
Though there are hundreds of apple varieties, the most popular around this area include McIntosh, Empire, Idared, Mutsu, and Cortland, among others. They range from the perfect baking apple to the must-have for eating out of hand; some with crisp exteriors, others with creamy interiors. The best part is they all taste delicious.
But this delicious flavor and texture isn’t the only quality of apples that makes them a superior snack. It’s that, combined with that archetypal adage that we all know and love: “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
So how much truth is in this proverbial proverb? Let’s just say you get an awful lot for your bushelful.
First off, fibre plays a big role in the fruit, which we already know is important for our bodies. There are about 3 grams of fibre per medium apple, which helps satisfy our hunger as well as benefits our bodies. Pectin, found in the fibre of apples’ skin, interacts with phytonutrients to mimic the effects of foods very high in soluble fibre. These phytonutrients can also help regulate blood sugar, and check in at low on the glycemic index scale, so they won’t raise your blood sugar through the roof.
Fibre, as we know, benefits our digestive system, but apples are under research for another potential digestive advantage. Two digestive bacteria, Clostridiales and Bacteroides, can be significantly altered by the presence of apples. Once altered, more fuel is available to the walls of the large intestine, which may be beneficial to our digestive track.
Noshing on apples has also been linked to weight loss. Because of their fibre content, apples can satisfy your hunger for just about 95 calories for a medium fruit (much better—and healthier—than any 100 calorie snack pack). A recent study on apples and weight loss shows that women who ate 1 cup (240mL) of dried apples daily for a year lost more weight and lowered their “bad” cholesterol and risk of heart disease than those who did not. Another study showed that when adults ate an apple 15 minutes before a meal, they ate 15% less calories.
Heart health has also further been explored. Another study, following about 35,000 women for about 20 years, shows that the consumption of apples was associated with a lower risk of death from heart and cardiovascular diseases. A second large study collected information from nearly 10,000 people over 28 years, and found that those who ate apples had a lower risk of stroke than those who didn’t. Another found that people who regularly eat apples are about 30% less likely to have symptoms of metabolic syndrome than those who don’t.
Many of these benefits are due in part to the antioxidants found in the fruit. These antioxidants help maintain proper cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation—therefore, the risk of cancer, especially colon, prostate and lung, is also reduced. A specific flavonoid called quercetin has been linked to benefiting our brain cells, and potentially harming cancer cells. Even more, quercetin produces more oxygen available to the lungs, which has been linked to aiding in endurance exercise.
Yes, and this is just the beginning of the benefits that apples have to offer.
Take advantage of living in a region so plentiful of such a powerful fruit. Though we’d never think of the lowly apple as surpassing the likes of superfruits like acai berries, pomegranates, and gogi berries, but with their great taste, local flavor, and their loads of health benefits… how can you pass them up?
Sweet Potato and Apple Soup
A sweet, creamy soup that’s loaded with rich apple and sweet potato flavor. Like most soups, the flavor is even better the next day. Simple to prepare, serve alongside crusty whole grain bread for the perfect comfort food.
Serves 4 to 6
4 medium sweet potatoes, washed and cut in 1/2-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
3 medium tart apples, cut in 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground sage
About 6 cups water
3/4 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons creamy roasted cashew butter
Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the sweet potatoes and apples with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until lightly browned and cooked through, about 40 minutes.
Once the potatoes and apples are almost finished, heat the remaining oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the garlic, onions, celery, and ginger. Cook until onions and celery are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sage, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and let cook for an additional minute. Add the roasted sweet potatoes and apples, along with the water and apple cider. Bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes, until very soft.
Stir in the cashew butter until dissolved. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until smooth, adding additional water if necessary. You can also puree the mixture in batches in a food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender.
Adjust seasoning and add more water for a thinner soup. The flavors will develop further as the soup stands.
Apple Mushroom Wild Rice Pilaf
Nutty wild rice is cooked in apple cider and mushroom broth, then mixed with fall-inspired flavors for an excellent side dish to any autumn menu—including Thanksgiving.
1 0.5oz/14g package dried chanterelle mushrooms
1 3/4 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1 cup wild rice
1/4 cup apple cider
1 bay leaf
1 crunchy apple
3/4 cup toasted, coarsely chopped pecans
1/3 cup dried tart cherries
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pour the boiling water over the mushrooms. Let stand at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, celery, onion, and carrot. Cook for 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and sage, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes longer.
Drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Chop the mushrooms. Add them to the saucepan, along with the soaking liquid, wild rice, apple cider, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover, letting cook for about 45 to 60 minutes, until the rice is tender and has soaked up the liquid. If the rice is cooked but there is a bit of liquid left, cook for an additional 5 minutes or so with the lid removed until the liquid has evaporated.
Once the rice is tender, finely chop the apple. Add the chopped apple, pecans, and cherries to the rice mixture. Remove the bay leaf. Taste for seasonings. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving for flavors to meld.