Mom's Apple Squares & other delicious apple treats
Every fall, when I was growing up in western Pennsylvania, my parents took me and my younger brother, Angelo, apple picking. We'd usually go in late September, always on a Sunday. Angelo and I loved picking-but even more, we loved the savory apple recipes and sweet apple treats that my mom made with the bushel of apples (roughly 45 pounds) stored in our downstairs fridge.
My favorite was my mom's apple squares-sweet apple filling spread thin inside two layers of flaky crust. But I also loved her apple crisp (see EatingWell's version below) that she made when my parents' friends and their kids came over after the high school football games that took place just down the street from my house.
When I moved to Vermont seven years ago, my husband, Jon, and I restarted the apple-picking tradition. This is the second year we'll be taking our little boy, Julian. Just as I remembered it, apple picking is good family fun. And I still appreciate having a bounty of apples to bake with. (Find out why you might consider picking and buying organic apples.) Here's what I make (in addition to Mom's squares, of course):
1. Apple crisp: It's fast and easy (and even yummier when you scoop some low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt on top). As soon as we get home from picking, I simmer up a big pot of vegetarian chili and get busy slicing apples for crisp.
2. Apple pie: You can't get more classic than apple pie. But traditional recipes can have up to 750 calories a slice, not to mention loads of saturated fat-mostly in the crust. To cut back (and to add a little nutrition), I like to make a healthier apple pie with a crust that uses whole-wheat flour and canola oil in place of some of the butter.
3. Applesauce: Like most toddlers, Julian loves applesauce-and I like to make a Maple-Cinnamon Applesauce from scratch. For myself, I love to add a couple of tablespoons of the sauce on top of steel-cut oats and to stir it into yogurt for a little all-natural sweetness.
4. Mom's Apple Squares: Traditional recipes for apple squares often use plenty of trans fat–laden shortening in the crust. We replaced it with a mixture of canola oil and butter and swapped out half the all-purpose flour for whole-wheat pastry flour to add a little fiber. They are best enjoyed slightly warm. Gently reheat any leftovers in the oven or toaster oven to recrisp the crust.