“If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry.”
― Michael Pollan, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual
While everyone else has been consuming pumpkin spice everything this month, I am over here still eating all the apples.
The apple orchards here in New Hampshire have been bursting with my favorite fall fruit well into October, the trees bending under the weight of their own bounty, and we have been taking full advantage of the bumper crop this year. Our apple hoarding, er, gathering, began earlier this month with a picture-perfect day of picking apples at a nearby orchard. The unseasonably warm October weather had us leaving our coats and scarves behind while we roamed up and down seemingly endless aisles of apple trees dotted with hundreds of ruby red, pale yellow, and deep magenta fruits. We left the orchard that balmy fall day with multiple pounds of McIntoshes and Cortlands and Macouns, smelling faintly of sweet apples mixed with the earthy scent of moldering leaves and a hint of wood smoke, our legs and arms appropriately fatigued, and our bellies happy and full from lots of laughs and apple cider donuts. (It’s hard not to feel optimistic about life on days like these.) We’ve since made multiple trips to the local farm stand to replenish our apple supply, ensuring our fruit bowl would stay filled throughout the season.
October seems to make me hungrier for some reason, and apparently it has the same effect on my growing boys, but to a much greater extent. Since school began for them way back at the end of August, their appetites have increased to never-before-seen proportions, and they have only grown hungrier as we’ve headed into fall. I suppose it’s the combination of their brains needing more sustenance for learning and studying and powering through those long days at school, and their bodies needing more fuel for just, well, growing. Many mornings they come downstairs for breakfast looking taller than they’d been the night before, or wearing a pair of pants that suddenly looks much shorter. I try to convince myself that the pants must have shrunk in the dryer, because didn’t I just buy them new pants?! But despite my delusions, they continue to grow at an alarming rate, and all that growing, along with all the learning and studying and playing and running around and doing all the things that boys do, renders them ravenous, especially when they arrive home from school: “Mom, I’m STARRRVING! What can I have for a snack?”
In attempting to tame the after-school hunger beast, I’ve been experimenting with various snack options, and I’ve learned a few things: First, the sooner my boys eat something once they’ve arrived home, the better. Attempting a conversation with a boy who has just come home after a long day of school and who hasn’t eaten since lunchtime (roughly 3 to 4 hours ago) is an exercise in futility; I need to feed him first. Second, although their instinct is to grab the first carbohydrate-rich food they see (a bagel, a muffin, a handful of cereal), a snack of this sort will not satisfy them, at least not for long. Minutes later, they will still be hungry and asking how much longer until dinner. What I’ve found is that the best hunger-taming snack for my growing boys contains a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber, for more staying power. If I can hit all four of these in a single snack, then I can usually hold them off until dinnertime, and they will have enough energy to power through their homework and maybe even run around in the yard before the sun dips below the horizon.
As we’ve been working our way through the multiple pounds of apples we’ve been bringing home this month, I’ve been experimenting with some recipes for healthful after-school (or anytime) snacks; I share three of our favorites below. Each snack provides a good balance of protein, carbs, fat, and fiber, thereby increasing the chances of staving off any pre-dinner hunger pangs. These snacks can also be prepared ahead of time (so you can simply direct your hungry crew to the fridge when they need a snack), and the recipes are easy enough that your kids can help you make them, or they can even make them entirely by themselves (depending on their ages and their experience in the kitchen).
If you have hungry kids to feed after school or before or after a sports practice or game, or a basket of apples to use up, or just a craving for a wholesome, healthful snack, I think you will find something here to meet your snacking needs and quiet those rumbling, hungry tummies, at least for a little while.
Makes enough cinnamon apple “filling” for 4 to 5 small parfaits.
- -- 4 large apples, peeled*, cored, and diced into roughly ½-inch cubes (to yield about 3 cups)
- -- 2 tablespoons water
- -- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, or more (or less) to taste
- -- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- -- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- -- plain Greek yogurt (about ½ cup per serving) **
- -- pure maple syrup or honey (optional, for sweetening the yogurt)
- -- your favorite granola, or my favorite Maple Walnut Granola (about ¼ cup per serving)
- In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, water, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. Set the pan on the stove over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low, and cook, stirring often, about 8 to 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the apples are crisp-tender (softened a little but still have a bit of a bite). If you like your apples softer, or you’d like to cook them down into an applesauce of sorts, continue cooking a few minutes longer until the apples start to break down and reach your desired consistency, adding more water as needed. At this point, the sweetness of the apple filling will depend on how sweet or tart your apples are; taste, and add more maple syrup if desired.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let the apples cool completely. If desired, mash the apples into a chunky applesauce, or purée them into a smooth applesauce. Proceed to making the parfaits, or store the apple filling in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container until ready to use.
- You can layer the parfait ingredients in any order you choose (or you can simply add the ingredients to a bowl if you’re feeling less fancy), but if you’d like some guidance, here’s what I do: For each serving, in a clear drinking glass or other clear glass vessel or jar, spoon a couple of tablespoons of the cinnamon apples into the bottom of the glass, then top with about ½ cup of yogurt. Layer another tablespoon or 2 of apples on top of the yogurt, then top it all off with about a ¼ cup of granola. Serve and enjoy!
** I use plain whole-milk Greek yogurt in these parfaits (Stonyfield Organic is my favorite brand); the parfaits taste creamier and more indulgent to me that way, and the Greek yogurt is packed with protein. You could certainly use a 2%-milkfat or nonfat Greek yogurt if you prefer, or even an all-natural vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt, which really makes this dish taste like a dessert! The vanilla-flavored yogurts tend to have more added sugar though, so I like to make a 50/50 mix of plain Greek yogurt and vanilla Greek yogurt to “cut” some of the sugar and make it a little more healthful while still enjoying that sweet vanilla flavor.
You can make the cinnamon apples a couple of days in advance and store them in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use. You can also assemble the parfaits a day or two in advance and store them, covered, in the refrigerator as well, although the granola might lose some of its crispness; if this is a concern, assemble the parfaits without the granola, cover and store them in the fridge, then top them with the granola just before serving. You could even assemble the parfaits in Mason jars with lids to make them a more portable breakfast or snack option.
Recipe inspired by Jessica Gavin.
Yield: about 16 oz. (1 large or 2 small servings)
- -- 1 tightly packed cup curly kale leaves (tough ribs and stems removed) and/or baby spinach leaves *
- -- ¼ to ½ cup cold almond milk (unsweetened, sweetened, vanilla—whichever you prefer), plus more as needed
- -- 1 large apple, peeled**, cored, and roughly chopped
- -- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- -- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for serving
- -- 1 tablespoon almond butter (optional) ***
- -- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup, or more (or less) to taste (optional)
- If you are using a high-powered blender (e.g., a Vitamix), add all the ingredients except the maple syrup to the blender’s container, and blend until thoroughly combined and smooth.
If you have a less-powerful blender (i.e., not a Vitamix), then here’s what I do to help ensure the smoothest consistency: Add the greens and almond milk to the blender’s container, and blend until thoroughly combined and smooth. (Start with ¼ cup of almond milk. If your blender has trouble getting traction to blend the greens, then add a little more milk.) Add the rest of the ingredients except the maple syrup, and blend again until thoroughly combined and smooth.
- Taste, and if it’s not sweet enough for you (which can depend on the sweetness of the apple, almond milk, and almond butter used), add the maple syrup and blend again until combined. Pour into 1 or 2 glasses and sprinkle the top with additional cinnamon if desired. Serve right away and enjoy!
** If you’re using a high-powered blender (e.g., a Vitamix), then you can leave the apples unpeeled; otherwise, peel the apples to ensure the smoothest, creamiest consistency for your smoothie.
*** The almond butter is an optional addition, but I love the extra layer of flavor it adds to this smoothie, magically making it taste more like apple pie. My favorite almond butter is MaraNatha Creamy Roasted Almond Butter, which contains just one ingredient—dry-roasted almonds—but its sweet, nutty, complex flavor belies its simple ingredient list.
If it helps to make your life easier, you can make a freezer smoothie pack to save yourself some time, especially if you’ve already gone through the trouble of washing and drying greens and/or peeling, coring, and chopping apples. Simply add a packed cup of greens and a peeled, cored, and roughly chopped apple to a freezer-safe resealable plastic bag; repeat for as many smoothies as you’d like to make ahead. Label the bag(s) and store in the freezer until you’re ready to make your smoothie. (They should safely keep for up to 6 months in the freezer, although my frozen smoothie packs are always used up well before then, usually within a week!) When it’s smoothie time, add the contents of the freezer bag to your blender, along with the other ingredients, and proceed as directed above. You will probably need the full ½ cup of almond milk to completely blend the frozen ingredients (especially if you’re not using a high-powered blender). I should also note that in my kitchen tests, my eager taste-testers unanimously agreed that the make-ahead freezer version of this smoothie was even better than the “original” version; it blended up thicker and creamier (and colder) even in my old, less-robust blender.
Recipe adapted from Best Green Drinks Ever by Katrine van Wyk.
The star ingredient in this dip is dates, which not only lend a caramel-like sweetness to the dip, but also provide fiber and other nutrients (iron, potassium, B vitamins). (If you love dates, I think you’ll really love this dip.) When you purée the dates and combine them with nut butter, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt, some sort of magic happens, and the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. Apples, of course, are our preferred “dippers” here, but I think pears and bananas would be great too.
Yield: about 2 cups
- -- 9 oz. pitted Medjool or Deglet Noor dates (about 1¾ cups, lightly packed) *
- -- 2 cups boiling water
- -- ¼ cup almond butter (or other nut butter), preferably unsweetened **
- -- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- -- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- -- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
- -- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, or more (or less) to taste
- Place the dates in a large bowl, and pour the boiling water over the dates. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dates soak for 15 to 60 minutes: Softer Medjool dates will need only about 15 minutes to soak; drier Deglet Noor dates will need about an hour to soak.
- Drain the dates, reserving the soaking water. Place the dates in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and add 1 tablespoon of the reserved soaking water. Process until a smooth paste forms; it should have the texture and consistency of apple butter or fluffy peanut butter. If the date paste seems too chunky or not smooth enough, add more of the soaking water, a teaspoon at a time, until it is smooth. (Each time I’ve tested this recipe, regardless of the type of dates I used, I’ve needed 2 tablespoons total of the soaking water to get a smooth paste.)
- Add the rest of the ingredients—almond butter, lemon juice, vanilla, maple syrup, and salt—and process until thoroughly combined and smooth. (If you’d like a thinner consistency to pour or drizzle over fruit, add additional soaking water, a teaspoon at a time, and process until desired consistency is reached.)
- Scrape into a bowl, sprinkle with additional sea salt if desired, and serve with apples and/or other fruit for dipping. If not serving the dip right away, store it in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week. (Personally, I think this dip tastes even better the next day, after the flavors have had some time to meld overnight in the fridge.)
** Creamy, dry-roasted, unsweetened almond butter is the only nut butter I’ve tested in this recipe. (My favorite almond butter is MaraNatha Creamy Roasted Almond Butter, which contains just 1 ingredient: dry-roasted almonds.) However, I imagine that other nut butters—cashew butter, even peanut butter—would work just fine in this recipe. I’d recommend using an unsweetened nut butter though, as the dates already provide plenty of sweetness. Also, if you’re using a salted nut butter, then you might not need to add as much salt to the dip; start with less, then taste and add more if needed.
Recipe adapted from Real Sweet: More Than 80 Crave-Worthy Treats Made with Natural Sugars by Shauna Sever.
Did you make any of these recipes?
I’d love to hear how they turned out for you! Leave a comment below and/or share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #wholesomefamilykitchen!