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Baked apples with pecans, dates bring warmth to the table

With apples at peak season, it's easy to want more than one a day regardless of any plans to see your doctor.

Apples — of which some 2,500 varieties are grown in the United States — are jammed with antioxidants and flavonoids, both considered important parts of a healthy diet. They also are an excellent source of pectin, a natural fiber.

Fresh apples make for a tasty snack. But cooked apples can be a real treat, too. Either way, try not to remove the skin, because that's the best source of the apple's pectin and other nutrients.

In this recipe, apples are combined with nutritious nuts and the flavors of orange and cinnamon to create warm baked apples filled with dates and pecans.

To toast the chopped pecans, which enhances their nuttiness, place them in a small, dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until they are lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes.

baked apples with dates and pecans

Start to finish: 1 hour (10 minutes active) Servings: 4

1/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

1/4 cup pitted and finely diced Medjool dates

Zest and juice of 1 orange

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 baking apples, such as Pippin or McIntosh

1 tablespoon butter, melted (optional)

2 cups unfiltered apple juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon cool water

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, stir together the pecans, dates, orange zest and juice, 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon and the salt.

Core the apples, leaving 1/2 inch at the bottom, and peel the top edges. Stuff the apples with the pecan filling, then brush the tops with the melted butter, if using.

Arrange the apples in an 8- by 8-inch baking dish. Add the apple juice to the bottom of the dish, then cover it with foil. Bake until the apples are tender (but not mushy) when pierced with a fork, about 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer the apples to serving plates. If desired, place the plated apples in the oven (with the heat turned off) to keep warm.

Transfer the juices in the baking dish to a small saucepan over medium. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Add the brown sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. In a small glass, mix the cornstarch and water. Add the mixture to the saucepan, then heat until thickened. Serve the apples drizzled with the thickened sauce.

Nutritional information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 308 calories (76 calories from fat), 9g fat (2g saturated, 0g trans fats), 8mg cholesterol, 62g carbohydrates, 2g protein, 6g fiber, 130mg sodium.

(Recipe adapted from Rebecca Katz's The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, Celestial Arts, 2009)

Baked apples with pecans, dates bring warmth to the table 10/23/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2009 4:30am]
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