With the onset of apple season, it's time to start thinking about ways to use up all those bushels you bring home from your picking adventures.
While sauces and pies are a fine start, it's also easy to get creative with how we cook apples. And you don't need to limit yourself to sweets. We start you off with a roasted savory medley of apples, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and kielbasa. If you like, top it with shredded cheese a few minutes before it's done.
For something that straddles the sweet-savory line, try the apple-cheddar puffs, a rich and cheesy pastry puff filled with apple compote. Then bring it back to all sweet by dipping whole apples in a melted chocolate-peanut butter blend.
Need yet another savory seasonal idea? Combine chopped apples with cubed butternut squash. Add plenty of chicken broth, then simmer until the squash is tender. Season as desired, then puree until thick and creamy for an amazing soup.
APPLE KIELBASA BAKE
Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active)
4 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
1 large red onion, cut into chunks
16-ounce kielbasa, sliced in 1/2-inch-thick rounds
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into chunks
2 baking apples, such as Cortland, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
6 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried sage
11/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 F.
In a large bowl, toss together the Brussels sprouts, onion, kielbasa, potatoes, apples and carrots. Drizzle the oil over the mixture, then toss again.
Sprinkle in the sage, salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a large, rimmed baking sheet, arranging it in an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes, or until everything starts to caramelize and brown at the edges.
CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER COVERED APPLES
Start to finish: 30 minutes (10 minutes active)
3 ounces heavy cream
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate bits
4 apples (any variety)
4 wooden pop sticks
Chopped salted peanuts (optional)
Chopped milk chocolate (optional)
In a small saucepan over medium-low, heat the cream and peanut butter until bubbling. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate bits. Stir until completely smooth. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, from the bottom push a pop stick up into the core of each apple. The stick should go deep enough to be sturdy, but leave enough exposed to serve as a handle.
Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Place the peanuts and/or milk chocolate in bowls, if using.
One at a time, using the sticks handles, dip the apples in the chocolate mixture. Use a spoon to scoop up extra chocolate and pour over the apples to help coat the sides.
Allow the extra chocolate to drip back into the pan. Dip the coated apples into the nuts and milk chocolate, if desired.
Stand the apples, stick in the air, on the lined baking sheet.
Refrigerate until firm.
APPLE CHEDDAR PUFFS
Start to finish: 45 minutes
Makes 24 puffs
For the puffs:
1 cup water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
11/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
For the filling:
4 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup water, divided
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Heat the oven to 425 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high, heat the water, butter and salt until boiling. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan and forms and ball of dough, about 1 minute.
Transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric mixer.
Mix with the paddle attachment for 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until fully incorporated before adding the next. When all of the eggs have been incorporated, mix in the cheese.
Spoon the mixture into a large zip-close bag with the corner cut off (or a pastry bag). Gently squeeze the bag to create walnut-size mounds on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each mound. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the oven to 375 F and bake for another 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove the puffs from the oven and pierce the side of each to allow steam to escape. Cool completely, then use or store in an airtight container up to 24 hours.
While the puffs bake, make the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium-high, cook the apples, sugar, ginger, lemon juice, salt and 2 tablespoons of the water just until the apples are tender, about 6 minutes. In a glass, stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons water and the cornstarch, then add to the apples.
Bring up to a simmer and cook just until the mixture thickens, about 1 to 2 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before using.
The mixture also can be refrigerated up to 24 hours prior to being added to the puffs. If so, rewarm just before using.
To fill the puffs, cut each in half horizontally. Spoon a small amount of the filling into the bottom of the shell, then replace the top half of the shell.
Serve warm or at room temperature.