Apple chips and overnight apple cinnamon oatmeal

Have you heard about yumPower? It’s a healthy eating initiative spearheaded by health care provider Health Partners. Maybe you’ve seen the Andrew Zimmern tv spots:

During February, yumPower offered a School Challenge at my kids’ school to encourage eating more fruits and vegetables. Each kid received a kit that included fruit & veggie tracking charts, healthy eating tips, and recipe cards with ways that kids can get involved in the kitchen. Very cool!

I’m always looking for ways for our family to eat more fruits and vegetables, and this school challenge kit inspired me.

The first recipe that caught my eye was apple chips. I’ve often eyeballed the bags of apple chips at the grocery store and dismissed buying them because they seemed expensive, but for some reason I’ve never attempted making apple chips at home. Now yumPower was nudging us to JUST DO IT. So we did.

It turns out that apple chips are super easy to make – just thinly slice 4 large apples, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (I liked 2 T. sugar+1 tsp. cinnamon) and bake on parchment-lined baking sheets in a 225 degree oven for about 2 hours, flipping the slices over midway through the cooking time so that they dry evenly. I love that you can make these chips in the oven without needing to use a dehydrator.

You can choose to core or not core the apples. I used a chef’s knife to slice mine, but use a mandoline if you have one because you’ll be able to make more even slices and the thinner you slice the apples, the crispier they’ll get.

The apple slices may not seem completely crispy when you take them out of the oven after 2 hours, but once they cool, they firm up further.  Then, yum, it’s crunch time!

My biggest question was: which apple variety to use? There are many varieties at stores this time of year but some are more expensive than others and some are better for baking than others. Our family typically rotates between Fuji, Gala, and Braeburn for fresh eating. It turns out that these varieties, along with Granny Smith, are all good for baking as well.

All of these apples are fairly crisp. The difference is in the flavor – more specifically, the level of sweetness vs. tartness.  A primer:
Fuji – Sweet
Gala – Slightly sweet
Braeburn – Slightly tart
Granny Smith – Tart

It was time to experiment. We first made the yumPower recipe using their original cinnamon-sugar proportions (2 T. sugar, 2 tsp. cinn.) and Braeburn apples, then made a 2nd batch using Fuji and Granny Smith apples, using less cinnamon and more sugar.

In the end, there was little difference in flavor between apple varieties. As for the cinnamon-sugar ratio, I preferred less cinnamon and more sugar than the original recipe. But that’s just me; you should do your own experiments to see what you prefer. Maybe you’ll be stronger than me and decide to leave out the sugar altogether! That’ll be my next experiment…

Well, onto the big question: would my kids eat these chips? It turned out, no, they will not. My daughter ate one chip, then said she didn’t like it. My son took one nibble and immediately spit it out. That’s OK; all the more for me. I’ll just have to offer them another 10 times and the kids will crack, I’m sure of it.

***

Undeterred, I moved on to the recipe for overnight apple cinnamon oatmeal. Another super easy and healthy option, this recipe is quick to assemble, cooks overnight while you sleep, and most magically of all, is ready to eat when you wake up. What could be better than that?

Well, even better is when your kids will eat it. My daughter requests this for breakfast now.  It’s a keeper!

I’d recommend using Granny Smith apples for this recipe because I think the flavor stands up better to the long cooking time. I also tweaked the recipe’s liquid amounts because I felt the original recipe was too dry.

Topped with some chopped pecans and perhaps some fresh apples or pears, this breakfast will give you serious fuel for your day.

Thanks for the kitchen inspiration, yumPower!

Overnight Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
Print
Recipe type: Breakfast
Author: Adapted from yumPower
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 8 hours
Total time: 8 hours 15 mins
Serves: 4-6
A hearty slow cooker breakfast porridge to start your day right
Ingredients
  • 2-4 apples (to yield about 3 cups of chopped apples)
  • 1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1 T. ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. butter, cut into 5-6 pieces (optional)
Instructions
  1. Core and peel the apples, then cut them into 1/2 inch pieces.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.
  4. Eat as is, or add your choice of toppings: chopped nuts, chopped fresh apples or pears, berries, bananas, honey, or almond butter.
  5. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
  6. To reheat: combine 1 cup of cooked oatmeal with 1/3 cup milk; microwave on high for 1 minute and stir; microwave for 1 more minute or until hot.

Friday’s Food for Thought – Feb. 8

Every week I read tons of news, primarily related to food, health, wellness and sustainability. On any given day, you’ll find me sharing links to relevant news stories and recipes on Twitter and sometimes on Green Your Plate’s Facebook page.

Here are some of the items that caught my eye in the Internet sphere over the past week:

Happy Friday!

Is food blogging hazardous to your health?


“Your butt looks HUGE in those pajamas, Mommy.”

Ouch. I’d been modeling some new PJs I’d bought last August. Stopping mid-twirl, I looked at my five-year old. That was painful to hear. But you know what? He had a point. My butt WAS huge. Leave it to kids to call it like they see it.

Over the past few years of blogging, I’d slowly gained a few pounds here, a few pounds there. When you’re a food blogger, you’re either constantly cooking food, photographing food, reading about food, writing about food, talking about food, or thinking about food. Food is front and center in your life. Or at least it was in mine.

But food itself wasn’t the only issue. It was also the hours spent hunched over a laptop in the evening, staying up late to write, not getting enough sleep, tiredness the next day fueling unhealthy food cravings, skipping workouts over the lunch hour because I wanted to work on my blog posts. A vicious cycle.

Can I blame my weight gain solely on blogging? It probably isn’t that simple. Forty is creeping up on me. (Well, not actually creeping. It’s ready to blast in my face this March.) Over the last year, I didn’t seem to be eating more than the previous year but the weight was piling on at an accelerating rate. If it’s true that the average person gains a pound a year and your metabolism slows as you age, I was in trouble. I had gained somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds over the last couple of years.

That exchange with my son was the final straw. I needed to do something. And one of the somethings was to (temporarily? permanently?) give up blogging.

My new regimen consisted of getting up at 5 am to go to the gym before work, five days a week. Getting up so early meant that I needed to go to bed early. With my kids’ bedtime around 8, that meant most of my free time in the evenings disappeared. I also started going to strength training classes twice a week during evenings/weekends. So, that time disappeared. And I started going for walks over lunchtime whenever I could. No time at lunch…you get the picture.

When you’re a working parent with young kids, time is a precious commodity. It all comes down to priorities. You can only do so much. Which choices are going to serve you the best?

A long way of saying — this is another reason why I haven’t been blogging these past several months. How ironic that my goal was to lead a healthier lifestyle, and blogging was getting in the way of that.

But I’m ready to take a crack at it again. I may not post as frequently as I did in the past, but I do want to keep sharing stories, recipes, food news and other cool things I come across with you all. I’m excited to rejoin the conversation.

After I return from the gym, that is…

Long time no see

Zzzzzzzz….wha? I haven’t posted anything new for six months?? My social sabbatical has lasted longer than I expected.

Blogging life for me has always been like a faucet. I’m on or I’m off. During some periods, the ideas swarm and words pour onto the page effortlessly as fast as I can type them. During others, it’s like a mental drought has set in. I have nothing new to say. That’s when I take a break.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been taking a long social media slumber since July. Last summer I decided to step back from this blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to gain some perspective on why I was doing any of it. I stopped taking food photos, I stopped tweeting, I stopped Instagramming, I stopped caring about any of it.

I poured my energies into my family, work, and other personal projects. I researched our car purchase. I did yoga. I became a political junkie. I raced to meet work deadlines. I hosted multiple birthday parties. I watched helplessly as a close family member’s health deteriorated to the point that he passed away just before Christmas.

I lived life in the here and now, attending to what matters.

But then the itch begins again. To write, to share, to inspire. It starts with friends and family asking me, why haven’t you been blogging?

The answer is complicated. Among the many reasons–

A macro view: There are tens of thousands of food blogs and information overload. Local, seasonal food no longer feels like a fresh topic. Why elbow in to an increasingly crowded Internet conversation? Why contribute more to the Internet clutter?

A micro take: I don’t have the spare time right now to develop my own recipes from scratch. I haven’t succeeded in fully walking the local, seasonal, sustainable talk. And anyway, what do I have to offer that’s unique? I’m never going to be a food superstar. Why bother doing it at all?

Then I receive emails from readers like you, saying that what I shared made a difference to them. And ultimately, that’s what matters to me and what keeps me going – that I inform and inspire others.

So, that’s what I hope to start doing again.

Nighttime Nice Ride

YOU ARE HERE. We stood gazing at the map before us. Hmm…should we take a nighttime Nice Ride through downtown Minneapolis tonight?

We were in the neighborhood that evening to celebrate my husband’s birthday. The plan was to mosey down to the Minneapolis riverfront, have a drink on the patio at Aster Cafe, then head to dinner at Restaurant Alma. We’d taken the bus from our home in northeast Minneapolis and, with the kids tucked away at their grandparents overnight, the night was ripe with possibility. It was a night to BE.

But there they were, those bright fluorescent green Nice Ride bikes queued up, ready for us to hop on. No matter that I was wearing a dress; the urban trails were calling our names. It was a night to DO.

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