Stewed Apples with Cinnamon Nut Streusel

This might not sound like much. After all…apples? Meh.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I don’t want no stinkin’ apples! I want chocolate cake!!”

But, if you’re like me and you just can’t have chocolate cake anymore, then this yummy little dish is definitely a welcome thing. It’s naturally fruit-sweet, with subtle flavors of cinnamon. The added crunch of the cinnamon nut streusel adds great flavor and texture. It’s kind of addicting, actually. I’ve come to depend on it and make enormous vats of the stuff so that I have some on hand at all times. I’m not kidding. I have it for breakfast almost every day. I have it for a snack at night. I have it in the middle of the day just because I want a quick sweet-ish fix. And, the best thing, I can have as much as I want because there’s nothing at all wrong with eating it! 

So, while the chocolate chip cookies I posted last week might be closer to the things you remember craving, you have to be careful about eating too many of those if you’re trying to live an anti-inflammation, reduced grain life. But these apples? Chow away, baby.

This dish uses a couple tricks to get around the no-sugar thing:

  1. Use naturally sweet apples. The sweetness of the apples is really key here, since you’re not adding sweetener. If you start with tart or bland apples, then the finished product will be tart or bland. If you like that, then go for it, but if you want it sweet like me, start with naturally sweet apples. I like using Honeycrisp – they have a wonderful flavor – but Gala is another sweet option, and more available year-round.
  2. Use spices that complement the flavor of the apples. I use cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and allspice berries and cook them in the pot with the apples. These add a subtle flavor to the apples that helps make up for the lack of sugar. Your brain still doesn’t get that chemical sugar-rush (it never will without white sugar), but your tastebuds are happy!
  3. Use vanilla. I’ve found that vanilla goes a long way to make things taste naturally sweeter, and I use it liberally in lots of dishes. Just make sure you use the real stuff, not the imitation “vanilla flavor” stuff. I know, I know, it’s like tons more expensive, but the fake stuff is full of sugar and wood pulp and other things you don’t want to eat. (That’s right, they use wood pulp to simulate the flavor of vanilla. Wood pulp.) Even if it says “Pure” vanilla, though, read the label! Always read labels. For example, McCormick’s “Pure” Vanilla has corn syrup listed as an ingredient! I use Shanks vanilla. It’s pure, and relatively cheap. This 4 oz bottle is $6.99 and has only water, alcohol and vanilla beans. It might be a Pennsylvania thing though (the label looks really Pennsylvania-Dutch-ish), I don’t know, so just read your labels.

(I did see this post about making your own vanilla extract, which looks extremely simple and way cheaper than buying it, so I’m going to try it out. The only problem is having to wait for it…but once it’s done you have a lot of great vanilla!)

Anyway, on to the apples. It’s way easy.

First, peel and cut a bunch of apples and stick them in a pot. I used about 12 large Honeycrisp apples here. Load up the pot, not worrying about if it’s overflowing a little, because they’ll cook down. As I said, I make as much of the stuff as I can so I have it on hand at all times, so I fill it up.

Then add about a cup of water and the spices. I put in 4 cinnamon sticks and about 4 each of whole cloves and allspice berries, because I had them on hand. Amounts aren’t really important here – just toss some in. If you don’t have the allspice and cloves (pictured below), they’re not essential, just nice. The cinnamon sticks are the really important part. And the good news about cinnamon sticks is that you can use them more than once! Just rinse them off and let them dry when you’re done, and you can use them at least once more.

Turn the heat on high just long enough to bring the water to a boil, and then cover the pot and turn it down to low. Leave it for at least 30 minutes, or until the apples look like this.

While it’s cooking, check on it a couple times, stirring it around and making sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pot and that you don’t need to add any more liquid. When the apples are soft and break apart, taste them. If you really think you need to make them sweeter, you can try adding some stevia, but I like them better without it. Be careful, because you don’t want to ruin the whole pot. (If you really want it sweeter, the next time you make them you can use apple juice instead of water, but that won’t be quite as anti-inflammation friendly so you won’t be able to eat them as liberally.)

You can eat these apples as-is, straight from the pot, or wait until they’re cooled. They taste great warm, but for whatever reason they taste much sweeter once they’re chilled.

For the streusel, take about a cup each of pecans and walnuts and chop them up. I like mine fine, so I put them through a food processor, but you can simply chop them up if you like. Put them in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of melted butter and a couple shakes of cinnamon.

Pat the mixture into a 8×8 pan and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. They should smell nutty and cinnamony and awesome.

After they cool, put them in a ziplock bag or airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for when you need them. If you’ll be keeping them for longer than just a few weeks, it might be better to keep them in the freezer.

 To serve, sprinkle as much of the streusel on a bowl of the apples as you want!

I like a lot.

Stewed Apples with Cinnamon Nut Streusel

  • 12 large sweet apples, like Honeycrisp or Gala, or enough to fill a large 5 quart pot
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 4 each of cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, and whole cloves

Peel, core, and slice the apples and place them in a large pot with the water and spices. Cook them over high heat for a few minutes, until you can hear that the water is starting to boil, and then cover the pot and turn the heat down low. Cook over low heat for at lest 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the apples are soft and fall apart. Serve hot or cold. (They taste sweeter once they’re chilled, but are very good hot too.)

Cinnamon Nut Streusel

  • About 1 cup each of pecans and walnuts (or nuts of your choice)
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • A couple shakes of cinnamon

Pulse the nuts in a food processor, or chop them finely. Put them in a bowl with the melted butter and cinnamon, and mix them together. Press them into an 8×8 pan and cook at 350 for 13-15 minutes. Once they’re cooled, you can put them in a zip-top bag or airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for when you need them. If you’re going to keep them longer than just a few weeks, then keep them in the freezer instead.

(This was part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday.)