“How many apples fell on Newton’s head before he took the hint? Nature is always hinting at us. It hints over and over again. And suddenly we take the hint.” –Robert Frost

Nature is indeed hinting at change as it sheds its robe of green and garbs itself in the richly textured colors of fall. Our landscape is a tapestry tinged with the autumn shades of burnt orange, russet, gold, umber and burgundy.

While early October bestows a last lingering embrace of warmth, twilight creeps in too early! But there is much beauty to behold as the golden glow of the harvest moon illuminates the dark of night, casting eerie shadows over fields and forests.

October days are filled with crisp, clean air and the opportunity to prepare the recipes of a new season. Apples are one of the treasures of autumn and apple picking is a marvelous way to enjoy a sunny fall afternoon.

Connecticut-grown apple varieties include Red Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, Gala, Rome, McIntosh, Macoun, Empire, Ida Red, Cortland, Newtown Pippin, Mutsu and Honeycrisp. Honeycrisps have been my absolute favorite for several years now. So sweet, yet sturdy, they are the perfect choice for snacking as well as baking.

Conscious cooks appreciate the full palette of texture and taste that the many varieties of apples provide, ranging from wonderfully winsome to tongue-puckering tartness. What a marvelous fruit, so perfect all on its own, yet such a versatile ingredient in a multitude of sweet and savory dishes.  Salads, sauces, syrup, cakes, breads, pies, tarts, chutney, coffee cake, pancakes are all fantastic uses for fresh apples.

Salads bridge the gap between summer and fall quite nicely, when apples are employed. Pungent greens such as arugula, or watercress tossed with apple chunks, blue cheese, toasted walnuts and dressed with warm cider vinaigrette make an exemplary autumn dish.

When is the last time you enjoyed a Waldorf salad? Originally conceived in 1896 by an employee at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City, this uncomplicated concoction of apples, celery and mayonnaise was wildly popular. You can assemble this simple yet polished salad by mixing 1 cup of Granny Smith apples (or any tart apple of your choice) with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add 1 cup chopped celery and ¼ cup of good mayonnaise. Mix everything together and place atop a bed of lettuce. It is your option to include a ¼ cup of raisins and ¼ cup of toasted walnuts.

An apple a day, may in fact keep the doctor away. Enjoying one crisp, orchard fresh, apple each day may give your body many health benefits, including improving your memory. Apples are a luscious source of dietary fiber which helps with weight loss and digestion. The fiber and phytonutrient content in apples may help lower blood cholesterol, improve bowel function, reduce heart disease, stroke, prostate cancer, Type II diabetes and asthma.

Savor the season and take nature’s hint to make apples a part of preparing your delicious life!

Autumn Baked Apples

Serves 6.

6 large apples (Honeycrisp!)

Grated zest of 1 orange

8 tablespoons raisins or dried cherries

¼ cup chopped dried apricots

½ cup chopped hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts

¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar

¼ cup unsalted organic butter

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ cup organic honey

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice or apple cider

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut apples in half then core apples and scoop out enough area to create a small cavity. Mix together orange zest, raisins or cherries, apricots, nuts, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon until well blended. Divide this mixture evenly among the apples, pushing down to fill the cavities. In a saucepan over low heat, mix honey, orange juice or cider and heat until honey dissolves. Pour this mixture over the apples.

Bake apples until tender, about 45 minutes, basting often with the juice mixture. Let apples cool slightly before serving. If you are feeling so inclined, drizzle with a bit of heavy cream.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing, fresh, natural ingredients and simple, delicious recipes. She conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net. Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com.