Apple Fritter Pull-Aparts

I love apple fritters. They are one of my favorite donuts. If you also love apple fritters, you will love these pull-aparts. Little bits of apple tucked into warm chunks of cinnamon pastry, buttery and sugary, and slathered in frosting. What’s not to love!

Last month at Fort Ebey State Park, I made this for the scoutmasters and it was a huge hit. Fresh out of the oven, the apple fritter pull-aparts were warm and gooey, and the apples were still a little al dente. We all loved it! I served them with sausages and it was a great breakfast on a chilly Sunday morning.

Equipment
12-inch Dutch oven, small bowl, knife, cutting board.

Ingredients
3 cups apples (about 4 medium apples), peeled, cored, and diced small
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cans Pillsbury Grands! Cinnamon Rolls (5 rolls each)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoon heavy whipping cream or milk, optional

Prep
Prep the apples and place in a bowl with the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and ground cinnamon. Stir to combine and set aside. Line your Dutch oven with foil, grease the foil, and then start 25 coals.

While the coals are starting, cut each cinnamon roll into 6 pieces. They’ll fall apart and that’s okay. Sprinkle the pieces evenly in the Dutch oven. Sprinkle the apples over the cinnamon roll pieces. Stir the melted butter and brown sugar together, and then pour over the top of the apples and cinnamon rolls.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 28-33 minutes.

Just before serving, place the icing that came with the cinnamon rolls in a small bowl or a tin cup. Heat just long enough to make it pourable. Stir in heavy whipping cream (or milk) to make it more of a glaze, and then pour over the top. Serve warm.

Serves 10-12

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Frittatas, Stratas, and Quiche, Oh My

Frittatas, stratas, and quiche are all egg dishes typically served for breakfast or brunch, although you could also serve them for dinner. They are very similar and often get confused with one another. They all include eggs and usually cheese. They may also include meat, seafood, and/or vegetables. They are all savory dishes; however, a strata could go sweet. They are great for feeding groups, large or small.

Frittata

You could describe a frittata as a crustless quiche. You could also describe it as a baked omelet. Either way, it is easy to make at home and in camp. Because it has no crust, a frittata is naturally gluten free. If you leave out the cheese or substitute a non dairy cheese then it becomes dairy free. If you leave out meat, now it’s vegetarian. Frittatas are very versatile.

To make at home, you’ll need a cast iron skillet or an oven safe skillet. In camp, you’ll need a Dutch oven. Start by browning the meat and sautéing the vegetables. If you want your vegetables to be crisp, you could skip that step. Whisk together the eggs, cheese and any seasonings, and pour over the top of the meats and vegetables. And then you bake it. If you wanted, you could sprinkle a little more cheese on top during the last 5 minutes of baking. Serve warm. It makes a great breakfast any time of year. Here are a couple of our favorite frittatas.

Denver Frittata

Zucchini and Onion Frittata

Ham and Cheese and Broccoli Frittata

Strata

Literally meaning layers, a strata is a layered breakfast casserole made from a mixture of bread, eggs, milk, and cheese. A savory version may also include meat or vegetables. A sweet version may include fruit. The usual preparation requires the bread to be layered with the filling; however, depending on the recipe, you could also toss everything together like a salad before pouring the egg mixture over the top. The dish requires a rest of anywhere between one hour and overnight before it is baked. This allows the bread to soak up the egg mixture. A strata could also be described as a French toast casserole or a bread pudding. Stratas can be prepped the night before and then placed in the refrigerator to rest. In the morning, you just pull it out and pop it into the oven.

To make at home, you’ll need a casserole dish. In camp, you’ll need a Dutch oven or you could make it in a casserole dish and bake it in a box oven. Meats will need to be browned and vegetables could be sautéed to soften them. Bread will need to be cubed or torn into chunks. To increase the bread’s ability to absorb the egg mixture, some recipes recommend using stale or dried bread. Serve warm. Here are a couple of our favorite stratas.

Sausage Croissant Strata

Fruity French Toast Casserole

Blueberry French Toast Cobbler

Quiche

Quiche has an open-faced pastry crust and a filling of eggs and milk or cream which, when baked, becomes a custard. It can be made with cheese, vegetables, meat and seafood. A quiche is a frittata in a pie crust. You wouldn’t think the pie crust would add much in the way of flavor, but it actually brings a lot to the party and really gives the dish its signature flavor. Quiche can be served hot or cold although I prefer mine served hot. In the late ‘70s, quiche became extremely popular and they were featured everywhere, including television and movies. By the early ‘80s, the fad seemed to fade; however, quiche has remained steady brunch and party food since.

At home, you’ll need a pie or tart pan. In camp, I would also use a pie or tart pan and bake it in a box oven. You can use a store-bought crust or make your own. Just like the others, meats would need to be browned first and vegetables could be sautéed to soften them. I haven’t actually made a quiche in camp yet, but I might have to now.

Again, these are all great dishes for serving to groups, large and small. They are simple to throw together and, for camping, a lot of prep work could be done ahead of time at home. You can serve them with potato dishes, breads, fruits, or just about anything.

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Denver Frittata

On the average West Coast diner breakfast menu, the Denver Omelet, also known as the Western Omelet, is a common item. It’s made with red and green bell peppers, onion, ham, and cheddar cheese, and has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. So, how to make one in camp or for a crowd? Convert it to a frittata.

Frittatas are simply baked omelets and perform extremely well in a Dutch oven in camp or in a cast iron skillet at home. Like most frittatas, this one starts on the camp stove by sautéing the vegetables. Once the vegetables are soft, the ham is mixed in and the cheese sprinkled on top. The egg mixture is poured over everything and the whole thing is baked until the eggs are puffy and set. The last 5 minutes of baking, you could even sprinkle on a bit more cheese to melt on top before serving. How easy is that?

The Denver is popular and has endured over the decades because of it’s bold flavors. Between the onion and peppers, sharp cheddar cheese, and smokey, salty ham, it is a great breakfast any time of year. Serve with biscuits, hashbrowns, and fruit. It’s sure to be a winner!

Equipment
10-inch Dutch oven or 7×9 or 9×9 baking dish, bowl, whisk.

Ingredients
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced small
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced small
1/3 cup yellow onion, diced small
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup (heaping) ham, cooked and diced small
8 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and black pepper

Prep
The ham and vegetables can be diced at home and loaded into containers or resealable bags for the ride to camp in the cooler.

In camp, assemble your materials (mise en place) and start 25 coals in a chimney.

On medium-high heat on a propane stove, heat oil in the Dutch oven. Add the bell peppers and onion and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, in a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and add the ham and toss together. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the ham and vegetables. Bake in a 400°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for about 25 minutes or until egg is puffy and set. Serves 6.

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Product Review: Italia Artisan Pizza Oven

Earlier this month, our Boy Scout Troop camped on Whidbey Island at Fort Ebey State Park. We were in a group site located on a bluff with amazing views of Port Townsend, Fort Worden, Fort Flagler, the Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Canada. Friday night, we had gale force wind gusts, which made it a bit challenging to get all the tents up, but we managed.

Saturday dawned bright and clear with only an occasional shower. It was a great weekend and I was cooking for the Scoutmasters, which is always fun. The menu included a few favorites like biscuits and gravy, and cornbread, but I also field-tested a couple of new recipes, so in the coming weeks I’ll have some winners to share. The menu also included personal pizzas for lunch on Saturday, thanks to one of our scoutmasters.

Recently, Mr. Weddle purchased an Italia Artisan Pizza Oven from Camp Chef. It’s a self contained unit that hooks up to a propane tank. It can run on a 1lb disposable propane bottle or a standard bulk propane tank. It puts out 17,000 BTUs and oven temperatures can reach upwards of 700°F. And, it only weighs 47 pounds so it was easy to move.

It was designed to replicate the performance of a wood-fired brick oven from its double walled construction and specially designed burners to its ventilation and cordierite ceramic pizza stone. I’d say Camp Chef nailed it. The pizzas came out great! We were all very impressed.

I have to preface this by saying, in the five years I have known him, Mr. Weddle has never cooked on a campout. So, it was so much fun to see him get all excited to use this pizza oven and he, literally, took over my camp kitchen and personally made pizzas for all 10 of us scoutmasters, including himself. And, yes, that is a little pink rolling pin in his hand in the picture below. It was a gift from his beautiful wife so he could roll out his mini pizzas.

He brought store-bought pizza dough and a couple different jars of pizza sauce. He brought a variety of meats and some shredded cheese. I provided more cheese and some vegetables because he doesn’t “do” vegetables. I’ve mentioned several times in previous blogs how I have to sneak them into whatever I am making. So, between the two of us and a couple of other scoutmasters, we had quite the variety of pizza toppings.

Mr. Weddle divided his dough and made personal-sized pizzas for each of us. He was able to bake two pizzas at a time, and they cooked pretty fast so it didn’t take long at all to make 10 pizzas. The dough was cooked, the toppings were hot, and the cheese was melted and gooey, just as it should be.

Because it was cold and windy, he did struggle a little with maintaining the air temperature inside the oven. As a result, the stone was a little hotter than it probably should have been. Some of the pizzas did get a wee bit black on the underside, but it didn’t affect the flavor too much.

Overall, I’d rule it a success and told Mr. Weddle his pizza oven was welcome in my camp kitchen any time!

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Sausage Cheese Croissant Catastrophe

Another catastrophe for the recipe book. We made this a couple weeks ago while teaching outdoor cooking to Girl Scout adult volunteers at Camp Robbinswold. It was very tasty. The croissants brought a buttery sweetness and the Swiss cheese was nutty and sweet, which were nice contrasts to the savory sausage, green onions, and Parmesan.

It was easy to make in camp. The sausage could be browned at home or browned in the Dutch oven in camp. The first five ingredients are tossed together like a salad. The egg mixture is poured over the top and then it’s all covered in cheese. For a fancier version, you could use Gruyère cheese. Kids can help prep by tearing the croissants into chunks.

I would recommend getting it all assembled and then starting your coals. The catastrophe can rest while the coals get going. After a 45 minute bake, the eggs are cooked through and the cheese is all melty.

Equipment
12-inch Dutch oven or 13×9 baking dish, bowl, whisk.

Ingredients
1 pound ground sausage, browned
1¼ cups (5 ounces) Parmesan cheese shredded
1 teaspoon salt
6 green onions, sliced
1 package mini croissants (about 24), torn into chunks
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
5 large eggs, beaten
2 cups Gruyère or Swiss cheese

Prep
Foil line your Dutch oven if you choose, and coat it with butter or cooking spray. To the Dutch oven add browned sausage, Parmesan cheese, salt, green onions and croissant chunks, and toss together. Whisk together the milk, cream and eggs, and pour over the top. Let it rest so the croissants soak up all the liquid. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 45 minutes.

Serves 10-12

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Why We Do Not Feed the Bears…or Other Critters

Now that the weather is finally warming up, we’re spending more time outside, which means more encounters with critters that should be simply left alone.

But it’s hard, I get that. When you see a cute little chipmunk or bird sitting on the edge of the picnic table, it’s hard not to reach out with a potato chip in your fingers and see if it will approach and eat from your hand.

As fun and exciting as this sounds, we shouldn’t feed the wildlife, and it doesn’t matter how tame or friendly or cute they are. Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Wild animals needs to stay wild. When animals are fed they become used to people. They become tame, they lose their wildness, and that can make them vulnerable.

Most wild animals already have access to the food that they need to stay alive. They don’t really need us feeding them. And, let’s face it, a lot of what we feed them (junk food) is not good for them.

Fed wildlife lose the ability to find food on their own. If it’s easy for an animal to eat picnic area and campsite trash then what’s the point in even finding food on their own?

Sometimes areas with abundant food trash attract animals and increase population rates. This can increase the spread of disease among animals and disrupt the whole natural ebb and flow of life.

Animals that are normally passive can become aggressive once they are accustomed to foraging out of the garbage or out of our hands.

It’s just a bad idea to get up close and personal with animals that can carry diseases like rabies.

Before you toss a few nuts at a chipmunk, please take a moment and consider the implications and long-term effects on the animal and the delicate ecosystem it lives in, and that we are just visiting.

I understand that maybe you’re just trying to be kind. But we can be kind in other ways by leaving the outdoors better than how we found it. We can clean up trash. We can work to restore rivers and streams. We can make their habitats a better place for them to live in and for us to visit.

Let’s leave the wildlife alone no matter how cute they are and keep our snacks to ourselves.

The only wildlife we should be feeding is our kids!

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A Tale of Two Casseroles

Today we’re offering a two-fer! Two recipes for the price of one!

The church we attend has a monthly Faith Sharing Breakfast. It’s simply a time to gather as a congregation and share a meal and conversation with one another.

Sometimes, the tables can fill pretty quickly and you end up sitting next to someone you either don’t know or haven’t seen in a while, and it’s an opportunity to make a new friend or catch up. They are a lot of fun.

Well, I’m on the committee and I help plan them and I volunteer to cook something each month. Surprising, I know!

Last month, I volunteered to make two breakfast casseroles (in scouting circles we call them catastrophes). I used the same recipe for both; however, for one I decided to go with a country sausage and for the other I used a hot Italian sausage. Both were a hit.

This is a simple way of adding variety when you’re cooking for a crowd. It’s also a way to cook for different dietary needs or heat levels. For example, my daughter doesn’t like heat so, of course, she went for the mild country sausage version. My son, when it comes to heat, always says, “Bring it!” so, of course, he went for the hot Italian sausage version.

The best part was watching this little elderly lady go through the line. She read the description on my hot Italian sausage version, placed a dainty spoonful onto her plate, thought about it, and then doubled down and took a second more generous spoonful. She didn’t regret that decision and thoroughly enjoyed her breakfast.

When you’re cooking for a small crowd, instead of making a lot of the same dish, try making a couple of different dishes or variations of the same dish. It adds variety and is a great way to cater to different needs whether they be heat tolerance or vegetarian or gluten or dairy. Like the two catastrophes, simply changing one ingredient can radically alter the dish.

This is a simple breakfast with just a few ingredients. It goes together very quickly. The meat could be cooked ahead of time and brought to camp in your cooler. I also use the carton of liquid eggs or I scramble them at home and pour them into a bottle for transport to camp. In camp, when it’s time to make breakfast, it’s just some assembly required.

This would make a great Sunday morning breakfast if you foil-lined your Dutch oven. Everything gets dumped into the oven, toss it together like tossing a salad, pour on the eggs, and get it on the coals. When I mixed this together, I put on food handlers’ gloves and mixed it with my hands. It was so easy.

Equipment
12-inch Dutch oven or 9×13 casserole dish, large bowl, whisk.

Ingredients
2 pounds sausage (breakfast, hot or mild)
1 (30-32oz) bag of frozen tater tots
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 eggs
2 cups milk

If You’re Prepping at Home
In a large skillet on medium heat, add a little olive oil and brown the sausage until no longer pink. Drain off the excess fat, cool, and load into a releasable plastic bag or a container for transport to camp. In camp, foil-line the Dutch oven and grease the foil. Start 25 coals. Add the tator tots, cooked sausage and cheese to the Dutch oven and toss together. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and milk. Pour over the tator tot mixture and bake (see baking instructions below).

If You’re Prepping in Camp
On coals or on a propane stove, over medium heat, add a little olive oil to your Dutch oven and brown the sausage until no longer pink. Remove from heat. Spoon out the sausage into a large bowl. Drain the excess fat from the Dutch oven and set aside. Start 25 coals. To the sausage bowl, add the tator tots and cheese and toss together like a salad. Pour into the Dutch oven. In the same bowl, whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and milk. Pour over tater tot mixture and bake (see baking instructions below).

If You’re Making at Home
In a large skillet on medium heat, add a little olive oil and brown the sausage until no longer pink. Drain off the excess fat, cool, and load into a greased 9×13 casserole dish. Add the tator tots and cheese and toss together like a salad. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and milk. Pour over the tator tot mixture and bake (see baking instructions below).

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 1 hour or until eggs are set. Refresh coals as needed.

Serves 8

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Spring is Sproinging

Monday was the first day of spring! Are you ready to go camping? Not quite or not sure? Now is a good time to get into the attic, the basement, the garage, the RV, or where ever you store your camping gear and do an assessment.

What needs to be repaired or replaced? Was there anything last year that wasn’t working, but you didn’t have the time or the budget to fix it? Are there any improvements you’d like to make for this year?

A good night’s rest is important.

Are you sleeping as comfortably or as warm as you’d like to? Maybe you need a new cot or a new pad or a new sleeping bag. Maybe all you need is a new set of polypropylene to wear or to sleep in. Speaking of clothing…. How’s that pair of boots feeling? Time for a new pair of hiking boots? In the camp kitchen, I tend to spend a lot of time on my feet so good footwear is important. I also have weak ankles and uneven ground is a recipe for a sprain so having high top boots with good ankle support is important to me.

How’s your camp kitchen looking?

Is your camp kitchen in good shape? Last year, what prevented you from upping your outdoor cooking game? Do you need more workspace? Perhaps you need a new work table. I have a couple tables that have adjustable legs so I can raise them up to a counter height, which my back really likes. I highly recommend them.

Experiment

Would you like to try something new this year? A new activity or a new way of cooking outdoors? If you’ve never cooked in a Dutch oven or a box oven but have wanted to, then let’s set a goal for this year and do it!

Reserve Early, Reserve Often

Now is also a good time to get on the internet and make reservations. Some popular campgrounds fill fast and are difficult to get into. For some of the really popular ones, you should be making reservations 9 months to a year in advance; so while you’re thinking about it, go ahead and make reservations for spring 2018.

Convert Some Non-Campers

Do you have any friends or family members who have never camped or don’t camp much? Maybe they just don’t know how to do it comfortably, so they don’t realize how much fun it can be. Invite them with you and help them up their camping game.

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Enchilada Pull-Aparts

enchilada_pull-aparts_img_2090_690px

The first time I made these, I accidentally used diced jalapenos instead of diced green chilies. They were just a wee bit spicy, but we still really liked them. In addition to being hot and tasty, these go together in a snap and take only 30 minutes to bake. You can easily have dinner on the picnic table in under an hour. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and a salad, and you have a great meal.

This is also a dish that you can easily customize. I did, without even intending to, when I swapped the diced green chilies for diced jalapenos. You could swap the red enchilada sauce for green or swap the ground beef for chicken. You could add black beans, diced tomatoes, or some corn. Whatever floats your boat. Have some fun and make it your own. I’ll bet it becomes a family favorite.

Equipment
12-inch Dutch oven or 9×13 baking dish.

Ingredients
1 package of refrigerated biscuit dough
10 ounces enchilada sauce (we like to use red)
1 pound ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning or use your own mix
4 ounce can diced green chilies or diced jalapenos
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated pepper jack or Monterey jack cheese

Prep

On a propane stove or over coals, in a Dutch oven, brown the ground beef. Drain the grease and stir in the taco seasoning and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir in the diced green chilies or jalapenos. Remove from heat and set aside. Start your coals.

Open the biscuits and slice each biscuit into 8 small pieces. Add the biscuits and enchilada sauce to the Dutch oven and lightly mix everything together like tossing a salad. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.

Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 30 minutes or until the biscuits are cooked through and the cheese is fully melted. You could also load this into a 9×13 baking pan and bake it in a box oven, using about 14 coals.

Top with cilantro, avocado or guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce, etc.

Serves about 8

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Apples of My Eye

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This Saturday, March 11, is National Johnny Appleseed Day. John Chapman (1774-1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples. Sounds like a Scout.

Here in Washington state, the apple is our state fruit and Washington produces about 42% of the apples grown in the United States, and 60% of those are grown for fresh consumption.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old Welsh proverb that most of us are familiar with, but what makes this fruit so special?

Nutritional powerhouses, apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids, and dietary fiber. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.

A collection of research studies suggest that apples can improve neurological health and prevent dementia. They can reduce the risk of stroke and diabetes, may lower levels of bad cholesterol, may help prevent breast cancer, and they support the good bacteria in our digestive systems.

Apples only come with one small warning: Apple seeds do contain cyanide, a powerful poison. Eating too many apple seeds can potentially be fatal. Apple seeds should not be consumed. I once read a mystery novel where the villain was slowly poisoning the heroine’s brother by feeding him apple seeds.

Apples are among the most commonly cultivated tree fruits. They come in many varieties and can be grown in many places around the world. There are three main use categories for apples: Dessert (sweet and best suited for eating fresh), Cooking (well-suited for baking in pies and cakes or cooking into sauces or butters), and Cider (small and tart, best suited for making cider). I’m not going to get into the Cider Category because that’s a little more complicated and is probably a whole blog post by itself.

So, let’s take a closer look at some dessert and cooking apples.

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Fuji (Dessert) apples were developed in Japan, but its “parents” are American apples, the Red Delicious and the Ralls Janet. They have a sweet, mild flavor and a crunchy texture.

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Gala (Dessert and Cooking) apples are frequently near the top of the most popular apples list. They were developed in New Zealand by crossing a Golden Delicious and a Kidd’s Orange Red. They are fragrant with a mild, sweet flavor and have a fine texture. In cooking, they are suitable for making sauces.

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Golden Delicious (Dessert and Cooking) apples have thin skins and come from West Virginia. They have a mild, sweet flavor, and a smooth texture. In cooking, they are best for pies.

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Granny Smith (Dessert and Cooking) were one of the first apple varieties to be found in markets internationally. They are originally from Australia. They are tart and have a firm texture. In cooking, they are best for baking.

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Jonagold (Dessert) apples are large with a thin skin originally developed in New York. They are aromatic with a sweet-wine flavor. They are juicy and have a fluffily crisp texture.

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McIntosh (Dessert and Cooking) are some of the most aromatic apples and come from Quebec. They have a sweet flavor and juicy texture. In cooking, they are best for sauces and butters.

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Pink Lady (Dessert) is actually a brand name; the apple itself is a member of a variety called Cripps Pink apples from Western Australia. They have a sweet flavor and crunchy texture.

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Red Delicious (Dessert) apples were America’s favorite apple for nearly 75 years and still ranks in the top 10. Originally developed in Iowa, they are mild, sweet and slightly bitter, and have a crunchy texture.

So, with all the varieties of apples out there, you ought to be able to find at least one that you like. My son and I take gala or Fuji apples in our lunches nearly every day. I find I feel better when I do that.

This Saturday, let’s all raise a glass of apple cider to Johnny Appleseed or celebrate with a slice of apple pie!

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