(ARA) - There's no debating the nutritional benefits and taste appeal of fresh fruit. But the arrival of winter can mean health-conscious families face a fruit dilemma. Do you pay high prices for imported or hothouse fruit that may not be as flavorful as fruit grown in season? Or do you forgo fruit - and its health benefits - until its back in season where you live?
Fortunately when the weather is cold and many fruits are out of season, there are plenty of alternatives - options that still deliver the great taste and nutritional benefits that make us love fruit. Apples, especially, are healthful and versatile. Whether you chomp a fresh apple, sip some apple juice or savor some apple sauce, consuming apples has been linked to a number of health benefits. According to Deanna Segrave-Daly, RD, LDN top reasons to snack on apples include:
* Help prevent a decline in memory and brain function. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) have conducted a study showing the nutrients in apples are vital for communication between brain nerve cells.
* Ante up your antioxidants with apples. Leave the apple peel intact, this part is rich in antioxidants, specifically flavonoids, which protect against cell damage.
* One of the healthiest fruit around. A volume of research has linked apples' unique combination of antioxidants to reduce one's risk for age-related cancers, heart disease and cognitive illnesses.
* Breathe easily. Apples and apple juice may have a protective effect against the development of childhood asthmas and wheezing symptoms to assist lung function in kids.
* Read the label. Stick to all natural ingredients; most applesauces are made with high-fructose corn syrup, which provides extra calories but little nutrition.
The fruit experts at Tree Top offer some helpful hints for keeping fruit in your diet throughout the winter:
* Frozen fruit makes a great topper for everything from morning pancakes to a bowl of frozen yogurt. Freezing preserves the freshness and nutritional value of fruit, and keeping a bag or two of frozen fruit on hand is a convenient way to keep fruit in your child's diet all year round.
* Indulge yourself like a child with a treat that packs a grown-up nutritional punch - smoothies. Blend low-fat milk or yogurt with fresh apples or other fruit. To really ramp up the nutritional value, toss in a handful of leafy greens - it won't detract from the taste, but it will add significant nutritional value.
* Most kids love apples. Toss a cup of natural or naturally sweetened applesauce into your child's lunchbox, and you'll be giving them a healthy, fun snack. You can even mix it up with varieties that blend apples with raspberry or strawberry.
* Replace sugary soft drinks and soda pop with all-natural fruit juices. Just remember, fruit juices contain natural sugars found in fruits, so be sure to follow dietary guidelines for daily allowances.
For snack time
* For a punch of vitamin C and protein that's so much fun kids won't know it's good for them, mix apple sauce with peanut butter for a tasty dip for apples and other fruits and vegetables. Tree Top natural apple sauces in a variety of flavors are made from 100 percent USA apples and are a good source of vitamin C.
For dinner time
* When baking, consider substituting apple sauce for 3/4 of the oil or butter. The swap works in most baked goods, such as brownies, cakes and muffins. It's a great way to cut back on the fat and calories in your holiday baking this year.
* Saute vegetables in Tree Top's Apple Cider or Apple Berry Juice. It will add plenty of flavor but with significantly less calories and no fat.
* Cook with apples, apple sauce and apple juice to enhance flavor and reduce fat and calories.
Here are two recipes, winners of Tree Top's "America's Secret Ingredient" recipe contest, to try this holiday season or even as a breakfast or dinner option!
Apple toffee French toast with apple syrup
French toast ingredients:
8 cups French bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 tart apples, peeled, chopped
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Tree Top Apple Juice
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1/2 cup English toffee bits
Apple syrup ingredients:
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups Tree Top Apple Juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons butter
French toast directions:
Place half the bread cubes in a greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan; top with apples. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugars, Tree Top Apple Juice and one teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Stir in toffee bits. Spread over apples. Top with remaining bread cubes. In another large bowl, beat the eggs, milk and vanilla until well blended; pour over bread. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve French toast with Apple Syrup. While baking French toast, prepare syrup.
Apple syrup directions:
In a medium-size saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, Tree Top Apple Juice and lemon juice and heat to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for one minute. Add butter. Serve over warm apple toffee French toast. For a thicker syrup simply reduce the amount of juice.
Poached gingered apple sea bass
4 (6-ounce) sea bass fillets (about 1 inch thick, cut in 2-inch chunks)
2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning
32 ounces chicken broth, low sodium
1/8 cup Tree Top Apple Juice Frozen Concentrate
2 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger root
1 serrano chili pepper, seeds and stems removed, finely chopped
1 package mini multicolored mini peppers (stems removed, cut in rings)
2 cups stringless sugar snap peas
1/2 cup chopped Pink Lady apple
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh basil
Pink finishing salt or salt of choice
Sprinkle both sides of fish with lemon pepper; set aside. In a high-walled 12-inch skillet, on high, bring to a boil broth, apple concentrate, ginger root and serrano pepper. Cover skillet, reduce heat to simmer, cook for five minutes. Meanwhile, slice peppers in 1/4-inch rings. Reserve 12 rings for garnish; set aside.
Reduce heat to medium-low and carefully place fish in broth. Spoon poaching liquid over fish; cover, cook on medium-low for four minutes. Uncover, add mini-peppers (except garnish peppers), sugar snap peas, apples and green onions. Reduce heat to low, cover, simmer five minutes or until fish is done. Fish is done when it flakes easily and is opaque in the center when tested with a fork. To serve, divide evenly among individual shallow soup bowls. Garnish with reserved pepper rings and sprinkle fresh basil. Sprinkle with finishing salt to taste. Serve immediately with a spoon and fork.
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