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What's cookin' : An apple a day keeps doctor away - and hunger at bay

Autumn is apple season. Enjoy!

Fall means apple picking, apple orchard outings and most of all the pleasure of munching into your favorite apple. We have the horticulturists at our very own University of Minnesota to thank for the following apple varieties, with Honeycrisp being at the very top of my list. Even though it might seem that you need to take out a second mortgage to purchase 10 pounds of them, they are worth every nickel in my estimation. This from the U of M: "A medium sized apple is a fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free food. In addition, apples are an excellent source of fiber - more than most hot or cold cereals! All this and only 80 calories per serving!"

Johnny Appleseed Squares

3 medium apples (a mix of your favorites), peeled, if desired, cored and sliced (about 6 c.)

1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 1/2 c. biscuit baking mix

1/2 c. (1 stick) plus 2 T. cold butter

1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil (or use a cooking oil spray) a 9-inch-square baking dish. Combine the apples with the condensed milk and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Measure 1 c. of the biscuit mix into a medium-sized bowl and cut in 1/2 c. of the butter with two knives or a pastry blender until it resembles large crumbs. Stir in the apple mixture and spoon the batter into the baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 c. biscuit mix with the sugar and cut in the remaining 2 T. of cold butter until crumbs form. Stir in the nuts. Sprinkle the nut mixture evenly over the apple batter and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm with vanilla yogurt or ice cream. Makes 8 servings.

Apple Crumb Pie

Pastry for a single 10-inch piecrust

5 large apples

1 1/2 c. sour cream

3/4 c. granulated sugar

3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 large egg

2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter

1 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a 10-inch pie plate. Roll out the pastry and fit it into the pie plate. Flute the edges and refrigerate. Peel, core and cut the apples into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange in the chilled pie shell. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, granulated sugar, 1/4 c. of the flour, egg and vanilla. Beat until smooth and pour over the apple slices. Bake for 10 minutes; reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes longer. Mix the remaining 1/2 c. flour, brown sugar and butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the pecans and sprinkle over the baked pie. Return the pie to the oven and bake 15 minutes longer or until the topping is golden brown. Makes 8 servings.

Apple Fritters with Lemon Sauce

8 large apples, pared and cored

Orange juice (enough for sprinkling apple slices)

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

2 T. sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 c. whole milk

Butter and vegetable oil (for frying)

Slice the apples crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Sprinkle with orange juice. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, egg and milk. Dip each apple slice into the batter. Shake off excess. In a frying pan, fry the slices in a mixture of half butter and light oil until browned on both sides. The oil and butter should be at least 1/2 inch deep; the liquid will sputter but don't cook at too low a temperature. Drain on paper towels. Keep fritters warm and serve with Lemon Sauce (recipe follows).

Lemon Sauce

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/4 c. butter

2 T. water

1 beaten egg

1/2 t. lemon peel

2 T. lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Stirring constantly, heat to boiling. Serve warm with Apple Fritters.