Halloween is one of those marginally food-focused quasi-holidays that I always have to think twice about covering in the newspaper’s weekly food section.
When A la Carte comes out Oct. 31, I figure it can go one of two ways. Either we can provide more ideas for putting too many sweets in everyone’s stomach (like all things Halloween-related, there’s a huge boom in spooky and grotesque baking and confectionery supplies). Or we can try to remind families to bring some healthful foods to the celebration. Today’s story reflects the latter.
But we’re not advocating raw veggies and tofu alongside all that candy. A hearty chili, independently suggested by the two nutrition experts I tapped, would be a welcome warmer on such a dreary night. And many seasoned cooks could pull it together with pantry staples — no extra shopping required. My house chili is similar, just with ground turkey instead of beef and some fresh chilies, preferably roasted.
For desserts over the coming weeks, consider another healthful strategy that will make the house smell better than one of those faux-fall-scented candles. Baked apples are a favorite of Antonia Lofaso of “Top Chef” fame and a single mom. Her new cookbook, “The Busy Mom’s Cookbook: 100 Quick, Delicious, Home-cooked Meals” (Avery, $28), skips the chefy, restaurant-replica dishes of many “Top Chef” competitors in favor of doable recipes that are kid-tested.
Kids, with supervision, especially when using the oven, can do much of the work for baked apples themselves. Younger ones will need some help with the coring. Lofaso writes that her mother used to make these apples to teach kids that a dessert can be fairly wholesome and “just as delicious as cookies or cake.”
Roasted Rome Apples With Cinnamon and Cardamom
4 Rome Beauty apples, cored (may substitute Pink Lady or Braeburn)
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
4 cinnamon sticks
Ice cream, for serving
Heat oven to 375 F. Set the apples in a small, oven-safe, glass baking dish.
Mix the sugar, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves and salt in a small bowl. Holding apples 1 at a time over baking dish, rub dry mix on inside and outside of each. Allow excess mixture to fall into dish.
Place 1 cinnamon stick in center of each apple. Pour 2 cups water into baking dish; cover dish with foil.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 1⁄2 hours. When tops of the apples begin to split, they’re done. Let cool. Serve with your favorite ice cream.
Makes 4 servings.