Scary good caramel apple bites

Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season and the refined, sugar-filled sweets that usually come with it. No matter what your eating philosophy (vegan, paleo, gluten-free, or just an allusive "clean" diet) these caramel apples will satisfy your sweet tooth!

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

The old saying still holds true – apples are full of benefits to keep us healthy and vibrant. They are rich in antioxidants that help lower our risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Specifically, apples contain a type of antioxidant called quercetin, which has been shown to improve brain function and reduces our risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Eat with the Seasons

Eating with the seasons is less expensive, healthier, and better for the environment. When we purchase fruits and vegetables that are out of season they are often from far away and have been picked before they are ready to be eaten. This means they must be refrigerated during travel and finish ripening off the vine (often under artificial heat). These conditions result in fewer nutrients, a change in texture, and inferior flavor. Our bodies often crave seasonal crops – like root vegetables in the winter and hydrating fruit in the summer. In autumn apples are in their peak season, making them the perfect fruit for fall cooking. This caramel apple recipe works well with any crispy variety, but keep in mind that the caramel will sweeten the apples so I recommend choosing a sour variety like Granny Smith for a more balanced taste.

Add Fiber and Choose Unrefined Sugar to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

The holidays often mean a higher consumption of sugar and carbohydrates, which can lead to dramatic spikes and drops in our blood sugar. Irregular blood sugar can leave us moody, stressed, and starving; not to mention it can put us at risk for diabetes in the long run. Adding fiber and choosing unrefined forms of sugar is a great way to combat these symptoms and ensure that we enjoy the holidays without unhealthy weight gain. The fiber in apples will slow the absorption of sugar into our bloodstream. Choosing unrefined sugar is also a good choise. Coconut palm sugar (made from the sap of a palm tree) is a great alternative to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. It is lower on the glycemic index than most sweeteners, meaning it doesn’t raise blood sugar as rapidly as others. Coconut palm sugar also contains potassium which is important for fluid regulation and hydration. Be sure to buy pure coconut palm sugar, as some companies mix it with regular cane sugar - booo! 

Ingredients

1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
1/4 cup shredded coconut
3 large apples
1 can coconut milk (full-fat)
1.5 cups coconut palm sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Also needed

Candy thermometer
Candy sticks

Step 1: To make the caramel, add coconut milk, sugar, and salt to a pot. Hook a candy thermometer to the inside of the pot, so that it is submerged in the mixture without touching the bottom. Heat over medium, stirring regularly until liquid reaches a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, for 20-25 minutes until caramel is thickened and has reached 240 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2: While caramel cooks, finely chop pistachios. Place chopped pistachios and coconut into two piles on a flat surface (like a chopping board). Set aside.

Step 3: While caramel continues to cook, prepare apples. Peel apples, then use a melon baller to scoop small balls out of apples, avoiding the core and seeds.  Pierce each apple ball with a cake pop stick and set aside.

Step 4: Once caramel is finished cooking, remove from heat. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and lightly grease with coconut oil. Let the caramel cool to 180 degrees then stir in vanilla. Once vanilla is combined, start dipping apple pops into caramel.  Swirl each apple a few times to let excess caramel drip off and ensure an even coating. Dip caramel covered apples into pistachios and/or coconut if using.

Step 5: Refrigerate the bites for at least an hour before serving! TIP: I recommend placing these on greased parchment paper so they don't stick as they cool.