Flavorful Family Meals with Michigan Apples
by Shari Steinbach, MS RDN
September is family meals month and a perfect time to think about the ritual of eating together. Although busy and varied schedules of both parents and kids make it harder to sit down and enjoy mealtime as a family, it is an important decision that has short and long-term benefits. Research suggests that having dinner together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on child development and health. Family meals have been linked to better school performance and self-esteem, and a lower risk of obesity, substance abuse and eating disorders.
Mealtime is also a great opportunity to connect as a family and engage your children in meaningful dialogue without the distraction of technology. Conversations at the dinner table develop the vocabulary and reading ability of children, and allow every family member to talk about their day and share exciting news or a funny story. In addition, family meals also encourage healthy eating habits and gives parents a chance to model behaviors for children. Studies show family dinners increase the intake of fruits and vegetables, and is linked to higher intake of protein, calcium and some vitamins. Here are some tips for enjoying more frequent family meals:
• Cook as a family and include everyone in the preparation process.
• Experiment with new, fun recipes or add a healthy twist to a family favorite meal.
• Talk about how food is grown. Plan a weekend trip to the apple orchard and pick some new varieties to try in recipes (see ideas below).
• Prep meal components on weekends (chop fruits and vegetables, cook ground meat, pre-cook rice) to cut down meal prep time during the week.
• Stock a healthy pantry with basics such as canned beans, frozen vegetables, lean meat, whole grain pasta and recipe-ready soups.
• Make double batches of recipes on the weekend and freeze one for a busy week night.
• Use small appliances that can help make mealtime easy like an electric fry pan, food processor or a slow cooker.
Family meals may require effort in planning, but the healthy benefits to you and your family are more than worth it! We’ve provided some family-friendly slow cooker meals with Michigan Apples to get you started.
Michigan Apple Glazed Slow Cooker Pork Roast
Makes 6-8 servings
Pork and apples are a natural combination. This simple slow cooker meal for Michigan Apple Glazed Slow Cooker Pork Roast cooks all day and is ready when you arrive home. Good apples to use include Empire, Fuji, Ida Red, Jonagold, Braeburn or Rome.
1 (4 pound) pork loin roast
salt and pepper
6 Michigan Apples, cored and quartered (do not peel)
1/3 cup apple juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1. Trim the pork roast well of any excess visible fat, then rub the roast with salt and pepper.
2. Place the roast on a broiler pan. Heat broiler in the oven to high. Brown the pork roast under the broiler, turning about every 2-3 minutes; drain well.
3. Place the apple quarters in the bottom of a 4-6-quart slow cooker and place the roast on top of the apples.
4. In a small bowl, combine the apple juice, brown sugar and ginger. Spoon this mixture over the top surface of the roast. Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 10-12 hours until the roast is tender and at least 155°F on an instant read meat thermometer. (Note: A new, hotter slow cooker may take 7-8 hours).
5. Remove the roast from the slow cooker and place on a serving plate. Tent with foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Scoop out the apples and place in a serving dish or serve over roast.
Slice the roast and serve with prepared mashed potatoes and a green salad.
Nutrition information per serving: 380 Calories; 5g Fat; 21g Carbohydrate; 28g Protein; 4g Fiber; 63mg Sodium
Recipe adapted from www.thespruce.com
Michigan Apple BBQ Pulled Chicken
Makes 8 servings
This recipe combines chicken breasts with apple and barbecue flavors for a delicious fall dish.
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Michigan Apples, sliced (Empire, Fuji, Gala, McIntosh, Ida Red, Jonagold, Paula Red or Rome)
1 onion, sliced
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup reduced sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1. Add the chicken, apples and onions to the slow cooker.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the barbecue sauce, applesauce, chicken stock, cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over chicken.
3. Cook on low for 4 hours or until chicken is
4. Shred chicken with 2 forks and mix well.
Serve on whole grain buns with a side of broccoli slaw and a glass of low-fat milk.
Nutrition information per serving (without bun): 220 Calories; 3g Fat; 26g Carbohydrate; 23g Protein; 2g Fiber; 816mg Sodium
Recipe adapted from: www.theslenderkitchen.com
Easy Apple Breakfast Cobbler
Makes 4 servings.
Family mealtime can also be in the morning. This Easy Apple Breakfast Cobbler cooks overnight so the family wakes up to the smell of cinnamon and apples.
4 medium-sized Michigan Apples,* cored, peeled and sliced
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon trans-fat free spread, or butter, melted
2 cups low-fat granola cereal
1. Place apples in a crock pot and stir in honey and cinnamon. Top apple mixture with granola and drizzle with butter or margarine.
2. Cover and cook on low 7-9 hours or on high 2-3 hours.
3. Serve warm and top with low-fat milk or vanilla yogurt if desired.
*Try Cortland, Gala, Ida Red, Jonathan, Northern Spy, Rome, Braeburn, McIntosh or Empire
Nutrition information per serving: 395 Calories; 7g Fat; 83g Carbohydrate; 5g Protein; 8g Fiber; 175mg Sodium