WALLINGFORD — This past Friday, I sat down to make caramel apples with my 8-year-old niece, Lila.
I used a recipe combining Medjool date caramel and powdered peanut butter for the base. Knowing very well Lila and I had every intention of going all out with candy toppings, I decided to choose a healthier option for caramel by blending the dates with a bit of vegetable oil and milk.
Many variations of this recipe are available for those with specific dietary preferences or restrictions. Alternatively, the date caramel can be made using coconut oil and almond milk. Both the powdered peanut butter and dates can be mixed and blended to taste. I chose a chunky consistency for the dates and opted for a smoother peanut butter base to maintain variety. Lila and I chose primarily Granny Smith apples to balance out the sweet candy with a hint of sour.
Once the basting was done and the apples were chilled in the fridge, we applied our toppings. At first, Lila and I carefully curated each topping that we chose from the many small bowls set out across the table. Ultimately, our apples ended up being a hodgepodge of candies and textures.
Lila’s creations consisted of monsters covered in shredded coconut “fur” with skittles for eyes and gummy worm mouths. Being partial to chocolate, I made sure my apples had plenty of Oreo crumbs and chocolate covered pretzels. This baking endeavor doubled as an art class. Lila explained to me the importance of making her coconut haired creatures true to monster form, with just the right amount of chocolate chip spikes. We covered the apples with the colors of the rainbow using Dots, Skittles, Graham crackers, and Halloween themed sprinkles. The apples were just as delicious as they were messy to make.
In curious 8-year-old fashion, Lila asked me “why” we used the healthier alternatives for our caramel and peanut butter bases. As we were enjoying the sweet fruits of our labor, I took the opportunity to explain to her the importance of portion control when it comes to eating treats and how nutrient-dense foods fuel our bodies better than processed ones.
Lila, who plans to be Batgirl this Halloween, assured me that the candy she eats will be put to good use, fueling her turbo-speed and super strength.
Kristen Dearborn is a Wallingford resident, NASM certified personal trainer and author of the blog dearfitkris – https://dearfitkris.wordpress.com/