Fall Flavors Series: Vegan Caramel Apples + Butternut Squash Curry

This fall, it’s my goal to go to the apple orchard (and to make the boy come with). Who doesn’t love to be surrounded by gorgeous fall foliage, delicious, freshly-picked apples and maybe an apple donut dipped into apple cider?

What’s even better, though, is when you get to take your freshly-picked, local apples and turn them into CARAMEL APPLES. And just in case you avoid dairy, are cutting down on sugar and/or avoiding corn syrup (often found in the caramel of caramel apples), are a vegan or just want a ridiculously easy, delicious, better-for-you caramel recipe — this caramel is perfect.

For a recent dinner party, I used Blissful Basil’s Five Minute Vegan Caramel as a part of a caramel apple “bar.” Imagine a sundae bar with all of the delicious toppings but instead of putting them on ice cream, you dipped your caramel apples in them.

Exciting, right?!

caramel_apples_with_toppings

Vegan Caramel Apples with Toppings

This is a fun, hands-on and healthified dessert that makes a great option for parties. Kids would love this as well — just change out the toppings with whatever you have on hand/enjoy best. Thanks to Blissful Basil’s amazing recipe for making this happen.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tart and crisp apples, such as Granny Smith, cut into wedges
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
  • 1/2 cup [real] maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Toppings: unsweetened coconut flakes, candied ginger, candied pecans, and sea salt

Directions:

  1. Add apple wedges and orange juice to a zip-top bag and store in the fridge until ready to use.
  2. Heat almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, salt and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low-medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool (ideally in the fridge) for 20-30 minutes. Note, you can enjoy the caramel hot but it will thicken up the colder it gets.
  3. “Skewer” apple wedges using wooden skewers, popsicle sticks, or in our case — chopsticks!
  4. Lay out toppings in small bowls with spoons.
  5. Once caramel thickens, let your guests dip their apple wedges in and then choose their toppings.

I’d say these are some happy apple sundae-goers…

vegan_caramelvegan_caramel_apples caramel_apples

BUT WAIT! It’s not all about the dessert here. There’s also an amazing, easy entree: vegan butternut squash and lentil curry over coconut-lime cauliflower rice. Unfortunately, the curry didn’t photograph so well in the nighttime lighting so there’s no beautiful picture to show you. But just because there’s no photo, doesn’t mean it’s not insane-good.

Also, why have I not made curry in the crockpot before? It’s so easy and the longer you let it chill in the crockpot, the more the flavors meld together and the whole thing turns into this amazing, warming curry.

Butternut Squash and Lentil Curry over Coconut-Lime Cauliflower Rice

The cauliflower “rice” helps lighten this dish up a bit, making it lower carb AND higher in fiber and nutrients.

Curry Ingredients:

  • 2 butternut squashes, peeled, seeded and cubed (1/2″ cubes)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 cups orange lentils (any color/type would work well here)
  • 1 Tbsp. yellow curry paste
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. turmeric

Curry Directions:

  1. Throw all ingredients in the crockpot and turn to high. Cook for 4 hours, or until butternut squash and lentils are soft.

Cauliflower Rice Ingredients:

  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Cauliflower Rice Directions:

  1. Wash cauliflower, remove leaves, and cut in half. Remove cauliflower “core.” Chop cauliflower into chunks and add about 2 cups worth at a time to a food processor. Pulse for 1-2 second intervals until cauliflower is a rice consistency. You can also grate the cauliflower on a box grater or just chop it up really well for the same effect, sans food processor.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium. Add coconut oil and onions and saute onions for 2-3 minutes. Add cauliflower and saute for about 15 minutes. Add in lime zest and juice, shredded coconut and sea salt. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

Serve the curry over the cauliflower rice. And an expert tip here — make EXTRA and freeze the leftovers in individual containers for later enjoyment. I actually think it almost tastes better when re-heated.

Bourbon Caramel Cake Pudding

Confession: even dietitians need a treat sometimes. So when leftover cake scraps were offered to me, I figured I should take them and turn them into something even more delicious than cake: cake pudding! Carpe cake?? In case you are confused as to what cake pudding is, picture bread pudding, but replace the bread with cake :). Sounds decadent, and it is. I adapted a Cooking Light recipe for Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce, though, so it is at least a little better for you.

Bourbon_Caramel_Cake_Pudding

Bourbon Caramel Cake Pudding (adapted from Cooking Light – see original recipe below plus my tweaks)

Ingredients:

Cake pudding:

  • Bread pudding:
  • 5 cups (1/2-inch) cubed French bread (about 8 ounces) 2 1/2 cups each, vanilla and chocolate cake
  • 1 cup evaporated fat-free milk
  • 3/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark Whiskey)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs

Carmel Sauce:

  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons half-and-half, divided 6 Tbsp evaporated fat free milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare bread cake pudding, arrange bread cake in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until lightly toasted.

Cake_Croutons

Combine evaporated milk and next 7 ingredients (through eggs) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add bread cake cubes. Let stand 20 minutes, occasionally pressing on bread cake to soak up milk.

Side note: wouldn't this be the BEST French toast mixture??

Side note: wouldn’t this be the BEST French toast mixture??

To prepare sauce, combine brown sugar, 3 tablespoons bourbon, and butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Simmer 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Stir in 5 tablespoons half-and-half evaporated fat free milk; simmer 10 minutes or until reduced to about 1 cup. Remove pan from heat. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon half-and-half evaporated fat free milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Keep warm.

Bourbon_Caramel_Sauce

Spoon half of bread cake mixture into a 9 x 5–inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle 3 tablespoons sauce over bread cake mixture. Spoon remaining half of bread cake mixture over sauce. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm sauce with bread cake pudding.

Source: Cooking Light January 2012