COOL WEATHER, WARM DESSERTS

When the weather begins to deliver a chill in the air, my kitchen begins to be filled with the aroma of spices and brown sugar. For me, there is nothing more cozy than settling down with a cup of hot cocoa and a little plate (or bowl) of something sweet.

One of the easiest things to do is to make sweet toppings, like a fruit spread. Use the following recipe with your favorite firm fruit:

Fruity Butter
•    3 lbs. apples/pears/plum
•    4 tablespoons honey
•    Juice of 1 lemon wedge
•    1 teaspoon ginger
•    Pinch of salt
•    Pinch of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all ingredients in a pan suitable for stovetop and in the oven. Stir thoroughly to coat fruit evenly with ingredients. Over medium-high heat bring to a near boil then move to the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring about every 15 minutes to prevent scorching. Cool but serve warm over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, etc.

If you’ve opted for apples, the quintessential fall fruit, you may want to go ahead and whip up a batch of Danish stuffed with apple butter:

Cheesy Apple Danish (serves 6; prep time about 45 minutes)
•    1 package of cream cheese
•    1/3 cup of sugar + 2 teaspoons
•    1 large egg
•    1 teaspoon extract of vanilla
•    Pinch of salt
•    2 medium sized apples, peeled, cored & chopped
•    Splash of lemon juice from a wedge
•    1 sheet of puff pastry dough
•    Extra sugar to sprinkle on top

In a medium size bowl combine cheese, 1/3 cup of sugar, egg, vanilla and salt. In a separate bowl mix apples, lemon juice, and the teaspoons of sugar. Set both mixtures aside. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut pastry sheet into 6 equal sizes and lay out on a pan lined with parchment paper. Divide cheese and apple mixtures into 6 equal portions. Spoon a portion of cheese mixture onto each pastry square. Top each with an apple portion. Fold pastry over and pinch ends together. Sprinkle sugar on top and bake about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

And, if you feel too guilty eating all this sweet stuff, how about a healthy twist with some oatmeal? This recipe uses a slow cooker method so you can wake up to the wonderful spicy scent of a tasty, healthy breakfast ready and waiting for you!

Apple Strudel Oatmeal
•    3 cups milk
•    1 1/3 cup uncooked oatmeal (regular, not instant)
•    Pinch of salt
•    1/4 cup brown sugar
•    3 tablespoons margarine or butter
•    1/4 cup maple syrup
•    12 ounce package of frozen apples
•    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
•    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
•    Vanilla ice cream (optional)

In a medium bowl combine milk, oatmeal, salt and brown sugar and mix well. Transfer to a slow cooker, cover, and cook for eight hours on Low setting. Add butter. When it has melted, stir in the maple syrup and vanilla. Thaw frozen apples according to package directions. Spoon oatmeal into bowls. Layer apples on top of oatmeal. Sprinkle nutmeg on top of apples.  Serve as breakfast or as dessert with some ice cream.