I recently sampled apple salsa at a festival. The salsa, more like chutney and tasted similar to apple butter, got me thinking about ways to use apples that are a little less traditional.

For example, I’m familiar with baking a whole apple but hadn’t thought of stuffing it with oatmeal, cinnamon and syrup for a delicious breakfast. You could even go the savory route with a stuffing of ground pork with cumin, nutmeg, and ginger to serve for dinner. One of my favorite ideas is to back a cinnamon roll right inside the apple.

Apples and cheese pair really well. I especially like a sharp cheddar or blue cheese crumbles with slices of sweet apple. It’s refreshing and indulgent at the same time. What if you cooked that apple-cheese pairing between bread? Grilled cheese with apples! Dare I say this takes the sandwich to a gourmet level?

For a portable, easy-to-store, healthy snack, try making apple chips. They’re a bit time consuming only because of the baking time. Simply place thinly sliced apples on a baking sheet—one layer—and leave them in the oven at 225° for three hours or so. They crisp best if flipped halfway through the process.

A great place to add apples is in a refreshing crunchy salad or slaw. Apple slaw with a yogurt dressing also makes an amazing addition to a sandwich or burger. The trick is to cut the apple into matchsticks then add to the slaw no more than 20 minutes before serving to keep the apples from browning to quickly. Including lemon juice in the dressing slows the browning as well.

Caramelizing apples with onions is also a wonderful, different idea for apple season. The apples cook much faster, so onions need to begin cooking first over medium heat. Once they soften and begin to brown, add some chopped or shredded apples and turn the temperature down to low. Stir often as the sugars slowly release. Caramelized apples and onions are a popular choice on a tart, and make a great accompaniment to any meat. I love this idea as a twist on French onion soup, which begins with caramelized onions and will taste like autumn in a bowl.

Apple Pie Pops

Apple Pie Pops 101316

Apple Pie Pops 101316

These are just fun to make with kids, and could be filled with any pie filling,  like pumpkin, cherry, blueberry, or peach. You could use premade pie crust dough, but the homemade version is quite easy. The filling is inspired by my mom’s apple pie recipe.

Basic pie crust dough

2 ½ cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

16 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces

¼ to ½ cup ice water

Measure flour by spooning it gently into the measuring cup. In a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse just until mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle in ¼ cup ice water. Pulse briefly until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers. If necessary, add more water a tablespoon at a time.  Do not overprocess; it’s the chunks of butter that create a flaky crust.

Transfer half of dough (still crumbly) onto plastic wrap. Form into a disk about an inch thick and wrap tightly. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes 2 pie-sized crusts.

Apple filling:

3-4 medium apples, diced small

⅓ cup brown sugar

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. butter, melted

1 Tbsp. flour

For the pops:

1 egg white, beaten

Candy sticks

Preheat oven to 400°. Combine apple pie filling ingredients in a bowl. Set aside. Place dough on a floured, clean work space. Cover rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough to about ⅛ inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut dough, two shapes for each pie pop.

Place half of the dough shapes on a parchment lined baking sheet and press down a stick in the center of each. Place a small amount of filling in the centers—don’t overfill as the edges need a tight seal.

Top the pops: Brush one side of the remaining dough shapes with egg whites then place them, egg side down, on the filled dough shapes. The egg whites glue the top and bottom together. Gently press down the edges to seal in the filling, taking extra care to press the dough around the stick so it will stay put.

Brush remaining egg white on top of pie pops then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar if desired. Score the center of each. Bake 12-18 minutes until golden and crisp around the edges. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your shapes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Note: Simple cookie cutter shapes work best. For example, I tried a star but there wasn’t enough space at the “arms” for the filling, so each point was just dough. Circles, flowers, and hearts worked well.