Apple Pie Granita recipe (refined sugar-free)

apple pie granita sundaes | pamela salzman

My grandparents had a cute place in the Pocono mountains when I was growing up.  We would go for a week in the summer and occasionally for a long weekend during Thanksgiving and Presidents’ weekend.  Summers were the best though, because we were always outside playing badminton or bocce on the bocce alley my grandfather built.   Or picking wild blackberries until our arms were scratched from top to bottom.

some of the ingredients

My grandmother, my aunt and my mother would go to the market every day it seemed.  I swear we weren’t done with breakfast before my grandmother nervously asked, “Ok, now what are we doing about lunch?”  Everything revolved around food and mealtime. “Don’t go out now or you’ll be late for supper!”  “What time does everyone want to eat?”  “What should we make tonight for dinner?”  And so on.  Now that I direct mealtime at my parents’ house in the summer when I visit, I sort of see the obsession.  You can’t just wing it when you’re feeding a crowd and it’s no picnic when you’ve got hungry kids (or adults!)

dissolve everything in the apple juice

I always loved everything the ladies cooked, but there was a special dessert that my uncle used to make that blew my mind.  He would take the leftover espresso from the morning and dissolve sugar into it and a little water and freeze the whole thing.  In between bocce matches, he would go to the freezer and scrape the mixture into slushy, icy bits.  He called it granita di caffe.  It was like coffee ice, but we actually made it at home without any fancy machinery and it was delicious!  Of course I couldn’t  have too much because I was like 7 years old, so eventually he made us children granita di limone, lemon ice.  It was like a lemonade slushy.  Heaven.

pour the mixture into a glass baking dish

I had a dinner party over the weekend and because the weather is still warm where I live, I decided to try an apple granita for dessert.  WINNER!!!  Talk about the easiest, tasty, fresh, light, seasonal dessert.  It was also perfect because two of my girlfriends are dairy-free.  If you can imagine a light and crispy apple slushy ice infused with fall spices, this is apple granita.  I also had a granita sundae bar set up so we could layer the granita with caramel ice cream, crushed gingersnap cookies and dehydrated apple slices.  Just so good and did I mention easy?  Plus I did it a few days ahead and you know how much I love getting things done early.

scrape with a fork

What I love about granita is that it seems like a special dessert, but it’s really so easy you could make it for your kids for an after school snack, which I did for Mr. Picky yesterday.  He freaked out!  And when I told him I made it by myself without a machine, he started making all sorts of plans for future granitas, like Gatorade granita.  Creative, but not happening of course.  Just a dollop of whipped cream on top and some crushed gingersnaps made Mr. Picky forget about everything else for a bit.  Just like when I was a kid.

apple pie granites | pamela salzman

apple pie granita sundaes | pamela salzman

Apple Pie Granita
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups natural-style apple juice, preferably organic
  • 6-8 Tablespoons Grade A maple syrup or cane sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground allspice
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and cook over moderate heat, whisking until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Do this step even if you are using a liquid sweetener as the heat will enhance the flavors of the spices.
  2. Pour mixture into an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish. Freeze until icy around the edges, about an hour.
  3. Using a fork, scrape the icy shards into the center. Continue to freeze, scraping occasionally and smashing any large lumps until coarse crystals form, about 3-4 hours longer. The end result should be a fluffy, coarse You can also use a large baking dish and the process will go more quickly. Keep frozen until ready to serve. The granita can be made a week in advance.
Notes
There are probably other sweeteners that you can use, but I only tested the recipe with maple syrup and cane sugar. I thought the recipe was a tad too sweet with ½ cup of sugar, but my friends thought it was perfect. If you tend to prefer desserts that are not too sweet, then use the lower amount of sugar/syrup.

Acai Bowl Recipe

 

I am a little bit of a skeptic, I’ll admit.  When a new food comes onto the scene claiming to save your life, I have to raise an eyebrow.  One food can’t do it all.  If you’ve noticed, I try not to beat anyone over the head with nutrition facts but rather emphasize a diet of a wide variety of mostly plant-based whole foods.  Eating seasonally, locally and organically helps too, but first things first.

Many years ago I started hearing the praises of acai (prononced ah-sigh-EE), a berry native to the Amazon (the rainforest, not the online shopping site).  Acai’s claims to fame are its insane antioxidant levels (more than blueberries!), healthful fats and a good smattering of iron, calcium and beta-carotene.  It also happens to be very low in carbs and sugar.  What I love is acai’s deep berry, almost chocolatey flavor.  Delicious, I promise you.

“Acai bowls” are popular in Brazil, but have found a loyal following in the US in areas with year-round warm weather, such as Hawaii and Baja California.  They’re kind of like a super thick smoothie/soft serve sorbet that you eat with a spoon.  Beacause acai bowls are so soft and creamy, they beg for toppings with a little texture.  The most traditional way they are eaten is with a scoop of granola, sliced fresh bananas and a drizzle of honey.  I was at a hotel in San Diego a few years ago when I saw an acai bowl on the menu and I very enthusiastically ordered it.

Let’s cut to the chase here — my family and I have been addicted to these since that day.  Not only that, but I have taught all three of my kids how to make them so when their friends come over they can throw together a nutritious and tasty snack in minutes, and one which their friends probably haven’t had anywhere else.  Cool!  One day, the mom of one of Mr. Picky’s friends came over holding a packet of frozen acai with a look of desperation and said, “Just tell me what to do with this.”  Many of my kids’ friends are hooked, too!  I let everyone choose their own toppings, which can include granola, flaked coconut, walnuts, cacao nibs, sliced almonds and cut up fresh fruit like bananas, strawberries or blueberries.  Mr. Picky always adds a small handful of mini chocolate chips and I’m okay with that since there’s no other added sugar here.

Now that the weather is becoming warmer, I wanted to share this recipe so you could enjoy it for the whole summer (I love that word!).  Since my version isn’t super sweet, I think with the right toppings an acai bowl makes a great breakfast, post-workout snack or even dessert.  You can see from the recipe that there isn’t anything too suspect or worrisome, just a bit of fruit sugar.  Wouldn’t you prefer these ingredients which are paired with vitamins, minerals, fiber, good fats and antioxidants over artificially-colored and flavored popsicles?  Thought so.  But just so we’re clear, I’m not trying to convince you that acai bowls are a magic cure for anything other than a craving for something cool, creamy and very delicious!

Acai Bowls
Author: 
Serves: 2 generously
 
Ingredients
  • 2 packets frozen acai puree (break it into pieces first to make it easier on your blender)
  • 1 frozen or fresh* ripe banana (cut into pieces) or a heaping cup of frozen mango chunks
  • 1 large handful frozen or fresh* blueberries, strawberries, mango or peaches
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice or apple juice or almond milk*
  • Topping suggestions: granola, sliced bananas, fresh berries, coconut, chopped nuts, cacao nibs
Instructions
  1. Add acai, fruit and juice to a blender and puree until smooth, but thick. A Vitamix does this very easily, but if you have a standard blender you'll just have to scrape down the sides every so often. Divide between two individual bowls and add toppings of choice. Serve immediately.
Notes
*Frozen fruit will give you a better texture and make it more like soft serve ice cream.

**fruit juice will make the acai bowl a little sweeter than almond milk but the almond milk makes it taste a little creamier. If you use almond milk, taste it before serving and if necessary, sweeten with a little raw honey or add a pitted date or two to the blender and puree.

**You can add your favorite protein powder to make it a more complete breakfast.

Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Raspberries

Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Raspberries | Pamela Salzman
Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Raspberries | Pamela Salzman
Photo by Carley Rudd

I use a cranberry sauce recipe for Thanksgiving that has been in my family longer than I have.  My aunt received the recipe over 40 years ago from a colleague in New Jersey, who received it from someone who lived in her apartment building in New York City.  I have loved this cranberry sauce for as long as I can remember.  It makes no sense to me why I ever tried other recipes since this one is everything a cranberry sauce should be — uncomplicated, tart, slightly sweet, chunky and fresh.  My kids eat it in a bowl with a spoon, on top of oatmeal, pancakes, or French toast, or swirled into plain yogurt.  And of course, it’s divine on turkey or a turkey sandwich.

The original recipe shows its age a bit since it calls for 1 pound of fresh cranberries, because Ocean Spray used to make their bags in 1-pound sizes.  Now they’re 12 ounces.  The recipe also calls for frozen raspberries instead of fresh because I don’t think you could possibly get fresh raspberries in November 40 years ago.  I have made my own small changes, but it still tastes just as delicious.  I couldn’t help trying to cut back on the sugar a bit by substituting apple juice for water and reducing the quantity of sugar.  And this year I used sucanat in place of granulated sugar and no one could tell the difference.  My aunt’s recipe originally called for “chopped pecans to taste” which I have never put in simply because when I first started making the cranberry sauce, pecans were out of my budget.  So I’ve left them out all these years and I can’t say I miss them.

One thing that has never changed is that I make the cranberry sauce every year the Sunday before Thanksgiving because my aunt does, too.  We call each other on Sunday morning.  In fact, I just got off the phone with her.  “Are you chopping apples?”  “I sure am!”  I make enough for our Thanksgiving dinner with a little for leftovers (two times the recipe.)  But my aunt makes vats of it and then drives around town delivering jars of cranberry sauce to all of her lucky friends.  Our conversation cracked me up this year as she informed me she found BPA-free plastic containers for her sauce and this year she went organic with all the fruit.  I think she’s been reading my blog.  Although when I mentioned the sucanat to her, she said “don’t push it.”

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cranberry Sauce with Apples and Raspberries
Author: 
Serves: makes about 5 cups
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, coconut sugar, maple sugar, or sucanat (you can add more if you like it sweeter)
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 1 pound fresh cranberries, washed and picked through for bruised ones
  • 1 10-ounce bag of unsweetened frozen raspberries or 10 ounces fresh raspberries
  • 2 apples* (any variety is fine), peeled and diced (same size as a cranberry)
  • chopped pecans to taste (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar or sucanat and apple juice and bring to a boil. Add cranberries, cover and boil until berries pop, about 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add raspberries and stir.
  3. Add apples and cook 1 minute.
  4. Add chopped nuts if desired.
  5. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.
Notes
*This will thicken as it cools and the apples will turn red. The more tart the apples, the more pectin and the thicker the sauce will get.

Good idea to make this the Sunday before Thanksgiving!