Friday, October 14, 2011

Apple Hacks: 39 Apple Recipes, Games, Activities, and Crafts

This piece comes from October 2007, which was nice when you think about it.

The U.S. produced more than 9,816,000,000 pounds of apples last year, or just about 28,854,000,000 individual pieces of fruit. That’s a lot of apples. Maybe too many to eat.

Fortunately, there are dozens - no, hundreds - wait, THOUSANDS of other uses for those delightful orbs of deliciousness, and CHG has 43 of ‘em right here.

1. Predict your romantic fortune. According to USApple.org, throwing an apple peel over your shoulder could reveal the identity of a boyfriend-or-girlfriend-to-be, since it, “would form the initial of your lover’s name.” I’m guessing X and Q don’t show up much.

2. Practice your pumpkin carving. Test-whittle a pumpkin pattern on its smaller, cheaper fruit cousin, and you’ll make fewer mistakes when it’s showtime.

3. Teach someone how to bunt. One of baseball’s most overlooked skills is also one of its most important, especially if you’re into squeeze plays. But bunting too hard is a surefire way to waste an out. At your team’s next practice, toss apples to your bunters-in-training. If the fruit gets smashed, the kids are using unnecessary force. If the apples fall and roll away unharmed, they’re halfway to Butlerville.

4. Play a Flexibility game. This is an easy, creative brain exercise revered by one of my favorite elementary school teachers. Place an apple in front of a few kids. Give them ten minutes to come up with as many non-food uses as possible. The winner gets the apple. (And gets to write a blog entry twenty years later about the many uses of apples.)

5. Practice magic. Nourish your inner Harry Blackstone with the good ol’ Orange to an Apple trick. (Scroll down for details.)

6. Shrink some heads. Both hideously effective and just plain hideous, shrunken apple heads are guaranteed to scare the beejeezus out of someone this Halloween. Fab Foods has instructions.

7. Exfoliate. Wikihow gives DIY instructions on a neat facial scrub. Make sure you’re not allergic before giving it a try. That would be bad.

8. Prevent every disease known to man. Apples’ health benefits are too numerous and mind-boggling, to list here, so I’ll let’s hand it over to the Apple lobby.

9. Teach a student driver how to accelerate and brake smoothly. The apple’s stable bottom and heavy top makes it a perfect balance tool. Place one on top of the driver’s car. In an unoccupied parking lot, have him speed up, speed down, and finally, brake. If the apple’s knocked off, he loses. If it stays on, it’s apple pie for all.

10. Soften brown sugar. Oh, Reader's Digest, you crafty minx. I had no idea it was possible to do this: “place an apple wedge in a self-sealing plastic bag with the chunk of hardened brown sugar. Tightly seal the bag and put it in a dry place for a day or two. Your sugar will once again be soft enough to use.” Now, if you could only improve that joke page…

11. Facial! According to the Washington Post, apples make people look pretty. Mix a grated one with a little honey and apply it to your face. Poof! Instant beauty. (Or at least, a very tasty visage.)

12. Stick ‘em in a vase. Pretending you’re on Trading Spaces has never been so easy. Grab a dozen Granny Smiths, pile them in a clear, tall container, and place strategically. Instant class for less than $4.

13. Make a stamp. Apples make great (albeit temporary) decorative stamps. Whether it’s cards, letters, or wrapping paper, the Washington Post claims all you have to do is, “[Slice] the fruit horizontally, exposing the inside star shape. Or create more elaborate designs -- hearts, moons, Hitchcock's profile -- with a small knife. Then stick a fork in the rounded side of the fruit, dip it in paint and press the stamp on paper.”

14. Host an apple tasting. From Lifehacker: Buy a dozen or so different apples, invite some friends over, and eat. Pair with wine, cheese, and/or chocolate for the ultimate in inexpensive luxury.

15. Ripen a tomato. Take five under-ripe tomatoes and one ripe apple. Place in a paper bag. Wait a few days. Marvel at the results.

16. Learn to Juggle. Over a couch or couch-like surface, preferably.

17. Treat a horse, rabbit, or turtle. People aren’t the only animals that dig a nice MacIntosh. Head to your nearest stable or petting zoo, and (with the permission of the owners) make a mammal and/or amphibian happy. Especially fun with kids. (Make sure to shred the fruit before feeding it to a turtle. Otherwise, Choke City.)

18. De-salt a dish. Oversalting is a ginormous problem for those of us who prefer our sodium intake on the tongue-withering side. Reader's Digest says, “When you find yourself getting heavy-handed with the saltshaker, simply drop a few apple (or potato) wedges in your pot. After cooking for another 10 minutes or so, remove the wedges -- along with the excess salt.” Chemistry at work!

19. Make stuff smell good. Huge props to Meredith at Like Merchant Ships on this one. She simmers a few apples along with various spicery, and her house ends up more fragrant than a Pillsbury factory. NICE. Instructions included in the link.

20. Build apple animals. Grab some toothpicks, a few gum drops, a handful of marshmallows and go to town. They make inspired, bizarrely fun holiday decorations, especially for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

21. Support some candles. I wish I’d thought of this one. Instead, Reader's Digest trumped me again. You rascally malcontents! “Use an apple corer to carve a hole three-quarters of the way down into a pair of large apples, insert a tall decorative candle into each hole, surround the apples with a few leaves, branches, or flowers.”

22. Create an apple-head doll. Hey! It’s a doll that, uh, ages. (Yay?) I’m not so sure how I feel about this one, but (once again) the Washington Post seems to think it’s a good idea: “Peel an apple and let it hang-dry for a couple of days, so that the fruit shrivels into an old-lady face. Decorate the face with wire (for granny glasses) and seeds (for beady eyes), and attach it to a small bottle for the body. Dress up.”

23. Save the cakes! Storing a cake with half an apple will keep it alive for days longer than its projected lifespan. See, the apple absorbs all the mold-breeding moisture, leaving the confection nearly as fresh as the day it was baked. (I would say, “yummo” here, but honestly, that word makes me homicidal.)

24. Juice up a chicken. Marcella Hazan does this, but with lemons. 1) Grab a roaster chicken. 2) Stick an apple up its butt. 3) Roast. 4) Enjoy your a dewy, drippingly moist bird. Reader’s Digest has more.

25. Bob for them suckers. Oh, it looks easy enough, but Bobbing for Apples is the "Stairway to Heaven" of Halloween party games: only the chosen ones are really good at it.

26. Teach math and/or the fundamentals of gravity. According to some studies, kids respond better to hands-on lessons than those learned by rote memory. Apples are good tools for teaching addition, subtraction, and basic Newtonian physics. (Plus, is there anything more entertaining than dropping fruit on childrens’ heads?)

27. Decorate a Christmas tree. String some garland or build your own ornaments. If you have a dog or particularly bizarre cat, just remember to place ‘em high up.

28. Practice your knife skills. Whether you’re peeling its skin, coring the center, or chopping it up into eraser-sized pieces, the apple is one of the few foods suited for both pairing and chef’s knives. Hone your technique on a few dozen Cortlands (and use the detritus in applesauce).

29. Jazz up a floral arrangement. For your next bouquet, think outside the flower box by adding one or two color-coordinated apples to the party. Meredith has a great example over here.

30. Kiss up to a teacher. If your wife, husband, sister, roommate, uncle, best friend, or second cousin by marriage twice removed is about to launch a teaching career, slip a Red Delicious into their lunchbox with a note. They’ll mist up in the cafeteria.

31. Devise a centerpiece. Stack ‘em, line ‘em up, or stick ‘em in a bowl – anyway you position them, apples are elegant, easy objets d’art in any mealtime setting.

32. Play Pass the Apple. A super-neat variation on the ol’ fashioned relay race, Pass the Apple involves each runner tucking a piece of fruit under his chin, then transferring it to the next runner’s chin without using his hands.

33. Carve a bird. Fruit sculpture is impressive and fairly easy when compared to other hobbies, like say, quantum physics. This apple bird tutorial will get you started.

34. Give a gift. Whether you’re canning or making Apple Pie in a Jar, every person on the face of the earth (except Kim Jong Il and other various psychopaths) loves receiving food for special occasions. Homemade apple products are an inexpensive way to please minds, hearts, and gaping maws.

35. Target practice. Do you shoot things at other things? Save money (and perhaps someone’s eye) by setting apples up as bulls-eyes. On the less-destructive side, they also make fabulous targets for practicing your curveball. (PLEASE BE CAREFUL.)

36. Paint. There’s a reason so many painters start on bowls of fruit – it’s a good way to learn fundamental shading and coloring. Unpack those brushes and get started, folks.

37. Design a wreath. At first, I pictured this as a dozen apples affixed to a straw circlet, rotting over my mom’s mantle. Ooo – wrong. FamilyCorner.com has a good example of how it should really be done.

38. Play apple toss. It’s like cornhole, but with buckets. And apples. And no bean bags. And … ah, just take a look.

39. Cook. This would be a pretty awful cooking blog if there was no actual cooking involved. So, BEHOLD the following light, relatively inexpensive recipes, garnered from Cooking Light, Food Network, Pick Your Own, All Recipes, and my Ma:
Apple Brown Betty
Apple Butter
Apple Cake