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BAKED APPLES ARE A SWEET TREAT

My high-calcium recipe for October is for these fabulous baked apples. The combination of ricotta cheese, which is higher in calcium than any other cheese, and blackstrap molasses, which contains 284 milligrams of calcium per 2 tablespoons, makes it a truly winning dish.

Golden Delicious apples are so naturally sweet that they don't need any added sugar or syrup to be delicious. However, by topping them with this easy-to-make topping, you can turn them into a truly special, rich-tasting high-calcium breakfast treat that can also be served as a healthy dessert. Spoon the molasses-cheese topping over the baked apples while they are still warm, and then sprinkle lightly with ground cinnamon. For a festive garnish, place a fresh mint leaf on top of each apple.

Leftover apples make great molasses-apple smoothies. Just chop up the baked apple and put it in a blender, along with 1/4 cup of the topping and 1 cup of nonfat milk, and blend until smooth. I sometimes make the smoothie and pour it over one of my favorite breakfast cereals instead of drinking it.

BAKED APPLES WITH MOLASSES-CHEESE TOPPING

4 medium Golden Delicious apples, cores removed

Water

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

MOLASSES-CHEESE TOPPING

1 1/2 cups low-fat ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ground cinnamon for garnish

4 mint leaves for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and arrange the cored apples right side up in an ovenproof casserole or baking dish that's just large enough to hold the apples. Add water to a depth of 1/2 inch. Sprinkle the tops of the apples with the cinnamon, and add the vanilla extract to the water. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the apples can easily be pierced with the tines of a fork.

While the apples are baking, make the topping. Combine all of the topping ingredients in a food processor and blend until satin-smooth. Spoon the topping on the apples while they are still warm. Sprinkle them with cinnamon and top each apple with a mint leaf for garnish, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains approximately: 249 calories; 8 gm fat; 28 mg cholesterol; 124 mg sodium; 407 mg calcium; 36 gm carbohydrates; 11 gm protein; 4 gm fiber.

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