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20 Unexpected Ways to Use Apples

Photo: Getty / Rosemary Calvert

It's officially fall, and that gives us the perfect excuse to head outdoors and pick some apples. If you enjoy the crunchy bite of a plain apple or like them served in a warm cider for those chilly autumn nights, then you already know the myriad of possibilities apples possess. So the next time life hands you a bushel, don't just make another pie. Get creative and make the most of your bounty in unexpected ways the entire family can enjoy!

Let’s be honest: One of the things we most look forward to during fall is eating apples. Okay, maybe watching football and tailgating hold that distinction, too, but apple-picking season is a close second. With their various health benefits and sweet flavor, it can be all too easy to go overboard at the market or orchard. Ordinarily that wouldn't be such a bad thing, except the fact that you end up with more apples than you could possibly ever eat. From the craft table to the dinner table, these 20 surprising (and ridiculously easy) ideas will help you use up those leftover apples.

1. Make a Facial Mask: Apples are a rich source of alpha-hydroxy acids and pectin. Pectin is a soluble fiber that aids in maintaining and promoting collagen in the skin. If you need to exfoliate or reduce wrinkles, add this simple trick to your daily beauty routine: Grate half a peeled and cored apple, apply it to your face, let it sit for at least 15 minutes, and rinse with warm water. You can also mix apple peels with brown sugar and water to use as a facial scrub. Voila! A quick and inexpensive way to brighten up your skin.

2. Use as a Stamp: Do you remember making potato stamps as a kid? Well, you can add your own seal of approval and signature touch to artwork or holiday cards with apples. Cut the apples in half, apply your preferred paint color to the fleshy inside, and firmly press the apple down on paper. It's much more innovative than a rubber or potato stamp.

Photo: Gentyl & Hyers

3. Add to Sandwiches: Tweak traditional sandwiches and cheese quesadillas by adding apples. It's a clever way to upgrade old standby lunch favorites by slipping a few apple slices in between slices of bread, meat, and cheese.

4. Decorate a Christmas Tree or Table: ‘Tis the season to toss aside plastic ornaments in favor of a homemade apple garland to wrap around the tree. Cut the apples into rings, dehydrate them, and string ribbon through the center of each ring. You can also try layering various colors of apples in a tall vase to create a beautiful and fresh table centerpiece. For a more fragrant approach, slice apples, sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg on the slices, and then dry them to use as potpourri.

5. Ripen Unripe Fruit: In this case, one bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch. If you can’t wait for your bananas or tomatoes to ripen, just place them in a paper bag with an apple or two. Apples emit a gas known as ethylene that accelerates the ripening process of fruits, helping your fresh finds go from green and sour to colorful and sweet.

6. Keep Baked Goods Moist: Store baked treats into an airtight container with a few apple wedges, and your brownies, cake, or chocolate chip cookies will remain soft and moist. Why? Apples have a very high water content, thus giving off plenty of moisture to keep your desserts and breads from going stale.  

Photo: Grace Elkus

7. Munch on Chips: Say hello to your new grab-and-go snack. These homemade apple chips have all the same crunchiness as the potato variety, but they're much healthier.

8. Create a Candle Holder: Instead of buying apple pie-scented candles, you can create the real thing to decorate and lighten up your home. First, pick an apple that doesn’t roll when placed right-side up. Remove the stem, core the apple, and fit a votive or tealight candle inside of the shallow hole. Light the candle, and your home will smell and look like autumn.

9. Mix with Vodka: Cheers! Drink to good health this fall with an apple-infused, low-calorie cocktail.

10. Soften Brown Sugar: Purchased a bag of brown sugar only to find it has hard lumps when you get home? Luckily, apples are the perfect sifting solution. Just put an apple slice into a sealed bag and place the bag in the hardened brown sugar. Within a few days, the brown sugar will be soft, crumbly, and ready for baking.

11. Flip into Pancakes: Apple pancakes make for a healthy fall breakfast. This stack has a thicker texture than most pancakes without the added sweetness of refined sugars.

12. Soak Up Salt: Uh oh! Went a little overboard on that “pinch” of salt? Don’t fret! All you have to do is throw some apple slices into the pot, stir, and remove before serving. The apples will absorb the extra salt, and you’ll never taste the difference.

13. Grill Them: A quick way to enjoy a good fall treat on your next camping trip is by grilling apples. Pair them with any meat for a sweet and savory dish, or eat them with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top for a tasty dessert.

14. Boost Your Workout: Feel the burn—thigh burn, that is! Instead of using an exercise ball or thigh toner, place an apple between your knees and squeeze for several reps to amp up strength training. After that intense sweat session, refuel with these bite-sized apple energy bites.

15. Cure a Headache: Say goodbye to migraines and headaches by just smelling apples, particularly green apples. When you feel the intensity coming on, grab a green apple and sniff to release the tension.

16. Tame Motion Sickness: The next time you get sick during a long car ride or flight, you might want to reach for a green apple to help fight off nausea and motion sickness.

17. Make a Dip Bowl: Slice apples in half, scoop out the center, and remove the core with a melon baller or measuring spoon to create a shallow “bowl” filled with yummy dips, like creamy yogurt, peanut butter, honey, syrup, or caramel. Bonus: When you finish the filling, you can actually eat the bowl.

18. Stir into Soups: Soups for fall? Yes, please! Soups with apples as a primary ingredient? Even better. Rich, creamy, and flavorful, this soup will warm up any crisp fall day.

19. Upgrade Oatmeal: Ever had overnight oats in a jar for a simple make-ahead breakfast? Why not use a carved apple instead of a jar to heat your oats? Apples provide a naturally sweet flavor to the oats stuffed inside. Once you're done with the oatmeal, you can eat the rest of the apple for a balanced breakfast to jump-start your morning.

20. Blend into a Smoothie: When all else fails, you can easily use up leftover apples in a green smoothie. Just throw these three ingredients in the blender for a refreshing drink, and go!

There’s no reason to let a single apple go to waste this fall. Give these fun ideas a try while apple season is in full swing!