Clean & vegan "caramel" dip

Don’t you just love fall? If only it weren’t so short-lived. At least the burning splendor of falling leaves remind us to savor while it lasts. And speaking of savoring…

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We’ve had an appletastic fall so far, reveling in autumn’s charms. Although, I suppose if I’m honest, fun word play descriptors should focus more on pumpkins over apples. Since end of August we’ve been prematurely immersed in them. In fact, Chef F is for now fairly well versed in the whole curcubit family, thanks to a small window where we grasped at stand-ins. By mid-September our house was already brimming with them. And ghosts. Monsters. Witches. Whatever strikes in the moment as spooktacular. And it’s been wonderful.

So where do the apples come in? As much as I am a fan of a good cute-and-spooky Halloween, there is only so much of the ghoulish I can take, and we were escalating a little out of control. So you can imagine what a relief it was to have a solid jaunt into appledom the weeks of and preceding Chef F’s classroom field trip to the local apple orchard.

This fall I started doing work for the school district again, but this time as a writer. I am so beyond thrilled with this opportunity to learn about and support our local education system again, and in this capacity; I love, love the flexibility I continue to have through freelance. But “theme” weeks with Chef F? These are the forays that bring on all the longings for the Kindergarten classroom again.

“Apple week” at our house looked a bit like this:

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  • Apple ramps: there is a little park in the neighborhood where you can gather hordes of little green and yellow, fallen apples. Most are at least a bit bruised and probably a little rotten, but they’re not for eating, they’re for playing! Toss games, target games, and STEM activities like testing out ramps. How steep and what style gets the furthest distance? This can go on for hours.

  • Apple cooking—goes without saying. Applesauce, muffins, pancakes, compote. More another time…

  • Apple graphing: colors, sizes, taste

  • Ten Apples Up on Top: I really don’t understand why this book always gets such great guffaws from Pre-K and Kinders (it’s really pretty weird), but it does, and so I love it, too.

  • Apple prints

  • Apple tastings…

Many tastings. Slices of every apple variety we could find—from Sprouts, Lucky’s, King Soopers, Whole Foods…you name it. And with the extra slices we got to dip in this simple, clean & vegan “caramel. Chef F likes it cooled (apparently he currently mostly likes “cold things” and I should know better), but I love it warm from the blender. Yep, the high speed blender does all the word, making those cinnamon-y dates smooth, warm and creamy. It’s a good thing this rich dip satisfies so fully with small tastes, because with a little wiggle room I could easily dig in with a spoon and clean my bowl sparkly.

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These kind of days get me all dreamy about maybe homeschooling one day. Then I pull back realizing a few things, like how the magic is enhanced by our thriving time apart. Who knows what’s next. But for this moment, I’m just thrilled to jump into whatever healthy exploration makes those rosy apple cheeks bloom.

Vegan Caramel Date Dip

  • 8-10 medjool dates, pitted

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 -1/3 cup all natural (nuts only) nut butter of choice

  • 1/2 cup hot water

Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and combine, adding additional water as needed to reach desired consistency.