Lighter satisfaction for a sweet tooth

Watching your diet after the holidays? This relatively guilt-free dessert might hit the spot

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson
Adding some oats to these baked apples creates a filling, cobbler-like dessert that won’t spoil your diet.

Maria Stordahl Nelson
Seattle, Wash.

Each January, like most people, I look to trim my calorie consumption and focus my meals and treats on food that is both wholesome and healthful. A December full of parties and celebratory drinking and eating have left behind some extra pounds that I now find myself working to eliminate with all due expedience.

I find, however, that in my quest to reduce and minimize consumption I still need to have a few lighter, healthier desserts in my repertoire for those days when a sweet treat is an absolute must. Baked apples are one such treat. They have always been a dessert that satisfies my sweet tooth while at the same time providing me with a healthier, filling option.

Ease of preparation and simplicity of ingredients make baked apples a natural decision for me, and I must admit there is just something so cozy and satisfying about them. They are also a treat that each member of my household can all agree on. Once in the oven, the intoxicating aroma of brown sugar, butter, and tart apples wafts around my house and soon curious faces appear, sniffing the air gingerly with anxious anticipation. To this delicious, heady mixture of simple ingredients, I sometimes add cardamom, cinnamon, and a smattering of whole oats. The addition of cardamom gives this recipe it’s uniquely Nordic spin and ups the flavor profile considerably. Since heavy cardamom desserts are on hold for me this month, this recipe provides all of the great flavor I love in a much lighter package.

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson

If you’ve baked much with cardamom, you understand the importance of grinding your own. Store-bought ground cardamom, while delicious, lacks the earthy fragrant pungency that makes all of our Nordic breads, desserts, and pastries really sing. A mortar and pestle do the job admirably and efficiently and are definitely worth acquiring if you haven’t done so yet.

While not technically “diet” food, this recipe is much lighter than other dessert options and, if enjoyed in moderation, is a perfectly acceptable healthier choice. Rather than going to the trouble of hollowing out each apple, I usually slice them into thick rounds and toss them in brown sugar, spices, and the smallest amount of melted butter. The presentation is rustic and simple, and a fun and unique twist on the original.

Before long we are all happily, satisfyingly settled around steaming dishes of fragrant apples and caramelized oat topping, feeling not at all deprived. It’s my hope that you too will find this recipe a comforting and delicious way to begin the New Year.

Baked Cardamom Apples
1 cup old fashioned oats
4 tbsps. butter, melted
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ tsp. salt
3 large apples (Fuji or Pink)
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly ground cardamom
1 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the oats, butter, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Slice the apples into ¼” rounds, remove the seeds if desired, and toss them in a bowl with the spices and the melted butter. Place them in a small buttered baking dish, layering them lightly on top of each other.

Arrange the oats around the edge of the dish and place in the oven. Bake 30-40 minutes until the apples are tender. Serve immediately with a dollop of cream or ice cream if you desire.

Serves 4.

Maria Stordahl Nelson is a Seattle-area food writer, photographer, and recipe developer. She shares her love of all things sweet, savory, and sometimes Nordic at

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 27, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.