My kitchen has been filled with the tantalizing aroma of apples cooking all this week. That is because my friend, Jean, has brought me beautiful apples from her neighborhood tree. This year these apples have been plentiful and sweet.

I’ve passed this bounty to neighbors and friends so they could enjoy all of this goodness too. Several of the recipients asked what variety these apples are, but I can’t answer that question with any certainty because it is an old tree that Jean didn’t plant. She simply doesn’t know. These apples remind me of Jonathans, but I am certainly not an apple expert so that is just a guess.

The apples made delicious sauce and the process was so simple. I cut the washed apples into fourths and removed the core and filled a 12-quart soup pot with apples. Then I poured 4 cups of no-added-sugar apple cider and 4 cups of water over the fruit and let the apples slowly simmer in the liquid until they were thoroughly cooked and tender. I let the hot fruit set for an hour or until the apples were cooled enough not to burn my hands as I put the sauce though a chinois. A chinois is a fine mesh conical-shaped strainer used with a pestle to force the apples though the mesh to remove their skins and make a finely processed sauce. I did not add one bit of sugar and I still thought the sauce was sweet and maybe even a little sweeter than I am used to eating. Gregg and I enjoyed it with a bit of cinnamon sprinkled on the top.

I used that applesauce to make donuts. I modified a baked pumpkin donut recipe that I had gotten with my donut pan and I was happy with the result. I liked them plain, but if you bake for family members that enjoy their donuts a bit sweeter, you can glaze them with a bit of powdered sugar thinned with milk and a splash of vanilla.

I’ve also included two other apple recipes our family enjoys. The crock pot apples make a great dessert but they are also delicious over oatmeal, pancakes or waffles for breakfast. The apple bars were a favorite of our kids when they were little. They taste like apple custard pie and make a great after school snack.

Whether your apples are from a beloved backyard tree, a roadside stand or your favorite grocer, these recipes will make you grateful someone picked them and you can eat them.

Applesauce Donuts

1 cup applesauce

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 tablespoons oil

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup apple cider

Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Place dough in the wells of a non-stick doughnut baking pan. Bake about 15 minutes or until doughnuts are golden and a knife inserted comes out clean. Transfer doughnuts to a cooling rack. Recipe Note: I like the earthy flavor of whole wheat flour but if you don’t, feel free to use all-purpose flour or any combination of the two.

Slow Cooker Apples

10 apples, peeled, cored and sliced

2 teaspoons almond extract

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

Place prepared apples in a 6-quart slow cooker. Drizzle extract over apples. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Pour over the apples and toss to coat. Cut butter into very thin slices and lay over the apple mixture. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours or until apples are tender. Recipe Note: We enjoy these apples topped with ice cream or crumbled ginger snaps. I like almond flavoring in this recipe, but I know there are those who prefer vanilla. Use what pleases you.

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Apple Bars

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups fresh apple slices

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, butter and one-half cup sugar until thoroughly mixed and put in the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch ungreased pan. Combine the one-fourth cup sugar and cinnamon and add to the sliced apples and lightly toss together. Arrange the apples over the crust and bake for 30 minutes. While baking the crust and apples, combine the brown sugar, eggs, flour and salt and beat by hand. Spread this mixture on top of the baked apples and crust and bake 25 minutes longer reducing the heat to 325 degrees after putting the bars into the oven for the second time. Cut into bars after cooling.

Quote of the Week: Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in one seed. -- Robert Schuller

Ellen Lund of Fremont is a freelance food columnist.

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