Warm apples with vanilla cream sauce

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Makes 4 servings

I usually prepare this dessert just before serving because I love the aroma in my kitchen as the apples cook. But, I have found that it can be made early in the day, refrigerated in a covered container, and reheated in the microwave for about 2 minutes on HIGH.

The warm apples are delicious served over premium vanilla ice cream, with gingersnaps, or over slices of gingerbread cake. Or, top the warm apples with vanilla yogurt and add a sprinkling of granola or chopped pecans.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup sugar

2 crisp, semisweet apples (such as Braeburn or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch

dice ½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup half-and-half

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated) for garnish

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sugar; stir for about 1 minute or until it begins to melt.

Add the apples; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the apples are tender and the butter is lightly browned.

Meanwhile, put the cranberries in a small microwave-proof custard cup with 2 tablespoons water. Cover with waxed paper and microwave on HIGH for 1 ½ minutes or until the cranberries are softened. Drain any water remaining.

Stir the half-and-half, vanilla, and softened cranberries into the apples. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and simmer for about 2 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Serve warm in small dessert bowls. Garnish with nutmeg.

Paulette Mitchell, a culinary instructor, television personality, spokesperson, freelance food writer, and the award-winning author of 13 cookbooks, is known internationally for her quick-to-prepare recipes with gourmet flair. Paulette's most recently published cookbook is "The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet: Creative Cuisine Made Fast and Fresh." She is also the author of "A Beautiful Bowl of Soup" and "The Spirited Vegetarian," which was voted "Best Book in the World on Cooking with Wine" at the 2005 Gourmand World Media Awards. Paulette says that international travel is her favorite source of culinary inspiration.