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Parsnip and Carrot Muffins

By now carrot, parsnip and other root crop supplies are winding down for the spring. But before we say goodbye, why not use them in one creative, less obvious method? These muffins make a healthy breakfast option that could adapted to include additional nutritional benefits with ingredients such as ground flax seeds and golden raisins. Or, for a special celebration, turn them into cupcakes with a maple cream cheese frosting. For those of you who must hide vegetables to get picky kids or stubborn adults to eat them, this should help too.

Parsnip and Carrot Muffins

Makes 12 standard muffins or 24+ mini

Ingredients
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 vegetable oil + more for greasing
3/4 cups maple syrup + a splash more
1/2 cup grated parsnips
3/4 cup grated carrots

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a muffin pan with vegetable oil or use muffin liners.

Place the chopped almonds and the splash of maple syrup in a small pan over medium heat. Cook until the nuts are well coated then remove to a plate to cool slightly.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl.

Whisk the eggs, yogurt, vegetable oil and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl until combined. Add the flour mixture, carrots and parsnips, and fold with a spatula until all of the flour is moistened. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin cups.

Sprinkle the top of each muffin with the maple almonds (you’ll probably have to break them up a bit if they’ve cooled for long). Bake for 20 minutes for regular sized muffins or 8 minutes for mini, either way, checking and rotating the pans halfway through baking. Check with a toothpick for doneness. Cool for 10 minutes before removing. Serve warm.

Adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown

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Maple Roasted Beets and Oranges

I walked a bunch of food magazines in the store yesterday and had to laugh. In what must be their California based test kitchens, they’re busy cooking with asparagus, peas, bunches of herbs and other warm weather fantasies. In reality – Vermont and probably much of the northern United States –  especially after the winter we’ve had, those foods are at least a month away. By the time they are here, the magazines will probably already be on to tomatoes.

Let’s focus on what’s actually available. The maple sugaring season is just about over (if it’s not already) and that means we have plenty of freshly processed maple syrup. Meanwhile, root vegetables are still lingering about and longing for some creativity. If we borrow some in season citrus from the south, we have plenty of possibilities.

If you’ve roasted root vegetables before, you already know and love the sweet crispy caramelization that happens in the cooking process. Adding maple syrup to the mix might sound a little unnecessary. Yet when you combine it with the bright tartness of roasted oranges, it makes for the perfect balance and for a perfectly timed dish.

You could eat the beets and oranges as is, for a side dish. Or place over greens with a maple balsamic dressing, top with cheese and seeds and have yourself a light and realistic spring dinner.

Maple Roasted Beets and Oranges

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 servings, as a side or as part of a main dish

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium beets
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  2. Slice the ends off the beets, slice in half, then each half into pieces. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and maple syrup, ginger and salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, peel, seed and chop the oranges. After 25 minutes, toss the beets on the sheet with the orange pieces and bake another 20 minutes or until beets are tender and crispy.
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Orange Maple Glazed Carrots

I don’t cook carrots often enough and I have no idea why. They’re colorful, crunchy and delicious without requiring much embellishment to highlight their awesomeness. I often unfairly regulate them to the standard raw salad or happily enjoy them in carrot coconut soup, but I’m always pleased with the result of a simple, light cooking.

Glazing a root vegetable like carrots – or parsnips or rutabaga – is accomplished through braising. That is, cooking on top of the stove in a small amount of liquid that is reduced down to a light coating, aka glaze, but the time the vegetable is tender.

carrots

Peel and slice your carrots. Or skip the peeling if you want and just give them a good wash, especially if they’re local. Then slice. I go with about a 1/4 inch slice, not too thin or thick. That way they will be perfectly tender yet still crisp. Slice them too thick and they won’t cook up enough in this quick braise.

I find that a wider pan works better than a small pot for quickly reducing the liquid and creating a nice glaze.

Any liquid works for a braise and orange juice pairs perfectly with carrots. Maybe it’s the orange color? Try wine, broth, beer, cider or fruit juice, depending on the ingredient you’re braising. You don’t need much, though. We’re not boiling the carrots here, so only a few will be submerged.

I threw some raisins in the pan, another nice complement to carrots, but you don’t have to.

carrots and raisens

Bring the liquid to a boil, cover and reduce the heat so that a steady, rapid simmer continues in the pan. It will take about 15 minutes, give or take, for the liquid to reduce and carrots to approach tenderness. At this point, you want to remove the cover and add in some maple syrup. Everything is better with maple. But there’s no need to get carried away with it, as carrots have a bit of sweetness on their own.

From there, it’s just another couple of minutes before the carrots are ready for dinner. Or snacking, because, like me, you just might want to eat them right out of the pan and that’s okay too.

carrots finished

 

syrupjugs_UOFCabot

Maple Trees + Spring = Liquid Gold

Maple syrup. Ubiquitous and delightful. Celebrated and loved. The sweet liquid gold of our green mountains.

Vermont is well known for its sugar houses that dot our working landscape, belching steam from its vents and smoke from its stacks.
Our season is short and completely dependent on the weather – freezing nights, ‘warmer than freezing’ days – and a sugarmaker can be found in the sugar house for days on end as long as the sap is running.
treebucket_UOFCabotMaple syrup, like honey, is rich in antioxidants and minerals from the trees it comes from. It is a great substitute in recipes that call for honey or simple syrup and can often be successfully swapped in for  cane sugar.

In our house, besides the usual pancakes and waffles, we drizzle maple syrup over bananas slathered with peanut butter or use it to sweeten our tea. It is a delicious on oatmeal, in a smoothie, in a salad dressing and spooned over plain yogurt or even ice cream.

Maple syrup recipes abound, so rather than give you lots of new ones, see below for some great recipes within Everyday Chef as well as a few other exceptional sources.

So the only question now is…golden, amber or dark?

carrots

RECIPES, FACTS, & HOW TO:

Links below will open up a new window

Everyday Chef: Our Favorite Recipes using Maple Syrup

VPR Cafe: Exploring Vermont Maple Syrup Recipes Through the Ages

Buzzfeed:  57 Magical Ways to use Maple Syrup

Vermont Maple: How We Make It

Tablespoon: How to Sweeten with Maple Syrup

Cornell University: Replacing Table Sugar with Maple Syrup (pdf)

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Photo Courtesy of www.thenaptimechef.com

Photo Courtesy of www.thenaptimechef.com

Cranberry Orange Sauce 

Makes 2 cups

1 pound cranberries
½ cup sugar or maple syrup
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick
A pinch of cloves, salt and pepper

Combine everything in a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the cranberries start to pop, lower the heat, cook another 3-4 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool.

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes

All of this talk about maple syrup is getting me hungry.  This recipe serves 12 and only takes about 10 minutes of active cooking. Ingredients: 2.5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5 in pieces (8 cups) 1/3 cup Vermont maple syrup 2 tbs butter or margarine, melted 1 tbs lemon juice 1/2 tsp. salt Pepper to taste

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. 2. Place sweet potatoes in an even layer in a glass baking dish.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes. (This is the perfect time to get a child helping with dinner!) 3. Cover and bake the potatoes for 15 minutes.  Uncover, stir, and bake again while stirring every 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender and beginning to brown.  This will take 45 minutes to an hour.

Using a non-dairy butter instead of dairy will bring this recipe down to no cholesterol!  Get more information on this dish’s nutritional content here .

What Do You Know About Maple Syrup?

In 2010, Vermont produced 1,140,000 gallons of delicious maple syrup – more than any other state!  Although maple syrup is available locally anytime, the sugaring season has just begun and fresh, sugary sap is now being made into the mouth-watering and rich syrup most of us delight in.  But do you know how this great product is made? Maple syrup was discovered by the Eastern Woodland Indians when they realized that sap cooking over a hot fire turned into a sugary substance.   Since then, people could not get enough of this wonderful syrup.  European settlers who were offered to share in the Indians’ new discovery,  began to develop technologies to make the process faster and easier.

Nowadays, maple syrup is made from placing taps on trees and allowing sap to travel down into buckets.  The sap is then collected through tubing, trucking, or other means to get to the sugar house.  Sap is then boiled when it is fresh to make the highest quality syrup.  Water then evaporates from the sap, leaving a thick sugary syrup behind.  This point usually occurs at 219 degrees and has a density of over 60% sugar.  Next, a valve is opened by the sugarmaker and the syrup is drawn off.  The maple syrup is then checked for the proper density of sugar with a tool called a hydrometer.  It is then filtered to remove sugar sand and other minerals found naturally within the tree.  Finally, the syrup is taste tested and color-graded!

 

Interested in teaching your class about maple syrup?  Kidgardening.org  offers a simple activity to do with children.

1. Hold up a bottle of maple syrup and ask the students if they know how syrup is produced.

2. Tell the students that syrup comes from trees, but do not tell them how it is extracted.

3. Using existing knowledge and their own imagination, have the students predict the sequence of how they think syrup is made from trees. They should list their “steps of production” from beginning to end. Their assignment should include pictures to accompany the steps for greater clarification.

4. Ask the students to share their assignments with the class.

5. Have the students recall what they know about trees and list their responses on the board.

6. Read the story, Sugarbush Spring to the students. Share some photographs of sap collection with the students.

7. Were any of the students’ sequence predictions similar to how the sap was collected in the story? How does this new information relate to what they already know about trees?

8. Have the students discuss the importance of scientific prediction. What is a hypothesis? How can it assist in discovering new information and ideas?

EXTENSION

– Have students map the Top 10 Maple Producing States. Examine their climate and geography, what do all of these states have in common? What can be learned about the needs of the maple tree by this determination?

 

*If you cannot use the specified book, play a short movie or documentaryor simply read from another source to describe the maple sugaring process.

If possible, bring your kids to a local sugarhouse or tapped tree for a real, live experience! Sugarmakers are usually very welcoming to schools and will offer some yummy maple snacks before you leave.  If the resources are available, this may also be a great time to incorporate cooking and tasting of a local product into the classroom, as well.  Get creative!

Vermont Blueberry And Maple Syrup Sorbet

Did you know that you can get locally grown and flash-frozen blueberries in Vermont this time of year?  Check your local co-op or health-food store and look out for Vermont-made labels.  Also, try buying local berries this summer and freezing them for winter use. Homemade sorbet is great way to make a scrumptious and healthy dessert that is also low-fat.  Sorbets can be made with all different types of fruits – so don’t be afraid to try different forms of this recipe!  This recipe does not require the use of an ice-cream or sorbet maker and only takes about 5-7 minutes to prepare.  – And it was a hit tonight with all of my friends!

Ingredients: 1.5-2 cups blueberries 1/4 cup maple syrup 1/2 lemon, juiced ~tsp lemon zest dash of vanilla extract

1. Combine all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mash (or have a helper do so) with a potato masher just until the mixture is combined and the blueberries are smashed up a bit. 2. Place mixture into a blender or food processor.  Blend, pulsating when necessary.  My blender has a space at the top to insert a mixing device.  If your blender doesn’t have this ability, simply blend the mixture, stop it, and then mix it with a spoon.  Blend again and repeat until the entire mixture is fairly smooth.  Some bumps are perfectly fine.  Hand-held electric mixers would probably work fairly well for this purpose, too. 3. Dig in and bask in blueberry deliciousness:)

Localvore Cranberry Sauce

Localvore Cranberry Sauce, from the Domestic Diva
Ingredients
  • 1 lb cranberries
  • 1/2 lb local quince or apples
  • 1-2 cups water (apple cider works will, but finished product will be less traditional in flavor)
  • 2-4 tbs local apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4-1 cup maple syrup
  • salt

Preparation

Cut up quince or apples, place in pot with cranberries and water/cider and vinegar.  Cook until cranberries are beginning to soften.  Add a pinch or two of salt and a good dollop of syrup.  Taste.  Add additional salt and syrup as desired until cranberry sauce tastes the way you want it.  Chill and serve.
Additional items to add:
  • Oranges or orange zest
  • Pomegranite seeds or juice
  • Ginger
  • White or brown sugar
  • Any other flavoring or spice you desire

Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine using any of the following options:

  • Super simple (for small quantities):  put all ingredients in a mug, and agitate in a circular motion with a fork.
  • Still pretty simple: put all ingredients in a glass jar with a lid (like a canning jar), tighten the lid, and shake like the dickens–fun job for kiddos.
  • Simple:  put all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously.
  • Not-so-simple, but still fun (good for larger quantities):  Pull out your food processor or (the Diva’s favorite) Magic Bullet, add solid ingredients first (like garlic or ginger) and pulse until everything is minced.  Then all other non-oil ingredients (vinegar, maple syrup, tamari, etc), and then, while the processor is still on, add the oil slowly.  Voila.  You’ll have a tasty and emulsified dressing.

If you’re making a big batch, leftovers can be kept in a sealed jar in your refrigerator for up to five days.