Maple season

This weekend our community of Whitingham hosts its annual Maple Festival. If you are unfamiliar with the term sugaring & have wondered how that sap turns into syrup, then head to Vermont. Throughout the state, sugar houses will be open for touring.abbotts glen-maple syrup

March is the month when maple trees are tapped. The temperature has to run below freezing at night & above 40 during the day in order for the sap to run.It takes 42 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup. For a small operation like ours, that can mean a whole day of boiling to produce 1 gallon. It’s worth it though when you taste that sweet flavor in an updated chocolate chip cookie or maple walnut pie.

I am including 2 of my favorite maple recipes from The Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrickh. How sweet it is!

Maple Walnut Pie

1 uncooked pie shell
3 eggs at room temperature
1 cup maple syrup at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
dash of salt
1 Tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. white flour
1 1/2 cups toasted walnut halves

1.) Preheat oven to 425.
2.) In an electric mixer beat eggs on high for 2 minutes. Add maple syrup, brown sugar, salt , vanilla & flour. Beat to mix. Spread walnuts on the bottom of an uncooked pie crust. Then pour in egg mixture.
3.) Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, then resude heat to 375 & bake for 30 more minutes. The pie should be puffed & golden when removed from oven. Serves 8 ~ 10.
Cool & serve with whipped cream or good quality vanilla ice cream.

Maple Coffee Chocolate chip Cookies
1 cup butter softened
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbs. instant coffee ganules or espresso powder
2 Tbs. hot water
2 Tsp. vanilla extract
1/1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 Tsp. soda
dash of salt
1/1/2 cups Ghiradelli bitterwsweet chocolate chips
1.) Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2 baking sheets. Cream butter in a large bowl with a mixer, slowly drizzling in the aple syrup. Dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water & add to creamed mixture with vanilla.
2.) In a seperate bowl, toss flours, nuts, baking soda & salt to mix. Stir into creamed mixture until incoporated. Stir in chocolate chips just until mixed.
3.) Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet. Leave 2 inches between. Bake 15 minutes until edges begin to brown. Transfer to a wrack to cool.
Makes 2 1/2 doz.

It’s spring on the calendar

Spring arrived on Saturday morning around 6:45. I kept looking for signs, but there were none. Another cold day  (26 was the high temp,) the piles of brown snow made it feel more like mid-February. Vases of colorful tulips, purchased while grocery shopping, would be my only reminder of spring this weekend.Spring tulips in Abbott's Glen's Dining RoomWe celebrated it anyway with a Spring-inspired dinner!

spring salad
Beautiful Spring Salad

Baby greens topped with avocado, red onions, fresh slices of navel oranges & kalamata olives, topped with maple vinaigrette. Roasted salmon with a lemon & herb panko crust and a quick saute of snow peas, asparagus & chopped shallots.

 

Pineapple Upside-down cake
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Dessert was a variation of a pineapple upside-down cake. The cake batter was enhanced with molasses & cinnamon and a touch of maple extract. Rather than using pineapple rounds, I finely chopped fresh pineapple so you got a mouthful of pineapple in every bite. We topped it off with a nice scoop of vanilla gelato.

Then it was over to Club Sugar Shack for a little dancing. Our theme was the 60’s. Peace, love & happiness was the mindset for hours of nostalgic music, hopefully our hippie dances to the sun-gods will make the warm weather arrive soon!

 

Left over corned beef

If you are like me you always cook more corned beef than your guests or family will eat in 1 sitting. No problem. Let’s cook up some great corned beef hash for breakfast. Making your own is really easy & I don’t know why I don’t make it more often. All you need are some potatoes & onion. This particular recipe is an adaptation from Cheryl & Bill Jamisons cookbook called “A Real American Breakfast”

corned-beef -hash
Homemade Corned Beef hash

I have tried many recipes from this book over the years & everyone has been a winner. It is my go to cookbook for new ideas.

So treat yourself to a leisurely breakfast with homemade hash, a great cup of joe tomorrow!

 

Corned Beef Hash
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1/2 lbs. boiled potatoes, finely diced
3 cups corned beef, chopped
1 cup beef stock from the boiled beef
2 Tbs. heavy cream
2 Tsp. yellow mustard
1 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley
1 Tsp. black pepper
1.) Melt butter with oil in a cast iron pan. Saute onion until soft.
2.) Mix in remaining ingredients & simmer 10 minutes, covered.
3.) After a few minutes, turn hash over so it can get crispy.
4.) Remove cover & continue cooking about 10 more minutes. Continue to turn hash about in the pan.
5.) Top with a poached egg.

St. Patrick’s Day menu

We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day this weekend with our inn guests, even though the official day to commemorate  St. Patrick is March 17th. A dinner & dance is a great way to bring warmth into a chilly Saturday in March.St. pats menu

I prepared a lovely dinner complete with corned beef that simmered throughout the day with onions & pickling spices. It was a great day to be in the warm kitchen cooking, as it drizzled outside making a mess of melted snow & mud.

My menu for this meal has not changed in years. I always prepare a big pot of colcannon, which is a luscious mixture of onions & cabbage cooked in milk & butter, then added to a pot of mashed potatoes seasoned with salt & freshly ground pepper. My dear father  would have called this Irish soul food.

My vegetable accompaniment is a winter mix of parsnips, organic carrots & turnips which I steam & then cloaked in a buttery mixture of ground cloves, maple syrup & Irish butter (if you can get your hands on any.) I like to imagine those Irish cows grazing on that lush green grass. Like the French butters, they have a higher butterfat content and add a richness & creaminess to anything you slather it on.

I always prepare a few loaves of Irish bread to go with the meal, however, when I went to get my ingredients out to bake, I had no baking powder. I was now unable to use my tried & true Irish bread recipe of my mom’s. What to do? Since I had seen many a recipe for Irish soda bread, I decided to try one from an Irish pub cookbook. It was great! I made a few additions of my own like caraway seeds & currants I had plumped in a bit of Irish whiskey. I had no complaints from guests who seemed to clean their plates & go for a second round to the sideboard, where the buffet was presented.

I tried a new dessert this year, a chocolate cake made with cooked sweet potatoes & Guinness stout. I plated it up with a dollop of whipped cream & a few berries for garnish. Our guests left the table almost numb, and to even think about some Irish revelry over in club Sugar shack seemed hard, but they did make their way over to dance a bit, yes they did!

st. pattys party
Club Sugar Shack decorated for St. Paddys party

Chocolate Guinness Sweet Potato Cake

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potato puree(2 large potatoes)

1 1/2 cup white flour

1 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking powder & soda

pinch of salt

1 cup Guinness

1.)In a mixing bowl, cream butter & sugar. Add eggs & sweet potato puree & mix until well combined.

2.)In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda & salt. Then add to wet ingredients until partially mixed.

3.)Add Guinness & beat until you have a thick smooth batter.

4.)Spoon batter into a well greased tube/bundt pan.

5.)Bake in a preheated oven 350 for 45 minutes.

Let the pan sit for 15 minutes, then turn it over onto a cake platter. Once totally cooled, dust with confectioners sugar & serve with whipped cream.

 

Irish Soda Bread
Soda bread has long been a staple in Ireland. It is a bread made without yeast, because baking soda mixed with buttermilk is used as a leavening agent. A cross is cut into the top of the bread to help it rise and according to Irish folklore, to either ward off evil or let the fairies out.
Makes 1 loaf serving 10
breakfast -bread-jam3 1/2 cup white flour, plus extra for dusting
1 Tsp. salt
1 Tsp. baking soda
1 Tsp. caraway seeds
1/3 cup currants, plumped in 2 Tbs. Irish Whiskey
1 ¾ cup buttermilk
1.)Preheat oven to 425. Oil a baking sheet.
2.)Sift flour, salt & soda into mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle. Pour buttermilk in & mix just until it comes together. Dough should be soft but not too wet.
3.)Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it lightly. Shape into an 8 inch circle. Place on prepared baking sheet & cut a cross into top with a sharp knife.
4.)Bake in oven for 25 ~ 30 minutes until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
This bread is delicious served the following morning toasted with butter & jam

 

March mornings are a changin’

Pears & candies ginger
Pears & candied ginger

I enjoyed a cup of coffee with my husband this morning, a ritual we always make time for. We sat in our Inn dining room overlooking the frozen pond and meadow beyond. The wind swept the snow in soft curls that spiraled up into large Vs and then disappeared. This dance went on for an hour and as one extinguished itself others would form. We watched like children as this performance, perhaps one of winter’s last, made us appreciate the beauty of the ending season.

Breakfast is my husband’s favorite meal. Lucky for him, I love creating something healthy and nourishing. Morning always includes some fresh fruit, protein, and a pastry/bread item. On the weekends he enjoys whatever menu I am preparing for my guests. When it’s just the two of us, I can try out a new recipe, as I did this morning. This is a lovely variation on a baked German pancake. We topped it with our own Abbott’s Glen Maple syrup and toasted almonds.

Ginger-Pear Baked Pancake

3 eggs

3/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup whole wheat white flour

dash of salt

1 tsp. almond extract

2 pears, cored & sliced thin

2 Tbs. brown sugar

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 Tbs. minced candied ginger

Preheat oven to 425°

  1. Melt 2 Tbs. of butter in an iron skillet. Add pears, brown sugar, cinnamon & candied ginger. Cook until pears are slightly softened.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, flour, salt & extract. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Pour the batter over the pear mixture in the skillet. I use cast iron for oven baking as the pancake seems to puff higher.
  4. Bake for 20 ~ 25 minutes until puffed & golden.
  5. Carefully remove from the oven, handle will be hot, hot, hot!
  6. Top with toasted almonds & a Vermont maple syrup.

Serves 4 with a nice side of sausage or hearty bacon.

Sunday morning breakfast

blueberry spelt pancakes
Sunday breakfast

There are some mornings when you wake up & want more than cereal or eggs. It was Sunday morning & I was thinking pancakes.

For years, I have made a buttermilk pancake recipe that has become an Inn favorite. In an attempt to make this morning favorite more nutritious, I decided to use melted coconut oil rather than butter. I was out of whole wheat flour so opted for  spelt flour rather than white. I had recently purchased some coconut sugar, so decided to add that rather than brown. Tired of apples & pears, our seasonal winter fruit, I added fresh blueberries  into my griddle cake batter. They were delicious & light. And no pile of pancakes is complete until you have a cruet of Vermont maple syrup to bath those cakes in. We make our own syrup every March so there is always a bottle on hand for those pancake/waffle mornings.

Spelt flour is becoming a more familiar item these days. Spelt is an ancient cereal grain from the Middle east. It is in the wheat family but it is not the same thing as wheat. It has a slightly nutty sweet flavor similar to whole wheat. It is not gluten free. Spelt has fewer calories &  is slightly higher in protein than whole wheat flour.

Buttermilk Blueberry Spelt Pancakes

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

3 tTbs. of coconut oil

2 Tbs of sugar,white , brown or coconut

1/2 cup spelt flour

1/2 cup ground cornmeal

1 Tsp. baking powder

1/2 Tsp. baking soda

pinch of salt

1/2 Tsp. vanilla

Combine 1 egg & buttermilk in a mixing bowl and mix.

In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.

Add dry to wet. Mix gently.

Add vanilla & coconut oil.

Add blueberries.

If batter appears to thick to easily slide off of a spoon onto griddle, add a few more tablespoons of buttermilk.

Cook on a greased griddle. Makes 10 medium size cakes.

Note: I used coconut oil to grease the griddle. It gives the pancakes a slight coconut flavor.

A note about coconut oil. This use to be a no no oil as it was thought to be a bad fat, one of those stick to your artery walls kind. Recently, that information has been proven false. As a matter of fact, coconut oil is a good for you oil with lot’s of other uses.

 

 

 

Spring dreaming

Even the most passionate cook gets a little kitchen weary this time of year. We have all cooked up chiliies, soups, pasta dishes & roasted enough veggies that even a vegetarian would say “no more!” With spring just two weeks away, my thoughts are wandering to the start of gardening season.

Here at the Inn we plant a large veggie crop out in our orchard. Several years ago we planted asparagus & strawberries, and reach spring they are our first crop. Tender green asparagus stalks grace our breakfast & dinner plates, roasted or grilled, served with homemade aioli.

basket of strawberries
fresh from the garden

The thought of picking fresh strawberries, sweet smelling from the sun’s warmth, makes my mouth water. I know I am getting a little ahead of myself as I look out the window to meadows still frozen over in several feet of snow. Spring comes slowly to Vermont. We await its arrival, bringing the color & scent of the earth waking up.

 

Naked Country cooking