Maple Raisin Butter Tarts

By Julie

Time:  2 hours: 1 hour prep and bake, 1 hour chill time for pastry (optional if using store bought)

Serves:  Makes 12 tarts

My mom makes delicious butter tarts by substituting maple syrup for corn syrup.  I tried to make one with just maple syrup, but I found I didn’t enjoy them as much as the corn syrup, maple ratio.  To me, the perfect butter tart is runny, a sensuous combination of salty and sweet, and has delicious golden raisins. Store bought crust is fine, but there really is no substitution for homemade tart pastry.  This one is very forgiving and easy to roll so give it a try.

You Will Need

For the Pastry:

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp ice water

For the Filling:

  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar ( I used dark because i like the flavor better, but use what you have on hand)
  • 1/4 cup of real maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup of corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of butter, melted, browned, and cooled
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp of real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of golden raisins (thompsons will work also if that’s what you have

 

Make the Pastry

Yay for using a mixer!  Lots of bakers will go on about the merits of making dough by hand.  Learning how is important because you need to appreciate what really good pastry feels like in each stage so that you learn how to ensure the right flour to water consistency, but this one is super forgiving and is fine in your mixer.  Use the paddle attachment and combine the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the butter pieces and mix until it looks crumbly but you still have some larger butter pieces.  This is what makes a flakey dough, when the butter melts in the oven and creates air pockets.  Whisk the egg with the water and add it to your mixture.  Use the mix setting until dough comes together.  Shape it into two logs, like you’re going to make slice cookies, and wrap it in plastic.  Chill for at least an hour to make sure that butter is cold and the gluten relaxed before you roll it out.

Remove the dough from the fridge and preheat your oven to 400F.  Grease a 12 cup muffin pan, and lightly flour your work surface.  Cut your pastry logs into 12 equal portions and roll into circles.  Place each circle in the muffin cups gently.  Overlap is ok, just make sure you maneuver the dough into the bottom of the cups.  Gently push the seams together.  Let your dough lay over the top of the muffin cups a bit.  Cut off any excess (you don’t want the crust of one tart touching another).  Place tray in the fridge to cool for 20 minutes while you make the filling to prevent shrinkage. You want that butter to be cold when it hits the oven.

Make The Filling

Whisk the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl (preferably with a spout) until combined.  Add eggs, whisking in 1 at a time is easier to combine, then vinegar and vanilla.  Grab your shells from the fridge and place raisins in the bottom of each.  Fill just a smidge over 3/4 full with filling.  If you didn’t leave extra dough at the top of your cups, you may want to use a bit less filling so they don’t overflow.

Place the tarts in the oven and bake for 5 minutes, then, like a pie, reduce to 375 and continue baking for about 20 minutes.  You will see the tarts puff up or “dome”.  Cool completely before removing from pan.

This is the only recipe I will ever use for these.  I can’t make them that often because I am fully capable of eating all of them.  They keep well in an airtight container on the counter for a few days or chilled in the fridge.  They also freeze well.  Just be careful to thaw at room temperature.  A brief stay in the microwave turns the filling to molten lava and you’ll burn your face off.

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Simple Strawberry Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing

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By Corinne

I love salads. Winter and the often sad produce that comes with it is around for a long time here in northwestern Ontario.  Winter is long and our growing season is short, which I think makes me love salad and strawberries and all things summer just that much more.

This is one of my ‘go to’ salads and dressings. While I like to keep it simple, there are a few easy and tasty variations you can make by switching up either the nuts or the cheese or both. Pictured is with pecans and feta, but a soft goat cheese works delightfully well with strawberries, and almonds are a nice switch up for the pecans if you happen to have them on hand instead. For greens switch up spring mix for spinach or romaine or whatever mix of lettuce you happen to have growing in your garden or you picked up at the market.

If you feel like making this into a meal, the dressing pairs wonderfully well with chicken.

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Time: 15 -20 minutes, depending mostly on how well you have to wash your greens

Serves: 4 as a large side 6-8 as a small side

You Will Need:

For the dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (or if you have a delightful nut oil like walnut or almond, use that!)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp dry thyme, or it’s soooo much better with fresh if you have it (if you do, use closer to  1/4 tsp instead)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • few grinds of fresh black pepper

For the salad

  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces OR slivered almonds
  • about 6 oz spring mix or romaine
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of crumbled feta OR goat cheese
  • 1 english cucumber, thinly sliced
  • about 1 lb strawberries washed, hulled and thinly sliced

Toast nuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Shake them up every few minutes. They should take about 7-12 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.  Remove from heat when fragrant and browned – it will be a little harder to tell if the pecans are fully toasted than the almonds, but when you think they might be done, taste one 🙂 Set aside and let cool. Some people have success toasting nuts in the oven. I’ve almost always burnt at least some of them doing them that way, it’s much easier to keep an eye on them in the pan! Any leftover toasted nuts will keep room temperature in a container for at least a week.

Assemble ingredients for dressing. If you happen to have a delicious nut oil such as walnut or almond, this is a wonderful salad for it. If you are going to be using it, please taste it first to make sure it hasn’t spoiled as those nut oils don’t keep nearly as long as you want them to.  Whisk dressing ingredients together. Taste dressing. If you prefer yours a little less acidic, add a bit more oil, whisk and taste again. If you like your dressing a little sweeter, add another 1/2 tbsp or so of maple syrup.

Wash and dry whatever greens you are using and assemble salad either into individual servings or into one large bowl. Depending on who you are feeding you may choose to leave the nuts on the side for people to add to their salad if they wish.

 

Maple Dijon Pork Tenderloin Medallions

 

By Corinne

You know when you have no time to make something for supper? And you don’t even have time to throw on a bit of a garnish to make your picture look pretty because you got home late and someone is leaving for a rehearsal in 40 minutes? This is a supper for those nights.

Cous cous is one of my favourite sides because it takes all of 5 minutes to make- and it even comes in a delicious whole wheat version. It’s springtime and the asparagus is no longer being trucked in all the way from Peru so I don’t feel bad about buying it, and it also takes all of 7-10 minutes to broil in the oven. This supper is a crowd pleaser and goes well with all sorts of vegetables and starches.

 

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Servings:2-4 depending on sides

Time: 20 min or less

You Will Need:

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup flour + 1 tbsp **see note
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp smooth dijon mustard (I love the President’s Choice brand), or 1 tbsp smooth dijon, 1 tbsp grainy dijon
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup chicken broth OR 1 cup water 1 tbsp veggie bouillon

Season 1/2 cup flour with salt and pepper. Preheat pan on medium/medium high depending on your stove. Cut pork tenderloin into 3/4 inch medallions and dredge in seasoned flour. I usually flatten them out a little by hand as I do this.

Add 3 tbsp of butter to pan. When melted, add medallions, cooking 3-4 min on each side until browned and cooked through. Remove pork from pan, whisk in the 1 tbsp of flour, then add the one cup of broth and let reduce and thicken for a minute or two. Add the 2 tbsp each of mustard and maple syrup. ** when serving this with rice or cous cous I sometimes prefer to leave the sauce thinner and omit the extra tbsp of flour, while when I serve with oven fries or potatoes of some sort I always add it to make the sauce more gravy like.

Add the pork medallions back to the pan to cover in sauce or to reheat if you’ve taken an excessive amount of time reducing your sauce  due to answering the door or the phone or any number of things that can distract you while making supper.

Serve with a few spoonfuls of sauce on cous cous (as pictured), with rice, or  oven fries. It would probably be delightful with mashed potatoes, but I rarely make them so can’t say for sure. Good veggies to go are steamed broccoli, asparagus, or roasted brussels sprouts. All of these veggies are complemented by the maple dijon sauce and are pretty and green on the plate.

Browned Butter and Maple Apple Crisp

By Julie

Time: 75min:  30min prep, 45 min baking

Serves 4-6

I love everything about apple crisp.  The tangy tartness of the apples, the sweet buttery crumb of the crisp, the syrupy sauce that only forms in the careful slow baking of pectin, sugar, and a little flour.  My grandmother used to put rhubarb in it, which I love even more, but sadly it’s December and I have long since used up my stash of frozen stalks.  However, not to worry, because it is the season of liquid gold (maple syrup) so we will give it a staring role in this dish.

A fruit crisp is a great way to bring a taste of summer into the long winter months.  It works great with fresh or thawed frozen fruit, and it’s a super quick desert to make.

Since I love everything about apple crisp and also have a slightly unhealthy addiction to browned butter, I decided that it would probably be heaven to combine the two.  Tyler brought home a cooler full of crisp, tiny apples of unknown variety from work and I needed to use them quickly as they are not waxed.  I do not hold their anonymity against them though for they are super crunchy, sweet, and delicious.  If you don’t have awesome anonymous apples, Gala works nicely here.

This is the first dessert I made without a recipe.  It took me several tries to get it the way I envisioned it, so we ate apple crisp for a week and one of them was completely inedible.  It is now, honestly, art.  The best crisp I’ve ever had, it’s frequently requested by my family.  I am dying for July fresh peaches so I can try them too. I’m not a super sweet dessert person, I like buttery sweet/salt combinations and my preferences are discernible in this recipe.  It works best in a small deep dish 1.5 quart casserole dish.  If using an 8×8 you need to double the recipe and use a deep pan.

You Will Need:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • enough apples to fill your dish.  About 7.
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats (rolled or quick, whatever you have will work)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

This magic happens in a slow 350 degree oven.  Preheat now.

First, Brown the Butter!  You could skip this step.. if you wanted to… you would be CRAZY.. but you could.  But don’t.  So, brown the butter.  Put a whole stick, or half a cup, into a small sauce pan over medium low heat.  On my burn-o-matic stove, it’s really low, but for you, it should be about the temperature that you use for pancakes.  DO NOT DESERT YOUR BUTTER!  For it happens quickly.  The butter will melt and turn a sunny yellow colour, foam and darken slowly, then the magic happens.  The butter solids separate and brown, turning your butter into something the colour of:  well, brown.  It will smell nutty, the solids will be sitting at the bottom.  Brown as much as you dare… don’t burn it.  Burned butter is bitter and not yummy at all.  As always, taste it to make sure.  It should taste slightly salty and caramely. If it’s bitter, you broke the rule, deserted it, and it’s burnt.  Start over.  Remove from heat immediately, transfer to a small bowl to halt the cooking process and put in the freezer to harden while you finish prepping. You want to be able to cut it into the crumble instead of just pouring it on.

Peel the Apples:  If you have a peeler, by all means use it.  I do.  Because I hate peeling apples almost as much as I hate doing dishes.  I used 7 small apples, but you want to fill your pan nearly to the top.  Slice thinly and top with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning. Place in a 1.5 quart baking dish, and toss with 1 tbsp of flour.   Add enough maple syrup to coat.  About 1/4 of a cup.  Toss and level the apples in the pan.

Make the Crumble:  In a medium bowl, combine:

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Then add the brown butter, using a pastry blender to combine the butter with the dry ingredients until a crumbly mixture forms.  If it got too hard in the freezer feel free to soften it for a few seconds in the microwave but you want it cold.  Don’t melt it. Try not to eat it.

Assemble and Bake:  Double check to make sure your oven is preheated to 350F.  Spoon the crumble on top of the apples and press down lightly.  Pop in the oven and bake for 45 min.  Your sauce should be starting to bubble up around the edges and the top should be golden brown.  Serve warm as a dessert, add cream, or be brave like me and put it on a pancake so you can call it breakfast.  Because, well there’s fruit and syrup and why wouldn’t you?

Other Ideas: Please leave a comment and let me know how this worked for you.  Feel free to change, create, and inspire.  My only advice is don’t try granola… I did, and it would have been lovely, but raisins can only take so much punishment and 45 min on top of a crisp exposed to the heat was more than their shriveled skins could take.  I’ve also tried raisins in with the apples, fantastic, and dried cranberries.  Also fantastic.  Use what you have available and create something delicious to share.

 

A.W. Campbell Conservation Area Maple Syrup Festival

By Julie

Today we took a walk in the woods in search of some history and some delicious local maple syrup.  Luckily, we found both.  The A.W. Campbell Conservation Area outside of Alvinston, Ontario hosts an annual maple syrup festival.  They have displays of historical ways of processing sugar maple sap, and also a modern operation which uses a series of plastic tubes to run the sap to collection tanks.

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My favourite part was a story about how early natives discovered maple syrup. The story told to us by the tour guide was that youths were practicing with their tomahawks and one got lodged in a tree. The youths left it behind, stuck deep into the tree, scarring it and releasing the life blood of the tree, the sap.  The next day, a maiden was walking to collect a bucket of water and stopped to rest beneath the tree.  She fell asleep, and when she woke, her bucket was overflowing with clear water!  She happily returned to her village and used the water to cook bear meat.  The sap boiled, cooked the bear meat and became maple syrup.

We had a demonstration of the native method… hot rocks placed into the sap in a hollowed out log.  It looked… ashy.

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The tour was wonderful, and very informative, but then there were pancakes.  Cooked by firemen.  And man, they were the best pancakes on styrofoam plates I have ever had.  Did I mention the local fresh maple syrup?  I wanted to lick the plate.  Even the breakfast sausage was local.

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This is my new friend Jake Halls.  He works for the Alvinston fire department and was selling an assortment of completely legal, sweet, addictive, liquid gold.  There was maple butter, and syrup – oh the syrup –  in everything from tiny bottles to two liter jugs.  Who wouldn’t want that?

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I made it out of there without buying the entire counter.  Barely.

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Watch for some sweet maple treats while we celebrate the season of liquid gold.

Magic Muffins – Zucchini!

By: Julie

Time:  30min:  10min prep, 20 min cook

Serves:  16 – 20 large muffins

Introducing Muffin Mondays!  Every Monday for the next several weeks we will bring you a new muffin post.

I like my muffins to taste like muffins.  I like them to be moist and slightly sweet, but not cakey or deserty.  I think the muffins that come from Tim Hortons these days don’t resemble anything we should be eating for breakfast, so I make my own.

I call these magic because they seem to work out no matter what I do to them.  They are my choose your own adventure muffins.  I use applesauce instead of oil and the stayed moist for five days.  FIVE DAYS.  That’s what makes them magic. I keep the basic ingredients the same and swap out the flavors regularly. You will see several variations of these over the next several weeks to get a sense of what you can do with them. I frequently use this recipe to get rid of leftover fruits, jams, nuts and flours. Have fun with it.

Today’s adventure is with zucchini!

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A neighbor friend of mine, the lovely Lynsey, was kind enough to drop off some giant zucchini last summer.  These are not much good for grilling, but shred them and they are terrific for baking.  Sadly, this is the last batch.  Zucchini will keep shredded for up to 6 months.  Longer if you’ve packaged it well.  And the raisins… a number of you will say you don’t like raisins in your muffins but I say you can’t have a muffin without a raisin.  Bring on the raisins.  You can omit them.  If you must.  But you shouldn’t.

You Will Need:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp of baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup applesauce (or oil if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3 cups of shreded zucchini

Prep

Preheat oven to 350F and grease you muffin pans.  You can use paper liners if you wish, but I prefer the slight crisp on the outside of the muffin when they are baked naked.  This recipe removes easily from the baking pan with just a slight coating of cooking spray.

Mix The Wet Ingredients

Whisk the sugar, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, and applesauce together in a large bowl until smooth.

Mix The Dry Ingredients

Stir flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

Combine and Bake

Fold wet ingredients into dry until just combined.  You know the muffin rule, NEVER OVER MIX.  There should still be bits of white flour.  The rest will work itself in when you fold in the zucchini and the raisins.  On that note… fold in the zucchini and the raisins.  I used a large cookie scoop and used heaping portions, filling the muffin cups nearly to the top.  If you use a bit less you can make up to 24 smaller muffins.  Place the muffins in the oven for 20min.  If you’ve made them smaller check them after 15.  Poke with a wooden skewer in the center to make sure they’re done.  The skewer should be clean or with a few crumbs.  Remove from oven an let cool for 10 min before removing from pan to cooling rack.  Enjoy warm or cold.  Even butter isn’t needed, but it is delicious.

 

 

Homemade Veggie Bouillon

imageBy: Corinne

This veggie bouillon is my ‘secret’ ingredient, and one of my favourite things. I never buy chicken stock or any of those bouillon cubes. In addition to using it as an addition to soups and stews, risotto and pastas, I also love to rub a few tbsp into a roast before cooking.

It’s versatile and forgiving. I also love that you can control the saltiness of it. Warning though, the less salt you add, the harder it will get in the freezer. I suppose you could make it with no salt at all and freeze it in tbsp portions, though I’ve never tried that.

Inspired by http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/homemade-bouillon-recipe.html. My version uses considerably more veggies and considerably less salt. While initially it might seem like a lot of money on the produce, if you regularly buy chicken stock you very quickly are saving money (and adding flavour!) using this instead.

You Will Need:

  • 2 large bunches flat leaf parsley, rinsed and spun dry
  • 1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and spun dry
  • 1 large carrot (I used 4 little skinny ones, you want about 1 cup after you’ve processed it) peeled or unpeeled whatever your preferance
  • 3 large leeks, white part only, rinsed if they are gritty
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, skins removed
  • 1 small fennel bulb, or about half a large one, core removed (you want about 1 cup after processing)
  • 1 small/medium celriac, peeled(if you can’t find it, you can substitute 3-4 stalks of celery)
  • 6-8 sundried tomatoes, preferably not the ones in oil, but they will work if that’s all you can find
  • ¾ cup of coarse sea salt

Find yourself a large bowl. Process ingredients one at a time in a food processor. I usually do the tomatoes and the garlic together as they require a little more time. You want everything to be in fine pieces, but not totally pulverized into paste- see in the picture how you can still see bits?

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Sprinkle the salt over the top about ¼ cup at a time, thoroughly mixing between additions.

To use, add 1/2 to 1 tbsp (or more if you like, that’s just what I use) to one cup of hot water to replace one cup of store bought stock. This recipe makes quite a bit, however, it keeps at least a year in the freezer. I also have a few friends who request a portion whenever I make it, so I find myself making it a few times a year.