Spring is a perfect time to enjoy maple syrup

Use this natural sweetener as a sugar substitute in making everything from breakfast foods to treats

    It’s the time of year to celebrate the sap that comes from maple trees and the syrup made from the sap.
    Riveredge Nature Center in the Town of Saukville has plenty of activities to celebrate the season.
    The Maple Sugarin’ Shindig will be held Saturday, March 19. There will be two shifts, from 10 to 11:45 a.m. and from 12:15 to 2 p.m.
    The event includes storytelling, a scavenger hunt and a tour of the grounds that ends at the Sugarbush House to see how sap is made into maple syrup.
    The cost is $10 per family for All Access members, $25 for Trail Pass members and $35 for nonmembers.
    The annual Riveredge all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast is set for Saturday, April 2. People may sign up to have breakfast outside in the sugarbush during hour-long shifts that start at 9 and 10:30 a.m. and noon.
    The cost for members is $12 for adults and $9 for children 12 and younger. For nonmembers, the fee is $15 for adults and $13 for children 12 and younger.
    To register or for more information, call 375-2715 or visit www.riveredgenaturecenter.org.
    All around the state, evaporators are going great guns to turn sap from Wisconsin’s state tree into syrup during March, Maple Syrup Month.
    Maple trees require freezing nights and warm days for the sap to flow, and it takes 30 to 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.
    The syrup is a natural sweetener that’s delicious over pancakes, waffles, hot cereals and French toast, as well as ice cream and yogurt.
    Blend a small amount of maple syrup with marshmallow cream for a sundae sauce or warm maple syrup with rum to create a sauce for ice cream.
    Maple syrup makes a tasty glaze for baked hams and other meats, and it can be mixed with cream cheese to create a delicious fruit dip.
    Add flavor to baked squash by filling it with maple syrup and butter before baking. Glaze carrots with maple syrup, butter and a pinch of dry mustard.
    Since pure maple syrup will not freeze, the freezer is a good place to store it almost indefinitely. Bring the syrup to room temperature or warm it before serving.
    Following are maple syrup recipes from myrecipes.com.



Roasted Sweet-and-Sour Beets, Carrots and Parsnips

1 pound small beets, trimmed, peeled and cut into wedges
1 pound parsnips, cut into 2-inch-thick slices
1 pound carrots, cut into 2-inch-thick slices
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
12 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs, optional

    Steam beets, parsnips and carrots for five minutes. Place in a shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray.
    Combine syrup and vinegar. Set aside.
    Squeeze juice from lemon into a bowl, then add lemon halves to beet mixture. Combine juice, oil, coriander, tarragon and 12 thyme sprigs. Pour over beet mixture; toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.
    Pour syrup mixture over beet mixture and stir well to coat. Bake an additional 30 minutes, until beets are tender.
    Discard lemon halves. Garnish with additional thyme sprigs, if desired.


No-Bake Granola Bars

1 cup crisp rice cereal
3/4 cup uncooked old-fashioned regular rolled oats
1 cup creamy almond butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

    Toss cereal and oats in a large bowl.
    Place almond butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt in a small saucepan and heat over medium. Cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until smooth. Pour over cereal and oats and gently mix together with one hand until combined.
    Spread mixture evenly into an eight-inch baking pan lined with parchment paper, pressing firmly to form a compact, even layer. Chill about 30 minutes, until fully set. Cut into 12 bars.
    Variations: For tart cherry-pistachio bars, stir 1/2 cup chopped roasted salted pistachios and 1/2 cup chopped dried tart cherries into cereal mixture in Step 1.
    For apricot-coconut-cashew bars, stir 1/3 cup chopped roasted salted cashews, 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots and 1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut into cereal mixture.
    For chocolate chip-pecan-sea salt bars, stir 1/3 cup chopped roasted pecans and 1/3 cup miniature milk chocolate chips into cereal mixture. Sprinkle top of granola mixture with 1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt before chilling.


Bourbon and Bacon Jam

1 pound bacon, chopped
3/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons bourbon
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup

    Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add bacon, lower heat to medium-low and cook 10 to 15 minutes, until much of the fat is rendered and the bacon starts to crisp. Remove bacon pieces from pan, reserve.
    Keep 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan to form a thin layer on the bottom. Add onion to the pan and sauté 10 minutes, until translucent. Add bourbon, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom as you stir. Stir in vinegar, brown sugar and maple syrup until well-combined and just boiling. Add reserved bacon and continue cooking.
    When the mixture is syrupy and begins to glisten, remove from heat and place in a food processor. Pulse mixture for 15 to 30 seconds. The more you process, the smoother the jam.
    Refrigerate in an airtight container for one week.


Sticky Toffee Cinnamon Rolls

For homemade dough:
1 cups warm water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4-ounce packets active dry yeast
4 cups flour, plus more for work surface
2 teaspoons kosher salt
For topping;
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped pecans, almonds or walnuts
For filling:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces medjool dates, pitted and chopped
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons cinnamon

    Combine water and sugar in a medium bowl. Sprinkle yeast over top and set aside five minutes,  until foamy. Add flour and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 10 times, until dough comes together. Place dough in a lightly oiled medium-size bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 90 minutes, until doubled in size.
    Combine brown sugar, butter and maple syrup in a 10-inch skillet, preferably cast-iron. Cook two to three minutes, stirring often, until sugar dissolves and mixture is evenly bubbling across the surface. Let cool slightly, then sprinkle with nuts. Set aside.         Combine butter, dates, brown sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until butter melts. Continue to cook about four minutes, stirring and mashing to help break up dates, until mixture comes to a boil and dates are broken down. Let cool to room temperature.
    Once the dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half and working with one piece at a time, roll each piece into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Divide date mixture between the two pieces of dough, spreading all the way to the edges. Sprinkle each piece evenly with two teaspoons cinnamon.
    Starting from the long end, roll dough and place seam-side down. Cut dough crosswise into two-inch spirals. Transfer rolls, cut sides down, to skillet, arranging snugly to fit. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden and risen. Let cool five minutes before inverting onto a rack. Let cool slightly before eating.


Brown Butter-Maple-Pecan Blondies

1-1/2 cups unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1-3/4 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups chopped toasted pecans

    Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium. Cook five to seven minutes, whisking constantly, until butter browns and smells nutty. Immediately pour into a bowl and refrigerate 20 minutes, whisking every five minutes until thickened and creamy.
    Beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed for three minutes, until thickened and pale yellow.
    Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add to egg mixture in thirds, alternating with cooled butter, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating on low after each addition. Slowly beat in maple syrup. Add vanilla and beat just until combined.
    Fold in one cup pecans.
    Pour batter into a greased and floured 13- by-9-inch baking pan and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle with remaining pecans.
    Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes, until golden and a wooden pick inserted in middle comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely, about one hour. Cut into 24 bars.


Orange Maple Balsamic Salmon

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound salmon fillet
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 garlic clove, minced

    Place salmon fillet in a shallow dish. Drizzle two tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt evenly over salmon fillet.Set aside.
    Whisk together vinegar, maple syrup, orange zest, orange juice, ginger, garlic and remaining salt in a small bowl. Pour half the mixture over the salmon and let stand 15 minutes. Place the remaining half in a small saucepan over low heat and simmer five minutes, until thickened slightly.
    Coat a rimmed baking sheet with remaining olive oil. Transfer fish to pan. Broil eight minutes, until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Drizzle reduced sauce over salmon and serve immediately.


Maple Pecan Latte Rolls

For dough:
1 cup maple pecan latte, warmed to 105 to 115 degrees
1 1/4-ounce envelope active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 cups flour
1 cup toasted pecans
2 tablespoons maple syrup
For frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
16-ounces powdered sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring

    Stir latte and yeast in a medium bowl. Let stand five minutes.
    Beat sugar, salt and 1/2 cup butter in a heavy-duty electric stand mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated after each addition. Stir in latte mixture. With mixer running, gradually add nutmeg, cinnamon and 4-1/2 cups flour, beating until flour is incorporated and dough pulls away from sides of bowl.
    Place remaining flour on a work surface. Turn dough out and knead five minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place for 90 minutes to two hours, until doubled in size.
    Process pecans, syrup and remaining butter in a food processor 30 seconds, until a paste forms, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
    Turn dough out onto work surface and pat down. Roll into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread evenly with pecan mixture, leaving a one-inch border around edges. Roll up dough, jelly-roll style, starting at a long side. Trim edges and cut crosswise into 16 slices. Place rolls, cut side down, in lightly greased muffin pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand one hour, until doubled in size.
    Bake in 350-degree oven 18 to 22 minutes, until golden.
    Beat cream cheese and butter in a heavy-duty electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until creamy. With mixer running, gradually add powdered sugar, beating until fluffy. Stir in maple syrup and maple flavoring.
    Remove rolls from oven. Cool in pans 5 minutes. Spread frosting over rolls, and serve warm.

Baked Brie With Pumpkin Maple Sauce

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
8 ounce wheel of brie
1 tablespoon water
1 egg
For sauce:
1/4 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt

    In a medium saucepan, combine maple syrup, pumpkin purée, butter, pumpkin pie spice and a pinch of salt. Bring to a low simmer for six to eight minutes, until mixture slightly thickens. Remove from heat. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for as long as one week.
    Lightly beat egg and water together in a small bowl with a whisk or fork.
    Dust a clean surface lightly with flour and unroll thawed puff pastry. Roll out dough until 10 inches wide on each side. Place brie in the center of the dough. Brush brie with a heavy coat of the pumpkin maple sauce mixture. Brush the outer edges of the dough with the egg wash and bring each corner of the dough to the center of the brie wheel to wrap it.
    Place dough-wrapped brie on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp, brushing a coat of sauce over the brie and topping with the almond slices halfway through baking. Serve immediately.




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