Maple Sugaring and Oatmeal Pancakes

 

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Last weekend, we went to Kensington Park to check out their maple sugar trees and watch how sap is collected and boiled to make maple syrup. Did you know it takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup? That is a lot of sap! Our enthusiastic guide showed us how he taps the trees and collects the syrup in covered, metal tins. Afterwards, he led us the the Sugar Shack where they boil the sap. After the maple tour, we also checked out the farm area that had plenty of newborn piglets and baby goats. They also had a good-size chicken house and chickens that I coveted greatly 😉 Local parks in the area are continuing to educate the public on the history and practice of collecting maple syrup this month. See below for a couple of nearby parks and their programs.

Let us not forget the pancakes. Before we went on our tour, we enjoyed a [windy and frigid] outdoor picnic of some rather delicious oatmeal pancakes that I made and some wonderful Orange, Cinnamon and Raisin Sweet Rolls with fragrant orange butter made by the talented Warda of 64sqftkitchen. We topped our pancakes with some fresh fruit (thanks to Christina). And luckily, we were able to keep warm with some Vietnamese coffee, soy milk and Ovaltine (thanks to Bobby and Vilay).

 

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KENSINGTON METRO PARK
2240 W. Buno Road, Milford, MI 48380
Phone: 248-684-8632

Maple’s Sweet Story March weekends, Farm Learning Center. Stop in for a hot breakfast from 9 a.m. to noon, then visit the sugar bush and the sugar shack from noon to 3 p.m. to see how maple trees are tapped and the sap is collected and boiled into syrup. Continuous demonstrations will be given. School groups may make weekday appointments.

HUDSON MILLS METRO PARK

8801 N. Territorial Road, Dexter, MI 48130
Phone: 734-426-8211

Maple Sugaring: Journey to the Sugar Bush Saturdays and Sundays, March 1, 2, 8, 9, 22, 29 and 30, at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon, Activity Center. Take a guided tour to the sugar bush. Travel back in time and experience how maple syrup has been made over the years. All-you-can-eat pancake and sausage breakfasts will be served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fees: $2 per person/guided tour; $5 per adult/$3.50 per child/pancake breakfast. Pre-registration required for the guided tour.

 

OATMEAL PANCAKES WITH MICHIGAN PURE MAPLE SYRUP

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DEE’S OATMEAL PANCAKES
from Simply Recipes

INGREDIENTS: (4-6 servings)

  • 2 cups oats (the regular kind – Old Fashioned or Quick, not steel-cut and not instant)
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Dash salt
  • 1 Tbsp peanut oil
  • Butter or extra vegetable oil for the griddle

STEPS:

Put oats into a large bowl, add the buttermilk. Let the oats soak in the buttermilk overnight.

Mix in the eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and peanut oil.

Then proceed as with any pancake recipe. Heat a flat iron surface – griddle or large pan – to medium high heat. Oil the pan with either a Tbsp of butter or vegetable oil. Ladle [I used a 1/3 cup-size measuring cup] the pancake batter onto the griddle to the desired size, usually about 5 or 6 inches wide. When air bubbles start to bubble up to the surface at the center of the pancakes (about 2-3 minutes), use a flat spatula to flip them over. After a minute, peak under one for doneness. When golden or darker golden brown, they are done. Note that cooking the second side takes only about half as long as the first side. Also, the second side doesn’t brown as evenly as the first side. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Serve with butter and locally-made maple syrup.

 

Bon appétit!

 

 

Crêpes Suzanne – French Pancakes

These savory french crêpes are a traditional breakfast in Pierre’s home in France. Whenever his mother, Suzanne, makes these for him, Pierre’s eyes light up like it’s Christmas Day. So, it’s no wonder that these crêpes are also the most-requested breakfast in our own home. I love the pretty green color, which is a result of blending spinach with the crêpe batter. The filling is simple, just grated gruyère. These are delicious on their own but are even better served with a sunny-side egg on top.

 

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Pierre’s mother often uses frozen lettuce rather than spinach for the batter. In fact, she does this following a tip from her mother, who, like many in her generation, had suffered during WWII with German troops occupying her own home. The troops took what food and drink they wanted without any consideration for the home owners. Left without any food, she would gather any scraps she could find, such as potato and carrot peels and boil them down to make a soup. That soup and this frozen lettuce are examples of some of the resourceful and prudent measures this woman took to provide food for her family in those times.

Her method is easy: Keep a plastic bag or container in the freezer where you deposit any leftover lettuce – lettuce that has wilted past eating fresh but hasn’t gone bad. When you’ve got at least a cup’s worth, you can make these crêpes and relish in your impressive frugality!

 

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I already used up my frozen leftover lettuce so I made these with frozen spinach. I found that my potato ricer is also a great tool to press and squeeze out the liquid of the cooked spinach. I must confess, I purchased it right after watching Martha Stewart demonstrate it’s incredible powers to make mashed potatoes that are fluffy, airy and down-right ethereal. Unfortunately, shortly after purchasing it, I began my failed and meaningless attempt at eating “low carb.” So, this little tool sat in my drawer, neglected and unloved for some time. That is no longer, as I use it all the time now to make these crêpes as well as my beloved, high carb mashed potatoes.

CRÊPES SUZANNE

INGREDIENTS: (10 large crêpes or 15 small crêpes)

  • 1 pkg. frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbl. melted butter
  • gruyère, for the filling

STEPS:

  • With a microwave or steamer, completely defrost the frozen spinach or lettuce.
  • With your hands or a potato ricer, press and squeeze out all the excess liquid. Set aside.
  • In a blender, add the flour, eggs, milk, salt, butter and spinach.
  • With the pulse button, blend the ingredients a bit at a time.
  • After a few seconds of pulsing it, you can blend away for about 30 seconds or until the batter is completely mixed. Scrape down the sides in between blending to ensure that all the ingredients are incorporated.
  • Let the batter rest for at least 1/2 hour*.
  • In a non-stick skillet or crêpe pan on medium heat, rub a little butter on the entire surface.
  • Pour about 1/2 cup – up to 2/3 cup of batter (depending on the size of your pan) and quickly tilt the pan to spread the batter evenly in a thin layer.
  • Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom side is light golden.
  • With a thin spatula or your amazing fingers, flip the crêpe over and cook until that side is golden (about 2 min).
  • When the 2nd side is golden, flip the crêpe AGAIN (so that the prettier side will show) and quickly scatter 2 Tbl. of gruyère over the entire crêpe. Fold it in half and then, fold in half again. Transfer to a platter.
  • Repeat until all the batter is used.

*You can make the batter up to one day ahead and keep it overnight in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.

Bon Appétit!

You like Kabocha, dontcha?

 

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I think a lot of people like to press the Shuffle button on their MP3 player to mix things up and hear a variety of songs. Not me. If I like a song, I’ll put in on Replay for-ev-er. Sometimes, I’ll listen to the same dang song like, 100 times before I move on to another.

Am I obsessive? Compulsive? My answer to that fluctuates. What is constant is my attachment to a good thing once I find it. This is how I am now with Kabocha pumpkin. Kabocha muffins for breakfast. Kabocha soup for lunch. Kabocha-stuffed pasta for dinner. How ’bout Kabocha pumpkin pie, anyone?

It was the same with Butternut squash a while back. And there was that winter-long fling with Meyer lemons – which, late at night, I still think of. Oh, and let’s not forget my fixation with pomelos.

Nowadays, my fancy turns to Kabocha. Can you blame me? Kabocha, with its deep, emerald skin flushed against this intense, orange flesh is like Butternut’s sexier, curvier, non-surgically altered and intellectually superior cousin. And, it doesn’t need a ton of makeup to look good, either. I mean, who would you rather go home with???

That’s what I thought. So next time you’re at the market, look out for Kabocha. Cook responsibly.

 

Soupe au Potiron – Kabocha pumpkin bisque

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INGREDIENTS: (4-6 servings)

  • 1 medium-sized Kabocha pumpkin (approx 3-4lbs)
  • 1 Tbl. of canola oil + more for coating pumpkin
  • 3 medium shallots, finely diced
  • chubby piece of ginger (approx 1 inch length), peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground star anise + a tiny pinch for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground cassia cinnamon + a tiny pinch for sprinkling
  • 1 quart of homemade or quality store-bought chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup half & half or whole cream
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper

STEPS:

  • Cut the Kabocha pumpkin in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Rub the cut sides with oil and sprinkle with a tiny pinch of the star anise and cinnamon. Place the pumpkin, cut-side down on a foil/parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  • In an oven preheated to 350F, roast the pumpkin for about 35 minutes (or until a knife can be inserted with little resistance).
  • Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes. Then scoop out the flesh.
  • Meanwhile, set a large saucepan to med heat, add the oil.
  • Next, add the shallot and ginger. Cook (sweat) the shallots and ginger until the shallots are softened and translucent, being careful not to add too much color.
  • Add the cooked pumpkin and spices and cook for another minute.
  • Add the chicken stock and stir to combine and heated through.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Using an immersion blender or regular blender, purée the soup until smooth.*
  • Stir the cream into the soup.
  • Check seasoning again and add more S+P if necessary. Serve warm.

*If you use a regular blender, please use extreme caution as the hot liquid will explode everywhere if you try to blend too much at a time. Fill only up to 1/3 of the blender at a time. Bon appétit!

 

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