April 4, 2014

Maple Delights for Spring

Call me crazy. I live in northern Vermont, despite the fact that I grew up in Mediterranean Italy. Go figure. Truly, though, this state is the best-kept secret ever because of our harsh winters that lead to glorious mud - I mean - spring, then abundant summer and radiant fall. 

Right now, maple sap is running, the birds are singing, and I saw the first signs of the garden beds emerging from under the mountains of snow this morning! It's time to celebrate with maple-inspired spring breakfasts and snacks.

Maple syrup is an incredibly nutritious and mineral-rich food. It is also minimally processed, which helps our bodies metabolize it more slowly than refined sugars without robbing minerals from our blood and bones to digest it. When I drink maple sap from our trees or savor maple syrup in the spring, I truly feel aligned with the seasons.

Steel Cut Oatcakes
This is my favorite thing to do with leftover oatmeal.

You will need:

1 cup rice or spelt flour
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon each: baking powder and baking soda
pinch salt
1 cup cooked steel-cut oats*
1 large egg, lightly beaten 
OR 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal soaked briefly in just as much warm water
1/2 cup full fat unsweetened yogurt (cow, goat, or almond)
1/2 cup milk (cow, oat, or almond)
3 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

*To cook the oats:

Soak overnight in cold water. In the morning, rinse, drain, and cook with twice as much water, stirring often, for 20 minutes. Add vanilla, butter, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and top with almonds and berries if you like. Save leftovers for oatcakes.

To prepare the oatcakes:
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, syrup, nutmeg baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Make a well in the center. Into it, stir together the oats, egg, yogurt, milk, oil, vanilla and lemon juice. 
Stir these wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until incorporated but not completely smooth.

To cook the oatcakes:
Preheat a non-stick or cast iron griddle over medium high heat. Lightly brush with butter or coconut oil. Ladle about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the pan.
Cook until the edges become dry and the center bubbles, about 3 minutes.
Flip and cook on the other side until golden and puffed, about another 2 minutes. Remove to a platter and keep warm in a low oven if needed. Continue until all batter is used.
Serve the oatcakes with fresh or frozen berries heated in a small pot of maple syrup.

Coconut Maple Bread
This makes a wonderful breakfast with nut butter and jam or a delightful afternoon snack with a cup of dandelion root tea.

You will need:
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal soaked briefly in 1/4 cup warm water

1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 1/2 cups flour - rice or spelt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon each: cinnamon and ginger

1/2 teaspoon each: cardamom and cloves
pinch salt
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.
Soak flaxseed in a large bowl. 
After 5 minutes or so, add coconut milk, vanilla, maple and vinegar.
Add flours, baking powder, spices and salt. Stir in the coconut. 
Fold in the melted coconut oil.

Grease a loaf pan. I like to melt coconut oil in the loaf pan in the preheating oven, then pour melted oil into the batter and save a bit for greasing. 
Once the loaf pan is greased, pour in the batter and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in its tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a cutting board. Slice thickly and serve as is or with almond butter and maple syrup.

Maple Almond Orange Cake
This is a fabulous hiking snack and makes an elegant dessert when covered in coconut maple frosting.
You will need:
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 sticks butter OR 1/2 cup coconut oil
zest and juice of 1 orange

2 large eggs, lightly beaten OR 2 tablespoon flaxseed meal soaked briefly in just as much warm water
3/4 cup yogurt (cow, goat, or almond)
2 1/2 cups flour - rice or spelt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon and nutmeg
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Toast almonds over very low heat in a dry saute pan until they are golden. 
Save a few almonds to top the cake.
In a large bowl, whisk together the syrup, butter or oil, juice and zest, eggs, and yogurt.
When the mixture is quite smooth, add the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
Fold in the almonds.
Grease a loaf pan or round cake pan and fill with the batter. Smooth and flatten the top and sprinkle with the reserved almonds.
Bake for about 45 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before turning out onto a plate or cutting board and serving. YUM.

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