Archives for posts with tag: Maple Syrup

July 2012 076

I have catered hundreds of events.  To have a smooth catered event you need a strong team.  Last summer I catered a small wedding in the mountains.  My great friends Ben Bell, Mike Deel and Dominic Daledia helped with this event.  The catering went smooth and easy.  It was a fun night and did not seem like work but having a party in the kitchen.  If only all of my catered events could go this smoothly.

The big difference with good food and great food comes when the people who are cooking love what they are doing.  That love comes through in the quality and flavor of the food.  This post was started last summer and I was reminded of it when I was looking at one of my favorite books Like Water for Chocolate.  This wonderful story is about the power of love coming through in food.  Read it if you have not gotten the chance yet.

When a group of cooks comes together, who love what they are doing, the food is always amazing.  I could not have done this event without the team that I worked with.

The bride wanted a cupcake tower and Dominic got out his chain saw and went to work creating this lovely platform for the cupcakes.

July 2012 118Mike was manning the grill and he can always grill up a piece of meat to perfection.  I  always trust that putting Mike Deel on the grill will result in perfect food.

July 2012 104Ben Bell is such a perfectionist that the detail work is where I task him.  He once topped some pizzas before going in the oven and I swear it looked like he had used a ruler to space the pepperoni evenly.  I love to watch this guy work.  It is beautiful how he is meticulous and artistic.

July 2012 102It really is all about the team when catering and this group of guys are always a pleasure to work with.

July 2012 136

I was reading a post from one of my favorite blogs, Things my Belly likes this morning and she asked if anyone had a cheese and maple recipe.  I thought about how this post has been languishing in my drafts folder and decided it was time to get it out and dust it off.

July 2012 073

Endive Spears with Goat Cheese and Maple Glazed Pecans

This is the most popular appetizer that I use when catering.  The crisp endive spears and creamy goat cheese topped with a sweet pecan and fig jam just fly off the tray when I serve them.

Endive spears separated and washed.  Let them dry on a towel for at least half an hour upside down to drain the water.

Toast pecan halves tossed in maple syrup until crispy.  This will take 8-10 minutes.   Let them cool completely before removing from the tray.

Mix 1 lb goat cheese with 2 tbs heavy whipping cream in a stand mixer with whisk attachment.

This will make the goat cheese easier to spoon into the endive spears.

Scoop a small amount of goat cheese into the endive spears.  Top with fig jam, one pecan, a sprig of fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper.

You can make your own fig jam or pick up a jar at the market.

Here is a great recipe for fig jam from Kiss my Spatula.

At Cal-Wood we literally go through hundreds of granola bars each week.  Since I first started at Cal-Wood a year ago I wanted to make the granola bars from scratch.  I started a few recipes last year but they were either too thick or fell apart.  I needed something that would hold together in a back pack but was not hard on the teeth.  My first trial recipes were also time-consuming and I had to keep labor costs down as well as cost of ingredients.  I scrapped the plan when we started getting busy for spring and summer and vowed to come back to it in the new year.

This year I have had success.  I researched different granola bar recipes on the internet and finally came up with one that was both chewy and sturdy.  This is a healthy snack treat that will keep the kids going with energy while out hiking.  My family loves these granola bars as a mid-afternoon snack while home-schooling.

The best part about these granola bars is that they are gluten-free and dairy free.  They taste great and kids on special diets do not feel like they are missing out.

Inspiration from Smitten Kitchen, King Arthur Flour and Ina Garten.

Granola Bars

1  2/3  Cups Whole Oats

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar

1/3 Cup Oat Flour (process oats in food processor for 2-3 minutes until finely ground)

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

2 Cups Dried Fruit and Nuts (optional)

6 Tablespoons Canola Oil

1/4 Cup Corn Syrup, Maple Syrup or Honey

1 Tablespoon Water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 inch baking pan with foil or parchment and coat with non-stick spray.

Stir together dry ingredients in a bowl.

In a separate bowl. wish together oil. liquid sweeteners, vanilla and water.  Add to dry ingredients.

Stir until combined.  Spread mixture into baking pan and press down until firmly molded into pan.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool for 3 hours or overnight before cutting.  Store in the freezer for best results.

Tasty Variations:  Add 1 cup dark chocolate chips and 1 cup coconut shreds to replace fruit and nuts.

Add 1 cups sliced almonds for fruit and nut mixture and substitute corn syrup for all maple syrup.

Add 1 cup dark chocolate chips and 3 tablespoons orange zest.

Add 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds with 1 cup dried cranberries and substitute cinnamon for all spice.

Add dried mango, apricot and pineapple for 2 cups fruit and 1 cup coconut shreds for a tropical bar.






Crunchy whole grain oats, nuts and sweet dried fruit.  This is a combination that has been delighting people for years.  You can buy tasty granola at any store but it is expensive.  The better the granola, the more expensive it is. I decided to make granola when I was running a business that provided healthy school lunches to 5 schools and needed to find some breakfast options that were easy to make, healthy and profitable.  When I investigated how to make my own granola I was surprised at how much oil and sweeteners  were in most granola recipes.  In order to get that great crunchy texture of the oats sticking together and the roasted oat flavor you needed to use a lot of oil and sugars thus making this healthy breakfast food decidedly un-healthy.

I made recipes using honey, maple syrup, brown sugar and corn syrup.  I used olive oil, butter and canola oil.  The honey and maple syrup were too expensive in most recipes because you needed to use large quantities.  The olive oil left a distinctly vegetal flavor.  Butter tasted great but was too expensive and shortened the shelf life of the granola.

Most of the recipes I found instructed you to use a lot of oil or butter on the oats and toast them in the oven.  This tasted fantastic but made the cereal very heavy.

I became frustrated that there really was no way to make a granola kids love, that was not a dessert.  Many breakfast items just seem like desserts to me that I wanted to stay away from them.

I decided to ask around and see if anyone I knew had a suggestion. One of my employees, who was a true hippy and converted her Volkswagen Rabbit to biodiesel herself, piped in and said to use applesauce.  My first reaction was ” oh yeah,,,,the old applesauce for oil trick from the low-fat 90’s”.  Whatever!  Oh my….wait.  “THE OLD APPLESAUCE FOR OIL TRICK”!  Genius.  It may just  work.

We baked up a batch that day and the whole school smelled of warm spices and apples.  It was divine.  The resulting product was just sweet enough to keep the kids happy and healthy enough to keep me happy.  Many little faces peeked around my kitchen door to ask me “Chef Connie, what are you making?”

I have since found many other wonderful recipes on the internet that use this technique..  Some much better than mine and have cobbled them all together to make a healthy and heavenly granola.

You can make your own apple sauce by peeling tart apples like granny smith and rough chopping them.  Toss them into the food processor and pulse until it is the texture of applesauce.  This makes the best granola.

I have to credit Nigella Lawson for a recipe from her cookbook Feast that helped create the final recipe as it was her particular combinations that brought it all home.  David Lebovitz and Molly Wizenberg also need to be credited for inspiration as well.  My recipe was made fabulous by seeing what these talented professionals did with the original idea.

This recipe can be adjusted to make many different flavor combinations.  My favorite are Maple and Pecan, Orange and Almond and Pumpkin and Cranberry.  You can also make Chocolate and Orange for a more decadent version. See below for instructions on these variations.

Healthy Granola

5 Cups  old-fashioned rolled oats

3 Cups almond slivers, rough chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

1 Cup sunflower seeds (unsalted and raw work best)

1/2 Cup dried fruit such as cranberries, dried mango, apricots, dried coconut shreds and raisins (optional)

1/4 Cup brown sugar

2 Tsp ground cinnamon

1 Tsp ground ginger

1 Tsp Sea Salt

3/4 Cup unsweetened apple sauce

1/3 Cup maple syrup

1/4 Cup honey

2 Tbs canola oil

Mix together in a large bowl your oats, nuts, seeds, spices and brown sugar.

In a saucepan on the stove mix applesauce, oil, honey and maple syrup and warm slightly.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients in bowl and mix throughly.

Spread mixture out on a parchment lined baking sheet until it is an even layer.

Bake for 45 minutes stirring every 10 minutes until browned and fragrant.

Remove from the oven and stir in chopped dried fruit.  Let cool completely.

I add the fruit at the end so that it does not burn during baking and keeps its bright colors.

For Maple Pecan Granola omit honey and increase maple syrup to 1 Cup and add pecans.

For Orange Almond Granola zest 2 fresh oranges and reserve the zest.  Add sliced almonds before baking.  Add orange zest after granola has baked but is still warm.  Toss together and let cool completely.

For Pumpkin and Cranberry add 3 cups pumpkin seeds before baking.  Add 2 tsp pumpkin pie spices. Baked granola and when done add dried and sweetened cranberries, toss together and cool completely.

For Chocolate Chip and Orange bake granola as instructed in recipe.  Omit nuts and dried fruit.  Zest 2 oranges and add to warm baked granola.  After granola has cooled completely add 2 cups dark chocolate chips.  I use 70% cacao dark chocolate chips for Ghirardelli.  This particular recipe is used for snacking and not breakfast cereal in my house.  It is also great for granola bars which I will post later this week.

The market is full of a large selection of fresh pears at great prices.  I bought a case and wanted to add fresh pear to my dessert at Cal-Wood this week.  After considering many desserts I finally decided on a cheesecake.   Erik one of the teachers at Cal-Wood and an all around good guy is allergic to chocolate.  It seems like every dinner he works at the lodge I am serving some sort of chocolate dessert so I was inspired to design a dessert without chocolate and since he mentioned he loved pears this combo was just the ticket.

Erik and Jamie at a Staff Party

This is a picture of Erik and one of our interns Jamie at a staff party we had at the lodge recently.  One of the things that makes working for Cal-Wood enjoyable is the staff.  This diverse group of dedicated individuals never seem to bore me.  I  cook for the staff as well as the guests at Cal-Wood since they eat most of their meals at the lodge when working and I  want to make sure the meals are not too repetitive. and always yummy.  I admire all the hard work the teaching staff at Cal-Wood put in working with the kids that come up for our outdoor education program so I make an effort to cater to them as well as our guests.

Pear Cheesecake with Maple Glaze

·         For Crust

    • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus       room-temperature butter for pan
    • 8 oz vanilla wafers or animal crackers
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

·         For Filling

    • 2 1/2 pounds bar cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1 teaspoon Maple Syrup
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 cup sour cream

·         Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make cracker/cookie crust: Butter a 9-by-3-inch spring form pan. In a food processor, pulse crackers until fine crumbs form; add melted butter, sugar, and salt, and pulse to combine. Press crumb mixture into bottom of pan. Bake until set, 12 to 15 minutes; let cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Fill small pot on stove with 4 cups water to boil. Make filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy periodically scraping down side of bowl. Add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in maple syrup and sea salt. Beat in eggs scraping down side of bowl after each addition and add sour cream.
  3. Wrap bottom half of pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in a casserole pan with at least 1 inch sides. Place Pear slices on top of cheesecake mixture laying them in a tile pattern around the top.  Dust with nutmeg or cinnamon.  Pour in boiling water to come halfway up side of spring form. Bake until just set in center, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight before serving.  Drizzle with real maple syrup just before serving.

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