Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Figs in Balsamic-Maple Syrup

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Spring means fresh maple syrup is on tap …. wonderful paired with figs and goat cheese!  Photo by White Point Imaging

A sweet and savory hors d’oeuvres reminiscent of Tuscany.  The balsamic-maple reduction makes this dish special.  Place a jar of syrup on the side for extra dipping and drizzling.  Serve with fresh figs if desired.

10 ounce log of goat cheese
1 cup pistachios, finely chopped plus whole nuts
1 cup dried figs, halved
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup

Macerate figs in balsamic vinegar for 1 hour or more. Meanwhile, roll goat cheese log in chopped pistachios. Wrap and refrigerate.

Place maple syrup and vinegar in a small sauce pan. Stir and add figs. Simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove figs and continue simmering until 1/4th of liquid is reduced, approx. 15 – 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for 1 hour. Note: Be careful not to overcook or balsamic-maple syrup will thicken to taffy like consistency when cooled.

Sprinkle whole pistachios on the plate and serve goat cheese log with figs and drizzled syrup.

Chocolate Chunk Maple Almond Teff Cookies

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You’ll want to eat every crumb! Photo by White Point Imaging.

These lightly sweetened cookies laced with maple syrup are made with teff flour, a naturally gluten-free artisan grain.

Inspired by Shiloh Farms’ peanut butter cookie recipe, I made my own dark chocolate chunk version substituting almond butter and adding almond flour for a yummy tea-like cookie-biscuit.

1 cup almond butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 ounces grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups teff flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse wet ingredients in a food processor until thoroughly mixed. Place in a bowl and mix in dry ingredients. Form dough into balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Lightly flatten dough with a spatula to cookie size and bake for 12-15 minutes. Cookies are crumbly when hot. Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool. Makes approximately 2 dozen.

Sweet Potato Maple Pecan Souffle

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Serve this as a sweet side dish with your Thanksgiving meal or as a dessert paired with vanilla coconut ice “cream” for an autumn treat.

This recipe is inspired by a Thanksgiving family favorite first made by my sis-in-law Abby (who probably found the original recipe in Gourmet magazine, but not sure).

Nonetheless, I’ve “freshened up” this dish by omitting butter, using gluten free flour along with non-dairy coconut milk and cut out refined sugar.

Maple syrup makes the souffle sweat – use a specialty maple syrup for an extra boost such as bourbon or vanilla bean, being mindful to adjust vanilla and almond extracts if needed. Top it all off with coconut palm sugar and pecans for a nutty crust.

Souffle
2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons oat or gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Topping
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Steam potatoes on the top of a double boiler until tender. Transfer to a large bowl and whip with a hand mixer. Add olive oil, eggs, maple syrup, flour, vanilla and almond extract. Add milk. Beat until smooth.  If too watery, add a bit more flour. Place sweet potato mixture in an oiled souffle dish or several smaller ramekins. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of souffle. Bake large souffle for 1 hour or until set in the middle. Lessen baking time for smaller ramekins.

Grilled Maple-Chile Farm Pork Chops

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Take a break from burgers and serve these sweet and spiced up chops at your next barbecue!

Fortunately for me, Maple Breeze Farm in Westbrook CT is close by for farm fresh ingredients. Bonnie and Bill Hall run the farm and set aside some juicy loin chops for this recipe, along with their first batch of maple syrup tapped this spring.

Adapted from Bonnie’s Maple Syrup Pork Chop recipe,  I chose to soak the meat overnight in a cider brine…. so no one will ever say I serve dry pork chops. Brush on the maple chile glaze, grill till just pink, and serve with my Cucumber-Pineapple Salad.

Note – if you can’t find pork chops at a farmer’s market or near-by farm, select the freshest loin chops you can find, preferably bone-in.

Chipotle Cider Brine
1 cup apple cider or juice
1 cup water
1/8 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup turbinado or coconut sugar
1 chipotle pepper

Place all brine ingredients in a blender and blend on medium high for 1 minute. Transfer to a shallow dish and place 2 pork  loin chops with bone-in in brine. If chops are not covered in liquid, double the brine recipe. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Maple Chile Glaze
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon chile powder or 1 chipotle pepper finely diced
salt and pepper to taste

Remove chops from the brine, rinse and pat dry. Brush glaze in a thin layer on both sides of the pork chops. Grill on both sides while continuing to mop on more glaze without charring the chops. Done when pink and juicy in the center. Optional sauce can be made with remaining glaze by adding 1/2 cup orange juice and simmer for 10 minutes. Sauce can be thickened with cornstarch or tapioca starch.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cinnamon

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A colorful side dish spiced with cinnamon

Local butternut squash and maple syrup are usually available this time of year at winter farmer’s markets popping up in many towns.  Drizzle syrup over oven roasted halves and add a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Or toss squash cubes with olive oil, syrup and cinnamon and roast till caramelized.

Ingredients
1- 3 lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 8 cups)
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon cinnamon
Salt & pepper to taste

On a baking sheet or iron skillet, toss squash, EVOO, syrup and cinnamon to throughly coat, adding extra if needed. Salt and pepper to taste. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size of your cubes or until a knife goes easily through the squash flesh. If the underside of the cubes have not caramelized and browned a bit, broil the tops for a few minutes, careful not to burn.  Serves 8.