Tag Archives: Maple syrup

Strawberry Spinach Salad With Maple Glazed Pecans

Adaptability.  It’s all about adaptability.  Take this sweet, crunchy and showy salad, perfect for any get-together, originally from my mother-in-law’s recipe book.  Awesome salad, but originally quite refined.   Substitute maple syrup for white sugar and olive oil for vegetable oil, and voila!  You’ve thrown refinement to the wind!  And retained good taste and stunning looks.  Lookin’ good, girl.  Lookin’ good.  Love the makeover.

The steps, when written out, look a little long, but I hate to leave anything to chance.  The salad is delicious, always goes over well at potlucks, and isn’t hard to make.

Don’t be afraid to adapt.  Don’t be afraid to adapt recipes.  Eat real.  Eat well.  Live well.

P.S.  Salad shown without the delicious poppy seed dressing.  Can’t remember why.

strawberry pecan salad 3


For the salad:

1 pound of fresh baby spinach or spinach chopped into bite sized pieces

1 cup of celery, diced small

1 quart of fresh strawberries, sliced or quartered

For the glazed pecans:

½ cup maple syrup

1 ½ cup whole pecans

For the poppy seed dressing:

⅔ cup white apple cider vinegar

½ cup maple syrup (you may like a little more than I do)

3-4 green onions (with tops), chopped

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 cups olive oil

3 tablespoons poppy seeds


First, place the spinach, diced celery, and fresh-sliced strawberries in your prettiest glass serving bowl.  Set aside.  You can even do this the day before for convenience.

Second, glaze the pecans:

  1. Lay out a large sheet of waxed paper, about the size of a cookie sheet, and grease it well with a little coconut oil or olive oil.  Alternatively, you may use a silicone baking mat which will not need greased.
  2. Put the maple syrup and pecans in a large, heavy skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 7-8 minutes.  Time will vary, but cook the pecans until the syrup caramelizes and gets sticky and bubbly.  Err on the side of overcooking (but do not burn).
  3. Remove the pecans with a slotted spoon to the greased waxed paper or silicone sheet.
  4. Allow to cool.
  5. Break up into pieces to sprinkle onto the salad.  Set aside.  You may also do this the day before and store separately.

Third, make the poppy seed dressing:

  1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a food processor or blender. (Do not yet add the olive oil or poppy seeds.)  Blend until smooth.
  2. With the food processor still running, add the 2 cups of oil in a slow, steady stream until smooth and thick. The dressing will be a light green color.
  3. Fold in the poppy seeds.
  4. Chill.  (You may have extra dressing.  The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for about ten days, although it will thicken due to the cold.  Allow it to come to room temperature for a thinner consistency.)

Finally, put the salad all together:

  1. Top the salad mix in the pretty bowl with the glazed pecans.
  2. Drizzle on the poppy seed dressing just before serving, using only as much dressing as you desire.
  3. Toss the salad to mix.  Serve.  (Alternatively, serve the dressing on the side, and any leftovers will keep better.)

Family “gustar” report:  The whole family votes thumbs up for this salad.

I hope you try this recipe and love it as much as we all do!  Please, give real food a try!


Granny’s Barbecue Sauce

Granny's BBQ sauce

One of the easiest main courses I make is to put a Boston butt (a specific cut of pork) in the crock pot on low for about 8 hours with some of Granny’s barbecue sauce.  Then I drain it, shred it, and drizzle more barbecue sauce over the top.  Dinner!  Let’s eat!  Use this sauce for grilling hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, and pork chops.  Use a beef brisket to make barbecued beef rather than pulled pork.  Add it to baked beans for tremendous flavor.  The opportunities are endless.

Everybody needs a secret recipe.  Make this your own secret recipe by using honey instead of maple syrup.  Try increasing the amount of maple syrup or decreasing it.  Choose to skip the allspice or up the vinegar.  However you tweak it, I think it’ll be great!  Do use caution on the Worcestershire sauce if you have food sensitivities because it can contain some pesky, allergenic substances.

This is the sauce my mom has always made for grilling and baked beans.  She uses ketchup instead of tomato sauce.  It is a happy recipe in our family.


Granny’s Barbecue Sauce

(Makes about 3 cups)

  • 1  can plain tomato sauce, 15 ounces (equal to 1 and 3/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ground, black pepper to taste, maybe 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika


Mix all ingredients together in a medium-sized saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stir, and then reduce heat.  Simmer for no more than 5 minutes.  Stir frequently to avoid scorching.

Store in refrigerator after cooled for up to a week.

Family “gustar” report:  Everybody likes this sauce in our house, and it’s a great trick to get the kids to eat meats they wouldn’t normally like.  So the score is 6/6!

I mentioned this is a happy recipe for me.  It reminds me of raucous summer days around the dinner table with my family.  Do you have any happy recipes?  Are they secret?  Do you believe in secret recipes?  I don’t really.  If it’s good, it should be shared!

Eat real.  Be real.


Gluten-free, dairy-free sweet potato casserole

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Sweet Potato Casserole


This casserole doesn’t miss a beat with its conversion to a gluten-free, dairy-free, whole foods lifestyle!  What a delight!  Speaking from experience, I don’t recommend waiting to eat this for dessert–or you may not get any!  Compliments aplenty and two recipe requests!  It’s a winner!  I just had to get this recipe out there before everybody’s Holiday dinners were over!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Sweet Potato Casserole

Casserole ingredients:
3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes (I peel them, cube them, and then boil them until they are fork tender.  If you are on a special diet and can’t eat sweet potatoes, this casserole converts well with butternut squash, too!)
1 cup of maple syrup (or honey or 1/2 honey and 1/2 maple syrup)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoonful vanilla
1/2 cup of canned coconut milk
1/2 cup of melted coconut oil
A good dash of cinnamon and a little dash of nutmeg

3/4 cup of maple syrup or honey
2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder
1/3 cup of coconut oil
1 cup of chopped pecans

Casserole:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine all of the casserole ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix with an electric mixer until very well blended.  Lightly oil a baking dish, either a 9X13 or an approximately 2 quart baking dish.  Place the mixed casserole ingredients into the dish.  Make topping.

Topping:  Put the maple syrup (or honey–maple syrup will give the topping a dark color but so delicious!) into a skillet.  As you heat the maple syrup over medium heat, sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder over the top of it and stir well the whole time.  Add the coconut oil and chopped pecans.  Stir/whisk well.  Pour the topping over the top of the casserole.  I actually dollop the topping onto six different spots on the casserole and use a spatula to smooth it over the top.

Bake:  Bake for 30-40 minutes.  We usually serve warm.

Holiday Hint:  Oven space is a commodity at a Holiday dinner.  I have baked this casserole a day or two ahead of time and refrigerated it.  About one hour before the meal, I stick it in a 350 degree oven, covered with aluminum foil so the topping doesn’t brown any more.  And then I throw together the almond flour biscuits to bake alongside–and the meal is about to be served!

I wish you a wonderful Christmas!  ~~Terri

Leftover sweet potato casserole Mixing up the sweet potato casserole

The Smell of Heaven

wpid-IMAG0807.jpgIf heaven has a smell, I know it is that of the steam rolling out of a maple syrup shack in the late of winter.

My dad and uncle work together each year to make maple syrup, as their grandfather did before them in the very same woods.  As I write, they are “boiling” maple sap now in a sugar camp far, far away.

“Maple season” (or “sugar season”), the brief time when sap runs through the tree and can be made into syrup, occurs usually in late February or early March.

As winter loosens its grip on nature and mud makes its first appearance, sugar, stored as starch in the maple tree’s roots, begins to rise through the trunk to the limbs of the tree to feed the developing buds.  Freeze at night and thaw in day.  Freeze at night and thaw in day.  A cycle of freezing and thawing promotes the sap’s running through the tree.  During this time, and this time only, can sap be tapped from the tree for maple syrup; one year this may be late February and another year it may be mid-March.001

The number of days or weeks a sugar season lasts will be uncertain and controlled by the temperatures; a few degrees up or down can shut the sap running off.  If it freezes too hard at night, the sap may not run.  If the day is too warm, the sap may not run.  Once the trees bud, you’re done for sure.   Completely predictably unpredictable, even when you think it’s predictable.  Life.

“Tapping” the trees refers to drilling a hole in the tree and placing a spigot to drain the sap water into a bucket or into tubing.

Great Grandpa Grover collected sap in buckets, but Dad and my uncle use tubing to drain and run the sap from the tree to large collecting tanks set throughout the woods.  The “woods” is a large stand of trees and is frequently called a “sugar bush”, although “sugar bush” can also imply the building the syrup is boiled in too.  Tubing runs like a giant spiderweb networking the forest.

wpid-IMAG0711.jpgBefore tubing can be run, a 3/8 inch hole is drilled into healthy mature sugar maple trees, which are usually anywhere from 40-100 years old and at least 12 inches in diameter.  More than one hole may be drilled in a tree, depending on its size.  The hole does not damage the tree, and it seals up without ill effect.  Apparently other maple trees(such as silver maple) can be tapped besides sugar maples, but I don’t know about that.  We and most other people use sugar maples.

After the hole is drilled, a spigot (or spile) is inserted.  If a bucket is to be used, it is hung now and the top is covered to keep out unwanted debris and animals.  Otherwise, tubing is connected to the spigot to drain the sap.  The clear sap water, which is nearly tasteless and only has a suggestion of sweetness, runs through the tubing to other tubing until, ultimately it drains into large collecting tanks placed throughout the woods.

The sap that has collected in the holding tanks must be tranported to the building with the evaporator.

Our “camp”, the building with the evaporator where the sap is boiled, is at the edge of the woods.  Periodically 004during the day the level of the collecting tanks in the woods are checked.  My dad or uncle will take an ATV through the knee-deep mud to do a “tank check”.  I smile when I think of the exasperation in my uncle’s voice when he comes back from a tank check, and the sap has surprisingly overflowed the tank.  When a tank is full, a tractor (it has to be International for this family) pulling a transportable tank will be taken back to transfer the sap from the collecting tank to the transfer tank drawn by the tractor.   Back at the camp, the sap is now again transferred into a tank inside the sugar house (the building with the evaporator).

The evaporator condenses 40 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of maple syrup.

wpid-IMAG0810.jpgThe sap flows into a large evaporator pan that sits over a rip-roaring firebox fed by wood.  Sometimes the fire blazes so hot, the doors burn red.  The size of a sugar camp’s evaporator varies.  Some don’t even have an evaporator but do it in a pot over an open fire.  Mom and Dad’s honeymoon was spent in New York searching for a new evaporator for the sugar camp.  The two didn’t even make it to the Statue of Liberty.  But I believe they got the evaporator.  The evaporator is a series of pans with channels allowing the syrup to flow in such a way that there is more control over thewpid-IMAG0797.jpg syrup’s development and temperature.  At the start, it’s clear sap water, only 2-3% sugar.  By the end, it’s delicious smelling syrup.  A “hydrometer” is used to determine the density of the syrup and thus the sugar content.  Sap becomes syrup at 219.5 degrees fahrenheit and 67% sugar.

It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap water to make 1 gallon of syrup.

Because you have to wait for the daytime temperature to bring about a thaw and cause the sap to run, maple syrup is usually made in the evening and night.  The atmosphere is warm and cozy.  Family, friends, and neigbors stop in and visit while roasting hot dogs, pork chops, and hamburgers on the hot doors of the stove.  Aunt Holly’s “sugar candy” occasionally graces the buffet.  Syrup is made late into the night and wee hours of the morning, always carefully monitored.

Canning it Off

Our evaporator has a faucet at the point where the sap becomes syrup.  The syrup can be taken out.  It is poured through a cheesecloth into a wpid-IMAG0800.jpgfinishing tank, where it is reheated to boiling and canned (or bottled) off.

Sugar is Sugar is Sugar but…maple syrup is unique.

While I mostly think that “sugar is sugar is sugar”, maple syrup does have the advantage of providing in a 1/4 cup serving:

  • 100% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of manganese
  • 37% of your RDA of riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • 18% of your RDA of zinc
  • Magnesium, calcium, and potassium run about 7% of the RDA

There are 50 calories per tablespoon or 217 in that 1/4 cup serving.

Now, I am not telling you to do this in any way, shape, or form.  Remember, I’m a stay at home, homeschooling mom.  But my mom used to give us kids maple syrup in our milk when we were constipated and swears by it.  I think I had it daily–now I know it was the dairy–but that’s another story.

As I regulate all sugar in my house, I place our maple syrup in a condiment squirt bottle and try to ration it like crazy, using as little as possible and then adding more if needed.  It is not allowed on SCD and GAPS because the sugar content is mostly sucrose, but once you move past the year or two on your diet, give maple syrup a thought.  It makes great barbecue sauce and baked beans.  On my grain-free waffle recipe, it’s spot on.  Yum.

What’s the Grade?

Maple syrup is graded, and the grading system varies whether it’s from Canada (who produces 80% of the maple syrup) or from the United States.  Now everybody has their preferences, but if you ask me, skip the “light” and “fancy”.  You might as well buy Karo corn syrup.  The rich, magnificent maple flavor that you want comes in the “lower” grade syrup.  The cheaper syrup!!!!  (But obviously make sure it IS REAL MAPLE SYRUP!)  When I tell Dad I need syrup, it’s the dark stuff he gives me.  Save that light stuff to sell to people who don’t know better.  I get fussy if he gives me the light stuff; it’s a little runnier, clearer, and although sweet, there’s very little maple flavor.

Interestingly, grade cannot be controlled or made by the maple farmer.  It is Mother Nature.  Certain soils and trees produce more or less light syrup.  Certain weather conditions over the year influence grade production.  How much the farmer gets of what grade will change from year to year.  And usually the earlier in the season the syrup is made, the lighter the grade.  It is lighter earlier because the first runs have the higher sugar content and thus don’t have to be boiled as long. By the time the end of the season arrives, the sap’s sugar content is down a bit and so it must be boiled longer, condensing all the nutrients that impart that delicious, rich MAPLE flavor–not to mention more “nutritious”, as far as sweeteners go!

History of Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is characteristic of the North American continent.  The legend tells that an Iroquois chief’s wife discovered a trough of maple sap, either in an old hollowed stump or underneath where her husband had thrown his tomahawk into a maple tree.  She used the sap as water to boil some meat, and the rest is history.  Although Benjamin Franklin wanted to make America self-sufficient sugar-wise on maple syrup rather than refined white sugar, that never panned out.

wpid-IMAG2381.jpgMy mom and dad use maple syrup liberally.  Once opened, store maple syrup in the refrigerator.  If the sugar crystalizes on the bottom, heat the syrup and it will dissolve again (or fish the crystallized chunks out and eat them like candy). 

  • Pancakes, waffles, and French toast
  • Oatmeal
  • Ice cream
  • To sweeten applesauce either before or after canning
  • To top fresh sliced bananas with a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Mix into baked beans
  • Great for barbecue sauces
  • Mix with unsweetened almond butter along with a little vanilla and salt]
  • Drizzled on top of meat loaf so that as it bakes it caramelizes
  • Use interchangably with sugar when baking, but you must reduce the liquid content by 3 tablespoonsful.

Closing Remarks

Although this article is about maple syrup, really it is about family.  I have the best family in the world.  We’re crazy and nuts, but I cannot tell you how I will always cherish the time spent with my dad, sisters, aunt, uncle, cousins, and now my wonderful husband and children during syrup season.  Mom always stayed home if she could.  I always wondered why.  Now that I have three of my own, I know!  Free night for mom!

I cherish the memories of “sugar season”, and it warrants a special trip home.  I’m telling you , there’s nothing finer than a night at the sugar camp with my family.  I hope that you, too, will find a special time to spend with your children, that they might share it with the world someday in their own way.