Warm up winter with Maple Parsnip Soup

Maple Parsnip Soup

Maple Parsnip Soup - garnished with a drizzle of maple syrup

This Maple and Parsnip Soup earned a 9 out of 10 on the Murray-meter. That’s surprising considering it contains onions and dijon mustard – two things my spouse hates. No, make that despises! The recipe also calls for garlic, another ingredient on his “I don’t eat these foods because they taste or smell bad, or worse – taste AND smell bad!” list. I figured the soup would survive just fine sans garlic, so for his sake (and the sake of our marriage!), the garlic was omitted. However – the onions and mustard stayed. And the soup still got a 9 out of 10.

I have to agree with Murray’s rating. Maple Parsnip Soup really is good. In fact, very good! Parsnips give it its unique ‘sweet’ root vegetable taste. Maple syrup also adds sweetness while mustard provides some balance with its tangy flavour. You could proudly serve this soup as a “take the chill off winter” dinner starter, or for lunch or a light supper along with a sandwich or salad.

Maple Parsnip Soup

(Makes 6 servings)

3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil
1 lb (500 g) parsnips, chopped (2 to 3 parsnips)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups (1.5 L) vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (125 mL) evaporated milk
1/3 cup (75 mL) maple syrup
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons (22 to 30 mL) Dijon mustard
Salt, to taste (optional)
Optional garnishes: maple syrup, croutons or toasted pine nuts

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add parsnips, onions and garlic; saute until onions are translucent, but not browned. Add broth and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer; cook until parsnips are soft, about 40 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in evaporated milk. Process in a blender or food processor (in batches, if necessary) until smooth. Add maple syrup and mustard; stir until thoroughly blended. Add salt, if desired. Reheat gently.

Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup, or croutons or toasted pine nuts.

* Substitute whipping cream for the evaporated milk, if desired.
* Adjust the amount of Dijon mustard to your liking.
* Parsnips don’t need to be peeled. Wash well and trim any bruised or brown spots.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, Herald Press, 2005

Pumpkin pie…with a dollop and a drizzle!

Pumpkin pie with whipped cream and maple syrup

Pumpkin pie with whipped cream and maple syrup

Sure, Thanksgiving is over, but I’m still thinking pumpkin.

Pumpkin pie, actually.

Pumpkin pie ranks as one of my favourite kinds of pie. I like to dress it up with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Maple syrup adds an extra touch of sweetness and flavour and makes for a pretty plate presentation. (Whatever you do, please don’t substitute table syrup or pancake syrup. It’s just not the same!)

Sap’s running! How sweet it is!

Everything tastes better drizzled
with liquid gold!

With the Maple Syrup Festival in Elmira this past weekend signaling the springtime flow of maple sap and production of maple syrup in Ontario, it’s time to enjoy the regional abundance of what many consider a quintessential Canadian food.

Maple syrup is a highly prized commodity throughout the world. With it produced right in our backyard, it would be a shame to take this “liquid gold” for granted.

If it’s been awhile since you enjoyed pure maple syrup (not maple-flavoured syrup named after someone’s pancake-loving/cooking relative!), pick up a bottle soon and reacquaint yourself with the golden goodness of this special treat. Drizzle it over pancakes, waffles, crepes, cooked vegetables, cake or ice cream, or use it to flavour a salad dressing, a barbecue or grilling sauce for meat or fish, or a dessert.

Keep in mind the darker the syrup (or the higher the grade number), the stronger flavoured the syrup will be. Medium and Amber syrups are better suited for cooking as they can better withstand heat while Light syrups are typically used to drizzle over pancakes and waffles.

For maple syrup recipes, information and a list of maple syrup festivals in Ontario, visit the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association’s website.

This make-ahead breakfast or brunch strata (heck, it would make a great supper too!) with it’s maple and apple topping is a sweet way to enjoy one of the first treats of spring.

Cinnamon Toast Strata with Maple Apple Topping
(Makes 6 servings)

If desired, substitute 4 cups (1 L) sliced bananas for apples. Reduce brown sugar to 2 tablespoons (30 mL). Omit raisins. Reduce cooking time of fruit to 1 minute.

10 slices egg bread
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, softened
4 tablespoons (60 mL) sugar (divided)
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cinnamon (divided)
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
4 eggs

2/3 cup (150 mL) maple syrup
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange juice
1/4 cup (60 mL) packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter (optional)
5 tart apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 cup (75 mL) raisins
1 tablespoon (15 mL) cornstarch
1 tablespoon (15 mL) water

To make Strata:
Trim crusts from bread. In a small bowl, mix together butter, 3 tablespoons (45 mL) sugar and 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) cinnamon. Spread on 5 of the bread slices; top with remaining slices. Cut diagonally into quarters to make triangles.

Arrange triangles, longest side down, overlapping and curving slightly, around edge of greased deep 10-inch (25 cm) pie plate. Arrange remaining triangles in a tight circle in centre. (Or arrange around edge of greased 11 x 7-inch/2 L) baking dish, curving slightly to fit; arrange remaining triangles in centre.)

Whisk milk with eggs until blended; pour evenly over triangles in dish. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sugar with remaining 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) cinnamon; sprinkle over triangles. (Strata can be prepared to this point, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.) Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Baked, uncovered, in a preheated 350F (180C) oven until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Let stand on rack for 10 minutes.

To make Maple Apple Topping:
In skillet, whisk together maple syrup, orange juice and sugar; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add butter (if using). Boil for 1 minute.

Add apples and raisins; cover and cook, stirring once, until apples are tender, about 5 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in water; add to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Serve warm over strata.

Recipe Source: Canadian Living Cooks Step by Step by Daphna Rabinovitch, Telemedia Communications Inc., 1999