Real Maple Syrup

IMG_1190This year, I really wanted to go to Vermont on vacation. I wanted to visit Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory and to tap a Maple tree to get syrup. I learned though that you can’t really just tap a tree to get syrup. During our trip, we visited a visited a Sugar House. img_1186.jpgWe learned that getting sap from a tree requires a very extensive string of plastic tubing to be drilled to the trees. When the temperatures in the spring first reach above freezing, the sap drips from the tree as the temperature drops below freezing at night. This usually happens in late March or early April. The sap runs through the tubes to a giant collection container. Those containers are then transported to process IMG_1187the sap through a boiling process to produce maple syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap and about 45 minutes of boiling sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Wow, now you know why really Vermont Maple Syrup cost so much. We also learned that Maple Creemes (soft serve ice cream with maple syrup swirled in) is very popular…and delicious. It’s actually pretty cool to meet the families who run these Sugar Houses.

IMG_1157The syrup excursion was part of our Maple and Wine Tour with Greg. Following our visit to the Sugar House, we went to Boyden Valley Winery. This family farm has people producing maple, grass feed beef, and wine. In addition to ice and maple wines, Vermont’s oldest winery produces maple syrup aged in oak barrels. I learned I like oak ages syrup better than I like oak aged wine.

The state of Vermont only has a population of around 620,000 in the whole state. Despite a drought, this 14th state to the union lives up to its name which mean green mountains. The IMG_1154state is very proud of local business. In fact, this is the only state in the country to not currently have a Target store. One lady at the airport was telling us that she traveled via fairy boat to New York with her daughter to return an item to Target. (Now that’s dedication to Target shopping.) Vermont is also home to the Green Mountain Coffee (Keurig maker), the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, and Cabot Cheese.

For this morning breakfast, I wanted to use a little of our new real maple syrup.

Sausage Breakfast Casserole from Pinterest
FullSizeRender (16)1 package of Grands biscuits
1 package of frozen hash brown
1 lb. of ground sausage
8 eggs
¼ c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
maple syrup

Bake biscuits on a baking sheet for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Meanwhile, cook hash browns until golden brown on the stove top. At the same time, brown sausage on the stove top. You’ll also need to cook the scrambled eggs and milk in that skillet. Place hash browns in the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish. Top with ½ c. of cheese. Sprinkle with sausage. Top with scrambled eggs and remaining cheese. Bake for 10 minutes. Plate and drizzle with maple syrup.

Note:

  • I did not overly cook the hash browns. I’d suggest maybe cooking them in the 13 x 9 plan for make 10 minutes before added other ingredients or removing them from the recipe. I don’t really think the hash browns are necessary ingredient in this recipe.
  • If you can get it, Cabot cheese would have been a great addition. Perhaps, even a Vermont White Cheddar.
  • I think the biscuits might have also been delicious with some Maple sugar sprinkled on top. We are still waiting for ours to be delivered.
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You Had Me at Potatoes

Valentine’s Day is the one-time Jeremiah and I stay in. We hate the crowds and waiting past your reservation time for a table. We eat out enough so we don’t feel like we need to mess with it on Valentine’s Day. Instead, it’s the one night we prepare an all-out meal and sit down at the dinner table to eat it.

This year, the plan was for spaghetti. In fact, I’ve turned Jeremiah into someone who prefers to eat my Great Grandma Reith’s spaghetti sauce over anything you can get from a jar or at a restaurant. That was the plan.

On our way home, we stopped at Sprouts to grab some bread. Unfortunately, finding bakery bread has turned into a nightmare because everything in that area seems to have barley. Since I’m allergic, it’s getting way harder to make garlic bread ourselves.

While in the store, Jeremiah spotted some lobster tails on sale for $4.90 each. That’s crazy ridiculously cheap! We know from our trip to Maine why they are so expensive. A change of dinner plans occurred. “Why don’t we have lobster tails?” said Jeremiah. I said, “We’ve never made them. Do you know how to cook them?” Jeremiah used his phone to research a recipe. It looked simple and quick enough. Then, the next question was what we would eat with them? That’s when I throughout this recipe from our wedding cookbook for cheesy potatoes. Needless to say, what should have taken less than 20 minutes to make for dinner, turned into a late-night Valentine’s Day dinner. We even grabbed something in the McDonald’s drive-thru, which we never eat, to hold us over.

Jeremiah goes way back with the Fox boys (brothers – Kelly and Travis). Kelly and Travis grew up with the Slater clan. From what I understand, I think their dads met through work and became good friends. I also learned that Jeremiah’s mom used to babysit the boys when she did home daycare. The Fox’s grandma told me at our wedding that she considers Jeremiah almost be like a grandson because he spent so much time with her when they were kids.

According to Erin, these potatoes are the reason her husband Kelly married her. Jeremiah says Kelly was smitten on her from the moment he met Erin.

This recipe is similar to my mom’s cheesy potatoes. I like Erin’s recipe through because it feels a little less rich and just the right amount of cheesy to make this side dish a little more often. My biggest pet peeve is when someone says they made cheesy potatoes and you can barely taste the cheese. Not the case with this cheesy potato dish at all.

And on a side note, we probably ate a lobster dinner complete with cheesy potatoes, garlic bread, and monster cookie cheesecake for less than $8 a serving. If you add in a glass of local vineyard wine, it probably came out to $12 a serving. In fact, that’s cheaper than we spent on a fast-casual dinner at Chipotle of nights ago. And it’s definitely cheaper than if we had gone to one of our favorite steakhouses.

fullsizerender-12Cheesy Potatoes by Erin & Kelly Fox
1 stick of butter
1 can of cream of chicken soup
8 oz. sour cream
2 c. cheddar cheese
1 – 1lb. package of shredded hash browns
Garlic salt and black pepper to taste

Melt butter. Add cream of chicken and sour cream. Add garlic salt and pepper. In an extra-large bowl, pour mixture over hash browns. Add cheese and combine. Pour into sprayed 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes at 400 degrees.

Post Easter Recipe

Not sure what to do with that leftover Easter ham? Here is a make-ahead recipe that you can throw in the oven while you are getting ready for work.

Amish Egg BakeAmish Egg Bake from Pinterest
1 lb. cooked bacon (or ham)
1 medium, sweet onion
6 eggs, beaten
1 (30 oz.) package of hashbrowns
2 c. cheddar cheese
1 ½ c. cottage cheese
1 ¼ c. Swiss cheese

Mix all ingredients. Pour into greased 13 x 9 pan. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Notes:

  • I used about ¾ of pound of ham. I thought it was plenty.
  • I used low-fat, small curd cottage cheese.
  • I used 1 ¾ c. cheddar cheese and 1 c. Swiss cheese. I didn’t miss the ½ c. of cheese. I also used 2% cheese.
  • I used about ½ onion. When diced small enough, you can’t even taste it.
  • I had to bake it for 1 hour to fully cook the egg.

Crack Potatoes

Thanks to Dan Quayle, does anyone else have a fear of misspelling potato/potatoes every time they write it? Maybe it’s just me since I was in elementary school when that infamous news story broke. I also spent way more time watching news at as a kid than most children. I remember how exciting it was to go to journalism school and find a bunch of other media geeks.

This is another one of my Pinterest recipe finds. Although these potatoes are quite tasty, I don’t know that they are as addictive as the author named them. I think my mother’s recipe for cheesy hashbrown potatoes are better. But it was nice to try something a little different.

Crack PotatoesCrack Potatoes
2 (16 oz.) containers of sour cream 
2 c. cheddar cheese
2 (3 oz. bags) of bacon bits
2 packages of powder ranch dressing mix
1 large (30 oz.) bag of hash browns, shredded

Combine the first four ingredients. Add hash browns. Pour into a 13 x 9 pan and bake for 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees.

Notes:

  • I used one light and one fat free sour cream containers.
  • I used half 2% cheddar cheese and half fat free cheese.
  • I bake three slices of low sodium bacon for this recipe. That’s less than the recipe calls for.
  • I halved the recipe and baked it in my bubble and brown casserole dish. It still took 60 minutes to cook.

Top 10

I was thinking about a recipe the other day that was one of my best. I thought I would share with all of you – the best of the best. Below are my top 10 in no particular order.

spaghetti1. Grandma Reith’s Spaghetti Sauce – I lied, this is probably my favorite recipe.
2. Mom’s Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes – This is the best cheesy potato recipe and I’ve sampled quiet a few.
3. Concord Lutheran Church Cookbook Meatballs – These go great with the potato recipe.
4. Chicken Penne Pasta with Salsa Con Queso – This recipe has a nice little kick.
5. Chocolate Crinkles – My mother made these when I was a kid but I love my recipe even more. These are probably my signature item.
6. Grilled Shrimp & Basil Orzo Pasta – Fresh basil and feta cheese nicely accent this dish.
7. Canyon Chicken – Chicken, ranch, cheese, and bacon. You can’t go wrong this recipe.
8. Lasagna Twist Around – Reminds me of my Grandma Reith Spaghetti Sauce.
9. Aunt Linda’s Slushies – I’ve made and drank a number of drinks over the years. This is my absolute favorite.
10. Cheesy Potato Soup – It’s as close as you can get to the O’Charley’s soup. I miss that restaurant so much.