The promise of spring is being dangled in front of us here in northwestern Wisconsin. One day you can touch it, almost believe you can grab hold of it and keep it, only to have it retreat from your reach the next day.
Birds are returning. We can hear them in the trees above our heads. The ice on the St Croix River is breaking-up with loud cracks echoing off the riverside cliffs. The snow is almost completely melted, only lingering where it’s been pushed in great parking lot piles by the plows. And some days the sun is actually as warm as it looks, tempting us to open our windows and step away from our offices to turn our faces up to the heavens and sigh. The only grumbling I’ve heard is from the skiers and ice fishermen who are not quite ready to end the season that for many had a late start this year.
A sure sign of spring in our neck of the woods is the start of maple syrup season, the time when taps are gently hammered into the thick trunks of waking maple trees and the sap drained into buckets to use in the making of maple syrup. Sugar shacks are firing up their boilers and soon a fresh batch of syrup will be hitting the local shops and breakfast tables. Forget that artificial big corporate brand you buy at the grocery store. It’s nothing more than high fructose corn syrup and caramel coloring. If you haven’t tried real maple syrup, I urge you to do so. There’s nothing like the flavor of natural maple to bring those pancakes (or french toast) to life.
But that’s not the only use for maple syrup. It makes wonderful candy, flavors your baking, even your home-brewed beer. Amazing! Google it and you’ll find so many recipes you won’t know where to start. Here’s a favorite in my house. I found it on allrecipes.com a couple years ago and it’s a keeper. It calls for pan-frying in a little butter and vegetable oil, but I bake them on a sprayed cookie sheet at 350 for about 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Moist on the inside and crunchy nutty sweet on the outside. Mmmmmm! If you try it, let me know what you think. And feel free to send me any other suggestions for what you do with real maple syrup.
Pecan Breaded Chicken Breasts
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Combine pecans, flour and salt. Brush chicken breasts all over with maple syrup and coat completely with nut mixture.
Final note to make my point: It was 70° last weekend and now it’s snowing.