This past weekend was a big one for the state of Vermont. It was the Maple Open House weekend. This is known as the time of year when Vermont sugar houses open their doors to the public, which results in a steady stream of cars jostling and bumping up our muddy, rutted road to reach our neighbor’s sugar house at the top of the hill. Several cars lost their mufflers in the process. An amusing spectacle was served as we watched the steam rise from our own make-shift maple sugar operation in our driveway. As a result of my husband laboriously lugging buckets of sap, my family spent the better half of our weekend in the sun and snow, surrounded by neighbors and the scent of syrup. More than twenty friends came by to visit (in various mud-splattered vehicles) all to say hello and enjoy a much-loved Vermont tradition.
Maple sugar making serves as a family friendly mud-season diversion, it helps our economy (Vermont is the country’s largest producer of syrup, oh yeah!), and it results in a lot of liquid gold. With plenty around, Vermont locals use it to sweeten everything from smoothies and salad dressing to our morning coffee and even stir fries. The great thing is it also adds rich maple flavor, so you can use less than regular sugar.
“Use maple syrup and other added sugars in moderation,” says Kay Tran R.D., certified Diabetes Educator. She points to the recommendations of the American Heart Association, “They say added sugars should not exceed 150 calories a day for men or 100 calories a day for women.” That’s only two tablespoons of sugar or maple syrup for women!
To celebrate maple season I’ve developed a easy, healthy recipe for stir-fried chicken. I’ve added two tablespoons of maple syrup to the whole recipe (which serves 4) to give it a special maple flavor and slight sweetness without blowing your sugar budget for the day.
Maple Tahini Chicken Stir-Fry
Makes 4 servings, 1 ½ cup per person. Active Time: 40 minutes. Total Time: 40 minutes. Serve with brown rice or whole-grain noodles.
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons corn starch
4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper or black pepper
1 bunch scallions, sliced white and green parts separated
2 teaspoons grated or minced fresh ginger root
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 cups broccoli florets, about 2 small crowns
2 cups sliced carrots
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoon sesame seeds, for garnish, optional
- Whisk maple syrup, tahini, tamari or soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat large skillet over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil and swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Add chicken, sprinkle with pepper and cook, turning once or twice until browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Note* the chicken will not be fully cooked and will continue cooking in the sauce in step 4. Remove the chicken to a plate.
- Add the remaining 2 teaspoons canola to the skillet, followed by the scallion whites and ginger. Cook, stirring until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Add broccoli and carrots, cover and simmer, stirring once or twice until the broccoli is bright green and the vegetables are still crisp but starting to soften slightly, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Stir sauce, the chicken and any accumulated juices from the plate into the vegetables and continue cooking, stirring often until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.