Adventures in Canadian Maple Syrup (+ a Giveaway!)


Hello my friends! I’m headed back south to DC today after spending the week up in Quebec, Canada, on a press trip with my friends from Pure Canadian Maple Syrup. I have been working with them since last year (see also: Healthier Maple Brownie Cookies + Matt’s Maple Cinnamon Latte), so when they invited me up to learn more about the maple syrup production process in person, I was all about it. A big thank you to them for covering my expenses for this trip/sponsoring this post!

We did and learned a TON this week, so it was hard to boil it down/pick the highlights and main takeaways, but I did my best. You can see more of the adventures over on my Instagram page as well!


Pure Maple Syrup Nutrition

As a dietitian, one of my favorite parts of the trip, of course, was learning more about the nutritional benefits of 100% pure maple syrup! There’s a big difference between syrups on the shelf at the grocery store, by the way. Make sure you are buying 100% real/pure maple syrup, which is a natural product that comes directly from maple trees with nothing else added, versus artificial breakfast “syrups” which are highly processed and made from corn syrup. Those definitely don’t have the nutritional benefits I’m about to talk about.


Fun nutrition facts about 100% pure maple syrup:

  • It’s high in over 60 types of disease-fighting antioxidants, which contain anti-cancer, anti-inflammation, and anti-diabetes properties.
  • It is the only sweetener with minerals – it’s a particularly excellent source of manganese (which helps keep bones strong, your brain healthy, and nerves functioning properly) and riboflavin (aka vitamin B2 – it protects cells and is necessary for energy production, too).
  • It contains polyphenols, which are beneficial compounds also found in things like berries, tea, and red wine.

We got to sample some of the sports-focused recipes developed by the dietitian who works with the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, Mélanie Olivier. (She was awesome, by the way – loved meeting her!) I really loved the homemade maple sports drink (<— click for recipe) that she developed!

Maple Syrup Production

On Tuesday morning, we visited CDL, an organic maple farm that is a leader in maple sugaring equipment. It was fascinating to see all that goes into extracting the maple water from the trees – check out all this tubing! CDL’s owner, Mr. Chabot, told us that they have 2 million feet of tubing and 100,000 taps. Crazy! He was super high tech, too – he can control all the tube equipment via his phone!


Did you know that it’s not maple syrup that’s extracted from the trees, but rather maple water? (Which is delicious, by the way, and available in the US now!) That maple water is then boiled down to make maple syrup, maple sugar, etc. I always used to think the syrup itself was what came right out of the tree!


Each tap on a tree at CDL averages about 3 pounds of maple syrup per year. No more than 10% of any tree’s sap is taken – any more would be detrimental to the tree.


We also got to experience maple tapping on the smaller scale (using buckets instead of the tubing system) when visiting sugar shacks around Quebec. Like the name implies, sugar shacks are small cabins or a series of cabins, belonging to farms, where the sap collected from the sugar maple trees is boiled down into maple syrup.


One of the other stops on our trip was to the Maple Syrup Producer’s Cooperative company, Citadelle. They are the world’s largest supplier of 100% pure maple syrup, and their syrup can be found in many mainstream stores in the US, including Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Costco, Publix, and more. They collect sap from over 7 million maple trees across Canada, and their headquarters visit gave us a taste (literally) of all the different types of maple products they offer, plus some insight into the production process. Did you know that it takes 40 liters of maple water to make 1 liter of pure maple syrup?


Also, maple syrup grades aren’t related to quality, but rather flavor/taste intensity! The variation has to do with when the maple syrup sap was tapped; sap tapped at the beginning of the harvest season (which is only about 20 to 25 days, usually in March/April) is generally clearer and lighter in taste. For drinks and pancakes, you’ll want to use Grade A syrup, either light or medium. The Grade B/dark varieties are much stronger and better suited for baking.


Food Highlights/Creative Ways to Cook with Pure Maple Syrup

This was quite the foodie trip, with a big focus on maple, of course, so I will finish off this post with some of my favorite things that we ate. I need to try to recreate some of this back at home!

Maple marinated beets // lunch appetizer at Chez Boulay in Quebec
That restaurant was wonderful, by the way – the chef only sources food/cooking products from around Quebec, to support local businesses. Love it!


Maple roasted turnips // dinner appetizer at Panache Restaurant in the Auberge Saint-Antoine hotel in Old Quebec
I am normally not a huge turnip fan, but loved these! Also, Panache was absolutely gorgeous (as was the hotel) – so cozy and beautiful. Definitely worth a visit!


Smoked salmon with maple and tangerine jelly // dinner appetizer at Restaurant la Traite in the Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations, a really neat boutique Aboriginal hotel near Quebec. I absolutely love maple with salmon!


Lobster with maple whiskey braised pork, black lentils, kale, and pearl onions // dinner at Renoir in the lovely hotel Sofitel Montreal.
This entree, made for us by Chef Olivier Perret (a Maple Master), was my absolute favorite dinner of the trip – SO delicious.


“Beggars Chicken” scented with maple leaves // dinner at restaurant L’Orée du Bois in the Outaouais region.
This wins for most creative dish of the trip! It was chicken slow cooked in clay, which was lined with lotus leaves. Neat, right? They crack it open in front of you at the table before plating it! This restaurant was adorable, too – very cozy!

beggars chicken

Maple Taffy!
Enjoyed at Charbonneau Sugar Shack (a traditional sugar shack) and La Tablee des Pionniers (a more innovative/modern sugar shack).


Maple taffy, aka tire d’érable, is a Quebec sugar shack specialty. To make it, you pour hot maple syrup over snow, then roll it onto a stick. Very sweet but insanely delicious! A few licks of it was perfect.



Sugar shacks are really cool, by the way – they reminded me a lot of European ski lodges. Hearty comfort food at its finest! Apparently it’s tradition for families and groups to go enjoy (enormous) meals at them during the maple harvest season.


The maple baked ham hock in the photo below from La Tablee des Pionniers was insane in the best way possible. Mmmm! Lunch there was such a cool experience – if you are ever nearby, go!


Other maple cooking/recipe ideas:

  • Use pure maple syrup instead of sugar in homemade tomato/pasta sauce, ketchup, BBQ sauce, lemonade, etc.
  • In baked goods, to swap in pure maple syrup in place of dry sugar in a recipe, use the same amount of syrup as you would have of sugar (1:1 swap), but take out 1/4 cup of any kind of liquid in the recipe (water, milk, whatever – or you could just use 1/4 cup less maple syrup if you don’t mind a less sweet product – that’s probably what I’d do!). Also, decrease the baking temperature by 25 degrees F.
  • To swap in pure maple syrup in place of another liquid sweetener, simply do a 1:1 swap and decrease the baking temperature by 25 degrees F.
  • Drizzle maple syrup over oatmeal or plain yogurt.

breakfast with maple syrup

Last but not least, here are some recipes already on my blog that are sweetened only with maple syrup:

And now, to cap off this post, I have a fun giveaway for you guys! Two lucky fANNEtastic blog readers will receive an awesome maple swag bag, full of a bunch of the fun maple products that we had the pleasure of sampling this week. Use the Rafflecopter giveaway below to enter to win; I’ll contact winners directly when the giveaway ends. U.S. residents only, please. We figure you Canadian readers enjoy this stuff every day! ;)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Adventures in Canadian Maple Syrup (+ a Giveaway!) originally appeared on fANNEtastic food | Washington D.C. area Registered Dietitian | Recipes + Healthy Living + Fitness on March 27, 2015.

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    Weekend reading: Fruits of Eden

    Amanda Harris. Fruits of Eden: David Fairchild and America’s Plant Hunters. University Press of Florida, 2015.

    I blurbed this one:

    If you have ever wondered how navel oranges, figs, avocados, dates, and other such foods came to be grown in America, here’s the answer: plant explorers. Amanda Harris tells the stories of adventurers sent out to search the world for delicious foods. Fruits of Eden is a welcome history of these little-known plant experts who succeeded in improving the diversity and deliciousness of our daily fare.


    3 Simple Tips to Help You #MakeYourMove to Post-Partum Fitness

    Me and my Nimbus-16s!

    So, ever since I started talking about #babysprout, lots of people have hit me on the side asking if I have any idea what my post-delivery fitness plan is going to look like. I mean, first and foremost, the answer will be sleep! Even more…sleeping on my belly! I’m a stomach sleeper, and sleeping on […]

    The post 3 Simple Tips to Help You #MakeYourMove to Post-Partum Fitness appeared first on A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss.


    Diamonds With A Story: New Designer Collections from Dawes Design, Sandy Leong, Suzanne Kalan, and Matthew Campbell Laurenza

    Diamonds With A Story Sandy Leong Bangles

    While I was in New York City recently, I had the opportunity to attend the
    Diamonds can be polarizing. People love them, or they deeply distrust them. Where did this diamond come from? How do I know that no one was harmed in the mining and distribution of this gemstone? What about the environmental impact of mining in the communities they come from? These are just a few of the questions I get asked when people find out I am a jewelry/gemstone expert. These are also issues I care about deeply. It turns out that others in the jewelry industry care about this, too.

    Rio Tinto, the mining company behind the Diamonds With A Story initiative, has a controlling interest in four diamond mines around the world. The diamonds for the Diamonds With A Story come specifically from the Argyle Diamond Mine in Australia. Diamonds from Argyle have a completely transparent path: environmental and human rights requirements are strictly adhered to, with workers paid competitively and given generous benefits. Argyle also produces some truly incredible diamonds of natural colors, ranging from pale silver and very light golden brown, to intense cognacs and sherries, to pretty pinks and lavenders.

    Diamonds With A Story commissioned four designers to craft special capsule collections around the themes of Cutting Impact, Color My World, Shaped By Origin, and Mixed Medium. Each collection expresses the designer’s aesthetic, but using diamonds that are “not your Mother’s diamonds” (unless you Mom is utterly cool), and allows for beautiful–and surprisingly affordable–self expression.

    Dawes Design, Cutting Impact

    I love Jennifer Dawes of Dawes Design. She shines so brightly in her jewelry design, and has maintained a focus on sustainable jewelry since 2005–well before most people were remotely talking about “responsible sourcing” for jewelry. If Jennifer Dawes believes in DWAS enough to craft an entire collection around their diamonds, that is a huge testimony. This designer does her due diligence.

    Diamonds With A Story Jennifer Dawes

    Jennifer Dawes designed this bangle for her Diamonds With A Story collection using natural color rose cut and brilliant cut diamonds. Notice how she designed it brilliantly to wrap around the wrist bone.

    I had so much fun trying on her jewelry! Jennifer already designs jewelry that is modern and fresh, with a slightly organic bent. For this project she was able to fully explore, through interesting shapes and truly lovely colors, the spectrum of diamonds from the Argyle mine. Her theme was Cutting Impact–how and where these diamonds are cut.

    Jennifer Dawes Diamonds With A Story

    Dawes Design earrings for Diamonds With A Story “Cutting Impact” collection.

    The fact that the diamonds are certified from the mine was attractive to Jennifer, and–for the first time–she could actually trace the path of the rose-cut diamonds that she used throughout the collection. Normally the trail of a diamond’s journey, even from a responsible source, goes cold once it hits the cutting facilities scattered around the world. In this case, the diamonds have a completely transparent path from the mine, to cutting in India, to her studio in California. All of the gold she uses in the DWAS collection is recycled or Fairmined gold. How’s that for a wonderful story? From beginning to end, it is sparkling translucence.

    Jennifer Dawes Diamonds With A Story

    Dawes Design earrings with gorgeous color-change Csarite gemstones and Argyle diamonds.

    Jennifer Dawes Diamonds With A Story

    This necklace by Dawes Design really features the rose-cut diamonds that Jennifer was so excited about…

    Suzanne Kalan, Color My World

    It was a delight to speak to Suzanne Kalan, an award-winning industry superstar who has designed wearable, completely exceptional jewelry for nearly 25 years. Their business is a family affair in Los Angeles, with daughter Patile designing the KALAN 14kt gold line, and Suzanne designing her namesake 18kt gold jewelry. The Kalan’s DWAS collection was very well-developed, with designs I loved ranging from around $600 retail to several thousand dollars.

    Suzanne Kalan Diamonds With A Story

    This ring by Suzanne Kalan for Diamonds With a Story features her signature feature of the see-through structure, using gorgeous natural color diamonds.

    Color My World focuses on the gorgeous spectrum of natural colors that come from the Argyle mine. From yellow to grey to brown to pinkish, all set into rose gold, the Kalans perfectly complemented the warm hues of the diamonds they selected. The rings, earrings and pendants were fun, modern designs that captured the nuances of the subtle colors of the diamonds. They felt special, but very wearable.

    Suzanne Kalan Diamonds With A Story

    I didn’t want to take this Suzanne Kalan ring off!

    Suzanne Kalan Diamonds With A Story

    Inspiration board as backdrop to Suzanne Kalan’s Color My World collection for Diamonds With A Story.

    Their inspiration board was especially captivating: images of spectacular embellishment and bright bursts of sparkle on clothing, shoes, interiors, even fireworks! Suzanne explained that once she found her initial concept, she was off and running with ideas. There is literally no stopping her once the ideas have started! I could feel that energy in the jewelry. I didn’t want to take it off…

    Suzanne Kalan Diamonds With A Story

    Spectacular drop earrings showing the spectrum of natural colors from the Argyle Mine.

    Sandy Leong, Shaped By Origin

    This was my first time meeting fine jewelry designer Sandy Leong. Her collection had a very cohesive look, built around the theme of Shaped By Origin.

    Sandy Leong Diamonds With A Story

    Sculptural waves form the basis of Sandy Leong’s Rain Collection.

    Sandy Leong Diamonds With A Story

    A simple but perfect lariat designed by Sandy Leong for Shaped By Origin for Diamonds With A Story.

    All of the diamonds, being from the Argyle Diamond Mine, share the benefit of pinpointing their exact source. Sandy used these diamonds with a provenance, from slightly polished diamonds set as beads, articulated in a ring ($550 retail in 18kt gold), to round brilliant diamonds set into her sinuous “Rain” collection cuffs, rings, earrings and necklaces. There was a weight and heft to the 18kt gold, with negative space to perfectly balance the designs. Sandy painstakingly carves all of the original wax models, which accounts for their sculptural feel. With the silky finish of the gold, and the feel of the curves, this was jewelry that felt wonderful to try on.

    Sandy Leong Diamonds With A Story

    Shape, texture, movement, sparkle: Sandy Leong “Rain” earrings in 18kt gold.

    Matthew Campbell Lauranza, Mixed Medium

    The very charming–and talented–Matthew Campbell Laurenza took me for a spin through his Mixed Medium collection. This category is meant to give jewelry designers some freedom to play with the materials used: traditional precious materials and approach need not apply. Matthew’s inspiration for the collection was armor and weaponry, which I could see abstractly in certain points and shields that wrapped in various ways around the body.
    Matthew Cambell Laurenza Diamonds With A Story
    Matthew’s intention with this DWAS jewelry, which is priced very attractively due to the natural colored diamonds from Argyle’s mine, is to foster collectors. Matthew believes that there are people who want to build jewelry collections, not just as an investment, but as an expression of personal style. He designed around this idea, so that you can play with initial pieces, and add more each season. Matthew will continually create more jewelry in this collection each season to stack, layer, and work with existing designs.

    Matthew Campbell Laurenza Diamonds With A Story

    Matthew’s collection allows for freedom and expression–stack it up!

    He had a particularly intriguing group of pendants, with different colored metals on the front versus back, and 15 varieties of custom-cut gemstones. Through an ingenuous mechanism, the pendants open and allow for interchanging gemstones. He even has an App coming out soon that will allow you to take an image, upload it, and apply that image through an enameling process directly into a gemstone. It’s the ultimate form of personalization, capturing a moment in time that can be layered and combined with other elements into something uniquely–and preciously–yours.

    Matthew Campbell Laurenza Diamonds With A Story

    A Matthew Campbell Laurenza ring, featuring the color spectrum of the Argyle mine, in an intriguing concave, negative space design.

    All of the collections had a story to tell. As Matthew said, “it’s important to see the designer’s hand in capsule collections, but this opens it up into a different aesthetic.” The jewelry I saw at the Diamonds With A Story event allows people who are concerned about the origin of their jewelry to play, collect, build and expand their jewelry relatively affordably. I saw cohesive jewelry assortments that represent each designer’s core aesthetic, but allowed some foray into inventiveness. Jewelry is intimate: you live in it, it becomes part of you. This jewelry could become part of your story.

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    Radish and Roasted Asparagus Sorghum Salad

    Radish and Roasted Asparagus Sorghum Salad | @naturallyella

    I’ve started a new Saturday morning routine that involves coffee, pastries, and the farmers’ market. While Sacramento has a handful of farmers’ markets, the one of Saturday morning has morphed into a family-friendly market that showcases local produce, artist, and a couple food vendors (including a waffle vendor that looks absolutely amazing). I pop down there, grab what I can, and then head home to plan the week’s meals.

    With spring produce in full swing, I let whatever I pick up at the market inspire my meals. This salad used up the last bit of remaining radishes (the very same ones featured on Tuesday’s radish toast) and accompanied one of my favorite spring treats: grilled asparagus. Tossing the sliced radishes with a bit of lemon juice also creates a bit of pickle-like texture.

    As for the grain, I currently have a big batch of cooked sorghum sitting in the refrigerator but really any grain would do (because it’s less about the grain and more about the fresh produce!) And if you want to keep this salad vegan, just ditch the feta cheese!
    See the Recipe.

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