West Hill House B&B

Category Archives: Food & Drink

Maple Syrup? Pancakes? Vermont’s Got It!

March 25, 2016 by Susan

Glenn at West Hill Maple Orchard

Glenn at the door of his West Hill Sugar Orchard

Maple syrup and Vermont go together like, well, maple syrup and pancakes! Forty years are required to grow a sugar maple tree large enough to tap. A tree ten inches (25 cm) in diameter is considered minimum trappable size for one tap. A grove of sugar maples is called a sugar bush or sometimes a maple orchard. It takes 4-5 taps to produce enough maple sap (40 gallons – 150 liters) to produce one gallon of syrup. And right now the sap is being boiled down to make the world famous Vermont Maple Syrup with Maple Festivals happening here in the Mad River Valley as well as across the state.

Maple Sap bucket

Maple Sap bucket

Vermont has strict Maple Laws governing the production of maple syrup to ensure that you get the highest quality maple syrup. For such a deliciously complex flavor, maple syrup is surprisingly simple to make. Seeping spring-time sap from a maple tree is collected and boiled down to a golden syrup. Nothing is added in the entire process and only water is removed, leaving one of nature’s remarkably culinary gifts.

For years, Vermont maple syrup has been divided into one of four grades based on color and flavor.  As consumer preference has changed over the past century, so too has the grading system evolved to provide a more accurate description based on consumer preference.  The names of each grade, however, did not necessarily provide a meaningful description of the syrup.  With the old system of grading, Grade B was often mistaken for being a lower quality than Grade A, when in fact the quality was just the same it just had a stronger taste.

Beginning in 2014, Vermont maple syrup producers started using a newly developed “Vermont” grading system that provides a better description of each grade, or class, of syrup.  Each grade will state a color and a flavor descriptor:

Maple syrup gets "A" grade.

Maple syrup gets “A” grade.

Some interesting facts about this most luscious sweetener:

*it contains an abundant amount of naturally ocurring minerals such as   calcium, manganese, potassium and magnesium

* it is a natural source of beneficial antioxidants

* it is more nutritious than all other common sweeteners

* it contains one of the lowest calorie levels

* it has been shown to have healthy glycemic qualities

* maple syrup and maple sugar can be used in all your cooking and baking

All 4 grades of maple syrup are of equal quality, density and sugar content so it’s just a matter of personal preference – what’s yours?

West Hill Maple SyrupThe Native Peoples of the Northeast were the first to discover that the sap of the maple tree could be boiled down to provide an addition to their diet. Vermont produces about 3.5 million gallons (about 13 million liters) of maple syrup annually, providing 40% of the US supply. Several other states produce maple syrup on a smaller scale. In comparison, Canada produces about 10 million gallons ( about 38 million liters) per year supplying the domestic market and providing about 75% of the world supply.

All that luscious maple syrup would look after a Paul Bunyan sized stack of pancakes with some maple syrup left over for your pancakes!

For more information check out vermontmaple.organd to experience Maple Sugaring first hand come to the Mad River Valley Maple Festival weekend on April 1st through 3rd 2016—we have a special package just for you!

Along the Vermont Cheese Trail

March 14, 2016 by Corey A. Edwards

Vermont Cheese TrailThe Vermont Cheese Trail stretches from New York to New Hampshire, from Rhode Island to Quebec, and all points in between. Curd lovers visiting Vermont’s Mad River Valley can get in on the fun, too!

The farm-to-table movement may be one of the most exciting (and delicious) dining trends we’ve seen in a long time. The emphasis on fresh, locally harvested and crafted foods is a good thing, no matter how you serve it up.

Regional craft cheeses have long been a “thing” but public awareness of them is growing and with it, cheese tourism. We here at West Hill House B&B not only understand, we thoroughly agree! Part of what makes life so worth living is good food – and cheese is one of the most amazing and delightful foods there is!

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Lorne Sausage is a great breakfast accompaniment.

March 6, 2016 by Susan

Serving it up 

Lorne Sausage, also known as Square Sausage, Flat Sausage or Slice Sausage, is a traditional Scottish  food made with beef and pork. It is said to have originated in Lorne, Argyll in Scotland. If you are in Scotland and ask for a full Scottish Breakfast you will see Lorne Sausage on your plate.

The following recipe is my version using turkey. It has received “thumbs up” from our guests who prefer not to eat beef or pork.

Ingredients:

Lorne sausage in a lined pan

Lorne Sausage ready for the first freezing.

  • 2 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 c. Fine Bread Crumbs   (seasoned or not as you prefer)
  • 1 tsp. Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Coriander
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 3/4 c. of Water
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 3 T. Maple syrup (optional)

Method:

Slicing Lorne sausage ready for second freezing.

Slicing Lorne sausage ready for second freezing.

  • Mix really well by hand then place in a wax paper or saran lined oblong pan about 10″ x 4″ x 3″.
  • Fold the wrap over top of the meat and place in the freezer until it’s just starting to set.
  • Remove it from the pan and peel the paper away, it might be a bit sticky.
  • Cut into slices to the thickness you like.
  • Separate the slices with wax paper, wrap the whole sliced loaf in waxed paper and put it into a freezer bag and put it back in the freezer.
  • When required, pop off a slice, defrost and fry it in a little fat or oil until crispy brown and cooked through.

If you make this using the traditional recipe, instead of using ground turkey, use 1 lb. of ground beef and 1 lb. of ground pork – neither being too lean or the sausage will be dry. You may wish to leave out the egg as these meats will have more moisture than turkey. Recipe can be doubled however use a very large bowl.

I serve this on half a lightly toasted English muffin or Kaiser roll or on toast and topped with mornay sauce. Next time I think I will make it with chicken instead of turkey and see how that turns out.

Lorne sausage with a fried egg.

Lorne Sausage topped with a fried egg.

Dishing it out

When we travel in Scotland, if we aren’t staying with family, we usually stay at B&Bs as it is a real treat to have someone else make breakfast for us!

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A typical Scottish Breakfast

If you have never had a typical Scottish Breakfast, aka ‘Fry Up’, at a B&B or hotel (if you must!) here is a sample of what you will find on your plate and traditionally it is the same breakfast which is served every day. Ready? Going clockwise: baked beans, parsley (just for show), fried mushrooms, tomatoes -again the basil is just so you can say you had something really healthy, pork sausages, bacon, Lorne sausage or haggis, and tattie (potato) scone. OK, push back from the table now and you’ll want to loosen your belt about now – or maybe reach for something to settle your tummy.

If you keep eating these breakfasts belt loosening won’t help, you’ll need new clothing. I certainly don’t recommend eating like this every day of your Scottish holiday but you need to do this a few times just for the experience! We get smart after a couple of days and ask for the full breakfast minus whatever we have had enough of previously and often end up with egg (not fried), scone and Lorne sausage or haggis.   Now the average family is not subjected to this high fat diet so oatmeal, breakfast roll with butter and marmalade, some fruit and tea are the main stays and greatly enjoyed.

 

Mad River Valley’s Best Restaurants

February 26, 2016 by Corey A. Edwards

Mad River Valley's Best RestaurantsOne thing we’re always excited to pass along to our guests is what we think of as some of the Mad River Valley’s best restaurants.

Vermont has no end of great dining options and the Mad River Valley is no exception. Finding fantastic dining here isn’t the problem – choosing from among the crowd of mouth-watering options is!

It is with this in mind that we offer up a short-list of what we would consider some of the Mad River Valley’s best restaurants.

Presented alphabetically, this small selection of some of the best dining in our area is provided as a friendly guide for the next time you find yourself in the Mad River Valley and ask the age old question: where to eat?

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Discover Vermont Craft Beer!

February 15, 2016 by Corey A. Edwards

Vermont Craft Beer tastingsAmerica’s craft beer movement has certainly taken off – did you know there are over 50 craft beer breweries in Vermont, alone? We’re first in the U.S. for breweries and brew pubs per capita.

Beer lovers can be equal parts thrilled and confounded by the volume and variety of the Vermont craft beer scene – where to start?

Luckily, along with all the craft beer pubs and breweries, there are now numerous tours and trails one can take to discover and taste the very best that Vermont’s craft beer industry has to offer.

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Mint – a continuing great restaurant experience

August 17, 2015 by Peter MacLaren

Chef Illyan at work

Chef Illyan at work

Mint Restaurant in the heart of Waitsfield’s Historic District offers the Mad River Valley a vegetarian alternative with a primary focus on natural, organic whole foods and ingredients. Mint also specializes in offering a wide variety of teas from around the world.

The restaurant opened in November 2009 and has continued to receive rave reviews from our many guests who have dined there over the years since then, both from vegetarians and others. We are refreshing this blog first published in 2010 to include a recent video testimonial from guests John & Rachel that we encourage you to watch.

Mint is an experience not to be missed. The menu choices prepared by chef and co-owner Illyan are varied and interesting, and have an international flair. While vegetarians will recognize some of the choices, many are original creations and can be thoroughly enjoyed by diners more used to meat based entrees. The flavors are often surprising and delightful. Co-owner Savitri has integrated the amazing and varied tea selection from her former tea room, and provides knowledgeable guidance to match teas with your meal. Also available are a small wine and beer list at reasonable prices. The ambience and atmosphere are delightful and relaxing.

Make it a point to visit Mint during your next stay at West Hill House B&B. Usually open Wednesday to Sundays year round for dinner. Price for a 3-course dinner for 2 including a glass of wine each will be about $80. We shall be pleased to make reservations for you, usually a good idea as there is limited seating,

Carrot Greens Salad

June 23, 2015 by Susan

Stirring it up: Last week was the first week for our Community Supported Agriculture share for this year and it got me thinking about carrot greens.  Carrot greens are most often thrown away during meal prep but I thought there had to be a use for them. I searched the internet, got some inspiration from a number of websites then opened the fridge and built a salad. I used various quantities of veggies untill it looked and tasted good.  Quantities are to the best of my memory!

Sooo good!

Carrot Greens Salad

  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. cleaned & chopped carrot greens
  • 1 c. black beans, pre cooked or canned
  • 1 – 1 1/2 c. garbanzo beans (aka chick peas), pre cooked or canned
  • 3 med carrots, diced
  • 4-5 stems parsley, fresh & chopped
  • 1 scallion thinly sliced
  • 5-6 mint leaves, fresh & chopped
  • 1 1/2 c. quinoa, cooked & cooled
  • 4-5 green peas in the pod, fresh and thinly sliced

Dressing

  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 3T. red wine vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed or 1/4 t. dry garlic bits (not powder)
  • 2-3 T. lemon juice, fresh
  • 2 t. sugar

Prepare all the vegetables and place them in a large bowl along with the cooled quinoa. Prepare the dressing by putting all the ingredients in a small jar and, with the lid on,  shaking it well. Pour the dressing over the veggies about 10 minutes prior to serving and lightly toss the salad. Be sure to adjust the quantities and veggies to your liking! It tastes great the following day too and the carrot greens are still fresh looking. Bon appétit!

Next time I might add about 1/2 c. corn kernels and 1 med tomato, diced. I served this with a side of a couple of slices of Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar cheese. This salad was a great meal in itself.

Dishing it out: As a child I was sometimes called “carrot top” by those out to tease me but seriously, I had red hair and a carrot top is green.  Obviously those folks had no idea what they were talking about and, thus far in my life, I’ve never seen anyone with naturally green hair!

CSA first share of the season.

CSA first share of the season.

That being said, we love the carrot greens we get from Muddy Boots CSA and we love being part of the Muddy Boots CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which is a collaborative venture of  Kingsbury Market Garden, Wood’s Market Garden and Burnt Rock Farm.  It also includes dairy products from several of the local farms including Von Trapp Farmstead and Ploughgate Creamery at Bragg Hill Farm. Our week one share was a marvelous selection of absolutely fresh produce including brie cheese, luscious tomatoes, tasty shallots, crisp carrots and cucumber, crunchy kale, dried black beans, beautiful lettuce, pungent basil, deep red beets, and more. How could you not like any of it, or waste any of it which is why I wondered about the carrot greens. Carrot Greens Salad, what a perfect way to celebrate the wonderful farms and hard working farmers this 4th of July or on Canada Day if you are north of the border!

Very Yummy Granola

March 9, 2015 by Susan

Stirring it up:

Our guests love this granola. It takes little time to prepare and packs a good measure of fiber into your daily diet. Granola is great sprinkled on fruit, eaten as breakfast cereal or used  as a topping for a fruit crisp or ice cream!

Tastes as good as it looks.

Tastes as good as it looks.

Very Yummy Granola

  • 4 cups oats (not quick oats)
  • 1 cup corn flakes
  • 1 cup grape nut flakes
  • 1 cup coconut
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ to ½ cup real maple syrup or honey
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • ¾ cup golden raisins
  • ¾ cup Craisins

Mix all dry ingredients together in big a bowl, except raisins, craisins and dates and any other dried fruit you use—they will be added later.

Mix liquids together and pour over dry ingredients.

Stir well until completely moistened.

Spread evenly on a large jelly roll pan which you have lined with parchment paper or very lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake in 350°F oven for about 25 minutes, but keep an eye on it as it will go from toasted to burnt, quickly.

Stir 3 or 4 times during cooking – this is important so that the oats toast evenly,  you want them to be golden brown.

Add fruits after baking is done and while the oat mixture is still warm.

Cool completely then store in an air-tight container.

Experiment with ingredient, more nuts, different dried fruits, chocolate chips, wheat germ, ground flax… remember to adjust the amount of syrup and oil when you add dry ingredients. Dice larger pieces of dried fruit such as apricots, peaches or the like, into raisin sized bits.

Have fun and enjoy the fruits, nuts and oats of your labour.

Dishing it out:

Growing up, granola was a staple in our home. My dad had his special recipe and for years I thought this was the only taste for granola. Not that Dad’s recipe wasn’t good, actually it was quite wonderful, it’s just that I guessed it was the recipe everyone used. I was soon set straight on that one, and when I cook,  Dad’s words echo in my mind, “Be creative and never be afraid to experiment.” His granola recipe?  He was creative and made it up himself. Thanks Dad!

Icelandic Vínarterta – A Shortbread Style Cake

January 14, 2015 by Susan

At breakfast on January first I presented our guests with my variation of  the Icelandic dessert Vínarterta, a Shortbread and Prune Jam Layer Cake. If you want to learn more about our amazing Icelandic Experience check our January 5, 2015 blog.

So, with thanks to the Icelandic cooks for the inspiration which I gained from the Vínarterta recipe and apologies to Icelandic cooks for the changes I made to their much enjoyed special occasion cake, as promised, here is my recipe.

The Spread

  • 5 oz dried apricots,  finely chopped
  • 7 oz, dried figs,  finely chopped
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves
  • 3/4 c. cranberry juice

Put these ingredients into a blender and puree. Add a bit of water or more cranberry juice if this seems too thick to puree. The resulting spread should be on the thick side. This will make enough spread for the dessert as well as a good amount which can be kept for toast, muffins or filling for a small genoise cake.

The Cake

  • 3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. ground cardamom
  • 1 c. (two sticks) butter slightly softenedThe West Hill House B&B version of Vínarterta.
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. whole milk

Mix the flour, baking powder and cardamom together in a bowl and set aside.  In a larger bowl, by hand or with a mixer, cream the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients and milk alternately, mixing between additions. Transfer the dough to a floured board and knead for about one minute. Break dough into balls about the size of a large walnut. With a floured rolling pin, roll out each ball on the floured board, to a thin circle (about 1/6″ thick) and about 4″ across. Carefully lift the dough and place it on a parchment covered jelly roll pan and chill for at least one hour. I  covered my pans with plastic wrap and chilled them overnight. This dough is not like a cake dough, it is more like we’d call shortbread.

Bake chilled dough on the parchment lined pan in a 375° oven for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it though!

Cool then spread with the fig and apricot jam and top with a slice of pear and enjoy.

Icing  (I didn’t use icing on my presentation)

  • 2 c. icing sugar
  • 1/4 c. brewed coffee, chilled

The traditional method of preparing this cake is to baking circles 7″ across, cooling them then spreading a very thick jam on each layer except the top layer. Stack the jam covered circles and pour the icing over top of the whole thing and chill it until the icing is firm. Slice and serve. Friends in Iceland tell me that using a thick jam between the cake layers should make the cake pretty sturdy and able to be cut neatly. My next try at this will be to make Vínarterta in the traditional way. Wish  me luck!

An Icelandic Experience

January 5, 2015 by Susan

Iceland , ‘The land of Ice and Fire’. If you have ever dreamed of an Icelandic holiday, stop dreaming and go!

As we have in past years, we kicked of 2015 by watching and listening to, via a live web cam , the midnight fireworks from Reykjavik, Iceland.  The closer it got to midnight the more fireworks lit the dark sky Icelandic. It seemed as though every family in the city was illuminating the sky with their own fireworks display.

Why, you might ask, do we do this? In April of 2002 our family explored Iceland and had an absolutely amazing time; even our teenaged son had a wonderful experience! From the moment we spotted Iceland from the plane till the moment it disappeared from view when we flew home, we were captivated.

In researching travel to this island country I discovered Isafold Travel which operates out of Reykjavík. After correspondence with the owner, Jón Baldur Þorbjörnsson, we booked a private tour and were all set to start out on an Icelandic adventure. The people we met were very friendly and their English was waaaaaay better than our (non-existent) Icelandic! The landscape seemed to change with every kilometer we traveled, the waterfalls were spectacular, the views breathtaking, and, because we were there at the end of winter, every spot of green grass was a sign of spring and greeted with exclamations of joy.

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon was our first stop and shouldn’t be missed by anyone traveling to Iceland. The geothermally heated water is a comforting 38°C (100°F). The turquoise blue colour is a result of  the silica which the water picks up on its way to the surface and the way the sunlight reflects off it. Enjoying the many spa related facilities there or just enjoying the water makes a good start or finish to any Icelandic adventure.

Water from rocks!

Water from rocks!

Of the many waterfalls we stopped to gaze upon, Gullfoss, Skógafoss, and Hraunfossar were our favourites. Each spectacular in its own way and each with a captivating legend. Hraunfossar was perhaps the most geologically interesting as it flows underground from between the layers of lava then spills into the icy Havítá River.

Þingvellir was another stop on our adventure. Here marks the meeting of two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate, and a rift is clearly visible. In places it is very wide and in other places along the rift anyone with a good wide step can have one foot on each plate. It also marks the location of Althing, Iceland’s original parliament, the oldest parliament in the world, where for hundreds of years people of this nation would gather to discuss issues of concern and make laws to govern.

Icelandic Lobster

Icelandic Lobster

The food was delicious! We enjoyed langoustine (Icelandic lobster), wholesome multigrain breads, thick stews, skyr, bananas—grown in Iceland by the way!—and yes, a taste of rotten shark meat, which wasn’t really that bad.

The country is dotted with sites and sounds which in various ways record the history of Iceland:  historic turf homes, small country churches,  original farmsteads, museums illustrating early domestic life as well as detailing the life of Icelandic folk who emigrated to North America, The Great Geysir, volcanoes, glaciers, music, the list goes on.

Guests at West Hill House B&B have come from all around the world (including from Iceland!) and many have traveled the world bringing back special memories of their adventures. Doubtless there will be a time, perhaps in the morning around the breakfast table or in the evening in the living room, when adventures are recalled and shared. We might hear of driving in Australia with kangaroos hopping across the roadways or a trip to Europe to hike in the Alps, or a journey to China to see the Great Wall and the Terra Cotta Army.  All who listen travel vicariously as a stories unfolds. If asked about a favourite adventure of ours, we are always happy to recount highlights of our wonderful time in Iceland.

At breakfast on January first I presented our guests with my variation of  the Icelandic dessert Vínarterta, a Shortbread and Prune Jam Layer Cake which was enjoyed by all. As promised, you’ll find my recipe if you check West Hill House B&B recipes.

 

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