As the temperatures start their annual spring swing, blue buckets are appearing on area maple trees ready to catch the first drops of sap. If you can’t wait for a fresh batch of syrup or you don’t have any maple trees in your yard to tap, don’t worry. Mark was given a family recipe from the parts gal, Katie, for their homemade maple syrup. It is easy to make and sweet to eat. Katie said you can back off on some of the sugar if it’s too sweet. The flour in the recipe serves as a thickener. If you like thinner syrup, leave it out. I made a batch and think this can give Log Cabin a run for the money. You can find the maple flavoring near the vanilla extract.
I found a recipe inside the box for unsweetened chocolate bars called peanut butter cheesecake brownies. Now the idea of peanut butter and cheesecake didn’t thrill me, but I was intrigued. I have since made four pans of these brownies that are so simple and yet so delicious.
A dear friend stopped by for a visit the other day and brought me some of her homemade banana muffins. The miniature chocolate chips are perfect in these muffins. Needless to say, they didn’t last very long once Mark and Austin had a taste. Brenda also gave me a recipe for protein balls. What a great treat to grab on the go for this spring when you need a little boost. Mark can even make these as there is no baking required. Enjoy.

Maple syrup
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon flour, optional
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Mapleine
2 tablespoons butter
Mix sugars, flour and water together. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Add Mapleine and butter. Mix until all melted. Serve warm.

Peanut butter cheesecake brownies
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter
2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
5 eggs, divided
1 cup flour
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9-by-13 pan with parchment paper, extended over sides to create handles. Spray with cooking spray. Melt chocolate and butter. Add 2 cups sugar; mix well. Stir in four eggs. Add flour; mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Mix cream cheese, peanut butter, ½ cup sugar and remaining egg until well blended; drop by spoonfuls over brownie batter. Swirl gently with knife. Bake 35-40 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool completely before cutting.

Protein balls by Brenda Deters
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 scoop protein powder of choice
1/4 cup flax seed
1/4 teaspoon chia seeds or sunflower seeds
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup honey
Mix all together. Will be very thick. Using teaspoon, dip out dough and roll into a ball. Place in storage container.

Banana muffins by Brenda Deters
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed bananas
1 large egg
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Mix dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix mashed bananas, egg, melted butter and milk. Stir banana ingredients into dry ingredients. Don’t over stir or it becomes crumbly. Line muffin tin with paper cups. Pour batter into liners. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
    As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.