Good Grief & How do You Like Them SuperBowl Stuffed Apples

a variety of local farm apples

a variety of local farm apples

This week’s blog post is brought to you by a chance meeting with “a genius” at the Apple store. If you own an Apple anything you probably are familiar with all the friendly folks who provide such fabulous customer service and classes at your local store. I especially enjoy the “one-to-one” tutoring and yesterday I was learning about iphoto and photo organization. As I was working with Charlie I mentioned a small glitch I was having with the computer. He immediately signed me in to have a session with a repair associate and while I was at it he recommended I also meet with a business associate in case I ever wanted to turn this blog into a business. As a side note, GoodGriefCook will never be a business, but I was flattered.

pick your own heirloom apples getting a bath

pick your own heirloom apples getting a bath

Off to the “Genius” bar I go where Chris is now analyzing my computer. He is reading and talking in code and I fully understand how he’s earned the title of “Genius”. I have no clue what he is saying or doing, but I nod politely and go along with it. Meanwhile, the business associate joins us and asks me to tell him about my food blog. We chat for a few minutes and then I turn my attention back to Chris who has completed the diagnostics. It comes as no shock that he has figured out the computer glitch, but what he says next completely surprises me. He looks me straight in the eyes and says, “I am going to read your blog. You see I have been going through some things with grief that I don’t understand. It isn’t getting better “.

cranberries are the perfect bittersweet fruit

cranberries are the perfect bittersweet fruit

Gosh darn it if I didn’t feel like “the Genius” now. It’s not a job I trained for, but I sure could relate to what he was trying to figure out. I could not fix it like a computer, but maybe I could help in some small way. I hope I listened well and I hope that I did the best teaching of my life in that moment with Chris who was feeling so alone in the middle of that crowded Apple store.

that's Italian

that’s Italian

Are you anticipating a big crowd around your TV for the Superbowl? This recipe landed me a finalist spot in the Ocean Spray Tailgate recipe contest a few years ago and a trip to Gillette stadium where the New England Patriots play. I remember the judge, Chef Ming Tsai saying my recipe would be fit for a tailgate with Martha Stewart. I was flattered.

Big Game Cranberry Sausage Stuffed Apples

8 large Granny Smith apples

8 ounces sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed

1 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup Ocean Spray® Cran•Apple™ Cranberry Apple Juice Drink

2 cups Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, coarsely chopped plus 16 whole berries

1 large egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Slice off 1 inch from top of each apple. Core apples, but do not go through bottom. Scoop out remaining apple flesh, leaving 1/4-inch shell. Chop scooped apple flesh.

Cook sausage in large skillet over medium heat, stirring to crumble, until no longer pink. Add onion and chopped apples; cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until onion is softened. Add juice drink, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Add chopped cranberries, egg, brown sugar, parsley, thyme and 1 cup cheese; mix well. Fill apple shells with stuffing. Sprinkle tops with remaining cheese and the walnuts. Top each with 2 whole cranberries. Place apples in large baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

Ocean Spray Tailgating Recipe Contest Finalist 
Lisa Keys.

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends Recipe Contest

Sesame Ginger Pork Steam Bun

Sesame Ginger Pork Steam Bun

The reasons to indulge our appetites just keep coming. First, it was Thanksgiving. Then came Christmas followed by New Year’s. Now, on the horizon is Super Bowl Sunday, Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day. Can we keep the healthy and delicious recipe resolutions coming, too? You betcha!IMG_4342

To the rescue is Healthy Solutions Spice Blends. Just as I was cleaning the clutter of old unused dried herbs and spice bottles from my pantry this lovely little spice blend arrived in the mail for me to experiment with. Not only do the spice blends replace several bottles of spices, but they come in easy to store, colorful zip top bags with recipe suggestions on the back.

sesame ginger roasted pork tenderloin

sesame ginger roasted pork tenderloin

Asian flavors are among my favorite, so it was no surprise that the SESAME GINGER TUNA blend from among the 16 different spice blends offered spoke to me. Recipe suggestions on the back of the package suggest uses for fish and chicken, but Healthy Solutions was challenging me to come up with something new and different for their recipe contest. I knew the flavor profile would be a match made in heaven with family favorite pork tenderloin. Plus the lean pork was on sale encouraging not only a gourmet dinner preparation, but also an upcoming game day appetizer that could also celebrate Chinese New Year.

Sesame Ginger Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Quick & easy dinner: Sesame Ginger Roasted Pork Tenderloin Salad

The roasted pork makes an easy and delicious dinner as is with your favorite salad or side dish, but for a real crowd pleaser continue on to impress your guests with this fabulous sesame ginger pork bun appetizer.

Sesame Ginger Pork Buns

1-pound pork tenderloin

¼ cup mirin

¼ cup low sodium soy sauce

1-tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons Healthy Solutions Spice Blends Sesame Ginger Tuna, divided

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar

¼ cup hoisin sauce

8 plain Asian steam buns or slider rolls

1 cup shredded napa cabbage

quick pickle chips (recipe follows)* or store bought sweet pickle chips

fresh cilantro leaves

Place pork tenderloin in zippered plastic bag. In small bowl, whisk mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil and 2 teaspoons of spice blend; pour over pork in bag. Seal bag squeezing out as much air as possible. Marinate pork for 30 minutes or as long as overnight. Heat oven to 400F. Line a shallow roasting pan with foil. Remove pork from marinade, pat dry; discard marinade. Brush pork with honey. Mix coconut or brown sugar with remaining spice blend; sprinkle and pat all over pork. Roast pork in prepared pan for 20 to 30 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 155 to 160F. Let pork rest on cutting surface for 5 minutes. Cut into thin slices. Meanwhile, prepare steam buns according to package directions. Open steamed buns. Layer bottoms with some hoisin sauce, napa cabbage, pork slices and pickle chips. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

*Quick Pickle Chips

½ English cucumber (do not peel) thinly sliced

½ cup water

½ cup white vinegar

¼ cup sugar

1-teaspoon kosher salt

Place cucumbers in a heat proof bowl. Bring water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers. Let cucumbers stand at least 30 minutes. Chill until ready to use. Can be made 1 week in advance.

Sesame Ginger Roast Pork Steam Bun

Preserve Your Story & Lemons

roasted shrimp with preserved lemon

roasted shrimp with preserved lemon

Last week the NY Times article, Getting Grief Right by psychotherapist Patrick O’Malley circulated around Facebook. What I liked most about the article was how much buzz it generated. While I did not agree with all that O’Malley had to say, especially the notion, “the size of their grief corresponds to the depth of their love”, I did appreciate the 358 comments of people thinking and talking about grief. The truth is there is no getting it right or wrong, but the need to talk about it is enormous. What is your story?

Like a fingerprint no two grief experiences are the same and YOUR experience may or may not correspond to the depth of your love for the person who has died. A prime example of this is the way I have handled the death of my parents and that of my son. I could not have loved my parents more. Both lived well into their late 80’s. Long, happy, productive lives surrounded by their children and grandchildren. When they died it seemed like the natural order of things. Was I sad? Yes. Am I filled with an overwhelming sorrow? No. In fact, I am only filled with gratitude for loving parents who were able to live such long and wonderful lives and die quickly without much pain.

the anxiety in my face as he leaves home for life in the military

the anxiety in my face as he leaves home for life in the military

Losing my son, on the other hand, has been the complete opposite grief experience. I own an enormous amount of sorrow as he died too soon. Although he accomplished much to be proud of in his short 23 years his life was just beginning. He had plans. There will never be closure in spite of what society expects. A society that fears pain, especially emotional pain, and prefers to bury it or stifle it with medication.These feelings are not weaknesses or illnesses, but part of what makes us human. They are normal and are to be respected and preserved. If sorrow is your story write it or tell it to anyone willing to listen. And if anyone has the nerve to ask, “Are you over it?” Don’t be afraid to hit them over the head with a book. A thick book like Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking or one of those big coffee table books.

preserved lemons

preserved lemons

Preserving family traditions and now lemons is part of my cooking story. At this year’s feast of the 7 fishes I made this recipe from Tasting Table. It’s delicious and gave me the excuse to finally try preserved lemons which is more traditional to Moroccan and North African cooking. Whole Foods sells the lemons packed in a salty brine, but if you don’t mind waiting a month for this intensely flavored lemon rind then try making your own.

dig in

dig in

Roasted Shrimp with Preserved Lemon

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

For the Garlic Confit Oil

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 large garlic cloves, halved

2 fresh bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

For the Shrimp

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ cup garlic confit oil

3 tablespoons thinly sliced preserved lemon

pinch of sea salt

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano or marjoram

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley

Make the garlic confit oil: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the olive oil, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Cook until the garlic is tender but has not started to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let the oil cool.

Preheat the oven to 400°. On a parchment-lined sheet tray, arrange the shrimp and toss with the garlic confit oil and preserved lemon. Season with salt and red pepper flakes then roast, turning halfway, until the shrimp are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the oregano and cilantro. Serves 4.