Respect Your ElderBerries

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Retirement? What’s that? I have never been so busy in my life. On any given day I am cooking/baking up a storm, baby-sitting my grand-daughter, tending the garden and traveling here or there. I am not complaining, but here is the thing. While my mind still thinks I am 30, the body knows I am double that number. I get a bit tired a bit quicker, but that is not going to stop me. While I always taught my children to respect their elders I just can’t believe I am that person now. I will do whatever it takes to stay healthy, vibrant and energetic because I have a sweet grand-daughter who is no longer walking, but running. “Wait for Kiki Annabelle”!

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Enter elderberries. Recently, I was gifted some elderberry products from Ann & Rodger Lenhardt of Norm’s Farms. The information on the web site is fascinating. I didn’t know much about elderberries, but in my research learned that Hippocrates (ancient Greek father of medicine) referred to “elders” as his “medicine chest”. High in vitamin C, iron, antioxidants and potassium elderberries outshine all those other “super fruits” that seem to have gotten lots of press lately. Not only are the berries nutritious, but they are delicious and come in a variety of supplements, syrups and jams to boost your immune system and good health.

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I very much enjoyed developing a few recipes with Norm’s Farms products. First up is a very simple appetizer (great for those outdoor deck parties y’all are throwing right now) using the most sweet and savory Elderberry Ginger Pecan Jam. I love the crunch contrast of the pecans mixed in with the fruit. Next Thanksgiving skip the cranberry sauce and serve this jam with your roast turkey. You heard it here first.

Crispy Melted Cheese Cups with Elderberry Ginger Pecan Jam

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1-package (15 count) mini fillo shells

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Norm’s Farms Elderberry Ginger Pecan Jam

Heat oven 350F. Mix cream cheese, cheddar cheese and pepper until well blended. Remove shells from all packaging. Fill shells with cheese mixture and place on a baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Remove tray from oven and top each with a small spoonful of jam. Return to oven and bake 1 to 2 more minutes or until heated through. Makes 15 small bites.

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The next recipe uses Norm’s Farms Blueberry Elderberry Preserves. While developing a dessert recipe would have been the obvious choice I decided on another savory one. Plus this vinaigrette does double duty as a salad dressing and marinade taking full advantage of all the greens in my garden and the grill. After all, the weather is so fine right now I’m betting you’d rather be outside enjoying yourself rather than stuck in the kitchen.

Blueberry Elderberry Vinaigrette & Marinade

¼ cup Norm’s Farms Blueberry Elderberry Preserves

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce (regular or low-sodium)

2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Whisk all ingredients until well blended. Drizzle over your favorite salad as a vinaigrette or use as a marinade on fresh chicken and/or pork. I like to marinade meat overnight and grill the next day.

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Norm’s Farms products are sold in many stores across the USA and can also be ordered directly from their web site. Click on the link, Norm’s Farms for more great recipes, too. Enjoy.

Why-Elderberry

elderberries from Norm’s Farm

Han & Spring Chicken Stew

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As one who grieves the loss of a child I find my vocabulary limited in describing just how I feel on a day-to-day basis. Often described, as a rollercoaster of emotion or waves of ups and downs, grief seems to be somewhat of a mixed bag of sadness and hope. While I get the ebb and flow analogy it is something so much more.

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Will at his favorite store, Cabelas

In conversation with my friend Sonya who was born and raised in Korea I learned of the word “Han”. Han is an important and beautiful part of the Korean culture. Difficult to translate into English here are my thoughts. Han is an integral part of our being something so deep inside that it shapes and defines who we are. It is born of injustice. Like an evolutionary process it takes the best of hopeful and positive and the worst of sorrow and negative and weaves it into our DNA.

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We all love our children. Most likely we love our children more than we love ourselves, but you don’t REALLY know how much you love them until they are gone. That is Han emerging. It’s my Han telling me how grateful I am for having him for 23 years and it’s my Han telling me how deep my sorrow goes that he is gone. That interwoven hope and sadness is an integral part of my being every single day. It is intense. It is extreme. It’s a dull lingering ache in the soul that can’t be controlled. Han is the word for one who has lost a child. For those who have lost a child I think you understand and for those who have not I hope you never will.

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Like Han, Korean flavors go deep, too. Lately, I have been studying authentic Korean cuisine with two young ladies. Teaching cooking lessons with them has been a real joy as both are open to exploring new and sometimes scary things like sweet potato noodles, bell flower root and soused briny shrimp. We are stepping out of our comfort zone.

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the shrimp eyes are a bit creepy

The first dish we made is a Spring Chicken Stew based on a recipe in Noh Chin-hwa’s book Healthful Korean Cooking.The stew is easy to prepare, but very complex in flavor. Thankfully, when I opened the scary jar of salted shrimp the aroma simply reminded me of the ocean. My students liked it, too. The shrimp marinade lends the dish an incredible depth of saltiness without being at all fishy. The peppers, aromatics and sesame add layers of fresh and nutty flavor for a most pleasant beginning to the spring season.

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Oriental markets are main stream these days and I am happy to have several nearby. These same ingredients are most likely available on-line, too. As far as fresh produce goes feel free to use any peppers you prefer. Longhots are the perfect substitution for spicy Korean peppers.

Korean Spring Chicken Stew

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

¼ teaspoon salt

1 whole chicken

1/3 cup soused, salted shrimp

5 tablespoons chopped green onions

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1-tablespoon sesame oil

Black pepper

5 Korean red peppers, seeded, diced

5 Korean green peppers, seeded, diced

1 onion, diced

Grind sesame seeds and salt together. Cut chicken into pieces (2-inch pieces); mix with shrimp and seasoning and let stand 15 to 30 minutes. Fry chicken in sesame oil. Pour in ½ cup water; cover and simmer on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is just cooked through. Remove cover. Cut onion and peppers into ¼-inch squares. When liquid has evaporated add vegetables and stir-fry briefly.

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What Not To Say…Add it to the list

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It’s been 2,136 days or 5 years, 10 months, and 3 days since I lost my son. By now I thought I had heard every heartfelt, but misguided thing a person could muster in an attempt to comfort me. Remember this blog post about what not to say?  Well, I was wrong in thinking I had heard it all. Let’s add 1 more to the list of what not to say.

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North Conway 1997

 

Do NOT say to a grieving parent who is now a grandparent: “You must be all better now that you have a grandchild.”  Honestly, I am not trying to be harsh here. I understand if you have never been through the loss of a child that you can’t know how one feels, but common sense should dictate that one child could never replace another. Each child is their own unique joy. Each child has their own unique place in a parent’s/grandparent’s heart. A parent does not ever forget about the lost child by filling the void with another. When I think back on that moment, I am 100% certain I caused great discomfort to the person who was hoping I was better now. Without warning tears and quite possibly rage welled my eyes and the person made a quick exit stage right.

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Thanks for letting me vent today. Now let’s just get comfortable with a steaming hot, nourishing bowl of soup. We just had our first snow, so let’s warm up with a hearty wild rice & chicken version. This recipe packs a bit of smoky spice and chocolate because after all it’s still Valentine’s week. Enjoy.

“Soup puts the heart at ease and calms

down the violence of hunger”

~ Escoffier

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Heart Warming Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 medium orange bell pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Pinch red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh ground back pepper

1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes

1 (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with green chilies

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup wild rice, rinsed

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced

¾ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, over moderately high heat until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, cocoa, oregano, smoked paprika, red pepper, salt and a few turns of black pepper; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, tomatoes with chilies, chicken stock and wild rice; bring to boil. Add the chicken. Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender and puffy, about 40 to 45 minutes. Stir in the corn. Ladle the soup into bowls.

Garnish with fresh herbs, sour cream and crispy tortilla strips, if desired.

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