A Gift From A Stranger

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This week I found myself in a jewelry store while running errands with my daughter. She was having her rings cleaned and making a return. While she browsed, the store owner, a friendly young man named Peter, started a conversation with me. This is how it went.

Peter: How many children do you have?

Me: Two. Caitlin is my oldest. (hesitation) …..And I have a son who is deceased. He died just before his 23rd birthday

Peter: Oh, I am so sorry (hesitation)……how old was he?

Me: He died just before his 23rd birthday

Peter: (now a little flustered) that’s right you just told me that I am sorry

Me: It’s okay it’s been quite a few years since he died

Peter: What happened?

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Needless to say Peter opened the door for a long conversation about who William was and where he had been in his life. Peter ended the conversation by saying: “It sounds like your son lived out a dream. He knew what he was born to do at such a young age. He’s quite amazing. We should never forget him.” I told Peter that I loved talking about my son and thanked him for the conversation. In a room of diamonds and sapphires it is a conversation with a stranger that is the most precious gift.

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Another gift I just received is a small crop of meyer lemons. I care for a potted plant that spends warm days outside and frigid ones indoors. In return I am gifted a juicy crop. This year a half dozen of lovely lemons. Meyer lemons are readily available in the grocery store this time of year, but if you can’t find them substitute a mix of fresh lemon and orange juice.

Meyer Lemon Grilled Butter Shrimp

3 tablespoons dry white wine plus additional for soaking skewers

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1-tablespoon fresh meyer lemon juice

1 teaspoon of honey

4 garlic cloves, grated

2 tablespoons chopped parsley plus additional for garnish

1 pound extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined (about 20 shrimp)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, plus additional for garnish

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

4 slices meyer lemon

Soak 4 to 6 wooden skewers in Mark West Pinot Grigio for 30 minutes. In a bowl, mix 3 tablespoons wine, 1 tablespoon of oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic and parsley. Season the shrimp with kosher salt and pepper and add to the bowl, tossing to coat with marinade. Let stand for 15 minutes. Thread the shrimp onto skewers. Brush shrimp with half the melted butter; sprinkle with Aleppo pepper. Grill the shrimp, on a lightly greased grill pan, over moderate heat, basting with remaining butter and turning, until just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, brush lemon slices with remaining teaspoon of oil. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Grill lemons for about 2 minutes per side; serve with shrimp. Garnish with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper, if desired. 

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Tip: if using frozen shrimp look for bags labeled: IQF (Individual Quick Freezing) for better tasting and well shaped product. As always buy American.

 

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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.

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elderberries from Norm’s Farm

Cooking Contest Central

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One of my favorite recipe contest moments. Bobby Dean sneaks in a hug at the Beringer Great Steak Cook-Off

Lots of people ask me about how to get involved in recipe contests. I always recommend my favorite go-to web site for recipe contest information. It’s Cooking Contest Central or better known as CCC. Some may balk at the yearly $25.00 subscription rate, but truthfully my time is much more valuable. Instead of searching the web for contests or visiting other sites that may be free I prefer this easy to use up to date source. It has all the information I need including contest news, rules and regulations plus a forum to chat with other like-minded cooking enthusiasts. Not only that, but CCC often runs exclusive recipe contests for its members. A real bonus because who doesn’t want to win $500.00 on occasion. The contests are judged by real food experts and don’t involve the dreaded voting. I recently won a contest sponsored on the site by Mann’s. The contest required I use their broccoli slaw and I think I stood out in the field because I used it in two ways. I hope you like the recipe as much as the judges did.img_3524

Stir-Fry Shitake & Broccoli Slaw Burgers

For the slaw

1 (12 oz.) bag Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw, divided

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1-tablespoon olive oil

1 (4 oz) package stemmed and sliced fresh shitake mushrooms

¼ cup sliced scallions

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

For the burger

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 ½ cups Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw (reserved from slaw recipe)

1 tablespoon mirin

1 pound (80% lean 20% fat) ground beef

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup sliced scallions

4 brioche buns, toasted

4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

4 crisp lettuce leaves

Reserve 1½ cups of broccoli slaw for burgers. Pour remaining slaw into a large bowl; toss with salt. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms have released their liquid and are just golden brown. Add mushrooms and scallions to slaw mix in bowl. In small bowl, whisk soy sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, honey, fresh ginger and sesame oil until blended. Pour dressing over slaw mixture; toss well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and toss again. Set aside while preparing burgers. In same skillet used to cook mushrooms, heat 1-teaspoon olive oil. Add reserved 1 ½ cups slaw and cook stirring 5 minutes or until softened. Add mirin, stirring, just until liquid evaporates. Cool slightly. In large bowl, combine ground beef, salt, pepper, scallions and cooled slaw mix; blend well. Shape into 4 patties about ¾-inch thick. Grill, broil or pan-fry burgers 4 to 5 minutes per side or until fully cooked. Layer bottom half of toasted rolls with hoisin sauce, lettuce and a burger. Top with a generous amount of shitake slaw. Cover with bun tops and serve.

You can also check out the CCC Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/CookingContestCentral/