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

Cooking Contest Central

bobby dean

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/

 

Summer View: Will’s Bench &Grilling Tips

Grilled Steak

juicy grilled steak

Will’s Bench at Lake Elise in Middlebury, CT  is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by. Peaceful and filled with wildlife, the area is perfect for bird watching or fishing for large mouth bass. Dogs sniff the banks and often dive in for a cool swim. I especially love sitting on the bench on a summer morning having coffee with old friends. The kind of friends that are tried and true, have been around through thick and thin and after all these years are still willing to sit in silence and shed a few a tears or laughs recalling the antics of our kids. The morning mist rises off the clear water flecked with lily pads as the warmth of the sun breaks through.

BFF's Bev & Carol

BFF’s Bev & Carol

Friends like Bev and Carol are priceless. Every griever needs at least one Bev or one Carol in their life, but preferably both. They are the kind of selfless people who know how to step outside themselves for the good of another. It comes natural to them. Their simple presence creates a safe and comforting atmosphere that invites the sharing of feelings and healing. So much healing has taken place on this now weathered wooden bench on the edge of a lake–even on the day that bird pooped on my hand.

summer view from the bench

summer view from the bench

Another summer view

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IMG_0211Let me know if you ever get to Lake Elise, but until then let’s get grilling. We all love a good steak, so it being summer let’s share a few grilling tips plus a delicious recipe that also includes grilled watermelon. That’s right-grilled watermelon.

  1. Take the chill off your steak by removing it from the fridge 30 minutes before grill time. It will cook more evenly.
  2. Pat the steak dry with paper towels to avoid steaming the meat.
  3. Crank your grill up to HIGH. Lightly grease the grate.
  4. For gorgeous grill marks and delicious caramelized flavor follow the 10-2 rule of grilling (see recipe for explanation).
  5. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

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Grilled Steakhouse Rib-Eye & Watermelon Wedge

1/2 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup blue cheese dressing

4 (1-inch thick) ribeye steaks

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small, seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into thick wedges

¼ cup crumbled blue cheese

2 green onions, thinly sliced on bias

8 fresh mint or basil leaves, thinly sliced plus additional sprigs for garnish

Heat grill to high. In small saucepan, over high heat, combine, wine, honey and Worcestershire sauce. Bring sauce mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency; set aside. Season steaks on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place steaks on hot, lightly greased grill rack pointing one edge towards 10:00. Grill 2 to 3 minutes creating well-browned grill marks. Rotate steak so that same edge now points toward 2:00. Grill 2 minutes. Now repeat process on other side of steak. Reduce heat to medium. Grill steaks, 3 to 4 minutes more or until medium-rare (125 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Transfer steaks to plate; cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, season watermelon with salt and pepper; place on lightly greased grill rack for 2 minutes per side or until charred grill marks begin to form. Arrange steaks and watermelon on serving plates. Drizzle dressing over watermelon. Drizzle wine sauce over steaks. Sprinkle with green onions, herbs and blue cheese. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs.

perfect grill marks following the 10-2 rule

perfect grill marks following the 10-2 rule