Good Grief Geese

As a bird watcher and lover of nature in general I could not help but think of the natural instincts of geese as I sat through 3 beautiful weddings this month. Early in my own marriage my husband had given me a lovely gold pin created by a Maine jeweler titled “Geese Mate for Life”. Did you know that geese mate for life? It is just one of the reasons why I love this bird. Not to mention that young William would walk around the house imitating their call “ga-LEEK ga-LEEK” in a high-pitched voice. 

When it comes to grief humans should be more like geese. Their devotion to not only their partner, but their entire flock is incredibly inspiring. They illustrate perfectly the notion of “many hands make light work”. Grief work is the hardest you will ever do. If there is ever a time for a need of loving and supportive companionship it’s when someone we love dies.

Geese have a few other instincts that we can all learn from. Look up. It’s this time of year with winter in their cry that geese are flying in “V” formation. Their journey is a long one. They do it together for a reason. The flapping of their individual wings allows the bird behind them to have a bit of an uplift making the flight less of a burden. The difficult journey is made more bearable. No one need or should travel a grief journey alone. Accept support. 

Once in awhile a goose falls out of formation. (Oh, those angry years.) It immediately will feel the drag and difficulty of flying alone. What does the flock do? A pair will drop from the “V” and follow the wayward goose to support and protect it until it is able to continue on its own. It’s a through thick and thin kind of friendship. It’s the bond of love and compassion at its best. Just hold your friends up when they can’t hold themselves.  

Now one thing is for sure. A griever can be super high maintenance. The journey is long. No one person can care for and protect you. When the goose at the point, the one leading the journey, gets tired he/she falls back and let’s another take over. He/she is exhausted and needs comfort. It is wise to understand that no one person can bear the burden of your grief. Take a cue from the geese and expand your flock.

There are times in life when we must rely on each other. Times when we need to be connected and encouraged. We need to honk like the geese to show our mutual support and love otherwise we end up traveling alone. Make room for your partner in life and a few trusted family and friends. 

To everyone: Be the Goose

As a side note, one of William’s favorite movies was “Top Gun” starring Tom Cruise as the character Maverick. His wing man was aptly named “Goose”. 

With the holidays on the horizon you might be expecting a recipe for goose, but that ain’t happening here. I love geese, but not on my dinner plate. So, I looked back in my arsenal of recipes and thought I’d share one from a family cookbook that my cousins and I put together many years ago. My extended family are totally a flock of geese. They have been there for me on so many occasions, but it was aunt Faye who rescued me in times of trouble during elementary school. Back then we walked to school and mid-day took a break for lunch. Aunt Faye lived only a few doors from the school and rather than me walking the long route home in the rain and snow she’d invite me in for a warm bowl of her pastina. How lucky was I to have the love and support of Aunt Faye. Here is her recipe as written in our family cookbook. 

Aunt Faye’s Famous Pastina

1 pound pastina

2 eggs

Butter

Parmesan cheese

Salt & Pepper

Boil pastina till tender. Drain and add 2 eggs, butter and parmesan cheese Salt and pepper to taste.

Okay…for all you cooks who like clear-cut quantities just go with your instincts. Be Italian for 5 minutes and add a spoonful of this or a pinch of that. Be the Goose! 

Ramping It Up

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There is a saying that the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but I think it better applies to April here in Pennsylvania. Should I mention the chilly weather we’ve all been NOT enjoying?  For a very long time it has felt like spring would never come. Finally, that snow and ice of those first few weeks have melted into a sense of calm like a warm spring shower.

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By the 4thweek in April there is a noticeable change in the landscape. Clearly, the sun shines brighter, the grass is greener and the warm temperatures beckons one outside to the garden and forest beyond. It’s rejuvenating and ramps up the mood.

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Yesssss it is ramp season. Ramps, aka, wild leeks are prized by chefs and can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a mild onion flavor and complement everything from pesto to quiche. I think it’s no happy accident that they are in season at the very same time asparagus is rising from the ground. They really do complement each other in flavor.

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If you are fortunate enough to find a lush patch of ramps don’t be greedy. Clip just what you need and leave the rest to rejuvenate the patch for years to come. Take care of the earth and it will take care of you. Last week was Earth Day and many of my neighbors participated in a local clean-up of litter. Why do people litter? Anyway, it brought back a memory of William and I joining forces so many years ago. He was a good keeper of the earth.

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Here are a few ways to enjoy the freshness of spring ramp greens.

  • Add a few leaves to your favorite pesto mix for another layer of flavor
  • Chiffonade a few leaves and add to an omelet
  • Saute ramps with garlic and olive oil for a side dish
  • Chop and add to risotto
  • Delicious raw in slaws and salads (maybe not fruit salad)

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Ramp butter is fantastic on top of a burger or basted over a steak. Melt it in pasta with a bit of parmesan and pepper for a heavenly good dinner. Compound butters are super easy to make and pretty much keep forever in the freezer. I’m hoping to make enough to get me through until next season.

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Ramp Butter

10 fresh ramp leaves, stems trimmed, roughly chopped

pinch of coarse salt (I use a large grain Celtic sea salt)

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon champagne honey or Dijon mustard (Saucy Mama brand preferred)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Place all ingredients in food processor and let it rip until the ramps are finely chopped and the mixture is a glorious  fresh green color. Form into a log in some plastic wrap and store in freezer. I just slice of what I need when I need it.

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 ❤

 

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/