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

Happy Father’s Day Pizza Mattina

pizza mattina

pizza mattina

Some say my parents were the original recyclers. Nothing ever went to waste and when it came to food it meant preparing leftover spaghetti into a tasty frittata and vegetables into savory soups and stews. Much to my mother’s dismay my dad recycled day old Italian bread into bread crumbs sailing bits of hard bread all over the kitchen as the crusts pinged off the old box grater. He made a mean panzanella with that same old bread back in the day before this bread salad was ever cool and trendy.

Of all his delicious dishes, it is the memory of his homemade pizza that has me salivating. When the breadboard (handmade by his father) came out I knew we were all in for a treat. My dad, dusted with flour, gave the task of mashing the leftover baked potato to me. The “recycled” potato was the secret to making his yeasty dough bake up crisp and delicious on the outside and tender on the inside. I am among the few who know the secret of the potato. All were welcome to the table for pizza, but if you could not make it my dad would deliver.

My dad in Sicily

My dad in Sicily

My dad died at the ripe old age of 86. He was tired and ready to go. He had worked hard, lived the American dream and was proud of the business and family he had built. As an insulin dependant diabetic he pretty much defied the odds of living such a long and healthy life, but all along the way I felt like he was preparing me for the day he would eventually go. As I watched him push his insulin needle, yet, another time, through his clothing into his body I would scream in horror…..he would calmly respond, “What? You want me to live forever?” He was a character to say the least.

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my dad with young Will & Cait

I miss my dad, but I resolved my grief within a day of his death. My dad’s passing, unlike my son, was the natural order of things. My dad was done and ready to go. He went peacefully into the night and I was prepared for it. Just a completely different experience.

Happy Father’s Day to my biggest cheerleader. You continue to inspire me to “zig instead of zag”. Inspired by you and your name I remember how proud you were when a version of  this recipe won an award from King Arthur Flour.

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Sweet Pizza Mattina

2 cups King Arthur Flour Whole Wheat flour

1 cup King Arthur Flour Unbleached Flour

1 russett potato, roasted, peeled, grated

1- tablespoon sugar

1- teaspoon salt

1 (2 ¼ tsp.) packet instant dry yeast (quick-rise)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ¼ – cups lukewarm water

2 tablespoons butter

1 baking apple, peeled, cored, chopped

1/3- cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/3- cup orange marmalade

½ cup packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Combine flours, potato , sugar, salt, yeast, olive oil and water in a stand mixer. Mix and knead about 5 minutes or until a soft, smooth dough ball forms. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 ½ hours or place in refrigerator and let rise overnight. Just before the dough rising time is up heat oven to 425F. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add apples, cranberries and orange marmalade; cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes or until bubbly and apples are just tender.   Gently punch down dough. On a lightly buttered baking sheet, press down into a 9-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Use your fingers to gently dimple the dough all over. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch rim around the edge. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 16 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Slice into wedges. Serves 8.

 

 

A Father’s Grief & Sunday Brunch

Father's Day Brunch

Father’s Day Brunch

Recently, I was asked if I thought there were gender differences in the way one grieves? Honestly, I have not delved into the subject and I am no expert on the matter. I can say, however, from experience that my husband and I certainly grieve differently. Turns out, I am a sharer–as if you didn’t know that already. My husband, on the other hand, is not. He bottles in his sadness and then when it gets to be too much cries alone. He prefers it that way and I know to give him his space.

Proud dad and son

Proud dad and son

He mourns alone, too. There are things and places that are special to a father and son. Hunting and fishing were activities that they enjoyed together. Scattering a bit of William’s ashes in the forest or at the edge of a trout stream was not an unusual thing for Bill to do on his own. Nor was I surprised to discover that he had left out a small camping flashlight, “in case William needs light to find his way back to us”. That’s Bill’s version of stepping outside himself and I love him for it. He knows he is not alone, but there are just things he needs to do alone and that is OK.

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Gender differences or people differences? Not sure that it matters as long as we all are putting one foot in front of the other in any way we can. Next Sunday is Father’s Day. If you have lost a child you may feel a little upsurge in your grief. It’s normal.

 Today’s recipe is meant to offer some comfort. Dress it up with a side salad and some fresh fruit for a complete brunch menu sure to please your favorite father.

unbaked filled crepe cups

Bacon & Egg Scallion Crepe Cups

Crepes

1 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch salt

2 eggs

1 tablespoons melted butter

1 scallion, chopped

Just Baked

Just Baked

Filling

12 (1-inch) squares smoked gouda or brie cheese

8 strips cooked crumbled bacon

6 eggs

1 ¼ cups milk

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 green onions, thinly sliced for garnish

Combine all crepe ingredients in a blender; blend until smooth. Let crepe batter stand for 15 minutes. On a lightly greased crepe pan or skillet, over medium heat, swirl 2 tablespoons of batter (for each crepe) forming a 6-inch circle. Cook about 1 minute or until crepe edges look dry. Flip and cook another 30 seconds. Transfer crepe to cooling rack. Repeat with remaining batter until you have 12 crepes total. Cut each crepe into an even 5-inch round using a pastry cutter or…(I used the top of a jar as a template and just cut around it with a knife). Heat oven 375F. Spray a standard 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick spray. Press 1 crepe into each cup ruffling edges to fit. Place 1 square of cheese in the bottom of each crepe. Sprinkle with half the bacon. Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well blended. Pour egg mixture evenly over filling to just below the rim of the muffin cup. Sprinkle with remaining bacon. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until eggs are just set. Cool slightly. With the edge of a knife carefully loosen crepe cups from muffin tins and lift out with a spoon. Arrange on serving platter. Sprinkle with green onions.