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

A New Caprese! It’s the Jam

life on the deck is delicious

life on the deck is delicious with burrata, toasted fennel tomato jam and other assorted goodies

Here is a summery spin on Will’s all-time favorite caprese salad. He loved fresh mozzarella, vine-ripened tomatoes and fragrant hand-shredded Italian basil with a drizzle of quality extra-virgin olive oil and the occasional splash of balsamic syrup. Along with a crusty baguette the boy was happy to feast on what he considered one of the world’s best appetizers…..after fried calamari. He had such good taste.

one of my favorites of Will & Cait

one of my favorites of Will & Cait

But you know me. There has to be a new caprese in town. And this one is the jam. Toasted fennel tomato jam….ahhh! Wait till you taste it. With its combination of fresh herbs and spices it might remind you just for a second of your favorite Italian sausage or sweet pizza sauce. It’s the perfect recipe when the garden is overflowing with fresh ripe plum tomatoes or with a beautiful meaty mix of heirlooms from your favorite farmer’s market.

toasted fennel tomato jam

toasted fennel tomato jam

If you only ever make one recipe from my blog this is the one. The jam will last at least 3 weeks refrigerated (honey and vinegar and salt are natural preservatives), but if you are into canning then up to a year if you seal and process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

delicious all year long

delicious all year long

Eating this in the winter would certainly make it feel like summer all over again. It makes a great sandwich spread (think BLT or grilled cheese) and perfect with fresh mozzarella or  burrata, basil and crackers. How about on a burger? Oh, yeah!

a new caprese

a new caprese

Toasted Fennel Tomato Jam

34-cup honey

4 pounds tomatoes, cored and cut into 12-inch dice, (14 cups, diced)

14-cup apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and ground

12 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

12 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

In large non-reactive saucepan, cook the honey over medium-low heat, swirling pan occasionally, for 6 minutes or until it darkens slightly in color. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, salt, fennel, pepper and smoked paprika, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened to a loose jam consistency, about 2 hours. You will have about 4 cups of jam. Stir in basil. Pour into heat-proof containers. Chill. Makes 4 cups.

And if you like it spicy add a bit of crushed red pepper flakes

fresh oregano on top

fresh oregano on top