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

Survival with Ants On a Log

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Fight or flight survival mode kicks in pretty much immediately with the news of  a sudden death.  There is an explosion going on in the brain and devastation in the heart. How does one pick up the pieces and move forward?  How can one think or do anything? Does one take cover or run away? One can’t breathe as the heart races for answers. Inability to make a decision turns me into a robot. I am happy to hand the remote control to whoever will take it. Being a robot is how I survived the first week.

Thankfully, certain extraordinary friends took the remote and led me around. This is another key way to be helpful when one just doesn’t know what to do.  Don’t be afraid to simply ask, “what do you need right now to survive this?” Then spring into action with whatever talents you can offer. Food, yard work, babysitting, running errands……..

Jason, the navy chaplain who delivered the blow offers to plan the funeral, but Dennis, a friend and pastor who knows William doesn’t hesitate to collaborate. Dennis goes above and beyond traveling from his church in Massachusetts during Easter week.  My friends, Carol, Ann, Bev and Diane, spring into action offering their homes to any marines and sailors coming to the services.  They know it is important to me to have these special visitors feel like family. My friend Lynn flies in from TN and never leaves my side. She helps me get dressed, tells me where to be and makes me eat. She is watching over my husband and daughter, too.

When Maria, whose daughter is a close friend and schoolmate of William’s, calls to be helpful my only response is, “I think I need to have a party after the funeral. I always do all my own cooking for parties, but I don’t think I can do this. Can you please recommend a caterer?” Maria takes care of it. The next thing I know we are having a wake on William’s 23rd birthday and a funeral and a party at The Taft School that honors my son like I never imagined.  Between six to seven hundred people show up to celebrate him. He is clearly “more bad-ass today (even in death) than he was yesterday”. So many to thank! Yes, help me keep up with correspondence.

That “bad-ass” phrase is one of William’s favorites and one he often uses to describe his learning of survival skills in the woods. I remember him wanting to read everything about marine, Scott O’Grady who was shot down in Bosnia in 1995 and survived 6 days in enemy territory before being rescued. Will, age 7,  is fascinated by the fact that O’Grady evades detection by camouflage and survives by eating ants.

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apparently no one could find him hiding in the tree that day

Fast forward to the teen years. One of my all-time favorite Will Keys stories involves Pastor Dennis’ daughter Abby. William and Abby are long-time friends and spending the summer together life guarding at the local lake. One day Abby comes home from the lake and asks her mother, “Mom do you know that ants taste sour? Her mother responds, “no, and how do you know?” Will got me to try some today.”  My boy had some kind of charisma and loved a girl who had a taste for adventure! So, Abby, this recipe is for YOU! It might be a fun little appetizer for your Thanksgiving feast.

Deconstructed Ants On A Log

15 Athens mini fillo shells

1/3 cup whipped cream cheese

¾ cup small dice celery hearts including the tender leaves

3 tablespoons raisins (black ants) or dried sweetened cranberries (red ants), chopped

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon bottled poppy seed salad dressing. Fill each shell with about 1 teaspoon cream cheese. In bowl, toss celery, raisins or cranberries and salad dressing. Spoon on top of cream cheese.