Beautiful gift baskets filled with gourmet foods and snacks
I know, I know -- generally speaking, you usually see a "Part 1" before you see a "Part 2", but when tragedy struck my family in March all of the rules went out the window. That's when we lost my husband's mother. Prior to that moment, I had prepared a special feature article about dealing with the everyday stress and tension that comes with things like deadlines, taxes and busy schedules. While that's an important topic -- and one that we'll certainly visit soon -- it suddenly seemed so very small compared to all of the swirling thoughts and emotions that had been visited upon us. So, this month, I'm focusing on what the closeness of family and friends and recalling fond memories can do to bring you closer to peace and, yes, relaxation during times of ultimate stress.
I've always resented all of the jokes made about in-laws. Despite the widespread notion that they are mainly a source of annoyance, I have always loved mine. In fact, unless I'm speaking to someone who is unaware of the connection between us, they have always been Mom and Pop to me -- and I use those names with all of the love and respect that they carry with them. So when we got a call one rainy, windy evening in early March with news that Mom had suffered a serious heart attack and wasn't expected to survive, we were shocked and saddened -- and moved to be with Pop and other family and friends.
When loved ones leave us, our brains and bodies are hit with a flood of emotions, sensations and thoughts that, if left unattended, can easily have us spiraling into depression. Perhaps that's why people the world over gather together to remember lost loved ones when they pass on. Whether it's a religious ceremony or a simple memorial, we feel the need to remember the lives of those important to us and to use each other's strength to help sustain one another. We need to celebrate a life and mourn a death and, yes, hold those that are near and dear to us even nearer for a while.
There's something about smiling about the grand times that were had or even marveling at the strength of character that helped overcome the rough times that makes us all feel better and more able to say goodbye to those we've lost. I remember fondly tales of Mom's childhood -- recounted with more than an occasional flourish. I remember the wry smile on her face as she told us about treating some friendly ducks to a dunk in her bathtub as a child. Or the many stories of the times she tried the patience and resolve of her elders as the wild child in college. Or about Alfred, her feathered friend in the early years of her marriage, who nibbled chicken off dinner plates and once fell into Pop's glass of milk! And, of course, there are all of the accounts of the kids as they were growing up and doing the things that all kids do -- getting into trouble! Recalling them all makes her seem closer and reminds me that, as long as we recall them and smile, she will always remain a part of our lives. There's comfort in that as well.
Every summer, Mom and Pop would travel from Florida to visit us in Wisconsin and we'd visit them in the winter months. This summer, I was looking forward to treating them to a new favorite recipe of mine, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry-Mustard Sauce. I was looking forward to watching Mom try it and become quiet with pleasure over the meal -- that was how we knew she liked a meal! Well, I won't have that pleasure this summer. But, I will make the meal. And Pop, my husband and I will sit down together and enjoy it and recall those memories of Mom ... and, at least in part, she will be with us.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry-Mustard Sauce
2 pork tenderloins, each weighing approximately 1/2 lb.
5 T. sesame oil
5 T. sherry vinegar
5 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. onion powder
2 c. frozen blackberries
2 T. brown sugar
2-3 T. honey mustard -- I prefer a macadamia honey mustard with a little tang to it
Trim the tenderloins of all visible fat and place them in a large resealable plastic bag. In a small saucepan, combine the next four ingredients (oil thru onion powder) and heat over low heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is just warm and the powder is completely incorporated, carefully pour the mixture over the pork tenderloins in the bag. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
Prepare a grill for high heat, indirect cooking. When the grill is heated, place the tenderloins on the grill using metal tongs. Cover the grill and grill the meat indirectly for about 20 minutes, turning once, or until the meat registers 160 degrees when probed with an instant-read thermometer. Remove the tenderloins from the grill and allow them to rest, covered with aluminum foil, for about 10 minutes before slicing them across the grain into 1/2-inch medallions.
Meanwhile, for the sauce, combine the frozen berries, sugar and mustard in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the berries soften and the mixture begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the liquid develops a syrupy consistency. Serve the warm sauce with the grilled tenderloin.
Depending on the time of the year and the availability of fresh produce, I like to serve this entree with steamed asparagus or green beans and a mildly-seasoned rice or wheat berry pilaf. The complex flavors of the entree make it easy to pair with many wines -- white or red. Enjoy!
Yields: 4-6 servings
Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus marinating time