Ginger Stern continues in parents’ footsteps with love of community

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Ginger Stern returned to her hometown after 30 years of working in television news and has been busy volunteering and serving in the community, as she follows in her parents’ footsteps. She also inherited her Mother’s creativity in the kitchen. Ginger is enjoying cooking and baking. She is pictured with her Mom’s painting on one side, and the Stern cuckoo clock on the other side.

By Ann Cipperly

Since moving back to her hometown in 2014, Ginger Stern has been active in the community as she follows in the footsteps of her beloved parents, the late Roslyn and Henry Stern. Ginger was also influenced by her mother’s creative talent in the kitchen. During the pandemic, Ginger has been home more and enjoying cooking, including making dishes inspired by her family heritage.

Ginger’s father came to Opelika with his family when he was 5 years old, escaping Adolf Hitler and the horror of the Holocaust. Before becoming the executive director of the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, Henry worked as a partner in a department store and in real estate.

Roslyn was the first art teacher for Opelika City Schools in 1969. Prior to joining the school system, she converted the basement at their home on Third Avenue into a studio for artists and began teaching art in their home and hosting art shows in their backyard. She was a founder of the Opelika Arts Association, now the Arts Association of East Alabama.

Ginger has fond memories growing up on Third Avenue with her brother J. She remembers her mom was an amazing cook and entertainer. Ginger remembers her mother hosting boiled shrimp dinners. She would line tables with paper for quick cleanup and create sculptures of shrimp out of newspapers for the centerpiece.

Ginger remembers one time her Mom hosted her garden club for a luncheon and served chicken pot pies baked in flowerpots. The name tags were packages of seeds they could take home. Roslyn also had a garden and canned vegetables.

After high school, Ginger knew she wanted to work in television. She attended Stephens College, an all-girls school in Missouri. Then she attended the University of Alabama but did not feel comfortable at a large campus. She returned home and went to Southern Union for a year and worked at Taylor’s Cotton.

Ginger discovered that Montevallo had its own television station and offered hands-on classes. She managed the station that did newscasts four nights a week at Montevallo. She had a job in television two weeks after she graduated.

She went to Laredo, Texas, for a sales position, but left after six months since she did not speak Spanish. From there, she worked the camera for WETN, Eternal Word Television Network, which was Mother Angelica’s station in Irondale, Alabama. 

When Ginger and her family went to Charleston, South Carolina, to visit family for Thanksgiving, she took her resume and applied to three of the four television stations. Two of them offered her positions.

Ginger went to work at the local CBS station that was number one in Charleston. When Hurricane Hugo hit, she remembers it was a hectic time to be in television. She went from camera operator to newscast director.

After ten years, Ginger worked in Atlanta for three months before going to the Charlotte CBS affiliate for three years. She then became a newscast director at the NBC station WCNC in Charlotte.

She began cooking more while in Charlotte since it has such a good variety of restaurants and food festivals. Visiting these sparked her interest.

While living in Charlotte, Ginger was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. She received treatment at the Novant health Care Center in Charlotte. She is a cancer survivor.

The following year, she came home in July and learned her father was not doing well. She decided to retire and was in the process of moving back when her father passed away.

Ginger had lived away for 30 years. Once she moved back, she immediately became involved in the community, serving on the board at the Museum of East Alabama, the Opelika Historic Preservation Society, Opelika Chamber of Commerce, Achievement Center, State Easter Seals, Women’s Philanthropy Board and is involved in Kiwanis as a past board member.

When she is not volunteering, Ginger enjoys cooking and baking, including homemade breads and buns. One of her neighbors at Lake Martin cooked a Boston butt, and Ginger took freshly baked buns for sliders, which were scrumptious.

The Pistachio Pound Cake is one of her favorite desserts. She prepared the cake last year to treat herself on her birthday. Her neighbors have benefited from her baking breads, cookies and cakes.

Ginger also got the travel bug from her parents. She visited Israel last year and relished Lamb Za’atar she tried at a restaurant. While everyone else was in gift shops, Ginger explored the grocery stores for seasonings to recreate the lamb dish and others. She found the recipe for the lamb flatbread online in The New York Times.

Since returning to Opelika, Ginger and J. worked together to benefit the community in their parents’ memory. While there have been many projects, the two largest are the Community Park and Art Haus.

In September 2017, the Henry and Roslyn Stern Community Park opened with walking trails, a Little Free Library, a pavilion for picnicking, fenced-in dog park, a water feature, native plants and the caboose from the old train depot. The park also features a clock tower that lights up at night.

J. had the idea to create a model of the caboose to house books for the library. “It is registered with the Little Free Library,” Ginger said. “If you take a book, you leave a book. If you are in the park with your kids, you can grab a book to read while they play.”

Once it was completed, the Sterns donated the Community Park to the сity of Opelika. The city installed picnic tables and will maintain the park.

After the park was completed, they noticed that a church and fellowship hall across the street were for sale. They realized the location was ideal for their project to build the Art Haus, with the “Art” to honor their mother and the “Haus” for their father’s German heritage. In addition to being across from the dog park, it is two blocks from where they grew up on Third Avenue.

It houses a working studio space and gallery exhibits for artists to create and display their work, and it provides many educational opportunities as well. The courtyard with a fireplace is the site for events and parties.

“We don’t have kids, so we wanted to leave a little Stern imprint on Opelika,” Ginger said. “It is our way of honoring Mom and Dad, so a little piece of them will always be around.”

In the process, Ginger is leaving her own imprint in the community she loves.

Noodle Kugel

1/2 lb. wide kosher for Passover egg noodles

1/2 stick butter, melted

1 lb. cottage cheese

2 cups sour cream

1/2 cup sugar

6 eggs

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Boil noodles in salted water for about four minutes. Strain noodles from water.

In a large mixing bowl, combine noodles with remaining ingredients and pour into a greased, approximately 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Bake until custard is set and top is golden brown, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Easy Matzo Ball Soup

2 chicken breasts plus enough water to cook

1 pkg. Matzo Ball Mix (either Publix of Kroger have this)

2 eggs

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 envelope Lipton’s Oodles of Noodles plus 4 cups of water per pkg. instructions

32 oz. chicken stock

Bright water to a boil and add chicken breast. When it is cooked, shred the meat with forks and reserve on a plate.

Next, prepare matzo balls by mixing eggs and vegetable oil together, then add matzo meal. Once it is all mixed together, put it in the refrigerator to rest for 15 minutes.

While matzo balls rest, in a large stock pot make the Oodles of Noodles per instructions (4 cups of water per pkg. plus 32 oz. of extra chicken stock.

Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Add cooked chicken meat.

Remove matzo ball mix from refrigerator. Form into balls just under the size of ping-pong balls; they will expand when they cook. The trick is to keep your hand wet/moist so the matzo won’t stick.

Drop matzo balls into broth, cover, and lower heat and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes.

Pistachio Pound Cake

Cake:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup honey

3 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond extract

2/3 cup ground pistachios

Glaze:

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. heavy cream

1/4 cup crushed pistachios

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the two long sides of pan. Butter pan and parchment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, and honey on medium-high until light and fluffy, about four minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour and milk to creamed egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Beat on medium-high for about 20 seconds between additions, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add vanilla and almond extracts and pistachios; beat on low just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cake is cracked on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of cake comes out clean. Peek at cake after around 45 minutes, and if it is beginning to brown quite a lot, cover the cake with aluminum foil to prevent top from becoming too brown.

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then either grab the parchment overhang and carefully unmold loaf or invert loaf onto a wire rack. Remove parchment and slide it under the wire rack. Let the loaf cool completely.

While cake cooks, make the glaze by combining confectioners’ sugar, butter, honey, and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.

If you prefer a simple, runny glaze, heat just until the mixture is combined. If you prefer a sticky, candylike glaze, cook, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to bubble. Continue to cook, still stirring, for 1 minute.

Remove glaze from heat.

Slowly spoon warm glaze over cake, allowing it to soak in between spoonfuls. Some of the glaze will inevitably run down the sides of the cake. Sprinkle crushed pistachios over the cake and let it cool for 1 hour before slicing and serving.

Easy Brisket

1 whole beef brisket (5 to 8 lbs.), trimmed of all fat

24 oz. chili sauce

1 pkg. onion soup mix

1 can ginger beer

Place trimmed brisket into a large baking pan.

Mix chili sauce with onion soup mix and ginger beer.

Pour sauce over meat, cover pan with foil. Cover pan either with a lid or with foil. Roast at 325 degrees for 4 hours, basting every hour. After 4 hours, pull the meat from oven and uncover to let cool a bit. Turn oven down to 225.

After meat has cooled enough to handle, place it on a cutting board fat side up,. Holding a long slicing knife horizontally, slice off the layer of fat and discard. Cut the brisket into quarter-inch thick slices across the grain. The grain on a brisket is very apparent and easy to read. You want to cut across the grain.

Return these slices to the sauce in the pan, making sure they are submerged in liquid. Return pan to oven (now set at 225) for 2 more hours, uncovered. Leaving it uncovered allows the sauce to thicken into what can be almost as amazing as the meat.

Instant Pot Lentils with Chicken and Sweet Potato

2 cups dry lentils

1-2 boneless chicken breasts

2 uncooked sweet potatoes, cubed (approx. 2-3 cups)

2 cups medium salsa Verde

3½ cups chicken broth

½ cup onion, chopped

3 green onions, chopped

½ cup cilantro, chopped

3-4 large garlic cloves, crushed

½ tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in an Instant Pot.

Secure lid and set on poultry or beans setting and set timer to 22 minutes.

When timer goes off, you can either leave it alone and let the pressure slowly release or if you need it quickly, you can do a quick release.

Open the lid and remove chicken, shred it using two forks and place back in the pot. Stir well until everything is evenly combined.

Serve over rice or as a filling for burritos. Can also serve with cheese and sour cream.

Goat Cheese Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole in the Instant Pot

2 shallots, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup vegetable stock

2 cups broccoli florets, finely chopped

1 cup spinach, chopped

¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled

¼ cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Chili flakes to taste

Using the sauté function in the Instant Pot, add some cooking oil of choice. Once hot, add shallots and sauté until translucent, about three minutes.

Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Turn off the sauté function.

To the pot, add in uncooked quinoa and vegetable stock. Pop on lid, seal and turn pressure cooker to high for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, do a quick release. Open the lid and pop in broccoli, spinach, goat cheese and water. Give it a quick stir, and then pop the lid back on and cook on high pressure for one minute.

After one minute, quick release, remove lid and season to taste. Serve hot as a side or allow to cool, It makes a great quinoa salad.

Brownfield House Wassail Bowl

1 gallon apple cider or apple juice

1 cup packed brown sugar

6 oz. can frozen lemonade

6 oz. can frozen orange juice

1 Tbsp. whole cloves

1 Tbsp. whole allspice

Cinnamon sticks, optional

John Emerald Gene’s Spiced Rum

Mix cider, sugar, undiluted lemonade, undiluted orange juice and pour into a large pot. Tie cloves, allspice in cheese cloth; add to cider mixture, simmer, covered for about 15 minutes.

Serve hot in punch cups with a cinnamon stick in each cup and a splash of John Emerald Gene’s spiced rum.

Lamb Flatbread with Za’atar

For the dough:

2 tsp. dry active yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 cup lukewarm water

3 cups “00” flour or all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

For Toping:

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

Kosher salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. ground lamb, preferably shoulder meat

½ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. ground cloves

½ tsp. allspice powder

¼ tsp. cayenne powder

½ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. ground coriander

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. sumac powder

1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses

3 Tbsp. za’atar, combined with 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

8 oz. mild feta or halloumi

¼ cup pine nuts (optional)

Parsley leaves, for garnish

Mint leaves, for garnish

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Make the dough: In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast and sugar in water. Stir in one cup flour to form a thin batter. Leave to rest until mixture is bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Add remaining flour, olive oil and salt. Mix until dough comes together, then knead until smooth, about  five minutes. The dough should be soft and a bit sticky. Dust lightly with flour as necessary.

Return dough to bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. (Alternatively, put dough in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.)

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Put 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add onions, season generously with salt and stir to coat. Cook, stirring, until softened and nicely browned,five to seven minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for one minute more.

Add lamb to skillet and mash into onions with a large spoon until crumbled. Sprinkle with salt, then stir in pepper, clove, allspice, cayenne, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, sumac, and pomegranate molasses. Turn heat to low and stir to combine. Cook for  five minutes until meat is just cooked through. Transfer mixture to a rimmed baking sheet and spread out to cool.

(You will have a bit more lamb filling than you need — it’s good on buttered toast for a cook’s treat.)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Punch down dough and divide into eight 2 1/2-oz. pieces. Knead each piece into a ball. Cover with a damp towel and let dough rest 20 to 30 minutes, then roll thinly or stretch each piece into a 6-inch round. Make the dough as thin as possible.

Arrange four rolled-out dough rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush each with a generous amount of za’atar-oil mixture over dough (all the way to the edges or you’ll get a puffed up “lip”).

Make a layer of thinly sliced or crumbled feta, then sprinkle 1/4 cup of cooled lamb mixture over the entire surface. Sprinkle on a few pine nuts, if using.

Press topping down with the palm of your hand.

Bake four flatbreads at a time, on the upper rack of the oven, for five to eight minutes or until puffed and lightly browned. The dough should still be soft and pliable, not crisp.

Serve hot or at room temperature, garnished with parsley, mint and cilantro leaves, whole or roughly chopped.

For Ginger’s Ciabatta Bread and Homemade Pretzels recipes, email recipes@cipperly.com.

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