Han & Spring Chicken Stew

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As one who grieves the loss of a child I find my vocabulary limited in describing just how I feel on a day-to-day basis. Often described, as a rollercoaster of emotion or waves of ups and downs, grief seems to be somewhat of a mixed bag of sadness and hope. While I get the ebb and flow analogy it is something so much more.

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Will at his favorite store, Cabelas

In conversation with my friend Sonya who was born and raised in Korea I learned of the word “Han”. Han is an important and beautiful part of the Korean culture. Difficult to translate into English here are my thoughts. Han is an integral part of our being something so deep inside that it shapes and defines who we are. It is born of injustice. Like an evolutionary process it takes the best of hopeful and positive and the worst of sorrow and negative and weaves it into our DNA.

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We all love our children. Most likely we love our children more than we love ourselves, but you don’t REALLY know how much you love them until they are gone. That is Han emerging. It’s my Han telling me how grateful I am for having him for 23 years and it’s my Han telling me how deep my sorrow goes that he is gone. That interwoven hope and sadness is an integral part of my being every single day. It is intense. It is extreme. It’s a dull lingering ache in the soul that can’t be controlled. Han is the word for one who has lost a child. For those who have lost a child I think you understand and for those who have not I hope you never will.

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Like Han, Korean flavors go deep, too. Lately, I have been studying authentic Korean cuisine with two young ladies. Teaching cooking lessons with them has been a real joy as both are open to exploring new and sometimes scary things like sweet potato noodles, bell flower root and soused briny shrimp. We are stepping out of our comfort zone.

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the shrimp eyes are a bit creepy

The first dish we made is a Spring Chicken Stew based on a recipe in Noh Chin-hwa’s book Healthful Korean Cooking.The stew is easy to prepare, but very complex in flavor. Thankfully, when I opened the scary jar of salted shrimp the aroma simply reminded me of the ocean. My students liked it, too. The shrimp marinade lends the dish an incredible depth of saltiness without being at all fishy. The peppers, aromatics and sesame add layers of fresh and nutty flavor for a most pleasant beginning to the spring season.

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Oriental markets are main stream these days and I am happy to have several nearby. These same ingredients are most likely available on-line, too. As far as fresh produce goes feel free to use any peppers you prefer. Longhots are the perfect substitution for spicy Korean peppers.

Korean Spring Chicken Stew

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

¼ teaspoon salt

1 whole chicken

1/3 cup soused, salted shrimp

5 tablespoons chopped green onions

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1-tablespoon sesame oil

Black pepper

5 Korean red peppers, seeded, diced

5 Korean green peppers, seeded, diced

1 onion, diced

Grind sesame seeds and salt together. Cut chicken into pieces (2-inch pieces); mix with shrimp and seasoning and let stand 15 to 30 minutes. Fry chicken in sesame oil. Pour in ½ cup water; cover and simmer on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until chicken is just cooked through. Remove cover. Cut onion and peppers into ¼-inch squares. When liquid has evaporated add vegetables and stir-fry briefly.

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Old Memories Inspire New Recipes

Instead of springing forward today I am falling back to 3 years ago when I shared this post. The truth is there are only 2 St. Patrick’s Day recipes in my arsenal and this happens to be my favorite. Boxty and beef stew is a delicious option when not in the mood for corned beef and cabbage….nobody really likes the cabbage or boiled bland potatoes, so give boxty a try.

Good Grief Cook

Guinness Beef Stew Boxty Guinness Beef Stew Boxty

A time will come when the memory will fade like the fabric on the old wing chair sitting in the sunny window. Memories are all we have. Blogging is a way of preserving those memories. It took me by surprise when some old memories of William inspired last night’s dinner. The memories are happy and the food is comforting like a warm hug from someone well-loved.

Will & cousin Alexis-I need a Will & cousin Alexis-I need a “love” button

In 2009 while attending a medical conference in San Diego I spent several days with William as he was stationed there and working at the US Naval Hospital, Balboa. We shared some fun adventures as he showed me all his favorite spots including “The Market” on the pier and the Irish pub known as “The Field” in the gas lamp district. The raw bar guy at the Market knew him by name.

we also got to visit with cousin Alexis visiting…

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Kindness & Cheesecake Blondies

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Caring for a kitten in Afghanistan ~William Keys

Along this grief journey there have been quite a few moms who have touched my heart and inspired me to do better. Doreen is one of those moms. This poem is a gift from her.

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Choose kindness. It could make all the difference in your day or someone else’s day or a pet’s day or even the world.

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trying to follow in your kind light

This recipe was born from kindness. Inspired by my friend Laurie’s homemade salted caramel this dessert is salty, sweet, creamy and crunchy…need I say more? How kind of a dear friend to share her culinary sweetness with me. Thank you again, Laurie.

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Salted Caramel Cheesecake Blondies

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

¼ cup sugar

3 eggs, divided

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla, divided

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1-teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

1½ cups packed light brown sugar

1 cup toasted chopped pecans

5 tablespoons high quality caramel topping, warm

½ teaspoon fleur de sel

Heat oven 325F. Spray a 9-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line pan with parchment paper leaving a 1-inch overhang over sides. Spray parchment with non-stick cooking spray. In small bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Add 1 egg and ½ teaspoon vanilla; blend well and set aside. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In large bowl, whisk melted butter and brown sugar until blended. Add remaining eggs and vanilla; blend well. Add flour mixture and mix with a spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in ¾ cups pecans. Spread half the blondie batter over bottom of prepared pan. Drop half the cream cheese mixture by spoonfuls on top. Reserve 2 tablespoons of caramel. Drop the remaining caramel by teaspoonfuls in between the spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture. Repeat layering with remaining blondie batter and cream cheese mixture. Using the tip of a butter knife gently swirl the blondie batter, cream cheese mixture and caramel together creating a marbled effect. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Using the parchment edges, lift the blondies from the pan to a cooling rack. Drizzle with remaining caramel and sprinkle with pecans and fleur de sel. Chill in refrigerator until completely cool. Cut into bars or squares. 

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