What Not To Say…Add it to the list

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It’s been 2,136 days or 5 years, 10 months, and 3 days since I lost my son. By now I thought I had heard every heartfelt, but misguided thing a person could muster in an attempt to comfort me. Remember this blog post about what not to say?  Well, I was wrong in thinking I had heard it all. Let’s add 1 more to the list of what not to say.

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North Conway 1997

 

Do NOT say to a grieving parent who is now a grandparent: “You must be all better now that you have a grandchild.”  Honestly, I am not trying to be harsh here. I understand if you have never been through the loss of a child that you can’t know how one feels, but common sense should dictate that one child could never replace another. Each child is their own unique joy. Each child has their own unique place in a parent’s/grandparent’s heart. A parent does not ever forget about the lost child by filling the void with another. When I think back on that moment, I am 100% certain I caused great discomfort to the person who was hoping I was better now. Without warning tears and quite possibly rage welled my eyes and the person made a quick exit stage right.

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Thanks for letting me vent today. Now let’s just get comfortable with a steaming hot, nourishing bowl of soup. We just had our first snow, so let’s warm up with a hearty wild rice & chicken version. This recipe packs a bit of smoky spice and chocolate because after all it’s still Valentine’s week. Enjoy.

“Soup puts the heart at ease and calms

down the violence of hunger”

~ Escoffier

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Heart Warming Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 medium orange bell pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Pinch red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh ground back pepper

1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes

1 (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with green chilies

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup wild rice, rinsed

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced

¾ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, over moderately high heat until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, cocoa, oregano, smoked paprika, red pepper, salt and a few turns of black pepper; cook 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, tomatoes with chilies, chicken stock and wild rice; bring to boil. Add the chicken. Reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender and puffy, about 40 to 45 minutes. Stir in the corn. Ladle the soup into bowls.

Garnish with fresh herbs, sour cream and crispy tortilla strips, if desired.

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2016 Hope For the Best…Roasted Butternut Soup

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Ten days in to 2016. So far, so good. Grief and I have made a deal to move forward together. We will co-exist and be happy. In just 3 short months I will be marking the 5th anniversary of Will’s accident. Still hard to believe, but as a “functional” griever I have learned to adapt and move on.  It doesn’t mean the pain in my heart is any less, but that I will get up every day and hope for the best. The good and the bad will simply co-exist. My new year plan is simple. No resolutions. No bucket-list. Just keep it all on an even keel and always, always, always hope for the best out of myself and for good things for those around me.

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Keeping it simple in the kitchen this week, too. Roasted butternut squash, apples and onions co-exist deliciously to keep you warm on a wintery day. The recipe is totally open to your own interpretation. You certainly can change up the squash and apple varieties and use as much or as little curry powder as you like. I prefer mild curry flavor, but you can jazz it up with a hotter version. If the soup is too sweet for you toss in a little lime juice at the end or tang it up with some crumbled goat cheese. I think the addition of some coconut milk would be very good in this recipe, but I have, yet, to try that.IMG_8807

Curried Butternut Squash Soup Bowl

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces (7 to 8 cups)

2 onions, peeled, halved, quartered

2 honey crisp apples, cored, diced into 1-inch pieces (don’t peel)

olive oil

kosher salt

ground black pepper

chicken broth (about 2 cups)

1½ teaspoons curry powder

Toppings: roasted cashews, diced apple, toasted coconut, sliced green onions, crumbled goat or feta cheese

Heat oven 400F. Place butternut squash, onions and apples on large, rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat it all. Sprinkle with kosher salt (good two pinches) and ground black pepper. Give the whole pan a shake so things spread out into an even layer. Roast for 45 minutes, turning mixture every 10 to 15 minutes. The squash will be tender and you will have some caramelized brown areas, but not a lot of that. Dump it all into a blender with 1 cup of chicken broth and the curry powder. Blend adding additional broth to arrive at desired consistency. If you have a Vitamix (I am so madly in love with this machine) use the soup setting and your soup will be piping hot out of the blender. If using a standard blender gently re-heat the soup on the stove-top. Serve with your favorite toppings.

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This recipe nearly filled this 1 1/2 liter jar

 

 

Moving Over From the Dark Side

IMG_8535Charlie Brown is well known for his line, “Good Grief”, but how about these lines from the famous holiday movie, “I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” Charlie Brown, of course, is not alone. When the world wants all to celebrate what are those who are new to grief or continue to struggle with it to do?

William & Deacon

Personally, navigating grief every day of the week is hard, but surviving the holidays takes a special kind of strength. The real strength is knowing your heart, being honest with yourself and understanding that your grief is unique to you. With an open mind and your loved one in your heart you can choose to grow and heal through the season.

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Move over from the dark side and find comfort in knowing your loved one is still with you. He/she will always be a part of you. Bake those favorite cookies from the past. Trim the tree today with those old ornaments that bring tears and some new ones that bring smiles. It’s ok to treasure the past while starting some new traditions surrounded by those who love and support you….. and bring you wine! Good Grief, always remember as you move into the future you are never alone. Cheers to hope and a more joyful tomorrow.

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When it comes to cooking with chicken I have learned a way to move over from the dark side. For years, all I ever bought was dark meat because I could count on those thighs cooking up juicy and tender. On the other hand, those gigantic (what the heck are they feeding those birds) chicken breasts usually cooked up dry and flavorless no matter what technique I followed. Then Cooks Illustrated mentioned marinating chicken in baking soda. Ah, I love chemistry. Apparently, the alkalinity of baking soda raises the pH on the surface of the meat causing the protein to react in a way that allows the chicken to retain its juices rather than leaching out in the cooking process. The result is succulent white meat that cooks up especially well with stir-fry technique. So go ahead and buy those, on sale all the time, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but don’t forget to marinate them for a little while in a little baking soda. You are welcome!

 

Here is my fresh take on an old favorite including the most flavorful and juicy white chicken ever in a mild all-American chili. In addition to white chicken I am using flavorful Bush’s Best white chili beans. This recipe will be entered in #BushsChiliCookOff.

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Stir-Fry Style White Chicken Chili

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1-teaspoon baking soda

1 large onion, chopped

2-poblano peppers, seeded, diced

1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded, diced

2 cloves, garlic, minced

1 (32 oz.) container low-sodium chicken broth

2 (15.5 oz.) cans Bush’s Best White Chili Beans

1 (4 oz.) can mild diced green chilies, drained

¼ teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro

Salt, pepper, fresh lime to taste

In large bowl, toss chicken with peanut oil. Sprinkle with cornstarch and baking soda; toss well to coat. Cover and marinate chicken for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before cooking. Heat a Dutch oven or large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in remaining 1-tablespoon peanut oil. Add chicken, spreading it out as much as possible over bottom of pan; let cook for 1 minute without stirring. Then, stir-fry chicken for 2 to 3 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Add onions, peppers, garlic; stir for 2 minutes. Add half the broth, stirring up any browned bits on bottom of pan. Add half the beans, chilies, cumin and enough of remaining broth to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining beans, cilantro and additional broth, depending how soupy you like it. Season with salt, pepper and squeeze of lime, if desired. Serves 6.