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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In the Trenches & Asparagus

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Korean Beef Salad with Steamed Sesame Asparagus

With a Spring rain the old dirt road on the side of the house quickly transforms into a muddy playground. It can only mean one thing. William is getting down and dirty today. SPLASH. LAUGHTER. Why not? He loved nothing more than getting covered in dirt. Clearly, the filthiest kid on the block, playing in the mud was his version of heaven on earth.

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Tyler and William having fun

Obviously being in the trenches of Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom was no picnic, so I can’t help but wonder what my boy was smiling about in this photo. Maybe it is because he is covered in dirt and thinking of days gone by.

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In Afghanistan he seemed to make the best of a bad situation. He used his time wisely not only protecting our freedom, but earning the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) Award. Here is a bit of information on the award:

Hospital corpsmen also serve as battlefield corpsmen with the Marine Corps, rendering emergency medical treatment to include initial treatment in a combat environment. Corpsmen who participate in amphibious assaults, are eligible to receive the FMF Combat Operations Insignia. Such Naval personnel are authorized to wear the Marine Corps utility uniform with Navy insignia, and must conform to all physical requirements of the U.S. Marines.

Hospital corpsmen who have received the warfare designator of enlisted fleet marine force warfare specialist are highly trained members of the Hospital Corps who specialize in all aspects of working with the United States Marine Corps operating forces. Attainment of this designation is highly prized among all corpsmen. The enlisted fleet marine force warfare designation for hospital corpsmen is the only US Navy warfare device awarded solely by a US Marine Corps general officer. Obtaining the title of “FMF” is a rigorous procedure and not every hospital corpsman who has been with a Marine Corps unit will wear the FMF warfare device.Keys FMF board

Good things emerge from the trenches….like asparagus. Roasted, grilled or steamed it is my favorite spring vegetable. It’s an acid loving perennial plant that lives in a trench and I was happy to add it to my new garden. Hope to have a bounty next year, but until then it is now fresh and ready for picking at the local market.

Happiness, Let It Go & Frozen Peas

spring peas & pasta

spring peas & pasta

Inspired by the Oscar nominated songs I have decided to seek Happiness today and let the grief go…..at least for now. We all deserve a break from our grief and why not do some happy things in the process? Plus it has been one long snow storm in my neck of the woods and anything to break this cabin fever and help me ease into spring will be a welcomed delight. What makes you happy?

The Deamon Deacon Dog makes me happy

The Deamon Deacon Dog makes me happy

For me, it starts with planning a garden. I am currently taking a class, “The Hungry Gardener” at the famous Longwood Gardens which is just a mile from my house. The class is filled with a variety of interesting people including a private chef, a health coach and a young couple living on a 60 acre farm. We all have one thing in common and that is the desire to grow our own food. I also signed on with a web based program offered by the Territorial seed company. I can plan my entire garden on the computer complete with alerts and reminders about crop rotation, frost dates, when to start and plant seeds, etc. It’s fun and makes me happy. I can’t wait to harvest what I sow.

Happiness is a day with my daughter at Longwood Gardens

Happiness is a day with my daughter at Longwood Gardens

In the meantime, I am eating frozen peas. It’s OK as they are the one vegetable that tastes quite good directly from the freezer to the pot. Nothing could be easier or tastier than this old-fashioned Italian specialty: Pasta with Peas. I bet you have all the ingredients right in your pantry and freezer. Happy Spring!

Happiness in a hot air balloon and seeing Cait and Sam so happy makes me happy

Happiness in a hot air balloon and seeing Cait and Sam so happy makes me happy

mise en place

mise en place

Spring Peas & Pasta

1 ½ cups ditalini pasta or small shells

1 cup frozen petite peas

1-tablespoon olive oil (Olio Carli brand is my favorite)

1-tablespoon butter

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 slices prosciutto, thinly sliced

1 (14 oz) can chicken broth

¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. During last 5 minutes of cooking time add frozen peas. Meanwhile, in large skillet, over medium heat, combine olive oil and butter. Add onions; cook 5 to 8 minutes or until softened. The onions should not get brown. Add garlic and prosciutto; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add broth. Drain water from pasta and peas; add to skillet. Cook until just heated through. Add cheese and parsley. Spoon into serving bowls and top with additional cheese and parsley and some freshly ground pepper, if desired.

Note: season as you go with salt and fresh pepper. You can also add a pinch of crushed red pepper when you’re heating the olive oil and butter