Food & Drink

Cooking Korean and soul food at home with Margaret Goodson

Margaret Goodson of Waterloo prepares bibimbop, a Korean dish she learned from her mother, on Monday, January 20, 2020.
Margaret Goodson of Waterloo prepares bibimbop, a Korean dish she learned from her mother, on Monday, January 20, 2020. Her bibimbop is made with marinated steak, zucchini, carrots, spinach and bean sprouts served over rice and topped with a fried egg. (Cliff Jette, Freelance for The Gazette)

As an 8-year-old, Margaret Goodson’s specialty was grilled cheese sandwiches.

Today, the Waterloo woman has graduated to a mix of international cuisine with a soul-food influence.

“Being in the kitchen with music in my headphones, cooking allows me to escape, be creative and make great tasting food for my kids, family and friends,” said Goodson, now 36 and a single mother of two kids, Brooklyn and Kayden.

By day, the Chicago native works as an office manager for a local nonprofit in addition to pursuing a degree in business administration. But her hectic schedule doesn’t keep her from cooking at least three times a week and doing meal prep on Sundays.

“One part of my life that has always been a constant is cooking,” she said. “Cooking has always brought peace and joy in my life. It is my secret place where I can truly just be me and be able to bring people together,”

Growing up with a Korean mother and African-American father, Goodson ate a lot of Korean food but learned how to make six simple dishes from her dad: fried chicken, fried pork chops, fried catfish (with ketchup and hot sauce), spaghetti, chili and lasagna.

“My dad was my first teacher in the kitchen,” she said, “If anything, he was a food connoisseur of good comfort food. And living only 30 minutes from Chicago, we were very fortunate to have access to some of the best food in the world.”

As a child, Goodson said the tastiest food “that I’ve ever had in my life” was soul food made by her grandmother and her Aunt Debbie, who passed away this past summer.


“She was an amazing cook,” she said. “A majority of the Goodson family lives in Waterloo so most of my home life in the suburbs of Chicago as a child didn’t consist of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

“Holidays and great soul food had a way of bringing people together that was almost magical. I loved those moments on Douglas and Beech streets on the east side of Waterloo. That, to me, is the best part of being a home cook — bringing people together.”

Goodson spent her 20s working as a server and bartender in the restaurant industry in Chicago, Las Vegas and south Florida. She picked up tips along the way, like how to use seasoning and spice for flavor rather than salt.

“I have a widespread palate for a variety of unique, ethnic and good traditional comfort food from the places that I’ve worked throughout the country,” she said.

Her favorite dish to prepare is a tequila lime chicken fajita salad with homemade avocado ranch dressing.

“I definitely love my veggies, so anytime I can put a great salad together, I do,” Goodson said, “For the most part, I try to eat healthy, but my crowd pleasers are my egg rolls, lasagna and gumbo.”

Her advice for other home cooks is to pay attention to the details.

“Presentation makes the food taste better,” she said. “Sounds crazy but it is so true. We naturally eat with our eyes first, so if it looks good, it will taste even better.

“Make the food look like art. It shows the love that you put into making the dish.”

Her idea of a perfect meal? Dolsot bibimbap — a rice dish served in a stone bowl.

“There aren’t any Korean restaurants in the Cedar Valley,” she said. “So this is the one meal that I always go to if I’m out of town.”



Bibimbap vegetables

Bulgogi-marinated sliced sirloin

Gochujang sauce / Korean hot sauce

1 fried egg (sunny side up is must!)

1 pound of sliced rib eye or sirloin steak (I prefer rib-eye)

Mom’s (Miye Goodson) Bulgogi Marinade:

1/2 onion grated

2 to 3 grated garlic

1 to 2 stalks of sliced green onion

1/2 cup of apple sauce or apple juice

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon of sesame oil

light salt and pepper

Blend these ingredients together and marinate the thinly sliced steak overnight for best taste.

Bibimbap Vegetables: (Cook these separately)

sliced shiitake mushrooms, lightly cooked in a pan with garlic and soy sauce

julienned carrots, sauté and season with salt and pepper

zucchini, sauté and season with salt and pepper

spinach, sauté and season with salt and pepper

bean sprouts, boil, then season with sesame and soy sauce (lightly)

Assembly of the Bibimbap


Dolsot Bibimbap is when this dish is served in a stone bowl. In a perfect world, everyone would have a stone bowl that can usually be purchased at a Korean grocery store, but it is not necessary. The bowl is basically cooked in an oven and when the rice is placed inside the bowl, it makes the rice crispy.

Since everyone probably won’t have a stone bowl, this dish is now just Bibimbap and can be served in a large bowl. Start with the rice in the bottom of the bowl. I like to dress the rice lightly with sesame oil. Then top the rice with the veggies and meat around the edge of the bowl with the same amounts, then the fried, sunny-side-up egg goes right in the middle.

Serve with gochujang sauce and add to your desired spice level. Enjoy!

Chicken and Turkey Kielbasa Sausage Gumbo Margaret’s Way


1 to 2 chicken breasts (cut into bite size pieces)

Smoked turkey kielbasa sausage

2 stalks of diced celery

1 small to medium onion, diced

2 medium bell peppers, diced

2 to 3 cloves of garlic

salt and pepper

Cajun seasoning (I like to use Zatarain’s)

1 to 2 bay leaves

4 to 5 cups of chicken broth

1/2 cup of flour

1/2 cup of canola oil

Cooked white rice for serving


First make the roux. This is what gives the flavor, color and what thickens the gumbo. In a medium-sized saucepan, mix a 1/2 cup of oil, 1/2 cup of flour and light Cajun seasoning on low. It is very important that you cook on low or you will burn the roux. Stir this pasty mixture until it is a dark peanut butter color. This process can take up to 10 to 15 minutes.

I like to start this next part on the front part of the stove about 5 minutes into making the roux and usually have this going on one of the back burners so it can stay warm and I can keep an eye on both.

Season the diced chicken with Cajun seasoning and cook in a large pot in 1 tablespoon of oil or you can use cooking spray. Cook seasoned chicken until fully cooked, then remove from pot and put into a dish on the side. Add sliced turkey sausage kielbasa to the pan and cook until browned, then move to the side with the chicken. Last, cook the celery, onions, bell peppers and garlic.

Add 4 to 5 cups of chicken broth to the large pot and simmer on low-medium until there is a light rolling boil.

Once the pot has a nice rolling boil to it, add in meats. Next, add the roux, but pour it in little by little and slowly. You don’t have to add all of it, but make sure that you are stirring the gumbo as you are pouring and keep an eye on it to your desired thickness. Add more roux if it is too thin … it usually takes a few seconds to see the soup thicken. Serve over rice.

Tequila Lime Chicken Fajita Salad

1 to 2 large skinless chicken breasts

1/4 each of red, green and yellow bell peppers (sliced)

1 small onion (sliced)


3 to 5 garlic cloves

¼ cup olive oil

salt and pepper

¾ cup of tequila (preferably silver or clear)

¼ cup of lime juice (fresh or bottled)

I like to blend the marinade ingredients together, then put half of the marinade into a zip-lock bag with the chicken to marinate at least 2 to 3 hours. After the chicken is marinated, grill until well done, then slice or cube the chicken into bite-size pieces.


Marinate the bell peppers and onion with the other half of the marinade in a separate bag then sauté in a pan. I like mine almost carmelized.

Salad ingredients:

1/2 to 3/4 container of spring greens mix

2 to 3 medium romaine lettuce heads (cut into bite size pieces)

2 cups cherry tomatoes (cut in half)

1/2 cup of sweet corn

1/2 cup of black beans

1 to 2 avocados

tortilla strips (can usually be found at the grocery store next to croutons and salad dressings)

Grated jack or cheddar cheese

1 lime cut in wedges as a garnish

Layer these ingredients together, the ratio of romaine to spring greens should be 3:1.

Avocado Ranch Dressing:

1 cup of your favorite ranch dressing

1 ripe avocado

1 to 2 tsp. of lime juice

I like my dressing smooth so I like to blend these together. But if you like a chunkier dressing, you can mash the avocado in a bowl, then add the ranch and lime juice and lightly stir together.

Top salad ingredients with grilled chicken, bell peppers, onions. Drizzle with the avocado dressing and enjoy!

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