Category Archives: Baking

Tidbits

1. I finally felt well enough to make holiday cookies!

It feels like a while since I last baked, which is all kinds of wrong seeing as Christmas is so near. I’ve been taking chemo pills every day since last week which really drag me down, but I knew I had to get my hands in some butter before chemo #12 this week.

Donned one of my favourite aprons made by Tanya! It’s to protect me from the icing sugar that was flying around the kitchen as I whipped together some shortbread cookies. If you haven’t made all your cookies yet, you MUST make these. They melt in your mouth.

Recipe comes from the back of a Canada Corn Starch box:

  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup softened butter

Sift together corn starch, icing sugar, and flour. Blend in the butter with a wooden spoon or mixer until a soft crumbly dough forms. Shape dough into 1 – 1 1/2 inch balls, place on greased pan, and gently flatten with a fork. Place in fridge for 30-60 minutes then bake in a 300F oven for 15 minutes. Makes about 20 cookies.

I topped my cookies with a regular buttercream frosting made thicker with extra icing sugar and half a maraschino cherry.

For real, make these.

2. Archie is going to live!

My mom’s poodle is going to be 15 years old in February. He’s got lumps on his body and has been coughing a lot lately. My mom brought him to the vet yesterday, and he believes the lumps are benign fatty tumours and the coughing is a partially collapsed trachea. Neither of which are currently life threatening. Vet said he could live for another couple years!! Hopefully he learns to like Buster in that time. Archie is the, ahem, jealous type.

3. I’m playing guitar again.

I’ve been playing guitar on and off for 12 years now, but could no longer do it when I broke my elbow last February. The break prevented me from twisting my left wrist so my palm could face the ceiling, or enough to wrap my hand around the neck of a guitar. But over the past several months, I’ve slowly gotten that range of motion back. It still hurts to twist my wrist for long periods of time, so practice sessions are still short. I’m also horribly out of practice. It will give me something new to work on.

5. This is just a really cute picture. 

My Baby Bear sleeping with his bear. I love when he smiles in his sleep <3

6. Hamburgers are the official food of chemo.

My food sensitivity was particularly bad after my last chemo. Even toast and almond butter sounded gross. But hamburgers ALWAYS sound good. I could eat hamburgers for Canada by now. For you Moncton folk, the above comes from Bridges in Riverview. Come to the dark side, come to Albert County for your burgers.

7. TODAY IS MY LAST CHEMO.

Maybe. I still haven’t had a PET scan to see if there’s any active cancer left. It’s just the last chemo on my original treatment plan. But I’m elated to think this may be the last time I have to go through this. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

8. I’m lucky in some ways. 

Because I kept my eyelashes and eyebrows. Sorry for the creepy eye shot. Both have definitely thinned, but both were thick to begin with. Volume mascara and a little eyebrow pencil make me look normal. It would be so cool if this was my last chemo and I got away with keeping my eyelashes and eyebrows.

The hair on my head is already a goner though.

9. I’m going to get better!

As in, getting better is not such a long term thing any more. If today is indeed my last chemo, then my recovery time will just go on and on until I feel like my “normal” self again. No more chemo sessions to bring me down again. I know that is a simplistic and obvious notion, but at this point it kind of blows my mind.

I foresee more sessions on my recumbent bike, more weight training, outdoor activities, and yoga!

I still won’t ever be able to do downward dog because of my bum arm though. I’ll leave that to Buster.

10. Santa tried to throttle my dog.

Yes, I realize getting my dog to pose with Santa has me edging closer to the crazy dog lady line – but I couldn’t help myself! I thought it would be so cute and not very harmful. Except, somehow my Santa shot looks like Santa is pulling a Homer Simpson on my Bart Simpson. “Why you little…!!”

I tried to take some cute Chrismassy photos of my little bear at home, but he was playing aloof.

And with that, I am off! “The Great Balancing Act” is on official Christmas holidays, to return sometime next week. Besides recovering from what may be my LAST chemo, I’ve got out-of-town family to see, cookies to eat, gifts to wrap and unwrap, and a puppydog to keep out of the poinsettias. Have a great holiday!! xoxo

One Bright Birthday

Sometimes I feel like I am in the minority of cancer patients in that I don’t often get very upset about my situation.

I mean, I am upset. I just don’t get upset. The only time I’ve cried throughout this experience has been the result of additional stresses in my life that have nothing to do with the cancer. They just upset me more easily because I’m full of cracks from the cancer.

There are moments however when I do feel really sad about what has become of my life. As a young adult, I was guilty of thinking I was invincible. Of assuming I had a lifetime ahead of me to do things. Not that I don’t think cancer is going to cut any of that short, but the word “if” is used a lot more these days instead of “when.”

My friend Lauren reminded me the other day of my favourite Leonard Cohen lyrics, which I’ve shared on this blog before:

“There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in”

Without the cracks caused by cancer, I wouldn’t have some of the light they let in. Hands down, the brightest light of this whole thing has been BUSTER!

Call me a crazy dog lady all you want, this little pooch makes me one happy girl. The opportunity to get a dog has easily been the best thing to come out of this crazy cancer experience. Even when he mistakes the kitty litter for a playpen, or insists on going for a walk at 10pm.

And today my little Buster Bartholomew is one year old!! I got him from another owner when he was 10 months old. I guess he is now officially an adolescent dog, despite his scrawny puppy-like looks.

Please excuse the hack icing job. I whipped it up this morning while chugging back my coffee.

If you’re interested, here’s what went into the dog-friendly microwave cake:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp water)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp applesauce

All mixed up and cooked in a greased bowl for about 3 minutes in the microwave. Topped with a quick icing that got licked up immediately.

My little Buster however is a very special snowflake and isn’t blessed with the iron stomach of many other dogs. So he didn’t get to have all of his cake in one sitting.

One little piece at a time! I call him my “Dust Buster” because he likes to hoover the crumbs up off the floor.

Buddy the Boxer is here too and got to reap the benefits of the birthday celebration. My step-sister watched from the sidelines with her human baby boy, laughing at the lengths I go to celebrate my non-human child.

Call me crazy all you want, I refuse to let the light of those cracks let slip through my fingers. Without them, things would get pretty dark around here.

Happy birthday Buster!!

Pumpkin Sweet Potato Tamale Pie

I swear, I wasn’t going to post any pumpkin recipes this “season.” Mostly because I think it’s really overrated orange mush that people like to mask the flavour of with more complimentary flavours such as cinnamon and cloves.

We’ve talked about how it’s processed and in a can, right? Well, I’ve already contradicted myself once with an impromptu pumpkin cream cheese waffle posting, and today I’ll share with you why I had pumpkin hanging out in my fridge to begin with. Around these parts you can only get pumpkin in 28oz cans. That’s a lot of orange mush to be creative with.

I promise you, the next two recipes contain no cinnamon or cloves. This is pumpkin done savoury and edible!

Pumpkin Sweet Potato Tamale Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1-1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 chipotle chiles, minced
  • 1 tsp adobo sauce from chipotle can
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce (your favourite kind, I used plain)
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn

For cornbread topping:

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbsp molasses

Directions:

Brown beef in a large pan with onion, garlic, peppers, sweet potato, and spices. Add in sauce, beans, and corn, and let simmer for 30 mins.

While beef mixture is simmering, mix together the cornbread ingredients. You can separate the dry and wet, but I’m not picky. The pumpkin and juices from the filling usually keeps it from getting too dry from over-mixing anyways.

When the beef is done simmering, pour it into a 9×13 casserole dish and pour cornbread batter overtop. Bake in a 400F oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the cornbread clean.

I went for a pumpkin whole wheat cornbread to make it healthier, of course. I figured if there was ever a time to healthify cornbread, it would be when there’s ground beef involved. The hint of molasses and whole wheat not only gave it depth in taste, but colour as well! I also snuck sweet potato in there for extra vegetables, which offset the heat of the chipotle wonderfully. I’m currently not allowed to eat hard cheese, but I didn’t miss it all. Overall, a dish that is definitely worth cracking open a can of orange mush for!

Of course, using only one cup of it, I had some leftovers. I was determined to get meals out of them and not just spiced desserts.

Enter Pumpkin Focaccia. Pronounced foe-caw-chuh (for my friends from the ‘view).

I based my version off of this recipe and it was freakin fantastic. I made the following changes:

  • Left out cheese (again, not allowed, but I really want to try this recipe again with it!)
  • Added 1.5 tbsp of finely chopped fresh rosemary to the dough
  • Topped with roasted pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts

I made it into two small rectangular loaves. One of which my family pretty much inhaled straight out of the oven slathered in butter. The rest I enjoyed with my usual fried eggs and cream cheese in the morning.

I can’t be helped.

These are just some of the highlights of many great dishes from the last three chemo-free weeks. I had chemo #9 of 12 on Wednesday and am back in the chair for #10 next Wednesday. Needless to say, I’ll be dragging my heels and taking a lot more naps for the next little bit. I’ve been trying to teach Buster how to fetch things for me, but uh, he’s an easily distracted pup.

As soon as he brings it to me, he comes in for cuddles and completely forgets about the toy.

Thankfully, he’s a pro at lying around too.

If you have any interest in hearing my speak about what it’s been like living with cancer click here to listen to Part 1 of a radio interview I did. Part 2 should be posted on that website after 12pm Atlantic time today. Also, if you’re in my area, be sure to check out the CBC’s Tree of Hope fundraiser on Nov. 24 to help directly benefit cancer patients like me in Moncton.

Have a great weekend!

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