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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!

Sick Body, Healthy Body Image

Yesterday I stepped on the scale for the first time since being discharged from the hospital. Over the four weeks I was in hospital, I lost around 7 lbs. Not an unhealthy amount for the time I was in there, but a lot for a person who spent the majority of their days lying in bed. The nurses and doctors weren’t concerned. When you have cancer, weight loss happens. Yesterday I noticed I’d lost even more weight, bringing my total up to 10 lbs. And I’ve been eating a lot since being discharged!

I’d been trying to shed a few spare pounds for months. One would think this would come as a pleasant side effect of being in the hospital and on chemo. But it’s not. I don’t want to lose weight. I am terrified of looking sickly.

Over the years, I have worked really hard at improving my self-image. Throughout my original weight loss and efforts to eat well and exercise more, I really learned to love and appreciate my body. Even when I gained some of that weight back, I could still look in the mirror and like who was looking back at me. Not a lot of women can do that, and that ability was one of the qualities I was most proud of. It took many years to get to that point.

But cancer has thrown my self-image for a bit of a loop. I’ve learned it is one thing to look out of shape, and something entirely different to look in the mirror and see a legitimately sick person looking back at you. Thinning hair, tired eyes, dull skin, shallow cheeks. That is an image I am not ready to deal with.

Mind you, after only two weeks into treatment, I definitely don’t look sick. Hell, I probably won’t ever look that sick. Because, you know, the cancer is shrinking, and I am technically getting better.

This will certainly be a new challenge for me. To learn to love my body even when it’s full of bruises from the needles and blood thinners. Even when my nails are flaking, my skin is dry, and the inside of my mouth has sores. To still want to treat it well when the room is spinning and it feels like someone is taking a jackhammer to my skeleton. To still appreciate everything my body does for me, even when the cells inside insist on growing at a rapid and deadly rate.

Never did I think I’d be upset to watch the scale go down when I once tried so hard to fit into my skinny jeans. It’s hard to resist from thinking that my body has failed me, even after all the work I put into it. But really, it’s all just a learning process of how to work with it, and still love my body despite all it’s been through. I can’t say I’ve tackled this hurdle entirely yet, but do know that I don’t plan on giving up on it.

This is why one of my big goals for the month of August is to increase my level of physical activity. Walking, light indoor cycling, stretching, light strength training. Nothing strenuous, but all things that will help my body prepare and stay strong for treatments. The other goal is to get dressed, do my hair, and put on make-up as often as possible. Even though I technically can, I prefer not to lay around in my peejays all day.

And just to prove to you that I am still eating well, behold, my Monday dinner:

That would be Spanish rice with chicken and veggies, and homemade cornbread with cheddar cheese. Who knows what sort of cravings I’ll have after my second chemo treatment today, so I wanted to make sure I got a good meal in beforehand.

For the Spanish rice, I used this recipe as the base. I also added smoked paprika, garlic scapes, broccoli, beans, leftover roast chicken, and subbed some of the rice out for quinoa.

Now, let’s talk about the cornbread.

I’ve been looking for a good cornbread recipe for a while. Most of them are too sweet for my taste. Many recommend adding creamed or frozen corn, but honestly, I don’t like the whole corn kernels in the bread. Others just have too much flour.

Instead I followed this recipe from Chef Michael Smith. I not only love him because he’s a Food Network host based out of the Maritimes, but also because none of his recipes have ever steered me wrong. Instead, this recipe has you cook the cornmeal in a milk mixture first. No flour, just a bit of brown sugar, and no clumps of vegetables. It was perfection!!! Oh, and clearly I made it in a loaf pan as opposed to a cast iron skillet.

After an amazing weekend of family, friends, good food, and feeling great, I am off to the hospital for chemo #2. Definitely scared, but today I’ve got my big girl pants on. With a bit of eyeliner.

 

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