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I’m Fine

…Two words I’d be happy to never have to utter again.

This is a topic a lot of people have written about and I heard of after first getting diagnosed with cancer. I laughed at it, but now that I am in the thick of things, I truly understand it. So I’ve decided to throw my own two cents in. I don’t think it could hurt to remind people on the outside for the gazillionth time that I am actually quite fine.

Since first being diagnosed with lymphoma, I’d say 30% of the words that come out of my mouth have been used responding to the question “How are you?” Everyone wants to know. I know it comes from a place of concern and caring, but I would like to point out that answering this question is exhausting and frustrating for a sick person. And who wants to exhaust a sick person?

I am not sure what kind of response people expect from such a loaded question. For one thing, I am 25 years old and getting treated for cancer. That really sucks. Should I say I woke up feeling like I’d been put through a car crusher? Should I say I haven’t been to a bar in 6 months and I could really go for a drink? Should I say I’m scared I won’t be able to run again? Or that I thought a lot about death today?

Overall though, despite everything, I AM FINE. You’ve heard it before, and I will tell you again, human beings have an amazing ability to deal with things. I’ve heard people say they could never go through something like this, but yes, yes you could. Because when your only choice is to live through it or die, you suck it up and choose the former.

That is why I am honest to goodness just fine. Because I wake up every day, yes feeling like crap, but still happy to be alive. You don’t want to hear about my aches and pains or how many times I thought I was going to barf. I woke up and still had a life to live. It’s not “great” because I’m still not happy about this cancer thing, but overall it’s a solid fine. There are still a lot of enjoyable things in my days as well.

I have complained about this enough that my friends and family have nicely stopped asking me so much. I tell them that no news is good news, and that if I’m not outwardly complaining or talking about my health, then assume nothing has changed.

It’s not answering the same question over and over that irritates me. It’s that the question itself is a constant reminder that I’m sick and in this situation. It’s like one of my other most hated questions – “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain?” I hate that because it forces me to focus on my current pain and then try to attach a measure to something I always considered to be immeasurable.

Sometimes a simple “How are you feeling?” can be a harsh reminder that I am not feeling well, and force me to trivialize the severe situation I’ve found myself in.

So in other words, “I’m fine” is my way of brushing the whole thing off.

Instead I much rather talk about things like current events, movies, music, food, and cute things my dog did today. So how about we finish this off with some food?

Butternut Squash Sauce

The photos of this sauce are a little misleading, but I will get to that. What is Squash Sauce you ask? A creamy, garlicky pasta sauce made with pureed butternut squash. Created because my food restrictions were getting me down, I’m still craving homestyle foods, and I wanted a way to sneak more veggies in.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash

1 head of garlic

2 tbsp butter

1 onion

1 cup 10% cream (milk works too, but I haven’t tried it with non-dairy)

2 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 425F

Slice the tip of the head of garlic off like you would slice the end of an onion off. Wrap in tinfoil with a little oil.

Wash, peel, and cube the butternut squash, spread on baking sheet with wrapped garlic and put in oven for about 20-25 minutes or until browned.

While squash and garlic are roasting, chop onion. Heat a medium sized pot to low-medium heat, melt butter, and slowly cook onion until soft (about 15 minutes).

Add flour, spices, and cream to pot and whisk non-stop (making sure to scrape the bottom with whisk) for about 10 minutes or until thick like a gravy.

Once everything is ready, put it in a blender (including ALL of the garlic, peeled of course) and puree. Makes about 2-3 cups of sauce.

Now I can tell you I cheated taking the pictures. I always make my food for dinner when there’s no sunlight, so I photograph the leftovers the next day. And here you can totally tell! It was much creamier and dreamier the night of serving, although did still hold up well the next day. The texture just changes a bit in the microwave, much like mac n’ cheese or alfredo.

I served mine with egg noodles, salmon, and a whack of veggies, but the butternut squash sauce got lost a little. I would recommend tossing it with fettuccine or fusilli, then serving it as a side to something like chicken or tofu with steamed veggies. That way the flavours really get to shine. I can’t wait to make this again with maybe homemade pasta!

Now I am into the “good” two weeks of my chemo cycle where I am free of any additional poisons for a while. My body is getting to recover and I sometimes get a small glimpse of what it’s like to be my old self again. So yup, in case you were wondering, I am totally FINE.

Recipes Worth Bookmarking

Yesterday’s post was so deep I needed to give my poor chemo brain a break for today. So instead, I thought I’d dig into my recipe bookmarks and share some of the FOOD blog posts that have caught my eye recently! Click on the links to see the pictures and recipes of my fellow bloggers. Can’t wait to try these out on my own.

Peanut Butter Bran Muffins – Teenage Taste

Oven Fries – Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Stuffed Mushroom Phyllo Roll – Oh She Glows (mostly, I just want to make phyllo)

Basil Hummus – Eating For England

Pizza Swirl Bread – How Sweet It Is

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie Bread – How Sweet It Is

BBQ Pumpkin Pizza – Running Around Normal

Mmmm Sauce – Peas and Thank You

Grilled Red Pepper Harissa – Eating For England

Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie Trifle – How Sweet It Is (I may save this for Canadian Thanksgiving)

Golden Brioche Loaves – Tea and Scones

And most recent bookmark that I’ve actually cooked – Cheezy Taco Mac from Leftovers 4 Lunch!

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A dairy-free version of one of my old favourites – Hamburger Helper. The noodles may have still come from a box, but the flavour sure didn’t!

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I made a few changes based on what I had on hand – extra lean ground beef, whole wheat egg noodles and shells, and the addition of green pepper. I also didn’t have any salsa so I subbed in a can of plain tomato sauce, two fresh tomatoes, and half of a very, very hot pepper I got from the farm on Sunday. Served with leftover red cabbage.

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The “cheese comes from the addition of nutritional yeast flakes which I lovelovelove both in flavour and nutritional properties. Awesome job with the recipe Leah! I will make this over and over again.

And with that, I am off. I am getting a tube inserted up my arm today and poisons injected in. In other words, a PICC line and chemo. Also getting news on a chest x-ray I had done yesterday. Think shrinking cancer thoughts!!

My Favourite Pasta, Healthified

Happy Waffle Wednesday!!

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I woke up this morning with waffles on the mind, but decided to wait until Wednesday to have them. Then I realized it is Wednesday! It’s like that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine needs sugar every afternoon in the office. My body wants waffles every Wednesday. And who am I to say no?

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Similar simple recipe as always:

  • 3 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • one scoop (30g) unflavoured soy protein powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stevia packet (or the equivalent to 2 tsp sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp egg whites
  • 1/3 cup almond milk

Topped with vanilla yogurt, blackberries, blueberries and homemade coconut chia granola. The berries were on sale this week. In January? I’ll take it!

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In honour of Waffle Wednesday, I dedicated a whole album to it on my Facebook page. Check it out if you need some topping ideas! There are freezer waffle variations in there as well.

It’s a slow week over here as I get back into the swing of things after being home for so long. On the bright side, it’s provided me with ample time to make dishes that I’ve had bookmarked forever!

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First up is Jessica’s Autumn Mac and Cheese.

I ended up completely bastardizing this recipe, but the inspiration was still there ;) It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest pasta fan. I just don’t like the taste or texture of slimy noodles. But one dish is the exemption: mac n cheese.

I was originally drawn to this recipe because of the addition of butternut squash. My favourite sweet squash sounded like the perfect addition to a cheesy mess!

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I am however still a cheapskate. I left out the brussel sprouts for a much cheaper bag of frozen cauliflower and broccoli.

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To me, mac n cheese is all about the elbow macaroni. I went for the whole wheat variety as I like the grainy texture.

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Rather than roast the squash, I just chopped it up and zapped it for five minutes. Apart from being a cheapskate, I’m also an impatient cook.

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Y’all know I’m a girl who likes her protein, so I added a pound of browned extra lean ground beef to the mix too.

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I did however follow Jessica’s directions for the roux. I know from experience that it’s the key to a creamy concoction! Just 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp flour, 2 cup milk whisked with the shredded cheddar cheese. I decreased the amount of cheese by almost half for the sake of my expanding waistline.

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Poured over top the mix and sprinkled with, no, not breadcrumbs or more cheese.

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Nutritional yeast flakes! It has a very cheesy taste and is one of the richest vegetarian sources of B vitamins.

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A Bastardized Mac n Cheese Recipe
(as inspired by How Sweet Eats)

  • 225g whole wheat macaroni (around 1 1/3 cups uncooked)
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 bag frozen broccoli & cauliflower (or whatever you like, really)
  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 cup milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
  • 5 oz cheese (I used old cheddar)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

Directions
Cook the noodles in water and brown the beef in a pan. Peel and chop the squash into 1 inch cubes and microwave lightly covered in a bowl for 5-6 minutes. Defrost the frozen veggies in the microwave as well.

In a small pan melt the butter and whisk in flour. Add milk, then slowly add the grated cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly. Mix together noodles, meat and veggies and place in a 14×9 casserole dish. Pour milk mixture over top. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

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I got six meal-sized servings out of this which I also like to eat on top of cooked spinach. I lovelovelove the cheesy sauce with the butternut squash. I also appreciate how the squash adds volume but reduces the calories in a typically high-calorie dish.

In other news, my Simply Switches are still going strong!

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Thanks to citrus season, clementines have replaced my usual piece of chocolate for dessert. There is nothing wrong with a piece of chocolate, but I’ve replaced some of those empty calories with something a little more nutritious.

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Another new dessert I’m loving is crystallized ginger! Mind you, it still has cane sugar. But I love how the strong taste doesn’t leave my tastebuds craving anything else once a meal is complete.

I’ve also discovered that my homemade Maple Cinnamon Oat Bran Protein Bars fit perfectly in my little IKEA tupperware containers.

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It’s the little things ;)

 

Question of the Day: What is your favourite pasta dish? No surprise here, mine’s Kraft Dinner. Yes, the kind from the box with the powdered cheese.

 

**For anyone in the Toronto area, Morgan and I are hosting a blogger lunch in the city at noon on January 22. Vegan/vegetarian friendly. It’s my birthday weekend, so I promise there will be cake. E-mail Morgan at Morgan.Shuker@gmail.com to RSVP. Hope to see you there!**

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