Category Archives: 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


  • 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


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!


A Meatless Meal For Animal Lovers

I have always been an “animal person.” You know the type. The kind of person who grew up worshipping the family dog, who wanted to be a veterinarian as child, and who declared vegetarianism in some stance of teenage defiance.

Since becoming an “adult,” one of my top priorities has been to get a dog. The responsibility is something I never took lightly, so I continually put it off. I never had the money, the time, or the space. I wanted to move and travel too much. Even when I moved back home for good, I continued to put it off because I couldn’t find “the one.” The dog I wanted to spend the next 10+ years of my life with.

Well, we all know what happened. I got cancer and found myself with a lot of time to spend all by myself at home. Then one day I stumbled across the dog. During this dark time in my life, I suddenly have a bright light brought to me every day in the form of my new pet.

I love my little Buster Bartholomew to pieces. But a recent Globe and Mail article called “The problem with loving your dog too much” got me thinking.

I already frequently joke that I don’t want to be “one of those” dog owners. The type that posts pictures of their dog all the time (okay, I already do), the kind that talks about their quirks all the time (I do that too), or who constantly speaks to them in a high pitched voice (oh, dear…). Well, at least I didn’t dress Buster up for Halloween! Although, I secretly really wanted to put a King Charles crown on him.

The article got me thinking about how there are a lot of dog owners out there who don’t treat their dogs like… Dogs. It reminded me that not everyone is a head over heels dog person like I am, who will stop strangers on the street just to talk about the dog they’re walking.

But at the same time, it got me wondering, to what detriment is there to loving your dog too much?

Buster does more than just give me something other than myself to think about for once. He does more than keep me company all day, and keep me active by wagging his tail by the front door every afternoon. He doesn’t care that I’m sick. He isn’t nicer to me because of it, nor does he ask me how I’m feeling every hour.

So what if dogs are a children replacement? Because of chemotherapy there is a decent chance I will be infertile when all of this is over. Maybe loving and caring for a dog is the closest I’ll ever get to being a mom. Sounds a lot easier too.

The article, while a worthwhile read, unfortunately only skims the surface and doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter. There’s a decent conversation that opens up on the comments over how “dog people” should socialize with their dog-weary counterparts. Because lets face it, dog people and non-dog people really do exist, and there really is a difference between the two.

I guess the take home point would be that it’s good to remember that dogs are not people, nor can our relationships with them replace the ones we should have with humans. But at the same time, I admit that I have no shame in loving my dog a little too much sometimes. So what if I love him like maybe I could love a child? Or jump over hoops to keep him happy? It’s all because he keeps me just as, if not more happy. To me, it’s all worth it.

In honour of our animal friends I’ve got an incredible meatless meal to share with you today!

Chickpea Pot Pie with a Whole Grain Crust

I used this recipe, making the following changes:

  • 5 cups broth instead of 6
  • 3 cans of chickpeas instead of 1
  • omitted noodles
  • omitted parmesan cheese
  • made my own crust!

While there is nothing wrong with a little puff pastry, I really wanted to get nutritional value out of all components of this dish. I opted for a whole grain crust from this recipe, choosing that particular one simply because I’d had success with it before (using canola oil).

I just made the dough and flattened it out to the dimensions of a 9×11 baking dish, then let it chill in the fridge until I was ready to place it over top. As for the filling, I noticed that there was too much of it to put into one pot, so I ended up layering the frozen peas and beans with the hot contents in the dish to avoid having to switch to a larger pot and it worked perfectly.

The results were fantastic! I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe. I didn’t miss the chicken at all and thought the flavour and texture of the chickpeas blended in really well. I was also quite pleased by how the whole grain crust held up. Not quite the light pastry you’re used to, but definitely helped this meatless dish keep my belly satisfied for the remainder of the evening.

Now if only I could convince my puppy that he isn’t a human and his dinner is the crunchy stuff on the floor…

My New Food Restrictions

Would you believe that one of the things I was worried about when I started chemotherapy was that I would lose my appetite and get sickly thin? Har har har. I should have known better. It will take more than a few poisons to kill my appetite.

There are however food restrictions that come with chemotherapy. In the beginning, my ABVD drugs just had general guidelines. Because they lower my immune system, I have to stay away from foods that are at a high risk for bacteria. Things like sushi or smoked meats. I stay from berries or other produce that are hard to clean. I stopped eating citrus as it can irritate the deteriorating lining of my mouth. I also try to cook my foods well to kill off any bacteria and make for easier digesting.

My new drug regimen however includes a pill called Procarbazine, which comes with a slew of whacky food restrictions. I’ve been putting off mentioning it on the blog because, well, I’m not sure if I quite understand it. I know there are a lot of smart science-y folk who read my blog and I don’t want to offend them by butchering any sort of explanation. I try really hard to keep up with the science of this cancer stuff, but sometimes I read a sentence over and over again and am still left sitting there dumbfounded.

So, basically, all I can tell you is that the Procarbazine drug inhibits MOA, which has something to do with oxidizing and amino. When I eat foods that contain Tyramine (which is an amino of sort, from what I can gather), it reacts with what the drug is doing to my body and causes a “hypertensive emergency.” From what I understand, that can cause migraines, mild to severe high blood pressure, and even irreversible organ damage.

This chemo stuff is fun, no? (that’s dripping with sarcasm, by the way)

Anyways, apart from the confusing reasons as to why I can’t eat certain foods, the list of foods that I can’t eat are also downright wonky.

  • spoiled, pickled, aged, smoked, fermented, or marinated meat
  • processed meat (I’m pretty sure that includes bacon)
  • cheese (except cream cheese, cottage cheese, and ricotta)
  • sour cream
  • yogurt
  • soy sauce
  • tofu
  • tempeh
  • miso
  • sauerkraut
  • fava beans
  • green bean pods
  • snow peas
  • avocados (I’m allergic anyway)
  • pineapple (I’m allergic anyway)
  • eggplant
  • figs
  • red plums
  • raspberries
  • bananas
  • Brazil nuts
  • peanuts
  • coconuts
  • yeast (like Marmite or Vegemite)
  • chocolate (oops, I didn’t know about this one!)
  • alcohol

I bolded some of them as those are the ones I miss the most! There seems to be no rhyme or reason to this list, but apparently something happens to these foods during the fermentation or decaying process that effects the level of tyramine and makes them react with my drugs.

The oncology pharmacist also told me it’s nothing to freak out too much over. A little bit here or there won’t kill me, it’s just better to stay away from these things to be on the safe side. Especially those that are higher in tyramine than others.

I went out for brunch the weekend after starting my new drug regimen and quickly realized how difficult it is to order off a brunch menu when you’re not allowed bacon or cheese. My mom, sister, and I went to Café Maelström here in Moncton, forgetting that they specialize in cheesy, smoky meat paninis.

So I’ve been sticking to the sweeter side of things:

A Belgian waffle smothered in Nutella, custard, and fresh fruit (that I had to special order to keep the restricted fruit off). Crazy delicious, but significantly lacking in bacon.

Lunch is just as difficult. I also had a hard time ordering at Café Archibald when I went there this week with a friend. They specialize in savoury crepes stuffed with (again) smoked meat and cheese. I instead opted for a hummus and chicken pizza without the cheese, then tested my luck with a spinach salad topped with a few bacon bits.

Ordering dessert however was a cinch. Apple Crumble Crepe!

That would be actual scoops of apples and crumble topping inside a light crepe, topped with sticky caramel and vanilla ice cream. So good. If only I could just live off of dessert on this new diet.

In reality, I mostly live off of toast, cream cheese, and fried eggs doused in pepper and sea salt.

It’s the only food I can always stomach, no matter what. I’ve eaten this about 5 days a week since starting chemotherapy in August. Sometimes twice a day when I’m feeling really sick. I don’t know what I would do if I suddenly couldn’t eat this anymore!

Even though my appetite is as raging as ever, there are still days where my stomach is sensitive and I’m too tired to put together anything substantial. While I try to get in my green veggies every day, sometimes I end up with something like this for dinner:

A dish of roasted potatoes with ketchup, and nothing else. It’s when I say “Fuck it, I’m sick, I’m eating what I want.” Or if you follow me on Twitter, what I also call a #chemoperk ;)

And in completely unrelated news, my Baby Bear is home!

We are both zonked today after an active couple days. It’s kinda rainy here, so I think I’ll put the slow cooker on and rest up in preparation for the weekend. Have a great one! Eat some cheese and bacon for me!!