Cancer – not the post I want to make

Never thought I would be writing about cancer or dealing with it as it effects my family. I hope I won’t be writing about this for long and if so, it’s more about my dad doing well.  

Since my dad got sick, I’ve been researching foods that help fight cancer.  Foods like broccoli, pomegranate, kale, acia berries, blueberries, etc. Some call them “super foods”. Once he gets better, he wants to try smoothies with these super foods and eat better, overall.  I want to help him and try to eat better as well. 

Today, I’m in the hospital with him.  He’s napping and it’s the last day of his 7-day chemotherapy treatment. His white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets are all mostly gone – both the cancerous kind and the good ones. That’s what chemo is supposed to do.  

Last night got a little scary. He got a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop.  For three hours he went through tissues and gauze. I just stood there, shocked, as doctors and nurses rushed to get him a transfusion of platelets and contemplate if surgery was necessary.  Luckily, it wasn’t.

Now, at 10 a.m. the following day and his nosebleed appears to be almost gone. Phew! I can’t tell you how scared and worried I was. I know I’m supposed to be strong and brave and positive and all those things everyone is telling me to be, but I can’t help but get scared. This is SCARY!  Watching someone you care about battle cancer is insanely scary!  Ok, I need to breathe.  I think a minute of panic is totally acceptable, right?

They say it’s just uphill for him now. The chemo is finished and his blood counts will start to rise and make him feel better. Looking forward to him getting well. Send your prayers!

A Break from Recipes

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the delay in posting. A medical emergency came up. My dad got rushed to the hospital a few days ago and was later diagnosed with acute leukemia. Aaaahhhh!

This has honestly been one of the hardest weeks of my life. :( Luckily, my family is tight knit and we are all here for him.  I spent the night with him at the hospital, and am so far really impressed with the nursing staff, doctors, and services here. And, I’m so super thankful we are just an hour and a half away from a hospital that specializes in cancer.

Yikes!  Cancer… that’s a word you hope to never hear, especially when it concerns those you love.

Yesterday, he got the preliminary diagnosis of AML (acute myeloid leukemia) and then had a bone marrow biopsy to determine what specific sub-type of cancer he has. I asked why they needed to know the sub-type if they already knew it was acute leukemia and the doctor said that there are several types of acute leukemia and apparently, the treatments for each are drastically different. (I’m learning so much in the few days I’ve been here.) Once the test results come in they will start chemotherapy right away.

I guess that’s both good and bad. Good because he’ll get treatment quickly but scary because its all happening so fast.

The prognosis looks good so far and my dad is a trooper. Please keep him in your prayers.

Candy Bar Cookies with Mini Snickers and Ghirardelli Caramel Bars

Candy Bar Cookies with Mini Snickers and Ghirardelli Caramel Bars

One Halloween a few years back, I decided to take leftover chocolate candy I had laying around and bake them into chocolate chip cookies.  The end result: A melted mix of goodness.  I know we are well past Halloween, but this tasty treat popped into my head the other day and then I really had to eat one (or 15).

Candy Bar Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are one of my faves and my family loves it when I bake them from scratch.  But when you threw in some Milky Ways, Snickers, caramels or Peppermint Patties, the cookies took on a new life.  Something about the way the candy bar melts into the gooey part of the cookie…mmm…. it’s good.

Candy Bar Cookies

These cookies are made with chopped up pieces of mini Snickers and Ghirardelli Caramel Squares mixed with Ghirardelli 60% cacoa chocolate chips.  Enjoy!

Candy Bar Cookies with Snickers and Ghirardelli Caramel Bars

Ingredients

  • 10-16 mini Snickers bars (sliced in half)
  • 4-6 Ghirardelli caramel bars (sliced in half) (optional)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 whole wheat flour (optional. This gives some added texture. If you don't add this, instead add 3/4 white flour)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional. I used sliced almond because I had them in my kitchen at the time. Walnuts or almonds work well)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix melted (room temperature) butter, vanilla and sugar. Beat well until all are blended. Add eggs, one at a time. Blend well. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture, adding slowly (one cup at a time) until all are mixed together. Add nuts and cacoa chips. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough onto greased cookie pan, making sure an inch of space surrounds each piece. Once on the pan, place 1/2 of a mini Snickers bar or 1/2 of a Ghirardelli square (up to you which one) in the middle of the cookie and press down slightly so it sinks down into the dough. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until edges look golden brown. Do not overcook.

 

 

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup in a Bread Bowl

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup in a Bread Bowl

Recently, I read in the news that women who eat mushrooms may be lowering their risk of developing breast cancer.  Here’s a few online sites that talk about it:  Reuters.com, Huffington Post and Meals to Heal.  There was a study done in 2009 and the Reuters article states:

“Lab research has shown that mushroom extracts have anti-tumor properties and, in animals, can stimulate the immune system’s cancer defenses.”  

If this is true, then I’m going to pile up on mushrooms, big time.  And green tea. With this new info under my belt, I want to kick off this year with an attempt to eat more mushrooms and be more pro-active in eating cancer-fighting foods, in general. I hope this gives you motivation too.

Now, on to the soup…

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup Bread Bowl

I wanna call this soup “A Bowl of Awesome” because it consists of really good bread + soup + cancer-fighting mushrooms and it made the house smell yummy for hours.  Plus, it turned out better than I expected.

For the bread, I bought a day-old sourdough loaf at my neighborhood store: Weiss Market.  It was half off and I can’t resist a deal, especially if it’s on really good bread like foccaccia or hearty multi-grain.  Depending on the type of bread I’ll either make croutons, slice it up for baked crostinis or toast, or in this case, do something new and make a hearty soup bowl.

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

Since this is my first time making a soup bowl, I was nervous the broth would drip through and cause a huge mess.  Not so!  It stayed in the bowl.  The best part is the inner sides of the crust softened as they absorbed the broth so that when you spooned out the soup, some of the bread scraped off and you would have a delicious mouthful of soup and bread. Yum! Definitely need to mark this recipe as a successful “first try”.  I already have two people asking for a dinner date!

This recipe made around 3-5 servings. Three servings can be eaten in the bread bowl and the leftover soup made about 2 servings extra.

It’s relatively easy to make. You can make it even easier if you buy pre-diced chicken and using already prepared chicken broth or canned broth. I tend to buy chicken whole (or half a chicken) with the skin on.  For one, it’s cheaper.  And two, I actually enjoy boning and skinning chicken in a large pot while it cooks.  Call me strange… I guess it just gives me something to do with my hands and allows me to get out of my head for a bit.  Stress relief is good.

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

Veggie Chopping for Chicken and Mushroom Soup

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

Bread Bowl for Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

 

Creamy Chicken Mushroom Soup Bread Bowl

Serves 3-5
This soup bowl is soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and filled with a savory, thick, creamy chicken and mushroom soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of bread (I used sourdough because it was the first loaf I found at the store and it sounded good with the soup, but rhye, tuscan, multi-grain or other hearty/crusty bread will work too.)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 stalk green onion (This is optional, but when sauteed with garlic and mushrooms I found it to be very good.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16oz baby bella or other small mushrooms
  • 3 small chicken breasts (or mix it up and replace one breast with a drumstick or thigh to give the soup more flavor)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (Heavy cream makes for a very rich, creamy broth. If you want to lighten the calorie content, go with half and half.)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt ((add more or less per your preference))
  • 1/2 cup raw broccoli
  • 1/2 teaspoon corriander (dry spice)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons flour (to thicken broth)

Directions

In a medium or large pot, bring chicken to a boil in 8 cups of water. I like to use chicken with the skin still on to make a nice, natural broth. Once chicken is cooked, remove from heat (turn off stove) and place on a plate to cool. Once cool, remove skins and bones and chop chicken into small pieces, then place back in the pot with the broth. (Do not poor out the broth - this will be the base for the creamy broth).
Slice garlic and green onion into small pieces.
In a small pan, add 2 tablespoons of butter and sautee mushrooms until they are soft, but not well done or browned. Add green onions and garlic - these are added last because they tend to burn quicker. Sautee until they are a nice brown and the green onions are slightly crispy.
Add sauteed veggies, broccoli, herbs, 2 tablespoons of butter, and salt to the pot with the cooked chicken and broth. Stir and let sit on high for 10 minutes or until broccoli is tender.
Reduce stove temperature to medium and stir in cup of heavy cream (or half and half). Taste and add more salt or herbs, as desired. Let sit for 10 minutes, then remove from heat.
Slice out the top portion of the loaf of bread. Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees. When oven is ready, place bread bowl in the oven and let heat for 10 minutes. Remove, then let cool.
Poor soup into bread bowl. Serve and enjoy!
Use remaining butter to spread on parts of bread bowl, if desired.
A Little Taste of Summer in These (Brrr) Cold Winter Months

A Little Taste of Summer in These (Brrr) Cold Winter Months

A few weeks ago my friends and I decided we’d had enough of winter.  The thermometer said -2 degrees, but it actually felt much colder.  Something about the winter months make summery things more alluring.  Then, someone said “Let’s make pineapple upside cake.” I thought: “That’s perfect!”.  It’s sweet, with hints of a tropical vacation. Before I knew it we were headed to Wegman’s to search for pineapple and cherries.   Making cute little cupcakes instead of a cake sounded like fun, too. To save time, I adapted a Pillsbury vanilla cake mix recipe for this, so I guess you could say this dessert is semi-homemade.  Honestly, either way you make these treats, they don’t disappoint.

(recipe below)

Once my boyfriend tried these, he ate three and then he tried to steal a few to take back to his place!  He felt obligated since I dubbed him the “official food taster around here”.

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

I wanted these to be super moist and flavorful so I adapted the Pillsbury recipe by adding 1/4 cup of heavy cream, 2 tablespoons of ricotta cheese and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Since this is a super sweet dessert, it could use some toning down to complement the topping of brown sugar, pineapples and cherries, which add a ton of extra sugar. The added teaspoon of vanilla should keep the pineapple from being too overpowering.

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

These eye-catching treats are moist and will satisfy your sweet tooth. Perfect for parties - these treats will have your guests begging for more and asking for the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 Small sliced pineapple (canned pineapple works, too)
  • 1 jar 8 - 10 oz. maraschino cherries
  • 1 box cake mix (vanilla)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 eggs

Directions

Pre-heat oven to the temperature written on the cake box. If you are baking a cake from scratch, pre-heat oven to the temperature I use for cupcakes: 350 degrees.
Prepare a cupcake tin by spraying with non-stick oil or applying with melted butter. I do this by taking a paper towel and dabbing into some room-temperature butter, then rubbing on the insides of the cupcake tin.
Mix water, oil, eggs, ricotta cheese, heavy cream and vanilla with cake mix.
Place a teaspoon of brown sugar in each cupcake section of the tin.
Slice pineapple into tiny pieces and arrange a circle in each cupcake portion in the tin. You can arrange the slices in a circle or any other design you like.
Place a cherry (sliced in half) in each cupcake tin portion.
Pour batter in the tin. Note: Be careful not to over-fill. If the cupcakes are too big, they are more difficult to remove from the pan when they are done baking. I stick to a 3/4 full rule. That is, if you fill up the cups to only 3/4 full, they fall out of the pan much easier after baking!
Place tin in oven and bake for 10 - 15 minutes. Test out if they are done by putting a toothpick or fork in one and if it comes out clean, they are done.
Once cooled (after 15 - 30 minutes), place a large pan over the cupcake tin and flip them over. Gently tap each cup of the tin until the cupcakes fall out onto the large pan. You may have to tap them firmly to get them to come out. Gently lift the cupcake tin and take a peek to see if they've fallen out.

 

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