Friday, November 19, 2010

Rachel's Vegan Taco/Chili

I was working on trying a raw veggie/fruit week and the cold weather got to me. I'm pretty sure  I was born in the wrong state. And somehow I have yet to leave this frozen tundra. 
So I made tacos because what else warms up a cold body better? Okay, I could think of a few other things, but I am not spending my whole day at the gym (as much as I would like to). A spicy taco made life a little bit warmer for a few minutes. 

Note: this could also be put in the slow cooker in the morning and you can come home to a chili in the evening.

Veggie Taco (or Chili)

1 chopped zucchini

1 chopped yellow squash

(Chopped carrots optional – cook longer if adding carrots)

3/4 to 1 cup of fresh salsa

¼ a cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 can of rinsed and drained red kidney beans

1 can of rinsed and drained black beans

½ packet of Trader Joes taco seasoning or equivalent seasoning packet

¼ - 1 cup of water or vegetable broth – use your judgment if your making chili or taco's

Throw everything in a pot, stir occasionally over medium heat.

NOTE: Eyeball the water (or broth) to make sure you have enough so nothing burns.

Cook on stove top for approximately 15 minutes or until it seems done to you.

I add Agar-Agar to thicken it towards the end.

Oh – almost forgot

This is the vegan 'cheese'. It is soy and casein free.


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

When Love and Determination Wins

This morning I was listening to an iTunes U podcast about Democracy. The Yale Professor was discussing Rousseau's social contract and it had me thinking about all of the crazy messages we all get blasted with at election time, especially all the talk about the constitution lately. And, I did think about writing a personal analysis of history.

Then my afternoon happened. Shortly after lunch my ex-husband and I had a meeting at the school to go over our son's I.E.P with his teacher and resource room teacher. His IEP (Individualized Education Plan) was put in place upon his return from cancer treatment. It is a plan that has acted as a vehicle to help him with the cognitive problems and deficits resulting from his brain surgery and treatment. Kevin missed all of 2nd grade and the beginning of 3rd grade.

I am not sure if I can even adequately describe the experience I want to share here.

The backstory before Kevin's diagnosis:

Kevin's dad and I started the divorce process when Kevin was 6 months old. We both have had to make compromises to give Kevin the best that we can. We have had to learn to work past hurt feelings and learn to work together in our own ways. It isn't always pretty but we have figured it out. When I married Kevin's stepfather, Mike, he was happy and eager to accept responsibility for sharing in the effort to raise Kevin. We all have our quirks, we all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses.

So fast-forward to the time shortly after Kevin's diagnosis and brain surgery. I was an emotional wreck, as probably most mom's would be finding out that their child has cancer and requires some pretty scary treatment. I was busy negotiating and learning the hospital system as quickly as possible while trying to still care for an infant and trying to spend each moment I could by Kevin's bedside. Kevin's dad still had work to balance and he did the graveyard shift majority of nights while Kevin was at the Children's Hospital. Kevin's step-dad and I shared daytime duties some overnights when Eric needed a break, typically overlapping. As we fell into our groove, as the shock wore off, one afternoon I watched Kevin's step-dad reading to him and saw how it calmed him down. His aunts read to him when they came to sit by his bedside, his grandmothers, his grandfathers. Kevin starting going through book after book, probably enjoying the familiar voices carry his thoughts far away from a strange nightmare of a situation into whatever make believe world resided in those books.

Kevin doesn't remember much from the 9 months of treatment and he doesn't remember much from the months shortly after that. Even though we tried to continue his education the best we could – with weekly visits from a private teacher – I don't really think much stuck. But Kevin hasn't been a wimp either. He has worked hard to overcome and catch up. His dad and I have spent hours working with him, we've hired tutors. The same that we are doing still with the motor coordination we are still working on with him.

At Kevin's I.E.P. today Kevin's teacher pointed out something I had never grasped in my somewhat frantic effort to try to make sure Kevin still had a future – now in 5th grade Kevin is doing grade level work - amazing! The only thing he requires is a trip to the resource room to take some tests, at his discretion. He is allowed extra time for his tests, but from the report today he isn't requiring the extra time as much. The teacher pointed out Kevin basically skipped all of 2nd grade and apart of 3rd and caught up by 5th grade. That took my breath away….. because he has.

In my score sheet for Kevin, love and Kevin's determination gets a million points and cancer gets 1. Take that cancer!

In my Danish-heritage induced tendency toward optimism, I have to think that if a bunch of adults (ex-husbands, ex-in-laws, new in-laws, family, friends, teachers, strangers, etc.), some of who according to society norms are supposed to dislike each other, are able to shun "normal" and work amazingly well together (I think my ex-husbands dad is one of the best peacemakers I know) to take care of one sick child – I ask what could our country do if we only lived up to our capability to look out for one another?  

I also can't help but mention, if we can all put our differences aside to help one child overcome a terrible disease, I know its on a much larger scale, but why can't our country do a better job of coming together for the good of those still unemployed? How about for those facing cancer without health insurance? For those who lose their health insurance in the midst of a health crisis?

I see such contradictions in some groups where they are the first to volunteer and help; sometimes those groups are the first to vote down legislation that would allow everyone access to health care and help make our country much more economically competitive with majority of developed countries.
I may see the world differently than most; I have seen kids suffer terribly, I've watched parents lose their children in very painful deaths that can take months, I almost lost mine this way. I also have seen the amazing power of  community spirit.  In honor of what those children have to go through, it is with their fighting spirit in mind,  I hope to leave this world a little better and bring a different perspective to the conversation.