Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Baking for a cause

Sometimes we feel helpless when faced with something we have no control over or cannot change. We want to do something. Something that will make us feel as if we've made a difference. And sometimes the situation just requires us to sit back and deal. You know, accept the things we cannot change and all that mumbo jumbo. I don't do the "deal" part very well. I want to help. My biggest challenge is finding out how.

Recently, I have learned a lot about pediatric cancer. I discovered that only about 30% of children diagnosed with cancer survive. 30%. That's not even half. The reason for such terrible odds is directly related to how little money is being spent on research by both the government and the pharmaceutical industry. Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 18. In fact, it kills more children than asthma, AIDS, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis combined.

Research can make a drastic difference in cancer survival rates. Take breast cancer for example. Due in part to all the research being done and all the organziations that help fund the research, the breast cancer survival rate now averages 90%. I'm not that good at math, but I know 90% is a lot better than 30%.

One day while glancing through a magazine, I came across an ad for Cookies for Kids' Cancer. The ad caught my eye so I jumped on the computer to check it out. Cookiesforkidscancer raises money for pediatric cancer research through local bake sales. I thought to myself, "Seriously? I love to bake. I can do this. I will do this." I mentioned this idea to someone who did not share my enthusiasm. "Why don't you just ask for teddy bear donations and deliver them to the pediatric cancer patients at the hospital?" While a noble thought, it wasn't quite what I was looking for. Teddy bears are nice, but they don't save lives.

So, in a few weeks, we're "doing this." One of my very dear friends is taking on this challenge with me and we are organizing a bake sale. The outpouring of friends willing to help has been overwhelming. So far, we have 20 bakers and counting. We've set a big goal for ourselves, but I accept the fact that whatever we are able to raise will be wonderful. It might be a drop in the bucket, but it's a start. It's something.

In addition to raising money, I hope we are also building awareness. Please visit this site and learn more about how you can throw a bake sale in your area and help fund pediatric cancer research. Or simply make a donation. After all, as the mother/founder of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer says, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the world to fight pediatric cancer.”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Do the mash

I love mashed potatoes. To me, they define comfort food (with homemade mac and cheese coming in a close second). This is a shared love in our house, but I have received some hints lately that we've entered the mashed potato doldrums. So, I have been trying to find new ways to enjoy what our house affectionately calls "mashers." I have found some pretty good alternatives to the basic mashed potato, and people seemed to be pleased.

Our favorite so far is white bean mashers. They have been a big hit with both the big and little man around here. And the best part is, they are super easy to make. Here's what you'll need:

3 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed (I use great northern beans)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 tsp. lemon zest

1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the EVOO, garlic and lemon zest in a sauce pan on med-low heat until it becomes fragrant and warm. Don't let the garlic brown. Add the beans, and with the back of a wooden spoon, smash the beans against the side of pan until they become mashed. Heat through, then add salt and pepper to taste.

If beans aren't your thing, try adding some steamed cauliflower or butternut squash to potatoes just before mashing. When blended with the potatoes, they boost the flavor and nutrition. Or try harvest mashers: a half-n-half blend of russet potatoes and sweet potatoes, mashed together with sour cream and a dash of horseradish. Yum.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Prophetic Lyrics

"Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies..."

Do you know the story behind the Beatles song, Lucy in the sky with diamonds? It's a rather sweet story, and has nothing to do with John Lennon wanting to spell out the initials LSD in code. In 1966, Lucy O'Donnell Vodden made a friend in preschool. That friend was Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son. 4 year old Julian came home from school one day with a drawing he had made of a girl with diamond-shaped eyes. He showed it to his dad, and when asked about it, Julian said it was "Lucy in the sky with diamonds."

"Cellophane flowers of yellow and green, towering over your head."

The song is widely regarded as a psychedelic masterpiece, replete with haunting images of "newspaper taxis" and a "girl with kaleidoscope eyes." But listen to the lyrics now, with this story in mind, and you can see the world through the eyes of child.

"Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain, where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies."

Last week, Lucy died after a long battle with lupus. She was 46. Julian and Lucy lost touch after he left the school following his parents' divorce, but they were reunited in recent years when Julian tried to help Lucy cope with her disease. He sent her flowers, and upon learning of her love of gardening, sent gift cards for use at a gardening center near her home in southeast England. He also sent her frequent text messages in an effort to bolster her spirits. Julian said he wanted to do something to put a smile on her face. I'm not sure if he accomplished that, but I admire him for taking the time to try. Sometimes it's the little things. Just like the little picture that Julian brought home from school one day.

"Newspaper taxis appear on the shore, waiting to take you away. Climb in the back with your head in the clouds and your gone..."