Easy Spicy Pumpkin Soup

It’s no secret that one of my life goals is to promote pumpkin as more than a seasonal fall food. Pumpkin is so undervalued in savory foods and baking! While I continue as pumpkin ambassador, here’s an easy pumpkin soup recipe to warm your cold anti-pumpkin soul. Modified from the Nutmeg Nanny recipe.

INGREDIENTS:spicy pumpkin soup

30 oz. (2 cans) pumpkin puree
1 onion, diced
2 TBS olive oil
1 can light coconut milk
1 can regular coconut milk
1 TBS red curry paste
2 TBS curry powder
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less according to desired spice level)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Add onion and olive oil to large pot. Saute until onions are soft and translucent.

2. Add everything else to a pot and heat on medium low until warm. (Do not boil)

3. Using immersion or regular blender, whip until desired consistency. Taste and adjust heat and salt.

For an extra prettiness factor, top with a swirl of coconut milk, a shake of red pepper and a few toasted pinenuts or pumpkin seeds.

Angry Chicken (Arrabbiata)

The word “arrabbiata” in Spanish means angry, and this sauce is meant to make your mouth burn. That was my goal at least, as I’ve been trying to kick a wicked sore throat for days and have a very unscientific theory that spicy foods will heal the hurt.

This sauce turned out GREAT, and earned happy sighs and compliments from my fiancé as well. It’s spicy but not overboard, easy but layered in flavor. I’m making this again with shrimp!

IngredientsSeasoning
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 6 boneless chicken thighs or 3 breasts
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/2 diced red onion
  • 1 (24 oz.) marinara sauce
  • 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped or 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or chili powder
  • 12 oz. pasta for serving
  • Goat cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Season the chicken thighs with a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides (5-7 minutes each side), then remove the chicken from the skillet.
  3. After the chicken is removed from the skillet, add the onion and minced garlic to the pan, loosening the browned bits. Sauté briefly until onion and garlic are soft.
  4. Add marinara sauce, tomatoes with juices, basil, crushed red pepper, and chicken broth to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  5. Return the chicken to the skillet with the sauce, and spoon some sauce over top of each piece. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer. Taste it and adjust the heat and salt. Simmer the chicken in the sauce for 30 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through to make sure both sides receive adequate heat and sauce.
  6. Serve the chicken and sauce over cooked pasta. Top with goat cheese.

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

P.S. Don’t serve this over brown rice pasta. They’re lying. It’s not the same as normal pasta and you will be disappointed.

Baked Pea and Spinach Risotto

Generally I’m not a fan of Real Simple recipes; they’re bland and dull. Simple taken too far = boring. However, with the addition of my trusty cooking sidekick, Lemon Pepper seasoning, this baked risotto comes together easily. Plus, there’s a fair amount of veggies you can add to risotto to keep nutrients high. And the best part? No standing at the stove sweating for an hour, hoping the broth incorporates!

Ingredientsbaked_spinach_risotto_300

4 TBS butter
2 shallots, chopped
salt and black pepper
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups Arborio rice
1 package frozen peas
8 ounces baby spinach, roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago, plus more for serving

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425° F. Heat the butter in a medium Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the broth and rice and bring to a rolling boil. Add 1/2 tsp lemon pepper. Stir briefly.
  3. Cover the pot and transfer to oven. Cook until the rice is tender and creamy, about 25 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven. Add the peas, spinach, Parmesan, 1/2 tsp lemon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the pot and stir to combine.
  5. Return to oven for 5 more minutes. Remove and stir. If the risotto is too thick, add up to ¼ cup hot water. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan before serving.

You can half ingredients, and adding protein is always an option. As is, it made 6-8 servings. Now we have leftovers for days!

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

I’m feeling miffed this morning at the lack of awareness for health equity. I first read this piece during ‘Sociology of the Family’ my freshman year at college, and it profoundly impacted my worldview. The full list of 50 ways white privilege is hidden is available online.


White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
by Peggy McIntosh

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness,
not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”

DAILY EFFECTS OF WHITE PRIVILEGE

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair. 
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs
of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.

Peggy McIntosh is associate director of the Wellesley Collage Center for Research on Women. This essay is excerpted from Working Paper 189. “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies” (1988), by Peggy McIntosh; available for $4.00 from the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley MA 02181. The working paper contains a longer list of privileges.

Miracle Work on 38th Street: Connecting a Family at Life’s End

In my work at Seton Healthcare Family, I had the privilege of interviewing this family about their experience in one of our hospitals. All they wanted was time for the father to say goodbye. They got a great deal more.  

“We expected to visit the hospital, get him stabilized and then take him back home. Suddenly, everything changed.”


Eduardo’s sister, Cecilia, holds a photo of him at school.

On a humid Sunday morning, a young man with Down syndrome entered the emergency room at Seton Medical Center Austin (SMCA), part of the Seton Healthcare Family, Austin, Texas. Accompanied by his mother and sister, he struggled to breathe. Thirty-two-year-old Eduardo Martinez had recently been diagnosed with kidney disease and was told he had six months to a year left. Within the hour, the prognosis changed dramatically. Eduardo was given less than two days to live.

“We were floored when the doctor told us the news,” said Cecilia Martinez, Eduardo’s sister. “We expected to visit the hospital, get him stabilized and then take him back home. Suddenly, everything changed. I started calling family to come to the hospital.”

Though Eduardo’s mother is local, his father lives in Mexico and had not seen Eduardo in 16 years. The family asked Seton to help the father cross the border and say goodbye.

Enter Dr. Truly Hall and Eileen West. Dr. Hall is the director of the Seton Adult Inpatient Medical Services (SAIMS) program at SMCA, which is on 38th Street in Austin. She is board certified in internal medicine, with seven years at Seton under her belt. Eileen West is a medical social worker at SMCA, spending every other Monday through Friday in the 4-North unit. On the weekends her role expands to “the whole house,” meaning she covers all cases that are not in the Emergency Department or labor and delivery.

Around 2 p.m. that Sunday, West received a call from Dr. Hall about a family standing vigil in the ICU for their terminally ill son. The request for border crossing assistance was not a surprise. “Maybe once a year we have a case like this, and I’ve written to the Mexican Embassy for an emergency visa,” said Dr. Hall. “But never on a Sunday.”

Given the political upheaval at the Texas/Mexico border, West was concerned. “I said I’d get right on it, but then realized the Mexican Embassy was closed,” she said. West spoke with Cecelia and decided to contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, since the family knew which one of the 26 crossing stations the father was going to enter.

How did she know where to start? “I just Googled it,” she said nonchalantly. “I got a phone number, then was transferred and passed around a bit, but I ended up on the phone with a humanitarian care unit.”

To cross the border on such short notice, Eduardo’s father required detailed paperwork. Dr. Hall and West compiled six pages of materials outlining the situation. West provided Border Patrol agents with her personal cell phone, work phone and home phone. Then she hit a snag.

“The Border Patrol told me that I needed to give the paperwork to the family, and that the family should deliver the documents to the father at the border,” said West. “But I told them,  ‘No. This young man is dying and the family is not leaving his side.’” Several faxes later, the paperwork was approved.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services allows foreign residents to apply for humanitarian parole for emergency situations. Handled on a case-by-case basis, approval generally takes between 60 and 120 days. With West’s tenacious prodding, it took mere hours. West attributes her success to “A bit of luck – and someone must have taken pity on us!”

Meanwhile, Eduardo continued receiving comfort care. “Every single doctor, nurse, all the people we met – they are great people,” recalled Cecelia. “We moved Eduardo to the third floor, and the nurses brought us pillows, blankets and a folding bed. Someone from the ICU made sure that we got a bigger room so we could all be near Eduardo. Even though it was a tough situation, the doctors and nurses never treated us or Eduardo dismissively. They knew it was hard.”

A fitful night passed as the family waited. At 9 a.m. the next day, Eduardo’s face split into a grin when his father walked into the room. As Cecilia described it, “I kept saying, ‘Wow.’ We didn’t expect him to cross the border at all, especially on a Sunday. I am so impressed by Eileen. She was an angel for us.”

Cecilia isn’t the only one impressed by West’s actions. “A lot of social workers — especially on a Sunday — they wouldn’t even have tried to help the family, and no one would have batted an eye, considering she was also covering the whole house,” said Dr. Hall. “The chaotic border situation didn’t deter her; Eileen took care of everything. I don’t know how she did it!”

Garry Olney, vice president and chief operating officer at SMCA concurred, adding, “This is amazing! It is what Humancare is all about. Eileen did a great job.”

Lifted spirits were short-lived, however. Over the next few days, Eduardo’s condition deteriorated. In his final hours a nurse noticed the family focused on the plummeting numbers and screeching beeps of the monitors surrounding him. She disconnected the monitors and encouraged the family to focus on Eduardo, adding, “He is more important than any numbers.”

Thanks to West’s thorough initial work, Eduardo’s father was able to stay in town long enough to attend the burial. When asked why she went to such great lengths for this family, Eileen’s answer was simple: “The most important thing I could do for the family was to get the father here.”

She downplayed the significance of her actions, adding, “Every social worker does this; it’s not out of the ordinary in our department. In fact, this is what many social workers accomplish before their first cup of coffee or morning rounds!” Caffeinated or not, West exemplifies Humancare, going above and beyond her required duties to impact lives.

Cecilia has a message for the staff at SMCA: “We are very thankful for Seton. From the ER to the final day in the hospital, everybody treated us like family. A lot of people discriminate against people with disabilities, but Seton showed great love and care for my brother. There are several hospitals we could have gone to and we ended up at the right one. We received so much support. I don’t have the words to describe the experience. Please tell all the Seton staff thank you.”

About Humancare

Humancare challenges the status quo of healthcare. By adding humanity back into a system that seems to have lost its human touch, we’re moving closer to being able to provide person-centered care. This recommitment to the people we serve modernizes our mission to care for and improve the health everyone in Central Texas, and beyond. Humancare is how we bring our mission to life, everyday. On this page you’ll find resources to help you understand, experience and share Humancare. setonhumancare.org

The Best Store-bought Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

As a kid, my mom made THE BEST chocolate chip cookies. With pecans, oatmeal and semi-sweet chocolate chips, they were tall and sweet with crunch and substance. No mansy-pansy, half-baked sagging middles for us!

These days I don’t have reason – or need – to bake two dozen cookies. But every once in a while, a warm cookie is all I can think about.

Enter a new front runner in the cookie baking battles: Immaculate Chocolate Chunk Cookies. I don’t know if they’re actually new to the market but they’re new to me. 

Described as, “A true classic, our Chocolate Chunk cookie dough is chock full of chocolate chunks and maple-y brown sugar.”

These babies are luscious. No no oatmeal or pecans, but the trade-off in consistency gains simplicity – they’re soft and ooey-gooey, baking in 10 minutes. All hail the cookie!

Pickled Peaches

I bought 12 peaches. One molded and attracted a hoard of fruit flies that made me nearly gag. I didn’t want to throw them all away (expensive!), so I stuck them in the freezer to bide my time and kill any remaining flies. That was 5 weeks ago. Here’s my plan: pickled peaches from Saveur. Any tips for a first time pickler?

INGREDIENTS

3½ cups sugar
1½ cups white vinegar
14–16 ripe medium peaches, peeled
8 whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
1″ piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Bring a canning pot of water to a boil. Submerge 2 one-quart canning jars and their lids and ring bands in boiling water; sterilize equipment for 10 minutes. Remove from boiling water with tongs, draining jars, and transfer to a clean dish towel.

2. Combine sugar, vinegar, and 1½ cups water in a heavy medium-size pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Working in batches slide peaches into the pickling liquid and cook, turning once or twice, until peaches soften but before they turn fuzzy, 4–5 minutes per batch. Transfer peaches to a bowl as done.

3. Divide cloves, cinnamon, and ginger between the 2 jars. Cut any peaches with brown spots into halves or quarters, discarding pits, and trim away the brown spots. Spoon peaches into the jars, filling the gaps with the halves and quarters and packing the jars as tightly as possible.

4. Return pickling liquid to a boil, then pour boiling liquid into each jar, covering peaches and filling jar to 1/4″ from the rims. Let liquid settle in jars, then add more boiling liquid as necessary. Discard any remaining liquid. Wipe jar rims with a clean dish towel, place lids on jars, and screw on ring bands.

5. Transfer filled jars to a canning rack, submerge in a canning pot of gently boiling water (jars should be covered by at least 1″ of water), and process for 10 minutes. Carefully lift jars from water with jar tongs and place on a dish towel at least 1″ apart to let cool undisturbed for 24 hours. To test that jars have properly sealed, press on center of each lid. Remove your finger; if lid stays down, it’s sealed. Refrigerate any jars of pickled peaches that aren’t sealed; use within 4 weeks.

MAKES 2 QUARTS

No Cook Main Meal: Chicken Caprese Salad

It’s summer. They tell me we’ll hit 100 here in Austin for the next 3 months. For the sake of our electric bill and my sanity, I’m hunting for low-to-no cook dinners. I found this lil’ beauty on The Skinny Chick Can Bake, and made a few changes.

You’ll spend time on the prep side with chopping and dicing, so pour a glass of wine and carry on.

Ingredients:1823189

  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped (or halved grape/ cherry tomatoes )
  • 12 – 16 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • I.5 cups diced celery – this sounds odd but it’s necessary for the crunch and color
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 cup sliced basil (or combo of dried, paste and nearly-dead leaves from your patio plant)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup+ balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste (like guacamole, don’t under-salt)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced, cooked chicken (optional)

Instructions:

1. Chop tomatoes, mozzarella, celery, cucumber and basil. Combine them one bowl. If adding chicken, put it in too.

2. In a smaller bowl, combine garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil. Whisk together and pour over vegetables and chicken. Toss gently.

3. Eat! We ate it straight up with forks, but pita pockets or naan would also work well. I might add avocado or chilled pasta next time. Taste and see what you think. A pinch of sugar?