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February 2013

January 2013

Sweet Potatoes Mexicano

Stuffed sweet potato mexicano 2 sm
So easy, and it has that tasty combination of sweet potato, salty cheese, and bitter greens. Yum. 

6 sweet potatoes
2 cups cooked black beans (or one can)
1/4 cup (or so) of frozen or canned corn
1 bunch of greens - collads, turnips, mustard, kale, cabbage, or chard
Cheddar cheese (optional)
Taco condiments - salsa, sour cream, hot sauce, etc.

Wash sweet potatoes, removing any deep blemishes. Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 30-60 minutes, depending on size. Test with a fork for tenderness after 30 minutes. Remove from oven. 

While sweet potatoes are baking, cook greens like this, or - if you are using chard - like this. Then heat up the black beans and corn in a pot together.  

Leave oven on after removing sweet potatoes. While they are still on the baking sheet, carefully slice the potato open. Push opposite ends together to "mash" potato, or use a fork to fluff up the insides a bit. Push some of the greens into the potato, making a nest for the black beans and corn. Add the beans and corn, and cover with grated cheese (optional). Return to oven to melt cheese. Add salsa and other taco fillings if you would like. 

Leftover oatmeal muffins

Leftover oatmeal muffins
We have started serving breakfast four morning a week at the Green House Catholic Worker! Even though it means firing up the kitchen a little early to get things ready by 7am, we are really enjoying it. And so are the folks who come and eat. The hours between daylight and 9am are a tricky time for homeless folks who often have to leave the shelter or are roused from their sleeping spot early and don't have a place to be until things begin to open at 9.  It's especially hard when it's cold or rainy. We serve a very simple meal - oatmeal or toast mainly with boiled eggs and fruit - but try to make the place wam and inviting, with quiet music, the newspaper, and a fire in the fireplace on cold days. 

We served oatmeal last week, and overshot the mark a little on the quantity. There are a number of recipes online, and I combined the ones that seemed the most healthy and used the least expensive ingredients. What a delicious way to transform glops of cold oatmeal!


1 1/2 cups flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 eggs lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 cup leftover cooked oatmeal (salted)
1/2 cup raisins, dried currants, blueberries, or other berries)
1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and baking powder (and 1/4 tsp. of salt if oatmeal was not salted when cooked). Make a well in the center and add eggs, slightly cooled melted butter, leftover oatmeal and vanilla. Whish liquid ingredients together, then stir gently in to dry ingredients. Add raisins or berries. Line muffin tin with paper muffin cups and fill 1/2 full with batter. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. 

We all need ramps


It’s not often that I hear something new. It must be my age. But a presentation I attended earlier this week, part of the "Friends Across the Ages" speaker series, had such a different spin on it that it really opened my mind. It was on dementia, which is not a favorite subject of mine. It hits too close to home; my father has it as did both of my grandmothers, and I am, honestly, terrified of it. I dragged myself to this meeting because the title held a little promise: “Strengthening Relationships with Those in Your Life Who are Dealing with Memory Loss.” I went out of daughterly duty to my dad, hoping for something to help my family. I came out with a new perspective, and a good deal of hope.

Carolyn Lukert, from the Center for Dementia Education, opened by asking what our reaction might be if a friend or family-member called to tell us they had just been diagnosed with dementia. The responses were variations on a theme: sadness, grief, fear, confusion… She went on to say that many people feel the way I do – that they would rather die than get the diagnosis.  My father said the same thing once. A diagnosis of dementia, for many of us, is not only a death sentence, but a tragedy – a dehumanizing tragedy where the victim will live the rest of his or her life embarrassing others and humiliating him/herself. How else to respond but with sorrow?

Well. Lukert framed it as a diagnosis similar to what cancer was fifty years ago. You got the diagnosis and disappeared, prepared to suffer. It seems unbelievable now, but my own grandmother and grandfather were so embarrassed by her breast cancer symptoms that they wouldn’t speak of it. Now we have pink ribbons and speeches and marathons and all kinds of support. We walk with people with cancer and laud them as “survivors,” however long that survival lasts. We have learned to accompany people with cancer, to appreciate their struggle and to help them continue to live their lives with human dignity and grace.

Is it possible that a change in attitude could transform a dementia diagnosis as well?  It is according to Lukert.  Yes, people with dementia may say and do embarrassing things, and god forbid we should feel awkward, but what if we granted them the same abundant patience and humor we do with young family members? What if we concentrated on spending meaningful time with our loved ones with dementia instead of shunning them because “they don’t know whether we’re there or not.” What if we learned to help them enjoy their lives, making accommodations when they become confused or agitated? How can we educate them, as well as ourselves, to better handle their loss of mental capacity – much like we educate people with cancer to handle their losses? Lukert gives a number of practical suggestions from how to touch them and talk with them to how to accompany them in doing the things that have always given them pleasure – from shopping to going to baseball games. She suggests that by offering to help a dementia patient count change at the grocery store, order at a restaurant, or re-meet an old friend we are doing something similar to what we do to help folks in wheelchairs enjoy life to the fullest. We build ramps.

These are ramps of understanding and good humor and love for people regardless of their mental capacity. She brought up some examples from her own experience of visiting residents in a nursing home where the right kind of touch, tone of voice, and attention could reach a person in the most advanced stages of dementia. It’s our responsibility to learn how to accompany people through this disease, to endure the awkwardness, to help them to enjoy their life as much as possible for as long as possible – out of love and out of respect for their continued humanity.  We all need ramps at times, and often it is these very people who made them for us when we were young or lost or needing help and guidance in our own changing lives. There is so much real life to be lived and shared during difficult times of change; it's a shame to miss out on the good in it out of fear of the awkward. 

At the end of the presentation, Lukert asked us if our minds had changed at all or if we might have a different reaction when that phone rings someday. She suggests this:  “I will be with you, whatever comes. We are in this together.” 

                                       {photo: my sweet father shortly after his diagnosis}

Winter citrus and ginger tea

Fridge drawer 1.5
Opening the fridge drawer today reminded me of how lucky we are to live in Florida in the winter. It's citrus season right at the perfect time. Every other person I know has a cold right now and, even if there is no actual proof that Vitamin C cures them, the bright colos and zingy taste makes me feel better.  

Meyers lemons, by the way, are our local variety. They're bigger than store-bought and a little less mouth-puckering. They are super-juicy compared to the smaller ones, and you can freeze the juice for summer lemonade and iced tea; they also make incredible lemon bars and lemon meringue pie. Calamondins are tiny citrus that remain sour as they ripen. We've sweetened them up into marmalade and pie, but they can substitute for lemons in lemonade and tea as well. 

On a chilly day like today, a cup of ginger tea is warming and healthy whether you have a cold or are just plain cold. Meyers lemons and/or calamondins add the tang, ginger spices it up, and honey just feels good going down. We bought the ginger at the co-op, but the lemon and honey we got from local farmers. Thank you Hendersons and Chacko-Allens! 

Ginger Tea

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Honey to taste

Place all ingedients in a small pot, add one cup water and bring to a boil. Steep for about five minutes. Poor through strainer into cup.  If you make more, you can store it in the fridge; it's good cold, too.