Friday, February 25, 2011

Foody Friday: Eating Affordably

Money is bound to be tight for families dealing with a health crisis or chronic illness. So once hospital visiting hours are over for the day or you're coming home from yet another treatment appointment, you're caught in a trap: too exhausted to cook but too broke to eat out yet again.

Whether you like to cook, or view it as a nothing but a necessary chore, now is not the time to skimp on meals. Sure, your stomach is too tied up in knots to enjoy a meal, but neglecting nutrition is one of the worst things you can do when your energy is already sapped by health worries.

I'm a fan of Rachael Ray (yeah, I know... you either love her or you hate her). But even if you're not, you can find many of her famous 30-minute meals for free online. I also like 30 Day Gourmet for meals that freeze well. If you have some downtime to browse, check out the American Dietetic Association page with tips on eating right affordably.

Meanwhile, try this recipe that's one of my favorites from a long-ago issue of Family Fun magazine. What's great about chili is you can leave out anything you don't like and add what you love. This is the quickest chili recipe I've ever seen - it says to simmer for up to two hours, but I've served it after only 20 minutes on the stove. It's great right out of the pot, even better left over, and freezes beautifully.

Chili (from Family Fun Magazine, circa 19??)

2 15-oz. cans kidney beans
1 medium green pepper
2 medium onions
2 or 3 cloves garlic
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
1 ½ to 2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 ½ tsp. cumin
1 ½ Tbsp. Flour
3 cups chicken or beef broth
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. steak sauce
½ to 2 cups additional stock, tomato juice or water, if needed.

1.) Brown ground beef. Remove from pan.

2.) Pour 3 Tbsp. olive oil into skillet and add diced peppers and onions. Saute on medium heat for six minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 2 minutes more.

3.) Sprinkle chili powder, cumin and flour over the vegetables and sauté for one minute more, stirring nonstop. Stir in 1 cup broth and cook for one minute.

4.) Put browned meat in stock pot and add contents of skillet, along with crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire and steak sauce. Stir in remaining 2 cups of broth and beans.

5.) Gradually bring chili to low boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat slightly and cook chili, covered, at gentle simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When done, the chili should be thick, but still somewhat soupy. If it starts to get too thick, add some extra stock, tomato juice or water.

6.) Serve chili in soup bowls, garnished with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of cheese and jalapeno pepper, if desired. Makes 8 or more servings.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Generosity Day

While taking a break from scavenging for the dark chocolate caramels in the truffle box today, I came across a news item from Time Magazine about rebooting Valentine's Day as Generosity Day. I've always loved the idea of random acts of kindness and paying it forward, and this idea for celebrating today's holiday in a seemingly unexpected way reminds me of caregivers and their loved ones who are already so familiar with giving generously each and every day. Creator Sasha Dichter says " day of sharing love with everyone, of being generous to everyone, to see how it feels and to practice saying "Yes." Let's make the day about love, action and human connection..."

So however else you may be observing the modern day Feast of St. Valentine, take a moment to think of a simple way to mark Generosity Day as well.

And to you... the caregiver who strengthens human connection every day; the patient, whose love and perseverance inspires all who know you; the doctor or health professional who incorporates the emotional needs and family ties of patients into every consultation you give...

Happy Valentine's Day from

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Everybody Loves a Freebie

Everybody loves a freebie. And there are times in life when you really deserve a freebie. So today we're sharing a list of giveaways for patients undergoing treatment, and we’ll add more as we come across them.
Look Good Feel Better
Look Good Feel Better is perhaps the most familiar service donation program for patients - you’ll see it promoted periodically in fashion magazines. Since 1989, this program offers makeovers to women undergoing treatment for any type of cancer. The organization connects patients with volunteer aestheticians who teach them beauty techniques to help manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer. What we didn’t know is the group also offers an informational website for men undergoing treatment and runs a website plus hospital-based group programs in 18 cities for teens of both genders who must deal with the appearance, health and social side effects of cancer treatment.

Cleaning for a Reason
This foundation coordinates with professional residential maid services to offer general cleaning to cancer patients once a month for four months as a way of giving back to their community. Because they are a small operation, the Texas-based Cleaning for a Reason accepts a maximum of 50 applications each day, beginning at noon Central Time, Monday through Friday. Although the organization is represented in all 50 states and Canada, cleaning services are available in limited geographic areas. The group recommends clicking on their interactive map before applying to be sure there is a participating cleaning service in your area.

Stowe Hope
In the highly competitive travel and tourism business, this idea is genius: plan a wellness conference after ski season in Stowe, Vermont, and offer free hotel rooms to cancer patients. This year’s Stowe Hope event is April 29 to May 1, with registration opening March 1. Billed as retreat and outreach experience, it promises education, enlightenment and fun. The weekend is filled with doctor-led seminars, hands-on workshops and other opportunities addressing physical, emotional, spiritual and financial aspects of this broad disease. The area’s lodging association members donate hundreds of rooms each year to new attendees and their loved ones, according to the organization’s website.

Corporate Angel Network
Far fewer people may need a free plane ride to access medical treatment than say, need their kitchen floor mopped (see Cleaning for a Reason, above). But for those who do, this program could be the difference between medical progress and the status quo. The Corporate Angel Network offers empty seats on corporate jets to cancer patients and companions. Patients must be ambulatory and not in need of medical support while traveling. Eligibility is not based on financial need, and patients may travel as often as necessary. Patients must e-mail or call toll-free within three weeks of their appointment at a recognized cancer treatment center, and have back-up plans with a travel agent or airline, as Corporate Angel Network cannot guarantee a flight will be available to match your traveling requirements.

Free Communication Tools… Priceless
And of course there’s this: the Patient Loving Care Doctor’s Memo. We think you can’t put a value on having an effective conversation with your doctor, so offers a free downloadable guide that can be typed in, saved on your computer, printed out and used again and again. The PLC Doctor’s Memo download package will walk you through how to collect your thoughts, jot them down in a clear format and present them to the doctor in a way that will lead to meaningful conversation so you can both understand your condition and find solutions to problems you're encountering.

Do you deserve a freebie? You bet.