If you’ve been coming here to Never Enough Thyme for a while, you probably know that I rarely get personal in this space. I mean, really, it’s a cooking blog. Who wants to read about what I did last weekend or what I think about the latest news from Washington? Seriously.
But today I’m asking you to indulge me while I get personal for a few minutes. Personal about cancer. The beast, the monster that is the disease called cancer. There are few of us whose lives have not been touched in some way by cancer. Maybe it was a close friend, maybe it was a parent, maybe yourself.
I’ve known friends and acquaintances who have struggled with different types of cancer. Some fought the Beast and survived. Others did not. My most personally devastating encounter with cancer was with my Daddy. (And, yes, southern girls still call their fathers “Daddy” no matter how old we get. Just wanted to get that cleared up.) Daddy lost his long battle with lung cancer in January 2001. I’d like to tell you about him, how hard he fought, but now even after nearly 10 years I find that the words just won’t come. Just thinking about it I have to fight back the tears. Maybe one day soon I’ll be able to tell his story. Today’s not the day.
I find it much easier to tell my own cancer story. It all started with a tiny little mole on my upper left arm. One day, out of the blue, that mole just started itching. I didn’t pay much attention for a while until one morning when I scratched it in the shower and it began to bleed. I thought that was strange, but still didn’t think much about it. Not much, anyway, until it just wouldn’t heal.
After a few days of that mole not getting better, the warning bells started going off in my head and I called my doctor’s office just to “get it looked at.” I knew the warning signs, but still wasn’t all that concerned. Apparently, neither was my doctor. He took a quick look and said he thought it was nothing, but he’d do a little biopsy if it would make me feel better.
A couple of days later one of the nurses called me at work and asked me if I could come into the office. That’s never a good sign – when they ask you to come into the office after they’ve done a biopsy. I told her I knew what that meant and asked her what the biopsy showed. She, of course, said the doctor would explain everything. And, she said, “You might want to ask your husband to meet you here.”
Can you imagine the level of panic I felt by the time I got to the doctor’s office? Bill (better known to all of you as BeeBop) met me and they quickly took us back to an exam room. When the doctor walked through the door with the results in his hand he was white as a sheet. What he and I both thought was a silly little mole was melanoma. An aggressive, dangerous melanoma.
I’m getting really long winded here, so I’ll try to get to the point. The doctor sent me immediately across the street to the surgeon’s office and by the time I left there I was scheduled for surgery in two days. What was a tiny mole about half the size of a pencil eraser required the removal of tissue leaving a scar about 6 inches long. But the end of this story is positive!! That frightening episode was in 1999 and now more than ten years later I’ve never had another occurrence. Praise God.
Now, I’ve talked your ears off and told that long, drawn out story so that you’ll know why when I saw that Chris from Mele Cotte was holding the 4th Annual Cooking to Combat Cancer event, I had to participate. There’s loads of research that shows a correlation between the foods we eat and our tendency to contract cancer. And, I freely admit that I could eat better more often. Honestly, I do make an effort to cut out the bad fats and add things that I know are good for us – fresh fruits, fresh veggies, healthier oils. So, for Chris’ Cooking to Combat Cancer, I whipped up these lovely Chicken Quesadillas that I found on the Mayo Clinic‘s healthy foods web site. Also, made up my own little Avocado Salad which contains several cancer-fighting foods to go alongside. I highly recommend both recipes.
For the quesadillas:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each 4 oz.
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup chopped, seeded fresh tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 flour tortillas, 8” in diameter
1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
For the salad:
1 ripe Haas avocado
1 tomato, chopped and seeded
2 tblsp. thinly sliced red onion
2 tsp. olive oil (garlic infused oil is nice)
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Prepare the avocado salad. Dice the avocado into bite-sized pieces.
Add to a medium bowl with the chopped, seeded tomato and sliced red onion. Add the lemon juice and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside while preparing the quesadillas.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Cut each chicken breast into bite-sized cubes.
In a large, nonstick frying pan, add the chicken and onions and sauté until the onions are tender and the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the salsa, tomatoes and cilantro.
To assemble: lay a tortilla flat and spread about 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture onto the tortilla, leaving about 1/2 inch free around the outer rim. Sprinkle with a spoonful of shredded cheese. Fold tortilla in half. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Lightly coat the top of the tortillas with cooking spray.
Bake until quesadillas are lightly browned and crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Place the quesadillas under the broiler during the last minute or so of cooking for a more crisp finish. Cut in half and serve immediately.
I served the quesadillas with the Avocado Salad along with my bright, fresh Pico de Gallo and a dollop or two of low-fat sour cream.
–Quesadilla recipe from Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com)
–Avocado Salad recipe from Never Enough Thyme