Dana Treat – Treat Yourself

A Great Cause

Posted August 23, 2010

This is an amazing and super simple appetizer.  The recipe is at the end of this post.  Please allow me to tell you why I made them.  But first a question.  What would it take to get you to shave your head?

I can imagine that for most of her life, my friend Kelly would have said nothing could get her to shave her head.  She is a woman with a beautiful head of hair.  It is her most striking feature and she has always had it cut to perfection.  Kelly is not a high-maintenance woman but her haircut is always beautiful.  She has that enviable hair that is straight but with enough texture to give it lots of body.  In spite of this, Kelly is going to shave off her beloved hair.  And she is doing it in celebration.

Kelly has a son named Jackson and he is about six months older than my oldest son Graham.  Five years ago, Kelly found blood in Jackson’s diaper.  He was about 16 months old at the time.  Visits to doctors’ offices and the hospital and tests revealed the unthinkable.  Jackson had an aggressive tumor on his kidney.  Immediately the ball started rolling – surgery to remove the kidney, chemo, radiation.  His doctors were very frank with Kelly and her husband Gregg.  This was a very nasty cancer and his road was going to be difficult.  His outlook was pretty grim.  Kelly remembers the pediatric oncologist saying that he would not be considered cured until he was 5 years past his diagnosis.  At the time, with Jackson incredibly ill, five years must have sounded like beyond forever.

Jackson’s treatment was very rough.  He spent 69 nights in the hospital in six months.  I remember Kelly calling me and talking about how difficult it was to get him to nap in a room with IVs in his arms and another very sick child sharing the same room.  At the time I was struggling with my own napper and felt incredibly guilty for having such an easy problem.

Once Jackson was stable, the family came over to our house for dinner.  Jackson was pale, bald, and had a feeding tube.  He had difficulty walking and not in the sweet way that a toddler should.  It was absolutely heartbreaking and I sobbed as soon as they left.  I had complete admiration for his parents.  They were incredibly involved, on top of the doctors, and getting support from their community.

Somewhere along the way in that very difficult first year, Kelly heard about an organization called St. Baldrick’s, a non-profit devoted to pediatric cancer.  It started out as a couple of friends shaving their heads to support children bald from chemo, and has blossomed into the world’s largest volunteer-driven fundraising event for childhood cancer research.  The only organization that funds more research is the U.S. government.  All this money is raised by people who are willing to lose their hair in solidarity with a child stricken by cancer.

Every year Gregg has shaved his head in Jackon’s name for St. Baldrick’s.  Like other volunteers, he asks for sponsors, raises as much money as possible, and then goes under the clippers.  Gregg is, ahem, follicly challenged so he does it to support the cause, but for him it is essentially a free haircut.  Kelly is another story.  She and her team of 45 other moms are going to shave their beautiful heads to create awareness for the good work St. Baldrick’s is doing and for pediatcric cancer in general.  This is a big deal for a beautiful woman.  It is an even bigger deal because she is doing to celebrate five years of Jackson being cancer-free.  He has officially graduated from the Children’s Hospital program and no longer needs to go back for scans or tests.  His story is an incredible one of beating the odds.

Kelly and Gregg had a special party on Saturday night to celebrate and to offer thanks to friends and family who have supported them throughout this time.  Also in attendance was one of Jackson’s pediatric oncologists, who is also benefitting from St. Baldrick’s.  He is getting grant funding through St. Baldrick’s to fund research that he is doing at the Fred Hutchinson cancer reserach center in Seattle.

When this party was first in its planning stages, Kelly asked if I could help with the food.  Of course I said yes.  I made lots of different easy-to-pick-up appetizers including these stuffed peppadew peppers.  Gregg tasted them at our summer party and they were first on his list of requests.  This is such an easy recipe but it packs a powerful punch.  Each bite is a perfect combination of heat, savory, creamy and sweet.

Sometimes when I read posts about people who are doing great work in our world, especially work involving children, I immediately want to help.  If you feel this way, I invite you to visit Kelly’s fundraising page.  She has a personal goal of raising $15,000.  To date she has raised $10,270.  And one more thing about this amazing woman.  She plans to not wear a hat or a scarf during her bald phase and also plans to wear a button that says, “Ask me why I am bald”.  I love her.

D’Lish Peppadew Peppers
Sipps and Apps
Makes 45 to 50

Each time I make this recipe, I make the cheese mixture and fill the pastry bag ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator.  Then, before serving, I allow the cheese to come back to room temperature before piping.

1 14-ounce jar Peppadew piquanté peppers
3 ounces fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
45 to 50 whole Marcona fried almonds

Drain the peppers thoroughly.  Meanwhile, in a food processor or mixing bowl, combine the cheeses and mix until smooth.  Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip, fill with the cheese mixture, and pipe into the peppers.  Insert an almond into each pepper.

(If you can’t find jars of these peppers, check in the bulk olives section of a high-end grocery store or fresh-pack Peppadew peppers.  For this recipe, you should purchase about a pound.)

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