A few thoughts on the ice bucket challenge…

Over the course of the past few weeks, as the Ice Bucket Challenge has spread across the country and throughout the world, I’ve had several folks ask my thoughts on it.  I was challenged by a friend across the country and while I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about different aspects of the challenge and reading people’s criticisms of the challenge, I have to admit that I’m mostly a little jealous I didn’t think of it myself.

As someone with a family member with a yet-to-be-cured rare genetic disorder, raising awareness is always a challenge.  When I share that my sister has Rett syndrome and someone vaguely says, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that,” I’m always skeptical.  Because chances are, if you don’t know someone who has it, you haven’t heard of it.  I know that 90% of the individuals who participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge are doing it because it’s a fad.  I have also read the stats on how this might hurt how people donate to other organizations.  I know this isn’t the case for me, and am equally convinced that some participants are those who might be donating to a cause for the first time.  Tempering the amount of water or source of water so as to not hurt the issues around water and drought are also important.

Regardless of who takes the next step and looks into ALS a little bit more and learns about how it impacts people’s lives, I generally believe that raising the awareness of even one person makes raising awareness worth it.  I applaud folks who are raising awareness about any issue about which they are passionate.  And I hope folks are participating in fundraisers in all kinds of ways.

Today is also the day on campus when we are doing service with our first year students.  Several years ago I attended a student leader training where students were lamenting not being able to financially support the organizations about which they felt passionate.  We spent a lot of time talking about the ways that one can give back – with time, money, and other resources.  As some folks say, sharing time, talents, and treasures.  Our campus encourages people to Act on Your Issue.  Do you know your issue?  And, isn’t part of your issue raising awareness?

When talking about issues of social justice, I tend to think of a progression from awareness to activism.  Recognizing where I have privilege (both in terms of the big eight and other areas of privilege) and giving back the ways that I can.  Sometimes that is educating myself, other times it is educating others.  Yet other times it’s taking other kinds of action around those issues.

So, in this time to support the ALS Foundation, I say go for it.  If you want to raise your own awareness and the awareness of others, or if you can make a small donation to help work on finding a cure, that’s phenomenal.  I hope that I am fortunate enough to not be touched by this devastating disorder, but I know that as someone who hopes that my friends, family, and acquaintances take a few minutes to learn about things about which I am passionate, this type of fundraiser can have a positive impact in so many ways.

And, in all honesty, I just wish I had thought of it first.  I’d love to be raising awareness around Rett syndrome in this way that will also help to find a cure for this disorder.  I hope folks will support me in exploring that in October.  And, I hope you work to find your own issue to raise awareness and work in ways that justice can become a part of the society in which we exist.

Black Bean, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

stuffed peppersI’ve been cooking a lot of vegetarian meals lately, as some of the students with whom I work are really passionate about food issues.  A couple of the students with whom I work are thoughtful about ethically raised and locally grown animals.  While I try to focus my meat purchases on that as well, I’m not beyond looking for a good deal – something I am hoping to continue to work on as I move into the next academic year.

One such student came over for dinner over a month ago as a thank you for watching my house while I was out of town earlier this year.  Because I’ve been focused on writing my comprehensive exams (woohoo—I’ve turned them in!), I haven’t been writing on the blog when it’s been the height of new recipes and fresh vegetables.  As a result, I’m playing catch up at the moment.

When this student came over, I made a vegetarian-friendly meal.  I’ve done a similar stuffed pepper in the past, like the Lentil Stuffed Pepper I made a couple of summers ago.  Knowing I wanted to do some cooking that involved a stuffed pepper, I went looking.  On the Ambitious Kitchen web site, I found a recipe for Black Bean, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers that I used as my inspiration for cooking.  Then, I looked to see what was in my CSA for the week and went for it.


Stuffed Peppers Before BakingBlack Bean, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

1 tsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ large onion (we had fresh white onions, so I used one of those)

½ jalapeno, seeded and diced

¾ c uncooked quinoa

2 c vegetable broth

15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and finely diced

2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped (I used one large garden tomato)

1 Tbsp chili powder

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp dried oregano (I used 1 tsp fresh oregano)

½ c chopped cilantro

1 tsp red pepper flakes, if desired

1/8 tsp pepper

1/8 tsp salt

3 large bell peppers, seeds removed and cut vertically

¾ c shredded Colby jack cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a sauté pan over medium high, heat olive oil.  Add onions, jalapeno, and garlic and sauté until the unions begin to soften and turn translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  Place into a large bowl and set aside.

To cook quinoa: Rinse quinoa with cold water in mesh strainer.  In a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ c of vegetable broth to a boil.  Add in quinoa and bring mixture to a boil again.  Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all of the water.  Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with fork; place in large bowl.

While quinoa is cooking, place a medium pot over high heat and fill with water, bring water to a boil and add in diced sweet potato.  Reduce heat to medium, cover, and continue cooking for about 6 minute or until sweet potatoes are fork tender.  This might take more or less time depending on how small you cut your sweet potatoes.  Once tender, drain water from sweet potatoes and place into bowl with quinoa and onion mixture.  Gently stir in black beans, tomatoes, remaining ½ c of vegetable broth, and spices.

Arrange bell peppers in a large skillet or baking pan and stuff with heaping ½ c of quinoa mixture.  Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes until peppers are tender.  Uncover and sprinkle each with 2 Tbsp cheese.  Place in oven for 5 minutes longer or until cheese melts.  Remove and serve immediately with toppings such as sour cream, your favorite hot sauce or guacamole.