Today, cancer beat one of my friends. Greg was a kind, cheerful, and fun-loving graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis. To get a sense of Greg's kindness, read this article about a fund raising effort he worked on as an undergraduate at Simpson. One of the most impressive things about Greg was that he was present. If you asked him to do something fun, like play tennis on the court behind the medical school, spend Easter dying eggs and playing frisbee in your front yard, or spend a hot summer day playing with a Slip'n'Slide in the back yard, he'd show up without thinking twice. If you couldn't find him in class or in the lab, he was probably at whatever seminar he could find that was offering free food. Less than nine months ago, Greg was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma. Just five months before that, he'd noticed on-and-off back pain, never imagining that it could be terminal cancer. As a developing scientist, and more specifically, a cancer researcher, he chronicled his journey on a personal blog that he titled "Model Organism: Greg Sibbel." Greg's cancer took him on a rough ride and stole his last breath when he was just 26 years and one day old.
|Greg (top left) with friends at a "New Year's Re-Do" Party (Jan. 2012)|
Since I learned of Greg's declining condition this past weekend, my heart has been heavy. My heart aches because I lost a friend. However, what brings me to tears, is knowing how many people lost a best friend and colleague with whom they spent much of their time, not to mention Greg's incredibly supportive girlfriend, and his family who said goodbye to their son, brother, cousin, etc. for the last time. The world lost a great soul today and there is no doubt that Greg's spirit will live on in the hearts of those who knew him.
There isn't much I can do from Houston save letting those in St. Louis know how much I care about them. I wish I could make a giant pot of chili and spread of baked goods to send along to all of my former colleagues at WUSTL. While they mourn the loss of a loved one and celebrate the life and happiness that Greg brought to the table every day, I find comfort knowing that they can lean on each other for support.
Make a comforting, feel-good chipotle chili. Chili has always been my go-to comfort food. There are three recipes I make and this was the last one to be added to my repertoire. I found the original recipe in a Trader Joe's cookbook that I flipped through while dog sitting as an undergrad. I loved the addition of refried black beans (not used here because there is a very high meat to liquid ratio, but I recommend trying it if you ever add too much liquid to chili or if you desire a thicker texture). The recipe has since morphed into at least a few dozen variations. I learned that beef cannot be substituted for turkey but that more beans and vegetables are always welcome. Here's the version I made today using corn, in honor of Greg, who grew up on his family's farm in western Iowa.
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
1 med. onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. chile powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. Mexican oregano, crumbled
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can black beans (juices and all)
1 cup (half a jar) Frontera Chipotle Salsa
1/2 to 1 cup frozen corn kernels, to taste (it will add sweetness)
1 1/2 cups frozen cut okra
Greek yogurt (optional garnish)
Cheddar cheese, shredded (optional garnish)
1. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground turkey and diced onion. Stir frequently until the meat is cooked through and the onions are soft. Add the green pepper and spices. Continue to cook for a few more minutes.
2. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, black beans, and 1/2 cup chipotle salsa. Stir in the frozen corn and okra. Bring to a simmer. Taste and add more chipotle salsa as needed. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the frozen veges are warmed through.
3. Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese.