Monday, January 23, 2012

Spinach, the not-so-scary weapon in the war on cancer

When I was recovering from breast cancer treatment, I started searching the web for ways to improve my chances of avoiding a recurrence. Research studies make it pretty clear that diets rich in vegetables and fruit are linked to lowered cancer risk.  So that seems like a no-brainer. Look for recipes with lots of vegetables, fruit and whole grains.

Problem is, once you start googling for recipes using these cancer-fighters the returned results look a little, well, scary. Quinoa, millet, nori...the ingredients are new, intimidating, and I am starting to feel like my 6 year old whose default position with new food is, "I don't like it." The thought of shifting from eating foods out of anticipation and joy to eating foods out of duty is not a pleasant one. And, having stared down death, I am kind of looking for comfort from my meals, not anxiety.

But, I really don't want to die, so I have to jump in and start replacing the old ingredients with the new ones. And, so far, I am learning that many of these cancer-fighting foods are not that bad. Some are actually good.

Case in point? Spinach. The easiest addition I have made to my diet is spinach. Since getting cancer, I swear to god I have eaten my weight and my husband's in spinach. And, aside from the way it makes my teeth feel (and look - would it kill you to tell me I have it stuck in my teeth? Seriously?), I love it. I eat it raw, wilted, steamed, sauteed and pureed. Salads, soups, pizza, pasta, egg dishes and now, smoothies. Yup. Smoothies. Grab a big handful and chuck it in; most of the time you won't even taste it. And, if you have used a vividly coloured fruit, like blueberries or blackberries, you won't even see it.

My "That is the Best %$(* Smoothie You Have Ever Made Me" Smoothie 
(named by my husband)

1 frozen banana
1 large handful blackberries or blueberries
1 large handful raw spinach
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
skim milk
agave syrup or honey

Chuck it in the blender and give it a whir. Add just enough skim milk to make it thin enough to get through a straw. Add agave or honey to taste. That's it. I swear, you will not taste the spinach. If you are truly adventurous, and have a blender with a powerful motor, try it with kale! :-)

This will probably be enough for you and for me. But for the love of god, if I have spinach in my teeth, tell me.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Recipe links for a healthy new year

There will be no links to anything involving sparkling wine, brie, puff pastry or chocolate this week. Not one. Good lord, what have I been eating?!!!! Time for a fresh, cleansing, fibre-filled bounty of yummy green goodness. And beans. More beans.
  1. The green machine - a pick-me-up to help you kick the caffeine habit. Bon Appetit.  Lately, I've been juicing kale or spinach, ginger, apple and beets. Sometimes with celery, sometimes a carrot or two. It's really good. Plus, I swirl a bunch of the pulp ejected by my juicer back into the juice so I am not losing all that fibre. I still have one coffee in the morning, though. I'm not crazy. Am not.
  2. Warm chickpea salad with arugula. Mark Bittman. Yum. The salad...though Mr. Bittman is lovely as well. I would use dried chickpeas instead of canned unless you know yours aren't packed in BP-laden cans. Come on, just soak them overnight with a healthy bit of salt in the water  (a la Cooks Illustrated) - it isn't brain science. Er, rocket surgery.
  3. Green lentil soup with curried brown butter. 101 Cookbooks and the wonderful Heidi Swanson. If you haven't got it yet, her new cookbook, "Super Natural Every Day" is phenomenal.
  4. Carrot soup with miso and sesame. Smitten Kitchen.
  5. Broccoli-cheese chowder. Eating Well Magazine. Just enough cheese to make this healthy soup taste like comfort food.
  6. Kale salad with currants and walnuts. Deliciously Organic. (I will be substituting in pumpkin seeds for the walnuts. But all y'all without nut allergies can nut it up.)
  7. My favourite potato leek soup. Bless Her Heart.... I know, I've given you this before. It's good. It needs restating. Just make it.
  8. Emmer farro, grapefruit and pumpkin seed salad. NBC - King 5. I saw this yesterday on Seattle's local show, New Day Northwest, when PCC nutritionist Leika Suzumura prepared it for those looking to eat better in the new year. It looked really good. Next time I'm in town, I'll be stopping by PCC to pick up Goldie's dressing. Until then, I found this recipe for it on PCC's website.
  9. Curried cauliflower with chickpeas and tomatoes. Tyler Florence via Food Network. Tyler includes his recipe for currey powder and it looks good - remember you can always slide in a little extra turmeric if it doesn't overwhelm your tastebuds. Turmeric shows great promise as a tool against cancer.
  10. Molly O'Neill's roasted squash soup with cumin and pumpkin seeds. Via Luisa Weiss' great blog, The Wednesday Chef.