Cooking to Combat Cancer

I know of very few people whose lives have not been affected in some way by cancer. Mike was just a little boy when he lost his father to pancreatic cancer. My aunt is a breast cancer survivor. Our friend Michele has undergone treatment for skin cancer, and just recently, our friend Jill lost someone very dear to her after a long battle with breast cancer that metastasized to her brain. It is for Jill’s friend Jen, and for everyone else in our lives who has been touched by this disease, that I am writing this today, to participate in the third installment of Cooking to Combat Cancer.

Cancer is a scary word, and I’m sure it’s easy to feel powerless when you or someone you love is faced with that diagnosis. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia nearly 10 years ago, and after struggling with various treatments, I took a good hard look at my diet, figuring it was one small thing I had control of. Cancer is, obviously, a very different beast than fibro, but consuming a diet made up of good, wholesome foods is a great way to help manage all sorts of health conditions.

Food is a powerful thing: it provides both fuel for our bodies and comfort for our souls. I’ve talked a lot about the latter here, but it’s easy to forget sometimes that so many foods contain compounds that fight cell damage, reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and are as beneficial to those battling disease as to those of us who are trying to stave it off, or who are managing chronic health conditions. The fact that they taste good is a bonus.

salad, pre-toss

I tend to like vivid color on my plate, so with that in mind, I chose red quinoa as the base for my cancer-fighting dish, a warm quinoa salad. Quinoa is a favorite pantry staple, a great canvas for other flavors, and a breeze to prepare – just rinse it well and cook it as you would rice. I tossed my cooked quinoa with a zippy dressing spiked with lots of minced garlic, lemon juice and zest, all bound with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. I added about a cup of thinly sliced spring onions to the mix, as well as several handfuls of young kale.

in praise of...

Inspired by Sara Kate’s recent post at The Kitchn, I opened a tin of olive oil-packed sardines, reserving the oil to fry them in. I gave the sardines an ultra-light coating of Wondra flour seasoned with sea salt and a little cayenne, then gently fried them until they were crisp on the outside and just warmed through.

Dinner:  April 28, 2009

I gave the warm quinoa salad another quick toss before serving it, placing the sardines on top and finishing the whole thing with another hit of lemon zest. The richness of the fish married really well with the nutty quinoa, brightly flavored dressing, sharp onions and tender young kale – this meal was as full of flavor as it was packed with healthy goodness.

(Big thanks to Mele Cotte for hosting, and to Blue Kitchen’s Terry B for referring me there.)

9 thoughts on “Cooking to Combat Cancer

  1. awesome post! i love quinoa but i haven’t had the red variety before, i gotta track some down. i hope obama is sincere about helping to end cancer in our lifetime (then again, nixon said it too right?)

  2. Beautiful, Jennifer! And another creative take on foods that fight cancer. I have some quinoa at home and just haven’t gotten around to experimenting with it—this is great inspiration to do so.

  3. Thanks for writing this! I have enjoyed your site for a while, but feel compelled for the first time to comment. I have just had my second skin cancer this year and have been looking for more food to help in the fight. Can’t wait to try this.

    To your health!

  4. My brother had a melanoma at 14. My mother had a melanoma two years ago. My father had a melanoma last year. I have had seven moles removed, some of which contained cancerous cells.

    Cancer is too close for comfort for me.

    The idea of Cooking to Combat Cancer is a good one. I’d never heard of it before now. It’s good to see cancer awareness through cooking.

  5. Jennifer, I love this meal! I always have sardines at home and just bought a bunch of Russian kale at one of the local markets here. You’ve just given me a great idea on how to use both. And this is such good information for everybody. I’ve been dealing with anemia for years so I’m always looking for ways to get more iron and sardines are great!

  6. Jennifer Hess says:

    Thanks, everyone! I was really glad to be part of this, and look forward to participating again next year. :)

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