How to Eat for Cancer: Cooked Caprese Salad – Serves 4

January of 2018 is a month I’ll never forget and in particular Saturday, the 28th. My mother called and notified me that she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) earlier that month shortly after her 70th birthday.  After months of grueling radiation she hit remission however it was short-lived.  On my birthday in October I received a call that changed my world. My mother changed, my family changed, and I changed.  She was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma called Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) stage four and for her it is incurable since it will always come back.  Recently she has been deemed in ‘remission’ and is about to start a chemotherapy maintenance drug to keep the cancer at bay and hopefully it shall extend the years she has with us free of pain.

As a Registered Dietitian everything was tested for me.  I no longer felt motivated to help people since I felt helpless with my own mother.  I became bicoastal to help my parents whether it was to simply be a distraction with laughs or to navigate the muddy medical terminology world. She endured several setbacks and hospitalizations which tested her resolve but she fought and she’s never looked more beautiful to me.

This past April I left my thriving career in San Francisco, California to permanently come to Melbourne, Florida where my parents reside.  The world works in mysterious ways – since I met my future husband who is Melbourne based.  Now we have the privilege of sharing a new adventure with my parents – a baby boy that is due around Thanksgiving.

For several months my mother has followed a ‘neutropenic‘ diet.  This is basically a diet of sterilized food otherwise known as a way to limit the amount of bacteria in the diet which is necessary with immunocompromised individuals.  Many including my mother think of this way of eating as ‘bland’ and ‘downright awful.’ Foods to be withheld on a neutropenic diet include: certain canned foods, undercooked meats, raw foods (fruits, vegetables, oats, and nuts), protein powders, unpasteurized dairy products, and much more.

Mother’s Day this year was not to be impacted and so I decided to come up with a menu of foods that were tasty but followed the right protocols since she was feverish. Due to her lack of an immune system going out in public was out of the question due to fear of catching the average cold which would be much worse for her.  The menu included: grilled lobster and shrimp, corn on the cob, my Goat Cheese Spiked Brussels minus the butternut squash, and this delicious cooked caprese salad (so yum x 100).

In a basic caprese recipe the tomatoes and basil are raw but in my version it was cooked.  This allowed my mother to eat one of her favorite recipes that she hadn’t had in months.  Sometimes all it takes is some creativity and proper cooking techniques to have mouthful of flavor.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large heirloom tomatoes (yellow, red, multi); thick slices
  • Fresh pasteurized mozzarella (8 oz); diced
  • EVOO for the pan
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Fresh basil leaves; shredded
  • Sea salt
  • Crushed black pepper

METHODOLOGY:

  1. Prior to the recipe preparation ingredients were well washed thoroughly with warm water.
  2. Under medium heat add EVOO to a frying pan and sear each tomato slice then cook each side for about 1-minute.
  3. Layer the tomatoes in a serving dish.
  4. Add the shredded basil to the frying pan and turn off the heat. Gently cook the leaves until slightly browned/shrunken in size.
  5. Evenly toss the mozzarella and basil atop the tomato.
  6. Drizzle balsamic vinegar atop the tomatoes and season with sea salt and black pepper.
  7. Pair with your favorite protein and some other fun sides.
  8. Time to eat the rainbow!

xxx – Sarah

Garlic Peppered Asparagus and Brussels – Serves 4

Have you been getting enough greens?  According to the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines it is recommended to consume 2.5 cups vegetables/day and within the week the intake of dark-green vegetables is 1.5 cups/week for the typical 2000-calorie American diet.  However if you’re anything like me and you’re active then I highly recommend more!  

This recipe is a sure way to reach your quota of dark-green vegetables.  In fact, it’s almost impossible to stop with one serving of these vegetables.

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If you don’t already know asparagus have been deemed as a natural diuretic and aid in excretion of fluids.  This antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient rich vegetable can be found in various colors such as green, purple, and white…  Some of benefits possibly include blood sugar reduction/decreased risk of type two diabetes, prevention of cognitive decline, assistance with food motility during digestion due to its fiber, and lowering the risk of heart disease.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound asparagus; ends trimmed off
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts; root trimmed off then halved
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds; raw with shell removed
  • 1.5 tbsp garlic; minced
  • 1 tsp black pepper; crushed
  • EVOO – enough to douse vegetables

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Methodology:

  1. Preheat the oven to 415 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a bowl mix together all the ingredients listed above: Brussels sprouts, asparagus, pepper, pumpkin seeds, garlic, and EVOO.
  3. On a cooking sheet lay out the veggies.
  4. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes depending how crispy you want your vegetables.  Halfway through cooking use a spatula to move the veggies around so that they roast evenly.
  5. Serve with your protein and starch of choice.  As you can see I opted for a double portion of vegetables and paired with scallops (YUM x 100%).
  6. Happy bites y’all!

xxx – Sarah