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Fighting Breast Cancer One Meal at a Time: Cooking Class and Recipes

In the  8 years that I have been teaching cooking classes I have gotten to know my students (who are mainly women) very well. I have a regular following, and even have  some students who have attended almost each and every class I have taught.  When you see people on such a regular basis, you learn more and more about them, and you start to become friends.

Over the years, some of these friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer. There have been missed cooking classes where they just weren’t up to eating because their taste buds were off, or because they just didn’t feel well, and cooking classes where they walked in with  pretty pink scarves on their heads and a smile on their face. There are some that won their battle, and some who did not. All faced their breast cancer with a tremendous amount of courage and strength that  I can only try to get my arms around.

October is breast cancer awareness month,  and last night I had the pleasure of teaching a different kind of cooking class to a room full of  65 women currently fighting breast cancer, and women who are breast cancer survivors. The topic for the evening was focused on nutrition Fighting Breast Cancer One Meal at a Time.

Melissa Jones Snader, RD led the presentation with a detailed look at what foods provide the best nutrition/cancer-fighting nutrients, and which foods and drinks should be avoided. When you look at the statistics, and learn that 30% of all cancers are related to diet, “you are what you eat” takes on a whole new meaning.

Next, it as my turn to take all of that nutritional  information, and apply it using real recipes that the audience could make at home.  For those who don’t do much cooking, and/or haven’t eaten with the nutritional rainbow in mind, trying to figure out  how to cook  can be overwhelming.

I talked to my audience about ways they could ensure a healthy way of eating: Setting time aside 1 day a week  to put together a meal plan  that included nutrient rich foods, shopping ahead and making sure you have healthy foods  at-the ready for times they wanted a snack or quick meal. I talked about ways to incorporate things like a sprinkle of flax seeds here and there, adding applesauce to baked goods in place of fat, and about eating plant based protein as an alternative to an animal source.

This led me to my  quinoa salad, loaded with all kinds of good things, like fresh kale, apples, toasted almonds, dried cranberries, and goat cheese.  Samples of the salad were passed to the guests, and it was rewarding to hear that everyone thought this good-for-you salad was delicious.

Quinoa Salad with Kale, Apples, Almonds, and Goat Cheese

Dressing:

1/2 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons raspberry balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Zest from one orange

3/4 cup olive oil

Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl until well blended.

Salad:

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed

1 1/4 cups water

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 medium apples, quartered, cored, and sliced into 1-inch-pieces

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

3-4 large kale leaves, center rib removed, thinly sliced

1 cup crumbled goat cheese

In a medium saucepan combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 12- 15 minutes or until liquid is completely absorbed.

Transfer quinoa and all other salad ingredients to a large  bowl along with the dressing. Toss well, thoroughly combining ingredients. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

2-4 entree servings

6-8 side servings

For a healthier sweet option, I put together some gluten-free pumpkin muffins. The muffins may be frozen, and pulled out of the freezer when you need a snack, quick breakfast, or even dessert.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup potato starch

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk (or rice milk)

1/3 cup apple sauce

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup light brown sugar

Topping:

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a medium bowl, mix flours, ground flax seeds, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a large bowl, mix eggs, milk, apple sauce, pumpkin, and brown sugar.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Mix everything together until it is just combined.

Pour the mix into greased or lined muffin cups.

Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle on top of muffins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes (12 minutes for mini muffins), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins (or) 40 mini muffins

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Pink Mondays series, and hope my recipes will inspire these fine ladies to go forward in their  kitchens with colorful, healthy foods in their own everyday cooking.

If you know someone who is a breast cancer survivor, or currently in treatment, I hope you will share these recipes with them too.

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