M aintaining a healthy diet is important, and not just for our waistlines. Limiting certain foods and adding more veggies to our plates has lots of benefits and enhances overall well-being. A balanced diet can prevent many health problems and serve as a supplement to treatment plans for those who are sick. On these pages, we’ve gathered a few nourishing, antioxidant-rich recipes from Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence, authors of The Southern Vegetarian cookbook and the blog thechubbyvegetarian.com. Burks’ father (see “Three Cancer Survivors Tell Their Stories” in this issue) was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year; here his son describes some of the dishes created to help him win his battle. Burks adds that neither he nor Lawrence consider themselves experts on nutrition or hold any advance degrees, but their research has led them to a repertoire of healthy meals.
TCV Cancer Shake
I n addition to the regular doctor-prescribed treatments, we armed ourselves for a food fight, one that nourishes the body with healthy dishes and helps fight cancer from the inside out. A quick search for the top antioxidant spices in the world and a visit to my well-stocked spice cabinet led to our first container of TCV Cancer Shake. It’s reminiscent of a mild curry powder — because that’s basically what it is. The ginger and cinnamon add warmth while sumac adds a nice lemony touch. It’s great on everything from salads to grilled vegetables to fish (so I’m told!) to stir-fry; my dad has used it on all of those things and asked me to make him some more of it.
Ingredients: 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon sumac 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon granulated garlic 1 teaspoon turmeric 1 teaspoon sweet paprika 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Directions: In a medium bowl, simply mix all the spices until they’re well incorporated or run the whole mix through a spice grinder. Keep mixture in an airtight container in the cupboard for up to 6 months.
(Makes 1/4 cup)
Cauliflower Couscous with Sautéed Kale and Artichoke Hearts
W e came up with this dish after researching what to eat while undergoing cancer treatment. The list isn’t really surprising. Multiple sources describe a diet overflowing with fresh vegetables as a great way to combat cancer. Alkaline foods supposedly don’t cause inflammation in the body like acidic foods can. Admittedly, we got a very surface education in this before diving right in and cooking. Many of the favorite foods we already love are on the alkaline list including cauliflower, mushrooms, kale, and artichokes — the latter of which is the antioxidant superstar of the main dish. It should be mentioned that eating healthfully doesn’t always have to break the bank. The ingredients for this whole dish only cost about $15.
Ingredients: 2 large artichokes 2 organic lemons 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning 1/4 cup kosher salt (more to taste) 2 tablespoon olive oil (divided) 1 8-ounce package baby bella mushrooms (quartered) 1 large shallot (sliced, about 1/2 cup) 1 large head curly kale (stems removed, chopped) 1 cup roasted, salted almonds 3 cloves garlic 1 medium head cauliflower (leaves trimmed, roughly chopped, about 7 cups) Parsley and finely diced red pepper (to garnish) Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
Directions: In a large soup pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Halve one of the lemons, squeeze the juice into the water, and then add both pieces to the water. Add the Italian seasoning and the salt. Trim the top third off of each artichoke. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the stem and trim the end off of the stem. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and place each into the boiling water. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until stem is tender. Remove artichokes from the water. Once the artichokes are cool enough to handle, pull the fibrous “choke” out of the middle using a spoon. It should slip right out. Set aside.
Discard water and lemons and use the same large pot for this part. Over high heat, add one tablespoon of olive oil and the mushrooms. Allow them to cook undisturbed for one to two minutes or until the mushrooms are nicely browned. (Mushrooms don’t burn easily because of their high water and low natural sugar content.) Once mushrooms are browned, add the shallots and cook for one minute. Add the kale and sauté it until it’s bright green. Add 1/4 cup of water, use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, remove from the heat, and cover. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to serve.
Into the work bowl of your food processor, add the almonds and garlic. Process until very finely chopped. Add 1/3 of the cauliflower and process until it’s very finely chopped and the cauliflower resembles sand. Repeat until all cauliflower is processed. In a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the processed cauliflower mix and stir with a wooden spoon; allow the bottom to brown before each stir. Cook for five to six minutes or until heated through. Add 1/4 cup of water and stir. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to serve. (The texture will resemble a fine-grained couscous.)
To serve, place the warm Cauliflower Couscous on a platter and cover it with the kale. Next, position the artichoke hearts, which may be seared in a little olive oil to warm them, on the top. Garnish with the juice and zest of one lemon and some parsley and red pepper.
Mixed Berry Crisp
W e go a little crazy when berries finally arrive at the farmers’ markets and then think, What in the world are we going to do with two flats of these? Well, we froze them and used them for this crisp! Frozen berries work better for it because they seem to give off less juice during the baking process, and they also come together well without a thickening agent added. It’s got some good nutritional elements with plenty of antioxidants in the berry mix, and it’s great served with ice cream or Greek yogurt on top or in little bowls all by itself.
Ingredients: 5 cups frozen berries (any combination strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) 1/2 cup honey 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt juice from 1/2 lemon 1 cup oats 1/2 cup pecans (finely chopped) 1/2 cup sprouted wheat flour 1/2 cup dates (finely chopped) 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1 tablespoon spices (any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and clove) 1/3 cup coconut or olive oil Ice cream or Greek yogurt (optional, for topping)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Microwave the frozen berries for a minute or so and then you’ll be able to mix them easily. Drizzle the honey over the berries and stir it in so that it coats them. Sprinkle the salt over them and add the lemon juice and stir again to combine. Brush a little olive oil or coconut oil on the bottom and sides of your baking dish. Spread out the fruit in about a one-inch layer and bake it by itself for 10-15 minutes while you put the topping together.
In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the oats, pecans, flour, dates, salt, and spices. Drizzle in the oil and mix well. Take berry mixture out of the oven and spread the topping over it evenly. (You won’t have a thick layer, and some fruit may peek through, but that’s just right.) Bake for 1 hour or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit has cooked down into a jam-like consistency. Cool before serving and top with ice cream or Greek yogurt if you like.
Antioxidant Super Hummus with Red Beans and Pecans
W ith this hummus, we are focusing on antioxidants, which are known to block free radicals and protect us against cancer. So we loaded this with some of the top-performing antioxidant foods, like red beans and pecans, and paired them with potent antioxidant spices.
Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 cloves garlic 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon turmeric 1 teaspoon sumac 1/2 cup toasted pecans 1 can red beans (drained) juice of 1/2 lemon kosher salt (to taste)
Directions: In a small frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and add the garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, and sumac. Cook until the rawness from the spices has dissipated and the garlic has softened. Into the work bowl of a food processor, add the oil and spice mixture from the frying pan, pecans, red beans, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth. Add salt to taste and blend until incorporated. Serve with sliced zucchini, cucumber, or pita chips. Alternately, spread it onto a soft pita bread and top with lettuce, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta.
(Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a sandwich spread)