Nurturing Family and Friends

Eating Together When Cancer Comes

Middle age is famously a sandwich stage when your kids still need you and your parents shift from being supports to needing support. It’s also a time when many of our friends are experiencing physical issues, cancer sadly not rare among them. Indeed, the American Cancer Society estimates that one in three women will experience cancer and half of all men (though much of theirs is prostate cancer which often arrives late enough in life that, as a hormone-driven disease, it is slow moving and seldom deadly).

Over the years, far too many friends have had to deal with cancer, as well as my late husband, and I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about how to help. Thus, when yet another dear friend announced that she has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, I offered to cook for her once a week. For most of us, sharing lovingly prepared, wholesome, healthy food ranks among our most healing activities.

Acid Food, Alkaline Food

My friend is requesting foods that contribute to an alkalinizing diet. A fair amount of research indicates that most cancers prefer an acid environment and are easier to defeat when the body is kept on the alkaline side.  What that boils down to is eating a modified Mediterranean diet; mainly plant based, with small amounts of dairy, meat, etc.

Interestingly enough, foods that are acidic, such as citrus, may become alkaline when processed by the body. I remember being baffled by that back in nursing school (long, long ago) and am still not clear on the mechanism. Fortunately, there are charts and books and even recipes galore these days for those who want to try to keep their body systems in better balance.

Good For Us All

The really good news is that this kind of diet is more healthful and nourishing for most people than the increasingly popular over-reliance on meats and sweets. Here are some simple and delicious recipes that taste great, help balance out our biochemistry, and make cancer less welcome or likely.

Italian Spinach Pie is one of our favorite meals. Since my friend wants to reduce her wheat intake, the usual whole grain crust is replaced by a savory almond one. The spunky filling uses spinach mixed with goat cheese (especially alkalinizing) instead of the usual ricotta, which is considered to be mildly acidic.

Savory Almond Crust

1-1/4 cup raw almonds
Zested rind of 1 organic lemon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F until crisp (15-18 minutes). Cool and grind in a food processor to a fine meal. Add lemon rind, salt, and pepper, and while machine is running, drizzle in olive oil. Pat crust into a pie dish and fill or bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.  if you want to use a chilled filling (cool crust first if so).

Goat Cheese And Spinach Pie Filling

6 ounces fresh (soft) goat cheese
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or oat flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 pound baby spinach, lightly steamed and squeezed dry-ish
OR 1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible

Combine ingredients in the order given, stirring well. Spoon into an unbaked Savory Almond Crust shell (see above) and bake at 350 degrees F until puffed and golden (30-45 minutes). Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 6.

Hearty Dinner Salad

2 cups baby spinach
2 cups young kale, shredded
2 cups red cabbage, finely shredded
2 cups Savoy or Napa cabbage, shredded
1 red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cooked beets, chopped
1 cup grapefruit sections, peeled
1 mango, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup parsley, stemmed
1/4 cup roasted almonds
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup Spicy Maple Dressing (see below)

Combine all ingredients, toss gently and let stand 15-20 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

Spicy Maple Dressing

1/3 cup virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon citrus ponzu or rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons flaked nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Combine all ingredients, adjust quantities to taste and shake well to emulsify. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days. Makes about 1/2 cup.

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