“Introducing. . .Breast Cancer PREHAB.”

It was time to cry uncle.

Over the long Labor Day weekend I was not physically idle for a second (sleeping doesn’t count), and neither was my mind.

I’d been chewing on an issue that just wouldn’t leave me alone – the question of how to wrap my mind around all of the scientific information on breast cancer nutrition, fitness and lifestyle, package it up neatly, and present it to women who need it most in a timely, orderly, succinct yet engaging, ongoing message of love, support and inspiration. You’d think that would be fairly simple to accomplish, yes?

Ambitious, yes. Simple, no.

While writing my weekly blog over the last few months, sifting through topics relevant to the breast cancer community and working to develop content for my “still-in-progress-new-website”, one thing became excruciatingly clear. All of that scientific information is exciting and relevant, yet the sheer volume is enough to overwhelm, stymie forward motion, and bury me alive.

So what to do?

Well, go to the Morton Arboretum and run laps, of course. It was Saturday morning, and somewhere around the third mile I had the aha moment I’d been searching for.  

PREHAB.

That was it. Breast cancer PREHAB.

Shortly after my diagnosis I read this exact article in CURE magazine and remember thinking, “THIS. RIGHT. HERE. This is what women need to know about and take action on. This will help them.”

I also recalled the two most common challenges shared by the 140 survivors I surveyed on breast cancer and nutrition; and they both occur at the time of diagnosis:

  1. “I want to know what I should be eating and how I should change my diet, but I don’t know who to trust. Online sources give conflicting information, and my doctor said: a) nutrition doesn’t matter, b) you can eat anything you want,             c) he/she doesn’t know enough about nutrition to help me.”
  2. “What should I eat (or not) to reduce my risk of recurrence.”

My survey asked nutrition questions only, yet in the time since gathering that feedback I’ve had multiple exchanges with members of the breast cancer community about exercise and fitness; specifically, how best to use physical activity to improve treatment outcomes and yes, that hot topic. . .reduce risk of recurrence.

So there you have the eureka moment those running endorphins churned up for me;  focusing my efforts and work on the PREHAB space, an area of breast (and other) cancer interest currently in its infancy, yet steadily gaining ground.

So What Is Breast Cancer Prehab?

The idea of prehab as a proactive approach to avoid pain and injury is a familiar concept in the world of physical therapy, not yet so much in the breast cancer world, which makes education on what prehab is, its value and benefit, and what can be gained from taking action at the time of diagnosis imperative. Breast cancer prehab isn’t so much about avoiding pain and injury, but more about building physical resilience and strength to better withstand the rigorous demands on the body (and mind) of breast cancer treatment; surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are all trauma to the body, so the concept of prehab posits that the more resilient one is going in, the better the outcome.

While “prehab” may conjure up only a physical component, nutritional counseling and education, and even psychological support have also shown to contribute to positive outcomes.

Another thing I love about breast cancer prehab is that the concepts translate far beyond the time of a diagnosis to support a reduction in risk of recurrence, survivorship, or living with metastatic breast cancer. The guidelines for prehab – education on how to uplevel nutrition and fitness to build physical resilience – apply even for women who haven’t been diagnosed as a focus on prevention.

675 women PER DAY are diagnosed with breast cancer. The collateral damage (to use a phrase coined by Dr. Susan Love) in terms of physical limitations, psychological impact, and negative outcomes on energy, stamina, immune system health and a host of other physiological issues post-treatment is colossal. The opportunity to help lessen that burden with actionable tools and services is exciting and humbling.

My blog will continue to address a wide variety of breast cancer nutrition/fitness/lifestyle topics, all supporting the idea of taking action; which I hope I’ve convinced you is especially important at that critical time of diagnosis.

Stay tuned, big things are coming!

“Even before treatment starts, you can help the healing process begin.”                                                                            – Cathy Leman, MA, RD, LD

If you’d like to learn more, these are good places to start:

  1. “Patients Do Better After Surgery If They Do Prehab First”
  2. “Cancer Prehabilitation Important Lessons From a Best Practices Model”
  3. To Boost Patient Health, Rehab Sometimes Starts Before Cancer Treatment

 

 

 

“Striving to Thrive In A Toxic World”

A TruGreen truck brought me to tears.

I’m not kidding.

It was April 2015, two months after completing my radiation treatments. To anyone who didn’t know about my breast cancer, nothing seemed amiss – I didn’t look or act different in any way. But inside? I was a mess.

I was really struggling, fighting tooth and nail to regain my equilibrium. One of the things that helped most (and continues to), was moving. Running, walking, dancing; it didn’t matter, really, as long as I could physically move emotion through my body.

And so, it was relief I was seeking as I headed out for a long run on a glorious spring day, only to round the corner at the end of my block and come to an abrupt halt. There it sat, parked in front of my neighbor’s house, mile-long nozzle+hose combination stretched across my path on the sidewalk, toxic chemicals spilling from its belly; the TruGreen (formerly ChemLawn – but we’re NOT fooled) truck.

Even if I hadn’t seen it, I certainly would have smelled it. That unmistakable chemical odor assaulted my nasal cavity and reached my brain in seconds, sounding the alarm, triggering the tears, and leaving me feeling terrified and utterly helpless.

Let me see if I can explain. If you’ve had breast cancer, you’ll get it – if you haven’t, I hope you can at least empathize.

After my lumpectomy and radiation treatment ended, I felt like I got to “start over”, to live the next however many years of my life I am blessed to live with a clean slate. The cancer was gone, cut and zapped from my body – and I desperately wanted to hold onto that. That treatment, combined with the prescribed five year adjuvant medication protocol helped me feel fairly confident I’d be ok.

However, from a realistic standpoint, that thinking could be considered slightly naive. No woman can ever be 100% certain she’ll remain cancer-free (hence, my “fairly confident”).

30% of women with early stage breast cancer (which I had) develop metastatic, stage IV breast cancer.

Upon learning this information, the optimistic, glass half-full Cathy whispered, “That means 70% won’t”, while the practical, go-to-the-science Cathy screamed, “That’s the reality. It’s foolish to gloss over the data – ignoring it won’t make it disappear.”

Trust me when I say, I’m not taking any chances with my health. I will do everything in my power to keep myself safe and cancer-free. Universe willing.

And that’s where the “helplessness” comes in. IN. MY. POWER. There’s so much outside of my power, including the drenching of neighboring lawns with toxic chemicals, that I hardly know where to begin even putting things inside my power.

How can I possibly avoid for the rest of my life all villains known or suspected to contribute on some level to the worldwide breast cancer epidemic? How do I avoid being held a cancer-fear hostage by every errant lawn chemical, drift of second-hand smoke from a stranger’s cigarette/cigar/vape, blast of acrid motor exhaust, gas station/lawn mower/snow blower fume, or bite of food that made contact with rogue toxins leached from plastic on the random occasions I must eat outside my own home.

Lord.

The obsession of it all could quite possibly kill me before any type of cancer ever would.

But obsessed (slightly) I choose to remain. A couple of weeks ago at a Chicago street festival, I even asked a gentleman who lit a cigarette near me if he would mind smoking elsewhere to assuage my post-breast-cancer-freaked-out-by-second-hand-smoke fear.

Yes. I absolutely did that. My husband is my witness. The gentleman graciously obliged.

My “DAM. MAD. About Breast Cancer” initiative was developed to help women TAKE ACTION to thrive with, during and after a breast cancer experience, and potentially avoid it completely in the first place. Signing a contract with a chemical lawn service is an ACTION that may seem not to yield a significant impact, yet you only need to read my story above to know that’s simply untrue.

Positive actions elicit positive change. While we’ll never completely rid our environment of toxins, if we all do our small part through POSITIVE ACTIONS to reduce breast cancer risk, collectively we can’t help but make a significant positive impact on this monster.

If you’re in the northern and western Chicagoland area and interested in using safer products and services for your lawn, here are a couple of options to consider. By the way, I receive nothing for mentioning these businesses, I simply want to share helpful information! For those of you in other areas, stay tuned. . .there’s more coming soon on this topic.

Pure Prairie Organics The Leman lawn is cared for by this company. Chris Burisek, the owner of Pure Prairie Organics and a kindred spirit when it comes to supporting a safer, cleaner world would be thrilled to bring his professional lawn care services to your home. Chris is a pro who’s been making lawns safer for pets, kids, and grown-ups since 1994, not to mention, a heck of a nice guy.

Greenwise For my friends in the northern suburbs of Chicagoland.

 

“How Not To Blow Up Your Healthy Habits On a Girls’ Weekend Getaway”

Broccoli is your friend.

You know it, your mother has long known it, the breast cancer risk reduction research people know it. And because you try to do all you can to (hopefully) keep that evil breast cancer away or from returning, you eat broccoli.

You serve broccoli for dinner at home, pack it for lunch at the office, and pile it high as a party appetizer, snuggled alongside the red pepper hummus. You even try to remember to order it as a side when you eat out.

But if you’re honest? You’d rather have potato chips. Or French fries. Or beer-battered onion rings.

With a Chardonnay chaser.

What does broccoli have to do with a girls’ getaway weekend, you ask? Everything.

Eating in your own kitchen limits opportunities to eat those “other” foods on a regular basis; it’s too much trouble to whip out your “FryDaddy”®, and if you don’t buy the potato chips, you can’t dig into them.

But just when you’re feeling pretty good about this healthy habits thing, your calendar reminds you of the girls’ weekend you planned months ago; a weekend filled with tantalizing restaurant menus to order from without dishes to do afterward, and no kids, carpool, homework, husband/significant other, meetings, deadlines, pets, commitments or responsibilities to answer to – outside of having a great time.

And just like that? The broccoli vanishes, faster than you can say “antioxidants.”

Change Your Environment, Change Your Habits

I’ve written previously about changing your environment to support healthy habits, and the same holds true to support UNHEALTHY habits.

Anytime you leave your normal routine behind to hit the road and travel anywhere, for any reason, opportunities to blow up your healthy habits await you at every turn.

Fresh from a long girls’ weekend in Des Moines (yes, Iowa!), I thought I’d share some of my tips and a few of our experiences to help you navigate the siren song of the endless Chardonnay pour and late night hotel room pizza delivery. If you return from a weekend of friendship and fun feeling restored and revived vs hungover and depleted, you know you served your body (and mind!) well. Which would you rather have?

Bite Back (Nutrition aka Feed Yourself)

  1. Pack food for the road and the room –
    • Whether you drive or fly to your destination, bring food! I brought a cooler packed with almond milk, my favorite plant-based coffee creamer, fresh blueberries, apples, and fresh cherries. I packed separately dried figs (calcium-rich, sweet-tooth-satisfying snack) and homemade peanut butter. 
    • For a high fiber, quality breakfast to keep you full for hours, add a side of fresh fruit to a homemade mix of ⅓ cup quick cooking oatmeal, 1 scoop protein powder, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, and 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed. Transport an oatmeal mix for each morning you’ll be there in individual portable containers or ziplock bags, to which you’ll add plant-based (or cow’s) milk and honey (snagged from the breakfast bar) and heat in the microwave. We stayed in a room with a kitchenette and access to cereal bowls; normally I pack a heavy ceramic mug (I know – but it works!!) in the event bowls are nowhere to be found.
    • We smeared peanut butter on apples to hold us over until a late(r) dinner reservation, and help us order from the menu sanely vs. hangrily. Stir peanut butter into your morning oatmeal to add healthy fat and more protein; a good trick to satisfy and save you in the event lunch is delayed by heavy-duty sightseeing or shopping.
  2. Choose restaurants with your health goals in mind –
    • Traveling is about trying local foods and cuisine – I get it and wholeheartedly agree, but you don’t have to abandon all of your healthy habits to do so. Research restaurants and menus online before you arrive, noting spots that offer veggie side dishes, whole grains, and plant-based options so you can mix up your meal to include both more and less healthy options. For example, choose a side of grilled broccoli(!) vs French fries with your burger one night, and fried onion rings plus a side salad with your grilled chicken the next.
    • I eat a vegan diet, my friend doesn’t. While I thought vegan options might be challenging to find in Des Moines, I was happily proven wrong! Every restaurant we visited offered vegan and vegetarian options – even the seafood restaurant where we dined our first night.      
      Arugula, patty pan squash, tomatoes in a lemon vinaigrette.

                                                                                                                However, the plant-based options sometimes need a little protein bump, so here’s my trick. I request the addition of items I see elsewhere on the menu. For example, my pasta dish was described on the menu with only vegetables, but edamame was used in the salmon dish my friend ordered; I asked the chef to add some to my dish, a request he graciously honored.

      Truffle oil pasta, roasted farm veggies, edamame.
    • Be prepared for healthy-habit fails, because even the best intentions for eating well sometimes fall flat. We were excited to try Magnolia Wine Kitchen and its “superfood” salad of kale, shaved Brussels sprouts, almonds, avocado, and chia seeds with a blueberry vinaigrette. Our waiter declared the salad “huge”, so we split it three ways, although we agreed that even combining the three portions wouldn’t have resulted in a “huge” salad. But then, we’re salad freaks. Unfortunately, with its “bagged” flavor, look and feel, dry, unappealing vegetables, avocado an unnatural shade of yellowish green with a rubbery, inedible texture, and MIA chia seeds – back to the kitchen the superfood salad went. My black bean burger and lentil soup entree were good, and the roasted veggie sandwiches ordered by my partners in crime were declared very good, but I was disappointed I didn’t get that veggie boost I aim for every day. Should you have the same experience, eat a double veggie serving at your next meal, and pat yourself on the back for a solid attempt.
  • 3. Use restaurant menu options to test-drive new dishes –
    • Many people tell me they want to eat more plant-based meals, but aren’t always sure what to prepare. A restaurant offers a great opportunity to try dishes you can recreate at home, like this tofu gnocchi dish, on the menu at Centro. Paired with a side of broccolini (yes, you’ll likely pay extra for the veggie sides, but the nutrition is WORTH it), this was a satisfying dish I’ve never seen on a menu. Way to go Centro Des Moines!

Move Back (Fitness aka Move Yourself)

  1. Locate first the fire exits, second the fitness room –
    • My strategy at any hotel; a quick visit to the fitness center to learn where it is, what equipment’s available, and the hours of operation.  
    • Go there. First thing. In the morning. If you start your day without a visit to the fitness center, odds are it won’t happen. I know you’re thinking, “But we’ll walk EVERYWHERE! That’s my workout.” No, that’s activity. When you walk as you window shop or head to dinner, you’re strolling or meandering. Do some strength training or stationary cycling – use your muscles differently and get your heartrate up, stretch a little. Maintaining your fitness routine when traveling helps you not abandon it when you return home because you’ve “missed a few days.”
  2. Walk EVERYWHERE –
    • I love walkable cities, and Des Moines didn’t disappoint. We parked our cars on Thursday, didn’t move them until we left on Sunday, and put miles and miles on our walking shoes (which COMPLEMENTED the a.m.workout.) The concierge/front desk staff can always provide a good map and directions – or do as we did and wander with no agenda to see what spontaneous fun you can find.
  3. Run If You Can –
    • Just outside our hotel was the “Neal Smith Trail”, a bicycle and running/walking path that meanders along the Des Moines river. Make a point to find off-the-beaten spots for a little solitude and exercise; sustenance for your mind and body.

Strike Back (Lifestyle aka Take Care of Yourself)

  1. Take in the outdoors –
    • Meredith Corporation’s Des Moines-based “Better Homes and Gardens” opens their test garden to the public on Friday’s, noon-2:00, May-September. With its rich mix of colors and textures, bubbly fountain, and interesting hardscapes, this lushly planted oasis is a feast for all your senses, as well as a treasure trove of plant tidbits and info courtesy of uber-knowledgeable test garden manager, Sandra Gerdes. Nature feeds your soul and reduces stress – seek it out when you travel. 

      Forever friends in the garden.
  2. Cater to your arts and culture side –
    • The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park (it takes A LOT of pizza), live party band The Punching Pandas at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market, and “Java Joe’s Coffee House 4th Street Theatre Kitten Bomb Improv Comedy” were polar opposite experiences, but each one intrigued, challenged our thinking, and made us laugh – catharsis at its finest. Cultural experiences, the arts, and simply stepping outside our regular routine triggers creativity and a deep appreciation for how glorious and unique this world really is.

“Three Reasons You Have “Weight Creep” and What To Do About It!”

Although breast cancer survivors are quick to express gratitude for the life-saving treatments we receive, we can be just as quick to bemoan how those same treatments yield untold numbers of lingering physical challenges. While the type, variety, and severity of treatment aftermath varies widely from person to person, if there’s a unified grouse from women who’ve walked the breast cancer path, it has to be weight gain.

Which, by the way, I find particularly egregious.

Isn’t it enough for a woman to go through the rigor and horror of breast cancer without being plagued by the one thing that compounds not only body dissatisfaction (a major concern for many breast cancer survivors), but according to research, an increased risk for recurrence?

While there’s a dearth of scientific literature pointing directly to weight gain and body dissatisfaction in breast cancer survivors, I can share anecdotally from many women, the extra weight and its stubborn reluctance or refusal to budge is frustrating at best, maddening at worst, and depressing as hell.

You could make a strong argument for kicking weight concerns to the curb, choosing instead to focus on the glorious miracle that is surviving breast cancer and the gift of continuing to exist on this planet. Seriously, what’s a little weight gain in comparison to not being alive? Are we honestly that vain – kvetching about how our favorite “pre-breast-cancer” jeans just don’t hang the way they used to – rather than celebrating the fact that we’re even around to complain about it in the first place?

Of course not! That isn’t vanity, now is it ladies? It’s about lamenting only one of the myriad of post-breast-cancer body changes that you’re encouraged to accept as your “new normal” – and if you’re honest – not liking one, dam bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you disregard the recommendations to maintain a healthy weight if you’re already there, or lose weight if you’ve gained, but I’ve recently participated in some discussions on my breast cancer social media outlets re: weight gain, and want to dive a little deeper here. Let’s begin with the weight gain thing that you may not even know is a thing; weight creep.

I spotted this scale on a Vienna sidewalk a number of years ago. On. The. Sidewalk. for heaven’s sake.

What is “Weight Creep”?

Weight creep, which tends to happen with age, is the phenomenon where the numbers on the scale gradually increase. Each new decade we’re alive (yay!) brings body composition changes (bleh), most notably, the loss of calorie-hungry muscle and an increase in slothful body fat.  For post-menopausal women (natural or surgically/medically induced), the dramatic decrease in estrogen encourages fat gain (especially in the belly and hips) which can result in weight redistribution and changes in body shape, even when the number on the scale may not move (much). Not only that, perfectly normal age-related joint creakiness and stiffness may be exacerbated by chemo regimens or long-term, post-treatment medications like tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors, inciting true physical discomfort even pre-menopausal breast cancer patients are known to experience. Regardless of your chronological age, when your body feels like it’s 90 years old, how physically active are you? Probably not very. If you’re moving less, yet eating the same amount of food you did when you were younger and/or more active and carrying more muscle, you begin to see just how creepy weight creep can be.

How Does Breast Cancer Treatment Cause Weight Gain?

Chemotherapy can lead to weight gain by causing the body to hold more water (edema), producing fatigue, which may lead to inactivity, triggering nausea, which can be managed by eating (even in the absence of hunger), driving both physiological and psychological food cravings, and sending women into menopause. Also, steroid medications prescribed as part of the treatment regimen can increase appetite, and with long-term use cause an increase in fatty tissue in the abdominal area. Beyond chemo, the 5-10 year tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitor medication regimen prescribed for certain breast cancers can decrease estrogen or progesterone levels, leading to a reduction in muscle, increase in body fat, and lower metabolic rates.

Although many would have you believe the “idea” of weight loss is simple – eat less/move more – the basic physiology of weight loss is extremely complex, becoming even more so when breast cancer treatment is added to the mix. For example, some research suggests that lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme critical to the efficient breakdown and use of fats from the diet may become less effective with the menopause-induced decrease in estrogen.

What to do when it feels like so much is working against your weight loss efforts? Let’s start by identifying habits that may be hurting rather than helping. Habits which, unlike your rogue hormones, you can control and change!

Three HABITS That Cause Weight Creep and What to do About Them.

  1. You decide to worry about the weight later, and later keeps getting pushed further out on your calendar:
    • You may feel you can focus only on getting through the cancer – it takes everything you have – so the weight can, well, wait. And with all the disruption, appointments, emotional upheaval, and general turmoil breast cancer brings to your life, it’s easy to put your focus and energy on whatever is screaming for immediate attention, situations that if ignored, come with consequences attached. For example, you wouldn’t intentionally skip a doctor appointment or refuse to refill your medication, nor would you make your kids miss school because you don’t feel like driving them; each would result in consequences. The thing about weight gain and consequences? Those darn consequences aren’t immediate. Sure, you may not feel great in your body or your clothes don’t fit like they used to, but you tell yourself you can live with that; you’ll get to the weight when you have more time, energy, focus, or motivation. So you skip planning your meals, refuse to listen to the voice in your head encouraging you to go for a walk, and putting together that salad you want for dinner? You just don’t feel like it. Try starting with this: plan breakfast for M, W, F, walk 20 minutes one day/week, and buy pre-bagged salad. Done!
  2. You reward or justify your workouts with food.
    • If you’re just getting back to exercise, the intensity and duration of your workout may be less than what you’ve done in the past. That doesn’t negate the benefit of the workout, but it also doesn’t warrant extra food “because I worked out today.” Did you know that it’s entirely possible to burn less than 100 calories in a single workout? For example, if you weigh ~120 pounds and walk one mile at a 20 minute/mile pace, you won’t even hit the 100 calorie mark. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that effort, you’re simply not burning gobs of calories; if you burn 85 but eat 250, that explains (partially) why you may gain or maintain weight even though you’re active. And by the way, if you must reward your workout efforts? Book a massage, go to a movie, get in bed early with a great book. . .anything as long as it’s a NON-FOOD reward.
  3. Planning is not your forte’.
    • One of my favorite sayings (because it’s always so darn true) is “failing to plan is planning to fail.” And when it comes to getting health-supportive, nourishing food into your house and onto your dinner plate? It couldn’t be more true. There’s no need to stress yourself out by writing a week’s worth of menus, creating elaborate meal plans, or choosing a recipe for every meal and snack, but a little planning ahead ensures you’re getting in the foods that make you feel good. Try starting with this: choose two recipes, buy the ingredients you need, and block out a couple of hours to pull them together. Store in the fridge and heat up as needed. Done!

Sweet Potato Chickpea Pasta Sauce

I love opening my refrigerator door, taking a quick inventory of what’s hanging around, and conjuring up a way to combine the remains of the week’s meals into something new, nourishing, and delicious.

This week’s fridge review yielded leftover whole wheat pasta, two sweet potatoes, and garbanzo beans (chickpeas). I closed the refrigerator door and left to run Saturday errands – but in the back of my mind the assembly was already coming together.

What if I sautéed onion and garlic for extra flavor (and nutrition!), blended the sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans with veggie broth, swirled in the marinara, and served it over the pasta? Bingo.

Here’s a video showing the collection of ingredients I had to work with. Normally, I would simply dump the garbanzo’s, sweet potatoes, and some broth together in my NutriBullet and blend until it “looked right”, but I wanted to portion it out to give you exact amounts so you could recreate.

First I sautéed the onion until soft, THEN added the garlic. You don’t want to burn the garlic (gets bitter), so I find cooking the onions first and then dumping the garlic on top a good way to avoid that.

Onions and garlic sautéing in olive oil.

Next, I blended the sweet potato, chickpeas, and vegetable broth to create a smooth, silky mixture. I used Engine 2 Plant-Strong Organic Vegetable Stock because it’s “low sodium” claim truly is low; only 35 mg sodium per 1 cup! I love that, because when I don’t have homemade veg broth available I want a convenient option that doesn’t compromise nutrition.

I added the blended chickpea/sweet potato mixture to the onions and garlic, stirred it all together well, then swirled in the marinara (use the lowest sodium, no sugar or “extra” ingredients brand you can find!):

It. Was. Delicious.

Success!

And seriously, it was QUICK, I set my phone timer when I started. Here’s a screenshot to show you it took only 16 minutes and 49 seconds. Obviously that’s not including the time it took me to portion the ingredients, but it includes chopping the onion and garlic, the blenderizing, and combining!

Preparing the sautéed beet greens and spinach side dish (see below) took a little extra time, maybe 10 minutes. Also doesn’t include clean up – but my husband does that, LOL!

Regardless, you could make this sauce in ~20 minutes then store it for later. Timesaver!!

Here’s a pic of the finished meal – it truly was so good, and we even have leftovers. Find the recipe below – enjoy!

Beet greens and spinach sautéed in olive oil and (lots of!) chopped garlic.

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Pasta Sauce

1 medium white or yellow onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup cooked sweet potato (2 medium)

3/4 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

1 3/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth

1 1/2 cup low sodium marinara sauce (I like Trader Joes’s organic no salt added)

Sprinkle of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

_________________

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (I like to use cast iron; adds iron to the dish), then add the onion, a sprinkle of Kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Sauté the onion until soft, then mix in the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. While the onion/garlic mixture cooks, blend the garbanzo beans, sweet potato, and vegetable broth together in a high-powered blender (I use my NutriBullet).
  3. Add the sweet potato/garbanzo bean mixture to the onion/garlic mixture, blend well and cook for ~2 minutes. Stir in the marinara sauce, heat through for ~5 minutes and serve over your favorite pasta, or cool to room temperature and refrigerate for later!