A Chef Gets Active after Cancer

Chef Sarah LanzmanOne fine chef found the wellspring of her recovery from colon cancer in eating high-quality plant foods and enjoying several kinds of physical activity.

Sarah Lanzman says she feels better now than before she was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer six years ago.

An award-winning chef for 30 years, Sarah started out as a community organizer in Southern California. “I’d make pots of bean stew and different breads to go with them to feed 150 people,” she recalls.

Sarah travelled the world as a student, living in Kenya for a year and learning about African and Indian cuisines. Then she moved to Europe, studying Italian and French cooking and living in Germany for 10 years.

Settling in Charlottesville, Virginia, she and her husband raised three daughters and started Lorelei Caterers. Sarah won awards for best desserts two years running against other area chefs in a city known for its fine restaurants. Sarah and her husband grew 90 percent of the vegetables and herbs they used in catering on their 10-acre farm.

“We sold the catering business the year before I got my cancer diagnosis,” she recalls. “By then I was getting tired of just cooking. I wanted to focus more on nutrition.”

Adding Exercise to Balance Good Eating

But even though she ate healthfully, she says, she didn’t exercise enough. “I had lower back pain and my big problem was overweight. During the cancer treatment, I went down to 96 pounds. But I returned to a weight that is 33 pounds less than I weighed before the cancer. It seems to be my natural weight.”

Sarah now goes to a gym to lift weights. She also loves to swim, walk and take Nia classes that combine yoga, dance, and Chinese tai chi and qigong.

Sarah says, “I have so much more energy than I used to. And I’m going to need it for my next project!”

Her plan is to open a health-oriented bed and breakfast where cancer patients recuperating from treatment can come to recover. She wants to serve healthy, mostly plant-based dishes to people interested in eating for good health and cancer prevention.

Here is one of Sarah’s favorite Fall recipes.

Swiss Chard and Shiitake Mushrooms with Balsamic Vinegar

What’s a Shiitake Mushroom?

Shiitake mushrooms originated in ancient China and Japan. They are chewier than white button mushrooms and are available fresh or dried. Shiitake and other kinds of mushrooms contain ergosterol, a plant compound that turns into vitamin D, as well as the cancer-fighting mineral selenium.

Mushrooms are being studied for potential antiinflammatory and cancer-prevention properties by AICR-funded researchers at the City of Hope Beckman Research Institute in Los Angeles.

  • 2 bunches (2.5 lbs.) Swiss chard, washed, stems removed
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, preferably shiitake, stems removed,
  • thickly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1⁄4 cup reduced-sodium, fat-free vegetable broth
  • 1⁄2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Stack chard leaves and roll up lengthwise into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 2-inch-wide strips. Set aside.

In large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until they release liquid and become limp. Stir, then add garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes.

Add broth and allow mushrooms to absorb all liquid, stirring occasionally. Add chard to pan in batches, stirring until wilted before adding next batch. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in rosemary, salt, red pepper flakes (if desired) and balsamic vinegar.

Turn up heat to allow Swiss chard and mushrooms to absorb most of the vinegar, and cook for approximately 2 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 one-half cup servings.

Per serving: 50 calories, 2 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 7 g carbohydrates,
3 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 310 mg sodium

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