Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and what better way to say "I love you" than with a decadent, delicious — and healthy — meal.
"Sitting down to an intimate dinner made with foods that are packed with cancer-fighting nutrients is probably one of the nicest things to do for someone you care about," says Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, a nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. She reminds people that there are a lot of Valentine's Day treats that don't have to be dipped and coated in sugar and fat. In fact, choosing a few bright and tasty foods from nature is probably what Cupid had in mind.
Chef Frank McClelland of Boston's four-star restaurant L'Espalier sets the mood by providing the first two recipes for this romantic dinner. The world-renowned chef worked with Dana-Farber nutritionists to provide recipes that were not only delicious but also nutritious. The recipes that he shared are from his cookbook Wine Mondays.
All the recipes for this sensational Valentine's menu are available on Dana-Farber's nutrition services web page. This delectable meal is sure to capture the heart of anyone's sweetie. Each course is its own love potion.
A salad to endive for!
Chef McClelland gets the meal started with a delicate layered endive, roasted red pepper, and black olive salad. Rich with vitamin A, vitamin K and folate, the leafy endive has been shown to help protect against lung and oral cancers. The bright red color of the roasted peppers is loaded with carotenoids. Kennedy says carotenoids have been linked to helping prevent colon, prostate, breast, and lung cancer.
Poached Halibut à la Provençale? Mais oui!
While the name conjures up thoughts of dining in the south of France, no travel is necessary for this entree. The best part is that it's easy to make, giving you more time with your sweetheart. This dish, also courtesy of Chef McClelland, features halibut, a lean fish that is full of healthful omega-3 fats that have been shown to protect against cancer, as well as heart disease, and inflammation. Fennel, a key ingredient, has also been shown to reduce inflammation. Unlike other Parisian fare, this recipe skips the butter which helps to maintain a healthy weight.
I love you Berry much
Raspberry-honey-tea sorbet is the perfect Valentine's dessert: sweet, red, and robust with berries. What makes it even better is that raspberries are loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants and may even slow down heart disease.
"Raspberries are high in vitamin C, manganese, and phytonutrients anthocyanins and quercetin. These nutrients may help slow cancer cell growth," explains Kennedy. They are also a tasty fruit that is lower in sugar, which is important for anyone with diabetes or high blood sugar.
What's Valentine's Day without chocolate? Try chocolate pomegranate kisses. Thanks to the ruby-red pomegranate fruit these kisses are high in the antioxidant ellagic acid, which studies have shown is related to both cancer prevention and slowing the growth of cancer cells.
Chocolate already has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, and recent studies now show it may help fight cancer. The darker the chocolate, the higher the beneficial properties. Some reports say chocolate can also elevate mood, stimulate endorphins, and prevent signs of aging. "The key is balance," stresses Kennedy. "A small piece of dark chocolate as a treat is healthy when it's in the context of a diet rich with vegetables and fruits.
Looking for a tasty night cap? If you have leftover raspberries from dessert, toast the evening with a nutrient-dense, low-calorie raspberry cream smoothie that proves opposites do attract. Made with raspberries and spinach, this drink is rich with taste and cancer-fighting properties. The red pigment of the berries contains powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins. They protect the plant and in turn can protect humans, especially lowering the risk of recurrence in breast cancer survivors. The spinach adds antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E – plus it's a good source of calcium and iron.
"What makes this even more enticing is the lower calorie count coupled with plenty of protein and fiber which can also help promote a healthy weight," points out Kennedy. Weight management is important for everyone, but especially for cancer survivors. "By maintaining the healthiest weight possible, survivors can both improve immune function and promote anti-cancer activity in the body." So reach for the blender, whip up a batch of smoothies and serve chilled in a martini glass. Cheers!
Editor's Note: Chef McClelland will be this year's honorary chef for Dana-Farber's 15th annual Chefs Cooking for Hope which will be held in Boston on March 7, 2013. Chef McClelland is chef and owner of Boston's famed L'Espalier. He is also owner of Sel de la Terre, Au Soleil Catering, and Apple Street Farm where he grows fresh herbs, heirloom fruits and vegetables and embraces the "field to fork" dining philosophy.
View a slideshow of cancer-fighting Valentine’s Day foods created by The Boston Channel.