Friday, January 7, 2011

Tomato Sauce with Lentils and Dried Porcinis

Emotionally things have been a little rough for me recently. Initially I wasn’t going to mention it but I thought the tenor of my posts may have changed and I wanted you to know why. Every time someone else I know is diagnosed with cancer I take it hard. I hate this damn disease and it feels like it is all around us. This recent diagnosis has me rethinking the approach we are taking and researching if there is anything else we can do. Maybe I am over thinking things (like I have the tendency to do) but I don’t want to look back and realize there was something else we could have or should have done. *sigh*

Well, that is about all the doom and gloom I can stand so let’s get back to more pleasant things. Thanks Brandi for offering to help, I wish there was something you could do. I just need to work through the funk on my own but I appreciate your concern more than you know.


The gym won’t be open again at 6am until next Monday (January 10) which means we feel back into sleeping in because as you can see we really our both naturally night owls. ;-) I have been working out at home and Dan has been using the gym at work instead of going to our gym around the corner in the evenings.

For breakfast Dan had oatmeal with wild blueberries, cinnamon, ginger, ground flaxseeds, a pinch of stevia and walnuts.

Once Dan left for work I grabbed a quick bite mid-morning. I wasn’t hungry but I was craving something sweet and fatty which I assume means fluctuating hormones (or cancer stress) were involved. I grabbed a few frozen chocolate chips and walnuts to have with a mug of black Christmas tea with cinnamon, clove and orange. Certainly not the most nutritious thing I could eat but it is what I had. We can all cheat sometime right?  ;-)

While I was reading another nutrition textbook for fun (yes I actually consider that fun as odd as it sounds) I made a pound of black beans in the pressure cooker. This was very similar to the large limas the other day but used only 1 tablespoon of oil since the books I read indicated limas and soy beans foam the most. However three people commented on the last post that they don’t use oil when they pressure cook beans and that hasn’t been a problem. I will be trying that with my next pot of beans to see if it works for me too. *fingers crossed*

I also decided to make a pot of tomato sauce with lentils and dried porcini mushrooms to use for the next few days and to possibly freeze if I have any leftovers. Given my Italian DNA there is something comforting to me about the smell of red sauce on the stove and I needed that. I will post the details of that recipe below.

My lunch was two small bowls of the butternut squash soup from last night.

For a snack I had my usual orange and two Brazil nuts. Can you tell I am in a snack rut? LOL

The tomato sauce is a simple one with lentils added for protein and texture. Dried porcinis were added to give the sauce a “meaty” flavor. I kept the spices simple so I could use the sauce in different dishes if any of it makes it to the freezer. Here is what I did:

Tomato Sauce with Lentils and Dried Porcinis
Makes 8 servings


1 large red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 head of garlic, smashed, peeled and minced or left whole (I left the cloves whole)
2 quarts of canned tomatoes (no salt) or 3-15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes and 1-15 ounce can of tomato sauce (no or low salt)
3 cups water
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 cup green lentils, sorted and rinsed
½ ounce dried porcinis
2 cups water
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons traditional balsamic vinegar (I use Napa Valley Naturals 18 year old balsamic aged in cherry which we buy by the case)


Allow the onions and garlic to stand 10 minutes before cooking. I set a timer for 10 minutes once I get them chopped or smashed and continue to add things to the pot. If you are using home canned tomatoes puree 2 cups in your blender before adding to the pot. Add the tomatoes, water and Italian seasoning and simmer for at least 30 minutes to cook the onions and garlic and get the flavor out of the dried herbs.

While the sauce is simmering combine the dried mushrooms and water and bring to a boil then remove from the heat and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes remove the mushrooms and chop them reasonably finely and add them to the tomato sauce pot. Use cheesecloth or a damp paper towel in a strainer to remove the sediment from the soaking liquid and add that to the sauce pot. Now add the lentils and cook until they are tender, about another 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add freshly ground black pepper and balsamic vinegar to taste.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 192.49
Calories From Fat (4%) - 7.13

Total Fat - 0.84g
Saturated Fat - 0.1g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 19.94mg
Potassium - 847.02mg
Total Carbohydrates - 37.59g
Fiber - 13.25g
Sugar - 5.5g
Protein - 11.24g


This is a subtly flavored sauce that would work in many different days. For dinner tonight we had the sauce over farro with some fresh minced parsley on top and it was good. For breakfast on Friday I used the cold sauce as more of a salad dressing over greens and that worked too.

Dietary Guidelines We Follow:

I promised yesterday that I would share what I try to keep in mind for our food. The way we eat is a hybrid of “Eat to Live” and “The China Study” with a few ideas from my research thrown in. I would describe our diet as being a whole food plant-based diet that is moderate in fat. Here are things I try to keep in mind when making our meals:

• Obviously no meat or dairy because of the impact of IGF-1 and tumor promotion.

• Absolutely no soy protein isolates because of their impact on IGF-1 and tumor promotion. This eliminates most vegan meat and dairy substitutes. When you start reading labels you realize this garbage is everywhere in the food supply. :-p

• No sugar (this includes refined sugar, raw sugar, agave, and honey) on a regular basis. I will very occasionally use maple syrup, brown rice syrup or molasses but this is not often and not much. We will have dessert once or twice a year when we are out for special occasions like New Years Eve with friends.

• No oil in my cooking. I will make an exception for truffle oil a few times a year for flavor. I also recognize that our no oil rule is not likely to happen when we are out which means we ask for as little as possible be used and move on. We eliminated oil because it is a processed food which has been stripped of everything but fat. I would prefer that we get our fat in a whole natural form with fiber and other nutrients.

• We do eat healthy fats but consume those in the form of nuts, seeds and avocado. I try to make certain we have a small amount of fat with each meal to increase the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Our overall fat percentage on average is between 15-20% of our total calories though I try to keep it closer to 15% when I can. Some days that is easier than others.

• As little processed food as possible. This means I don’t buy it and cook with it but if we are away from home and have no other option I will make an exception. However if it contains soy protein isolates we will not consume it. This also means no soda which is just a chemical concoction in my opinion.

• We try to eat half our produce raw and half cooked. This ends up meaning we eat mostly raw in the warm months and mostly cooked in the cold months. I need to work on that at get more raw produce into our diet when it is cold outside.

• Speaking of produce I always wash all of our produce very well, include fruit with peels that will be removed and salad greens. Raw food can contain pathogens which are very important to remove particularly if anyone in your house has a depressed immune system (young children, the elderly or those with cancer).

• Beans are something we eat nearly every day. I think we consume a minimum of a cup of beans per day. I cook them a pound at a time and keep them in the refrigerator to add to salads and other dishes.

• One tablespoon of ground flaxseed is included at breakfast in our smoothies or oatmeal. When I don’t have either of those for breakfast I add the ground flaxseeds to my salad or soup.

• White and green tea is something we drink every day. I always add approximately 1/8 teaspoon of powdered ascorbate C to the tea to enhance the absorption of the EGCG in the tea. In the summer I cold brew the tea and the winter we drink it hot. Overall we try to consume at least 6 cups of tea per day.

• Two Brazil nuts are included in our snack or smoothies everyday for the selenium.

• Raw kale is added to our green smoothies or strawberry banana soft serve at least 5 days a week, usually more often. I prefer to add the kale raw since it is more nutritious when raw or lightly cooked.

• Salad is something else we try to eat every day. This is much easier for us in the summer for some reason. I need to work on that one at our house.

• I try to make Indian food once a week for the opportunity to add turmeric to our diet because it has been shown to kill cancer. Whenever I used turmeric I always add a generous serving of black pepper since the piperine in the black pepper makes the curcumin in the turmeric more bioavailable.

• Speaking of spices I add cinnamon, powdered ginger, fresh ginger, and other herbs and spices liberally because of their antioxidant content. Not only do they make food interesting but they add nutrition.

• Since broccoli and tomatoes when consumed together increase the absorption of the antioxidants in each other I try to have those in the same meal if not the same dish.

• Now that I know mushrooms boost the immune system they are something we try to eat every day. It is much easier to add a few to a dish than I have expected. They seem to go with almost everything so far. ;-)

• We don’t drink fruit juice as a beverage since it an unnecessary addition of sugar for us. I will cook with a small amount of fruit juice or will use an apple in our green juice but that is it. If we are thirsty we have white tea, green tea, barley tea or water.

• I try to minimize our exposure to BPA. I do this by getting rid of all our plastic containers, no letting food come into direct contact with plastic wrap, not buying bottled water unless absolutely necessary, and minimizing our use of canned food. I also use waxed paper to top the food in Dan’s glass lunch containers which have a plastic snap lid to keep the food away from the lid (this is a just in case notion). I am not militant about this one since the risk factors are higher for women of child bearing age and young children but I wanted to mention it for those that are.

I am sure I have left a few things out but this is what has come to mind at the moment.   Sorry I was a little distracted today.

Happy Thoughts:

Given our recent bad news it is probably more important to come up with happy thoughts than usual. I had a little difficulty coming up with them today but here are my happy thoughts now:

• My knee still seems to be improving. I have no pain and feel like I could probably push it but I know that rest is important so I am trying to behave myself and so far it is working. It has been helpful to distract myself with nutrition textbook. At least I am learning while I am somewhat sidelined. ;-)

• With all the “cancer” around me I am very thankful that my husband is open minded and willing to try approaches that most Americans consider unthinkable. I completely believe that a well nourished, maintained and rested body must be better able to fight all disease including cancer.

• I am very thankful that it is the weekend which means more quality time with my hubby. I love my weekends with Dan. :-)

• Dan had jury duty today and was dismissed before he was called for a trial. This is a very good thing since he has gotten busy at work again and jury duty would have resulted in more hours at the office to make up for the lost time at jury duty.

• Additionally I am very thankful for the kindness of people on the internet. Specifically I am thinking of the comments I got that you don’t need to use oil when pressure cooking beans. That was great to hear since I don’t cook with oil and I hadn’t seen it anywhere until your comments.

• The snow we got overnight (Thursday into Friday) was nothing but a dusting which meant no traffic snarls today which is always welcome when you leave in an area where people panic when it snows.

Signing out:

Woo hoo; it is time to start the weekend. There is nothing like two days with Dan to make me happy. I have no idea what we will be doing this weekend but whatever it is I am sure I will enjoy it. I hope you have a wonderful weekend too. I will talk to you again tomorrow.


  1. Hi Honey,
    I am sorry you are having such a bad time with cancer. I wish there was something I could do to make it better, I just hope that this person will listen to the doctor, and be open to any idea's you give them. I am almost militant about plastics. I have to send Chris' lunch in plastics as I have not found any decent glass containers to send with him as I am especially leery of sending glass with him to a factory. I am very happy that they are really watching BPA in plastics now. I want you to know I am being more open minded to silicone..or trying to be. Watch out for petroleum based wax paper, there are some really nasty chemicals in it. I rarely if ever use it. BTW, I think it is perfectly fine for you to have some organic chocolate chips and you have some walnuts with it. I will be looking into some outside the box ideas for you. I have a reliable source that knows way to much about cancer.
    My thoughts are with you and Dan and for your friend too.

  2. Ali, I am sorry about your friend/family members recent diagnosis. I lost my grandpa recently to cancer, so I feel you on this one. I only have one living grandparent left and that included both my husband and my side. The best I think we can do is try to educate people on better nutrition and lifestyle. Let me know if I can do anything to help and you can always email me to talk :)

    As for your dietary guidelines, I really love them. I always have. I try my best to do half raw half cooked every day too. Usually dinner is my cooked half. I have recently tried to use only coconut oil for cooking. It must be hard to cook without any oil! Also, that's awesome you don't use any sugar at all!
    I wish I could do that. I try to only add maple syrup in my smoothies now. I am going to try using dates for sweetener now though if possible. It's so hard in my home because we all have totally different views on eating. I'm a vegan, my brother just eats junk food and won't even try the things I make, and my husband eats a diet of mostly rice & meat. It's a struggle every day. My husband will at least drink a green smoothie every day which I am thankful for. I just worry all the time about how bad their eating habits are because I love them so much. I don't know what to do though. I mean...I am 24 and my husband is 34. He is kind of set in his ways already. I am rambling sorry.

    Let me know if you need to talk!

  3. Alicia, im so sory to hear that another person close to you found out they had cancer. and like viv said i hope they are open to your input. you are doing lots of good for all the heartache you go through.

    liked reading your "what we do and dont do"

    what does vivacious mean about being more open to silicone?

  4. Gosh I'm sorry to hear about more cancer entering your life. It's sure a scary thing. Your summary of dietary guidelines is excellent! I'm going to print it out and keep it handy. When you say you drink 6 cups of tea, are they 8-oz size?

    Just an idea, but maybe you could do another post on supplements? (i.e. whatever else you take that's not included in your dietary guidelines). My friends are surprised that I'm hardly taking anything these days. I guess supplement intake should be related to how well one eats and whether there are any specific issues.

    Have a great weekend!

  5. Brandi,

    Sadly most doctors don't give the advice that I wish they would. Most of them seem to say there is nothing the patient can do other than exercise and maintain a healthy weight. *ugh*

    Glad to hear you are being more open minded. If you find any scientific articles that seem to indicate any detrimental effects from silicone I would love to see those. ;-)

    Talk to you later, :-)

  6. Carissa,

    I am sorry to hear about your grandfather. Cancer is such a horrific disease. Thank you also for you offer to talk. I appreciate that more than you know. :-)

    It was difficult to cook without oil when I first started doing it but now it is easy. You should try it I think you will find it is easier than you think.

    Giving up sugar was much harder on Dan that it was on me. I am more of a savory girl. ;-)

    It does sound like you have your hands full with the men in your life. Dan wasn't always the most cooperative either. If it weren't for the cancer I can't say he would be eating this healthy now either. I hope your brother and husband change their ways before there is a crisis. Can you at least get them to eat soup and salad? That would be a good way to get more veggies and less meat into them.

    Thanks again,

  7. Michelle,

    I am getting tired of all the cancer now it is just too much! The last few days have been rather down for me, rather like the cancer is winning. I hope I am doing some good. :-)

    Brandi is fearful of silicone bakeware but I am not. Then again I also doing use it very often either. For me if the choice is a non-stick baking sheet (which could flake into my food), oiled pan or a silpat I am going with the silpat.

    thanks again,

  8. Laura,

    Thanks I am getting a bit tired of all the cancer myself. There is only so much of this I can take. I have already lost 3 friends in their 30's to cancer. *sigh*

    When I said 6 cups I meant single servings (1 tea bag or 1 teaspoon of loose tea).

    Good idea about the supplements. I will try to work that in sometime this week. At the moment we aren't taking many either just a regular vitamin/mineral, B12, mushroom extract, astragalus (sp?), turmeric and vitamin D. It will take me a while to write up why we stopped taking the others but not these. ;-)

    I hope you are having a good weekend,

  9. Oh Ali, I'm so sorry to hear that another loved one is battling cancer. I'm here if you need to talk.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for including that detailed list of how you eat. You always give me something more to aspire to. xoxoxoxoxo


  10. LJ,

    I am so damn tired of people getting cancer. *argh* It is particularly difficult since it is the same type. I am hoping he will back off on the meat consumption but I am not expecting it if you know what I mean. However I will be thrilled if he proves me wrong!

    I am glad my little list of what we do and don't do helped. When we made each of these changes they seemed tough at first but within a few weeks each of them were easy individiually. If I wrote anything that inspires you to change I am happy. :-)

    I know you are always there and it means a lot, hugs,

  11. I also get so discouraged with cancer's rampage. It's all around us, hurting our loved ones... Such sadness.

    My dietary guidelines are somewhat similar to yours, but I see that I have lots more to learn from you (like your approach to plastic and BPA). Thank you for your post.

    I am curious about your certificate in plant-based nutrition. I have looked a little bit into that program. I think I'll send you a separate email with my questions, if you don't mind.

  12. Elizabeth,

    Cancer is horrible and very upsetting. I wish more doctors were on board with the value diet has but they aren't. That makes it more difficult to get through to love ones that are fighting cancer. *sigh*

    I am glad my post could help. When I reread it today I realized I left out quite a bit. I am going to add more in the next post. There is a lot to learn. Try not to feel overwhelmed it become second nature in time.

    Feel free to send me questions about the Cornell program in an email. I am happy to talk about it with you.

    enjoy the remainder of your Saturday,

  13. Ug, I am sorry about another incident of cancer in your life, that is just rough!

    I just want to continue to thank-you for all the health and nutrition information you post on your blog. I find it enlightening and encouraging.

    As I continue to evaluate whether, I am going to continue to eat vegan or not, I find that your words resonate in my head. For right now, I am choosing to eat foods that nourish my body and not harm it. I credit you and your words with my continued success, one week and counting.

    Anyway, as you continue to advocate for yourself, your loved ones and those affected by cancer, just wanted to give you some positive reinforcement.

    Thanks again, Susan

  14. You have already gotten this a lot from other commenters, I see, but I will add to the echo and say that I am sorry about your friend. He is lucky to have a friend like you who is so compassionate and kind and caring and willing to help :-) You have my e-mail if you need anything.

    Tomato sauce is one of my favorite things and I love making my own in huge batches to have on hand. I will have to give yours a try if I ever have time to cook again!

    I hope that Dan does not have to work this weekend and that the two of you can relax and enjoy some time together :-)


  15. Ali,
    Sorry to hear that you are not feeling well. Sending good vibes your way! Hope you feel better soon :)

    Absolutely love your nutrition guidelines!

    Take care of yourself and maybe do something fun this weekend.

  16. Susan,

    Congratulations on your first week as a vegan. That is absolutely wonderful. I hope you are starting to feel the health effects. :-) I do think of each meal as a chance to nourish myself and that helps me to to make the right choices most of the time. We will ignore my unhealthy breakfast on Thursday. ;-)

    Thank you for your kind words I really appreciate them. I try to help but some days I am a little overwhelmed and that is a good description of things at the moment. I am looking forward to be my old self again.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

  17. Courtney,

    I appreciate you more than you know. You are a great friend! If I think of anything you can do I will let you know.

    Dan didn't work today which was nice. I suspect he will have to log some time in the home office tomorrow since he was at jury duty on Friday.

    thanks again everything,

  18. Possum,

    I will be down for a few days at least. But thank you for sending the good vibes. I think that I need them at the moment. ;-)

    Dan and I took it easy today, listened to jazz and watched a couple of movies. It was a nice relaxing day. I needed that after this week.


  19. Hi! I just found your blog and have spent an hour or so already just browsing. Recipes look great! Regarding BPA, do you also try to minimize canned foods? I've read BPA is used in the plastics they use to line cans. Acidic things like tomatoes are supposed to have the highest concentrations. Have you read anything about that?

  20. Hilah,

    Thank you for the comment I am sorry my blog sucked you in for an hour though. ;-)

    Yes I have also read that cans are lined with BPA. Some articles have suggested that canned tomatoes would have the highest levels due to the acidity. However the only test I saw which showed BPA levels found canned green beans to be the highest in BPA. I use home canned tomatoes until I run out and then I switch to commercially canned.

    BPA isn't something that I worry about too much because I am not of child bearing age (well technically I am but we aren't going there) and we don't have any young children. BPA is more dangerous when someone is developing.

    Something I read recently suggested that we are more exposed to BPA in cash register receipts than in food. Now I always wash my hands after touching receipts, just in case. ;-)

    If you have any other questions feel free to ask. I am happy to share whatever I know.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend,

  21. Cash register receipts?! That's weird!

    I would also love for you to list the supplements you take and why you stopped taking certain ones. I like seeing lists in front of me. I've pretty 100% on "most" things on your list except: a few things I intake occasionally with soy protein - Gardein is pretty much the only one I eat only occasionally, and I'm not as interested in buying it anymore, and I use soy cream cheese in cheesecakes a few times a year...that's pretty much the only ones, I think; I still drizzle a tiny bit of agave on my oatmeal, but I could try to cut that out...we'll see...desserts are mostly only on vacation, but I make a dessert probably once a week; I do still use oil but definitely not daily, probably a few times a week; processed food - well, I'm not ready to give up Daiya yet, and I love Amy's low sodium enchiladas every now and then, but I'm getting better!; I can't make myself like tea yet, but I'm trying!; and I have mushrooms every chance I get, but it's hard to keep them fresh because I don't get to the store that regularly.

    Not that you wanted to know all of that - just letting you know that when I get reminded of things I already "supposedly know," it helps!


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