I had a really cool experience recently as part of a special BlogHer tour to City of Hope in Duarte, CA. City of Hope is a biomedical research, treatment, and education institution located just outside of Los Angeles, and one of their specialties is developing groundbreaking treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes (check out their blog here). Since I’m a recent cancer survivor myself , I was really excited by the possibility of visiting the facility and learning more about what the scientists and medical team are doing. The grounds were absolutely lovely with lush trees and greenery: I enjoyed seeing the “Wish Trees” in the entryway which are adapted from the Japanese tradition: From the mouths of babes (“Keep Life, Don’t Lose It”): City of Hope is doing a really neat marketing campaign right now called Citizens of Hope to help educate and inspire people to join the fight against disease. Part of the campaign is creating a badge saying what give you hope. When I created mine, I decided what gives me hope is community because I know I couldn’t have made it through my battle with cancer without the support of everyone around me, including my amazing blog readers: After getting an overview tour of the medical center and hearing about their commitment to comprehensive patient care, our group was treated to a fascinating discussion of superfoods from some of the world’s leading scientists: In addition to this presentation on “Seeking new therapies from nature’s formulary” from Dr. Yim, we also got to hear from Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., who is a leading researcher on using naturally occurring compounds in foods like mushrooms, pomegranates, and blueberries to suppress cancer. It was a real honor to be in the presence of such great minds that are working tirelessly to make discoveries using foods that are easily accessible: After getting back from this trip, I practically ran to my kitchen to put together a meal using some of the ingredients we talked about, in particular mushrooms and thyme (but not ignoring onions, herbs, butternut squash, bell peppers, garlic, beans, celery, and other spices). What I ended up making is an Autumn-Inspired Superfood Stew in my slow-cooker that is not only super easy, but super delicious! I started by water-sauteeing the onion and mushrooms: I added the bell peppers and celery: The slightly cooked vegetables got added to the slow-cooker with the butternut squash, beans, and other ingredients and spices: Eight hours later (on low heat) when my stew was done cooking, I chopped up fresh herbs to add some greenery to the dish: Almost ready: I served my stew with a topping of fresh chopped onion and some non-dairy yogurt on the side: Here’s the recipe (note: although I use a 7-quart slow-cooker, I have adapted this recipe for the more common 4 1/2 – 6-quart versions):Print
- ½ red onion, chopped
- 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (about 18-20 small)
- 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 ribs)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb. fresh or frozen butternut squash cubes (about 4-5 cups)
- 1 cup no-salt added tomato sauce
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 15-ounce can cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- non-dairy yogurt (optional), for topping
- In a large non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of water over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until softened. Stir often to prevent burning.
- Add chopped mushrooms to the skillet and stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms have softened. Add an additional 2 tablespoons of water if necessary.
- Next, add the chopped celery, red bell pepper, and minced garlic to the onion and mushroom mixture, stirring to combine. Cook for 3-4 more minutes.
- If using frozen butternut squash, add the frozen squash to the skillet and cook for 5-6 minutes until squash has thawed (if you are using fresh squash, you do not need to cook it before adding to the slow cooker).
- Pour the onion, mushrooms, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and butternut squash into a 4 ½ – 6 quart slow cooker.
- Add the tomato sauce, vegetable broth, black beans, raisins, dried thyme, red pepper flakes, dried cumin, smoked paprika, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
- Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours or until butternut squash is tender.
- Stir in the chopped parsley, tamari or soy sauce, and lemon juice and serve with a dollop of non-dairy yogurt, if desired.
The stew just kept getting better and better as I served the leftovers in different ways, including over salad greens for an easy, hot lunch: Even though I consider myself to be a very health-conscious vegan and use superfoods on a daily basis anyway, this experience was a reminder of how important it is for me to eat a variety of plant foods and to stay on top of the latest information. I’m so grateful to both BlogHer and City of Hope for including me in this event so I could be inspired by the research on cancer prevention and treatment through the use of food and for letting me share all of what I learned with you! Note: My trip was sponsored by BlogHer and City of Hope, but all the opinions expressed here are my own.
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