Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Recipe Rescue: October 2014

Patrick Mathieu   

Features Health and Wellness Nutrition

In some way, shape or form, cancer has touched our lives; maybe you have experienced a personal battle, or perhaps you have watched a friend’s struggle or stood by a family member who has fought the disease.

In some way, shape or form, cancer has touched our lives; maybe you have experienced a personal battle, or perhaps you have watched a friend’s struggle or stood by a family member who has fought the disease.

Based on the regularity with which cancer strikes, the odds are we all will have an encounter with the disease in one way or another.  I’m very excited and proud to contribute to this special pink issue to help promote awareness of breast cancer. I watched closely as two grandparents and my childhood best friend’s mother succumbed to the disease. I also witnessed cancer ‘victories’ after two members of the Waterloo Fire Rescue family beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Cancer is everywhere around us, and the line of work that we all are in makes us even more susceptible.

What if I told you that by adopting a healthier lifestyle and adding few simple ingredients to our diets, we could reduce the risk of cancer-caused deaths by 60 per cent? Wouldn’t you try every little thing possible to save yourself, your family and your friends? I thought so. So, let us rock our pink T-shirts and chat about some cancer-fighting super foods.

Some foods, such as green tea and tomatoes, have long been touted as cancer fighters, which they definitely are, but your overall eating habits offer the strongest protection. Being in the emergency services, we need all the protection we can get. The best strategy for us is a diet rich in plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains, accompanied with omega-3 fats such as those found in salmon, whole grains and nuts. Cutting back on saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar also helps build the body’s internal army, making it an inhospitable place for cancer cells to live. It’s never too late to start building your cancer-fighting arsenal and the more frequently you can use these ingredients, the better:


Dark leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables – Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach and collards are all rich in anti-cancer properties such as diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and the element selenium. Releasing these powerful chemicals is important so do not overcook these greens. Try them raw in flavor-packed salads or chopped thin and pan-fried for just a few minutes.

Green tea – Drink a lot and drink it often, hot or cold. Green tea has epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and catechins. EGCG slows cancer growth so make sure it is the real-deal green tea (usually from Japan).

Oily fish – Salmon, sardines and mackerel are cancer-fighting specialists. Omega-3s, vitamin A and vitamin D are abundant in these fish and are proven cancer fighters.

Ginger and tumeric –
These spices are like good-tasting medicine. Ginger has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can slow cancer growth. Turmeric – the spice that forms the base of most curries – is from a root in the ginger family. Add them to your spice rack and use them often.

Berries – Don’t get too caught up on which berry to select because they are all extremely healthy. Most berries contain ellagic acid and other polyphenol antioxidants, which inhibit tumor growth. Add them to salads, breakfasts and, of course, desserts.

Nuts and seeds –
Low in saturated fat, nuts and seeds are already a good addition to any plant-based diet, but two really stand out in the cancer-fighting world: walnuts and flaxseed. Eating small amounts of walnuts can cut the risk of breast cancer in half, according to a recent study. Flaxseeds have cancer-fighting potential due to their fibre, omega-3 fats, and lignans (a beneficial plant compound).

Tomatoes – Especially cooked ones! Research shows seven to 10 helpings a week cuts prostate symptoms by 40 per cent and has an influence on many cancers such as lung, colon, cervix and breast. Lycopene is the prime active ingredient; it is also found in pink grapefruit, strawberries, peppers, carrots and peaches. Lycopene helps reduce bad fat levels in the blood stream and is a strong antioxidant.

The fun fighters: Red wine and dark chocolate –
red grapes contained in wine are flush with resveratrol – an antioxidant found in some plants that may help inhibit the growth of cancer. Dark chocolate containing more than 70 per cent cacao is loaded with potent antioxidant flavonols, polyphenols and proanthocyanidins, all of which help to slow the growth of cancer cells.

The key to using diet to help prevent or curb cancer growth is to adopt a healthier lifestyle in general. Keeping these foods readily available in your home or fire station will make it easier to whip up something nutritious and delicious. I’ve included a cancer-fighting grocery list as well as a couple recipes to help get you started. We are in the business of helping people and saving lives, so why not start with our own and the ones closet to us.

Cancer-fighting grocery list


  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweet potatoes


  • Avocados
  • Chili peppers
  • Figs
  • Grapefruits
  • Grapes
  • Oranges and lemons
  • Raspberries
  • Tomatoes

Seeds and Nuts

  • Flax
  • Walnuts

Herbs and spices

  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Tumeric


  • Red wine
  • Green tea and black tea


Cauliflower and Brussels penne in spicy, pink sauce


  • 3 cups chopped canned San Marzano tomatoes with juices
  • 1½ cups cream
  • ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • ½ cup coarsely shredded Fontina cheese
  • 2 tbsp ricotta cheese
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 medium cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb fresh Brussels sprouts, stem removed and halved
  • 1 lb whole grain penne or rigatoni pasta
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter


  1. Preheat the oven to 500 F and bring five quarts of salted water to boil in a stockpot.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, cream, cheeses, peppers, garlic, onion and salt. Drop the cauliflower, Brussels and pasta into the boiling water for five minutes. Drain, add them to the mixing bowl with the tomato mixture, and toss to combine.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish. Top with dabs of butter and bake for seven to 10 minutes, or until bubbly and brown on top.


Dark chocolate pink sorbet


  • 8 ounces Greek 2 per cent vanilla yogurt
  • 8 ounces mascarpone
  • 12 ounces frozen mixed berries
  • 2 ounces 70 per cent or more dark chocolate squares, plus more for shavings and garnish
  • 4 tbsp pure honey, more or less if you like
  • Mixed fresh berries for garnish
  • 1 tbsp red wine, optional, use only if you are planning on freezing


  1. Place dark chocolate in the food processor and pulse for 20 seconds or so until chopped somewhat. Add the remaining ingredients and blend for about 30 seconds. Top with fresh berries and dark chocolate shavings. Enjoy!
  2. Keep leftovers in the freezer. If you think you may have some left over, add one tablespoon of red wine to the mix to make sure the yogurt doesn’t freeze rock hard.

Patrick Mathieu is a 13-year veteran of Waterloo Fire Rescue, where he is acting captain. He has won several cooking competitions and has helped raise thousands of dollars for charities by auctioning gourmet dinners at the fire hall. Contact him at

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