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Pesto Lasagna & Cancer

Apologies for the lack of National Nutrition Month Daily Topic yesterday! I really wanted to devote an entire post to a stance I feel so passionate about. And apparently many of you do, too (WOO!)! So, I’m doubling up the NNM topics today with cancer. But more on that later.

I’m sure many of you visit blogs that have recipes that leave you one foot out the door to go gather up ingredients to make. That happens to me…a lot. As in, the next recipe was uhhh-mazing, just as I had imagined it being after reading about it on Kerstin’s blog (P.S. her picture does this delight WAY more justice than the following!)

…and you may notice I served it with more Faux Fried Calamari, per Mr. Prevention’s plea.

Light Pesto Lasagna with Chicken and Spinach adapted from Cake, Batter, and Bowl

1 box whole wheat lasagna noodles
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4-5 shallots) 1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (bake for 5 min at 350ºF)
2 cups fresh basil (1.5 ounces)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (1.5 ounces)
2 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup chicken stock
15 ounces part-skim ricotta
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 egg
4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook lasagna noodles according to the directions on the package.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and cook chicken for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through and no longer pink in the center. Remove chicken and add shallots onion to the same pan; sauté 5 minutes or until the shallots onions are soft. Add garlic and sauté one additional minute.

Place shallot onion mixture in a food processor, along with the 2 remaining tablespoons of olive oil, pine nuts, basil, parmesan cheese, goat cheese, and chicken stock. Pulse until a smooth pesto forms.

Mix the ricotta, spinach, and egg in a medium bowl until smooth.

To assemble the lasagna, place a layer of 4 noodles in a 13×9-inch pan and top it with the ricotta mixture, half the chicken, half the pesto, and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Repeat this layer. Then place the remaining 4 noodles on top and sprinkle evenly with the 2 remaining cups of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350ºF for 45 min. Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition: 465 calories, 19.9g fat, 4.3g fiber, and 35.9g protein per serving
Cost: $1.40 per serving

Result: YUMMMMM!!!!

Today’s NNM Topic: Prostate and Breast Cancer

Cancer is currently the second leading cause of death among American’s. In recent years, cancer has grown in numbers and is nearly as fatal in the US as the leading cause of death, heart disease. The most common form of cancer is skin cancer and the least common form is thyroid. Lung cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer are the second, third, and fourth most common types of cancer, respectively.

Nutrition therapy for cancer patients greatly depends on the needs of the patient and their stage in treatment. Minimizing food-related discomforts during chemotherapy and radiation treatments is very important. Maintaining good nutritional status, strength, and quality of life are also imperative. With pre-existing conditions and dietary restrictions in mind, a general diet is typically recommended. Modifications are made based on the patient’s tolerance of the diet, as well as the tumor site and side effects. Commonly, a high-calorie, high-protein diet is needed to maintain body mass and decrease cachexia and malnourishment. Texture and temperature modifications can often ease the palatability of food for patients.

Primary goals in nutrition therapy include preventing cancer cachexia syndrome (weight loss, anorexia, early satiety, fatigue, and chronic nausea). Protein-energy malnutrition is the most common secondary diagnosis in cancer patients and can help be prevented with the work of an oncology dietitian.

Complementary and alternative medicines are frequently used in oncology. Everything from herbs to vitamins to teas are used to help ease the side effects of treatment and help maintain good health. It is important to remember that supplements are not regulated by the FDA and should only be used under the supervision of a doctor and/or dietitian to help ensure safety of use. Not all “all-natural” and herbal products are safe for use.

Question: Do you know anyone who has undergone cancer treatment? Did they experience any adverse side effects to treatment? If so, what symptoms did they display or complain of?

Random question: Does anyone know what “holiday” is tomorrow? Don’t Google it…cheaters!! You’ll find our soon enough if you don’t already know 🙂

Happy Tuesday!

Share With Your Friends!


  1. Jess (Fit Chick in the City)
    March 9, 2010 / 6:02 am

    Really interesting information on nutrition and cancer patients. I have no idea what holiday it is tomorrow?

  2. Joanne
    March 9, 2010 / 6:16 am

    First of all thanks so much for the award! Don’t know how I missed it. You are too sweet <3

    Next. Pesto lasagna=fantastic. You've got me dreaming about it. Isn't Kerstin full of good ideas?

    About your last post – it aggravates me as well. Why is dairy not "real food"? And why do we have to make our own yogurt to allow it to be real? That's just unrealistic and the stringency of it would definitely push people away from wanting to try to eat healthier. I consider real food to be food that I make myself as opposed to things like doritos or potato chips. A much better definition if I do say so myself.

  3. Can You Stay for Dinner
    March 9, 2010 / 7:57 am

    Mmm delicious lasagna! I love love love pesto!

  4. Anne Marie@New Weigh of Life
    March 9, 2010 / 8:32 am

    A few members of my family have been through cancer treatment and have gotten pretty sick from it.

  5. John
    March 9, 2010 / 10:10 am

    One of my customers a few years ago went through chemo. She lost her hair and complained of being sick and sore a lot. She’s still kicking though.

    I’ll wait till tomorrow to see what holiday it is.

  6. Evan Thomas
    March 9, 2010 / 10:29 am

    Tomorrow is a Holiday? Maybe a religious one? I have NO IDEA, but I’m already wondering how to celebrate

  7. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday
    March 9, 2010 / 10:32 am

    My mom passed away from breast cancer in 2006. She had it first in 1990 and was in remission for 14 years before it came back again. In her second bout of cancer she had chemotherapy but her cancer kept spreading… all the way to her brain. It was such a terrible experience on her and my whole family.

  8. Estela @ Weekly Bite
    March 9, 2010 / 10:45 am

    Ha! I know EXACTLY what holiday it is tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    But to keep your readers guessing… I won’t spill the beans ๐Ÿ™‚

    I will say that its the best Holiday of the year ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Lauren @ Eater not a runner
    March 9, 2010 / 11:17 am

    My mom has had cancer four times. The thing she complained about most was just how tired she was from all the treatments, and how nauseous she felt. It is so draining and made it very hard for her to work (which unfortunately she had to).

  10. eatingRD
    March 9, 2010 / 11:52 am

    holy pesto, that looks good! That is my kind of dish ๐Ÿ™‚ going to have to make that one! Great info, yes my grandpa has had 4 different types of cancer and it’s just the worst thing. He thankfully had my grandma, who is an RN and great cook, to help keep him strong. I remember him getting weak and struggling with nausea. I recommended mint tea and that seemed to help at least a little ๐Ÿ™‚ have a good day Nicole Your Lily is too cute too!

  11. Swanky Dietitian
    March 9, 2010 / 12:05 pm

    That dish looks great! I love pesto!
    I know what day tomorrow is..RD DAY!! Yay!
    Have a great day Nicole!

  12. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    March 9, 2010 / 12:40 pm

    That lasagna looks amazing. I don’t know anyone who went through cancer (thank God) but my husband’s mother died of ovarian cancer when he was a teen. That one is so hard to catch (and the warning signs sound like a list of PMS symptoms) so by the time it was diagnosed, it was too late. Great info!

  13. Food-Fitness-FreshAir
    March 9, 2010 / 12:46 pm

    I love pesto…it freezes really well too, so if you put some basil in your new garden, make sure to make extra batches of pesto!

  14. Kelly
    March 9, 2010 / 12:54 pm

    That was interesting information about cancer patients. My husband trains a client who just recently beat breast cancer…I am going to have him read this just for extra information and knowledge. Thanks Nicole!

  15. Anna
    March 9, 2010 / 2:50 pm

    Yum yum!!! Looks delicious! Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚ Not sure about that holiday, but I look forward to finding out ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. homecookedem
    March 9, 2010 / 3:38 pm

    It’s HAPPY RD DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I totally read about this in an article on SparkPeople.com’s blog today!! I made a note on my to-do list to wish a Happy RD Day to you tomorrow right after I read that!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    That pesto lasagna looks incredible!! This is something my mom and sis would love!! They make homemade pesto, yum!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Nicole
      March 9, 2010 / 9:20 pm

      You’re too sweet!

  17. marla {Family Fresh Cooking}
    March 9, 2010 / 3:43 pm

    This lasagna sounds great! Tasty combo of ingredients.
    Of course you all ready have an egg slicer in that awesome, well organized kitchen of yours ๐Ÿ™‚
    Heading to SF this weekend, will try to scout some hotels for BloghHer.
    The cancer thing……horrible enough to go through that level of discomfort, let alone have no appetite and feel queasy. Tough subject. Glad you addressed it.

  18. kalli@fitandfortysomething
    March 9, 2010 / 4:00 pm

    what a great topic!
    i know too many people lately who have undergone treatment or are undergoing it now…..very scary.
    food issues are definitely prevalent mostly due to the chemo or radiation.
    thanks for the info!

  19. Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce
    March 9, 2010 / 5:17 pm

    sadly i know many people who have undergone cancer treatment, and they all experienced bad side effects from the meds…understandable, since chemo is a POISON after all and radiation is obviously not going to make you feel good either! maintaining proper nutrition despite anorexia (i don’t mean nervosa) is soooo important, you’ve gotta be strong and well nourished in order to fight off cancer!

  20. Morgan @ Healthy Happy Place
    March 9, 2010 / 5:51 pm

    I know many people who have had treatment for cancer. Most of them complained of being really tired and having nausea 24-7. I think nutrition can help fend off a lot of illnesses, which is one of the main reasons I try to get all of my nutrients each day.

  21. whydeprive
    March 9, 2010 / 5:54 pm

    I was sold on this recipe the second I read the name, then I saw goat cheese, and I pretty much have no choice but to make it.

    A lot of people in my family have had cancer. My dad has had 3 surgeries. 2 for skin cancer (they didnt get it all the first time) and 1 for prostate. He’s got a clean bill of health now, and actually never once complained. Didnt even take a day off work – he had his prostate surgery done on vacation days. Of course, he’s crazy. But that was his choice.
    Im terrified of cancer. I lost 2 grandparents to it, and my cousin had lukemia when she was just little.
    Thats one of the reasons why Ive changed my eating habits so much.

    • Nicole
      March 9, 2010 / 9:22 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear about your family and cancer. It’s so sad. Cancer is on the rise big time — makes me think a lot of it is environmental (?)

      Enjoy the lasagna — you will LOVE it! It reheats beautifully!

  22. Faith
    March 9, 2010 / 5:56 pm

    This is such a fantastic twist on lasagna — pesto is a fav of mine, and definitely perfect for St. Patty’s Day, which is fast approaching! I have to admit that I don’t know what holiday tomorrow is…but after I leave this comment I’m going to go google it! Also, I wanted to let you know that I received the coupons in the mail…thank you so much! You are such a sweet person Nicole, and I’m so glad to have met you in bloggy land too! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Nicole
      March 9, 2010 / 9:22 pm

      Aww, thank you! And you’re welcome! I hope you can use them ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Kasey
    March 9, 2010 / 6:51 pm

    That lasagna looks and sounds fab; I would have never thought of incorporating pesto into lasagna.

    I’m a little late but I wanted to tell you that was a great post yesterday. Obviously, I totally agree with you!

  24. Julie @ Pickley Pear
    March 9, 2010 / 7:01 pm

    I can’t wait to make that lasagna! I thought it was National Blueberry Popover Day, but I could be wrong ๐Ÿ™‚ I usually wait for the Hungry Girl newsletter to find out what food holiday it is.

  25. The Candid RD
    March 9, 2010 / 7:09 pm

    I know what holiday it is!!!! And, I had completely forgotten, thanks for the reminder, yikes!
    Great information about cancer. I do know many people who have had cancer, most of whom were family members. The cancer that is in my family is what inspired me to become an RD, and to lead a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle of my own. It makes me sad just thinking about what my grandparent’s went through in their cancer treatment, it was awful! Since then, the treatments have come so far, and they only get better everyday. And of course the dietary advice for how to deal with the side-effects only gets better too. I wish I would have learned more about oncology during my internship, really. I didn’t learn much at all ๐Ÿ™

  26. Simply Life
    March 9, 2010 / 7:32 pm

    ooh what a great twist on lasagna – it sounds amazing!

  27. Mari
    March 9, 2010 / 10:26 pm

    HAPPY EARLY RD DAY!!!!!!!!

    That lasagna looks delish but I would have to make it without the chicken lol, I would just add extra cheese to make up for it ha

  28. Heather @ Get Healthy With Heather
    March 11, 2010 / 12:25 am

    You can never go wrong with pesto! Yes I do know someone going through cancer for the 2nd time now. It’s sad that it happens but empowering to see the fight he puts in.

  29. Lisa
    March 11, 2010 / 6:40 pm

    ooh, this lasagna looks great! I’m all for “healthy” lasagna!

  30. Kerstin
    March 11, 2010 / 10:18 pm

    Yay, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! Your post has made my day ๐Ÿ™‚

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