Food from a friend was a key part of fight against cancer

06/03/2014 11:00 AM

06/03/2014 2:23 PM

Food, friendship and fun converge in Janie Wang’s kitchen.

After Wang was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, one of her best foodie friends, Linda Annecchini of Kansas City, helped create good food and good will during her rocky road to remission.

Wang says she started to feel truly healed when she began to make meals for her family again.

And Annecchini is happy to continue stirring up entertaining edibles as Wang’s sous chef.

“We have so much fun and are compatible working together in the kitchen,” Annecchini says. “In the time we cook together, we not only try to solve the world’s problems, we also make some great meals for each of our families to enjoy.”

Residence: Prairie Village

Occupation: Works in the medical field

Family: Husband, Andy; daughter, Beth, 18; and son, Ben, 16

Special cooking interest: Creating comfort foods

Can you describe the connection between Linda and you? I am forever grateful to the many friends who helped feed and care for my family when I was the sickest after my treatments. I think as women we want to nurture and take care of our families, and feeding them is such a big part of that.

When I was sick and couldn’t leave the house because of my compromised immune system, Linda would call me, leaving food on my doorstep after visiting the farmers market. Even though I couldn’t physically give her a hug for her kindness, I felt the love and care that went into the food she brought for my family to share.

I have been on the receiving end of so much kindness and love through the food people brought to our home. It is humbling.

Now that you are in remission, why do Linda and you continue to regularly meet in the kitchen for convivial cookery? I love spending time with people who are so supportive, but I can’t meet for coffee and also find enough hours in the day to take care of the necessities of life, which includes making nightly meals for my family.

Linda and I will meet in either my kitchen or hers, and I will have a recipe in mind that we can prepare for our respective families to enjoy that night for dinner. So we cook and talk, and by the time we are finished, we have renewed not only our friendship, but we’ve also taken the chore out of cooking for our families.

Why did you decide to share this recipe? I really started to feel like I was getting back to normal when I started to make meals for my family again. Even though I am still regaining my sense of taste, one of my families’ earliest dinner requests was this Special Chicken, as we call it. I love this recipe so much because it always turns out super juicy and is so adaptable.

Andy’s parents were both born in China, and the basis of this recipe comes from his mother, Katherine. The wine and cornstarch are the secret to this marinade. You can make different versions of it depending on the spices you use, but the chicken always turns out with a light crust on the outside and juicy on the inside. It is also very economical since it is sliced into pieces that can be used so many different ways: on rice, noodles, risotto, bread, salad or tortillas.

Why do you think food is so important to share with not only family, but also friends? For me, cooking is not only therapeutic, it’s also a way to feed others on a deeper level. It’s more than just providing nourishment for the body. Whether I’m cooking with a friend or sitting down to dinner with those I love around the table, we are sharing more than food, we are sharing the essence of life together through conversation.

I learned so many lessons from my mother, Barbara Raveill, when I was growing up in Independence as one of eight children. My mother would always prep the vegetables and have them ready to go in the refrigerator so she could put together a wholesome meal quickly.

As humans, we have a need to be fed, but it is more than just putting ingredients together that will give us energy. Food is also about the love.

Special Chicken Marinade (Italian version)

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup pinot grigio white wine

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half crosswise into cutlets

Pour olive oil, wine, cornstarch, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, basil and oregano into the bowl of a blender and liquefy.

Pour contents into a resealable plastic bag and add chicken breasts. Remove air, seal the bag and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Discard the marinade and cook the chicken by grilling, baking (in a preheated 350-degree oven) or pan frying in (2 tablespoons olive oil) until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees when tested with a meat thermometer.

Allow chicken to rest for 5 minutes before slicing into thin strips.

Serve family-style over risotto with peas or penne pasta with Alfredo sauce and mushrooms.

Per serving, based on 6: 253 calories (39 percent from fat), 11 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 91 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, 36 grams protein, 281 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Alternate flavors

These variations use the same preparation instructions but with different marinade ingredients and serving suggestions:

Chinese: Substitute sesame or hot chili oil for olive oil; fresh cilantro leaves for basil leaves; a 1-inch piece of freshly grated ginger root for oregano; and add 2 green onions, diced.

Serve sliced chicken over prepared rice with peanut sauce. For Chinese chicken salad, serve over fresh greens with a peanut dressing or vinaigrette of choice.

Per serving, based on 6: 261 calories (39 percent from fat), 11 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 91 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 283 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Mexican: Substitute fresh cilantro leaves for basil leaves; 1 seeded jalapeno for oregano; freshly squeezed orange juice for lemon juice; and add 2 green onions, diced.

Serve sliced chicken in warmed tortillas with salsa, cheese, Spanish rice and beans.

Per serving, based on 6: 261 calories (39 percent from fat), 11 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 91 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 283 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

Janie’s version: Substitute fresh parsley leaves for basil leaves; fresh rosemary leaves for oregano; and add 1 teaspoon each dried sage and dried thyme.

Serve sliced chicken over rice pilaf with currants.

Per serving, based on 6: 257 calories (39 percent from fat), 11 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 91 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 282 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

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