Muffin wrapper

Fudge-y bits, crumbly bits, and all the bits the muffin paper surface will release only with a careful scrape of a knife, were gathered. A careful scrape is in order because tearing that paper would compromise the heft of the fudg-y bits, all pushed together into a small bite on the edge of the knife. This bite was my pre-fast (therapeutic fasting around chemo) treat last week. I haven’t eaten any refined sugar for 6 weeks. Cancer cells love sugar and frankly I haven’t craved it much. However, that bite of Grand Central Bakery’s Chocolate Wheat Muffin goodness, eaten after the bulk of the muffin, one of my all time favorite treats, was devoured by two nine-year-olds, was the best thing I’ve eaten in ages. And it felt like a whole piece of cake! And it sent me into my 3.5 day fast with a smile on my face.

Feeding Others

bruschetta w peaches prep

We are surrounded by the loving instinct to nourish those in a time of need. Friends and family are eager to start a meal train for us and meantime they deliver lovely treats at random.

Enter the patient who develops recipes for a living and who is following a therapeutic fasting regime for three and half days around each chemo session.  Thus, picture me walking up and down my street, plates of just tested and photographed food in hand in search of eaters!

On the days leading up to chemo, that is food that has actually not been tasted by me! Oh the irony and the learning . . .when my boys are home I’ve begun to rely on their palates to tweak the dishes but mostly I just trust myself and years of cooking to know how a dish should be. Luckily, the cook-with-what-you-have philosophy of taste as you go, adjust seasoning to suit your taste, substitute what you have on hand, means you can create delicious food without exact measurements and overly detailed instructions.

I tested the above peach bruschetta prior to my first round of chemo as I needed a better photograph of it for a newsletter. I didn’t have goat cheese (as called for in the recipe) on hand but knew that the feta I did have on hand would pass as goat cheese in the photo. My neighbor who graciously answered my random knock on her door at 10am ate them with glee, so please add feta to the options of possible toppings!

Happy cooking with what you have!

Bruschetta with Peaches and Basil

Peaches and basil are a great combination and this dish is simple, gorgeous and delicious.

Serves 5 as a side/starter

5 good crusty slices of bread, toasted or grilled
3-4 ounces fresh goat’s cheese (or fresh ricotta or some other mild, spreadable cheese)
Handful or two of whole basil leaves
1-2 large peaches, washed but not peeled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Good olive oil
A little balsamic sherry or any vinegar you have or lime juice

Set your oven to broil or turn on/light your grill. Slice the unpeeled peaches into 1/4-inch thick slices, working your way around the peach vertically. Spread the peach slices on a cookie sheet and broil for about 5minutes until browning in a few spots. You don’t want them to fall apart or burn so watch closely. Alternatively grill on foil on a grill.

Cut your slices of toasted bread in halves or thirds. Spread generously with goat cheese (or feta:) and cover cheese with slices of grilled peaches. Salt and pepper the bruschetta at this point and drizzle with a little good olive oil. Then top with the basil leaves and a very light drizzle of balsamic vinegar and enjoy right away!

Food & Healing

tehina sauce date balls vinaigrette
Tahini sauce with garlic, lemon and cumin; classic vinaigrette; ginger, date, nut, tahini balls.

This does not look like my typical mid-summer blog post photo. It is not a typical mid-summer.

I have just been diagnosed with breast cancer and have been learning about foods to nourish me during this journey–chemo therapy and eventually surgery. I am eating tons of fresh vegetables but I am also eating more plant based fats and no more sugar or much in the way of animal products. There is a lot of interesting research on diet vis a vis breast cancer, though I have to say my diet to-date has been pretty darn near ideal to have lowered my risk for this situation so the learning curve has luckily not been as steep as it might have been.

I hope to share my culinary explorations throughout this caper here as I intend to make this as delicious and nourishing a time as possible.

I’ve been making batches of the goodies above: a rich tahini sauce (the latter half of the linked recipe) inspired by the Zahav cookbook using the tahini they use which is better than any I’ve ever tasted. I top vegetables with this creamy sauce/spread, I thin it out to dress salads, I spread it on bread, and eat it by the spoonful, mix it with roasted eggplant for baba ganoush etc.

Having a ready made vinaigrette on hand means that I can dress up any vegetable, cooked or raw, at a moments notice.  It is the difference between wanting to eat veggies rather than moping that I’m not eating any cookies these days!

And the Gingery Date & Nut Balls come in where the cookies used to be. I look forward to developing a local (Oregon) version of these with dried prunes and hazelnuts instead of the dates and pecans I’ve been using.

Finally, here’s a shot of the (beginning of the) vegetable broth that will be key to my therapeutic fasting before, during and after chemo each time. I’ll devote a whole post to this part of the regimen soon.

Fasting veg broth

Gingery Nut & Date Balls

These are fragrant thanks to the ginger, cardamom and cinnamon and rich from the nuts, fruit, tahini and cocoa.

2 cups nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds. . .or any combination of those or others)
6 large pitted, medjool dates
3-4 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
½  teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
Pinch sea salt

Process nuts in food processor until finely ground. Add dates, spices, tahini, salt and process again until it starts to form a ball. Roll the mixture into balls and then roll in shredded coconut. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Happy Summer and Happy Cooking!