The jury’s still out: After spending a couple of weeks with the recently published “Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen,” I have yet to decide if the best part of the book is the 100-plus health-inducing recipes or the awesome text — an inspirational and encouraging mix of stories, advice and the poignant telling of the authors’ individual cancer experiences.
Local holistic health coach Kendall Scott partnered up last year with Annette Ramke — both cancer survivors — to write the book. With the subtitle “The Girlfriend’s Cookbook and Guide to Using Real Food to Fight Cancer,” you start off knowing it’s more than a cookbook. Their main desire is simply stated in the acknowledgements at the very end of the book: They were compelled to “provide support and share all we have learned on our cancer journeys with others so that their path might be just a bit easier.”
Scott is from Durham. She first met Ramke, who hails from Pennsylvania, in 2009 at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. Enrolled in the institute’s health coach training program, they were studying the connections between food and optimal health. Their teachers at the institute included such experts as Dr. Andrew Weil of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, Dr. Deepak Chopra, leader in the field of mind-body medicine, Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, and Dr. Walter Willett, chair of nutrition at Harvard University. Soon after, the two women began sharing their personal experiences with each other and acknowledged the lack of useful advice they encountered during their trips to what they call “Cancer World.”
“The main purpose in writing the book,” Scott said, “was to fill the void for something that was not available for us when we were going through cancer.” She said when someone gets a cancer diagnosis, “it feels like a death sentence.” Both Scott and Ramke wish someone had handed them copies of “Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen” the first time they walked into chemo.
Stating that research has shown a link between nutrition and cancer, Scott hopes the book will remind people that you do have control over some of what happens to you — by paying attention to what you eat. “Our message is: There is something you can do.”
The women — both holistic health coaches certified through the American Association of Drugless Practitioners — knew just what they wanted the book to be: A user-friendly guide to facing cancer. They wanted to include recipes and lots of information about food that will help build your immune system; ways to use food to help you feel better before, during or after your treatments; and upfront, candid and straightforward advice. “It’s something written by someone who’s actually been through it,” Scott said. You notice the authors’ realistic and painfully honest approach — and you know they aren’t sugar-coating their experiences — when you read their references to “nausea-nixing” or “mouth-sore-friendly.”
The book serves several purposes, one of which is to offer lots of gentle motivation to act preventively when it comes to food and nutrition. Why wait for a serious medical diagnosis to change some of your eating habits? An eye-opener included in Chapter Three: The Healing Power of Real Food is the very simple, yet dramatic, statement that cancer loves sugar (see page 81 for further explanation). Also included are the nicely presented differences between “food friends” and “food foes.” And it's all done in a non-preachy way.
Their advice in the first half of the book is for the spouse, children and friends of anyone who is facing cancer. The authors help you figure out what to say to your friend when she loses her hair, or what to do if you’re losing yours. Chapter 8 addresses some of the emotional ups and downs of cancer, and reminds you, thankfully, that it’s OK to eat some chocolate and cry.
The second half of the book brings us to the recipes. All of which help you incorporate healthful ingredients in a relatively mainstream way. Recipes are both broken into categories and cross-referenced by the symptom you’re dealing with. For instance, you can search for ideas about what to eat if chemo is making you nauseous, ways to fight off fatigue (ie: skip the caffeine if you can and avoid the dastardly sugar, yet again!), the best ways to boost your immune system, or how to improve red or white blood-cell counts (can I interest you in a few sea vegetables or perhaps some kale?).
Scott shared two recipes from the book, including savory stuffed squash (which falls in numerous categories including blood boosting, comfort food, constipation-kicking, fatigue-fighting and adrenal support). She said acorn squash contains phytonutrients like beta-carotene, which help also reduce free radicals in the body.
Her second recipe is a great comfort food with the Sun Journal — whether you have cancer or are just trying to incorporate a healthier lifestyle: Chocolate-cherry fudge brownies, anyone? Scott also considers these brownies great for the following issues: constipation-kicking, fatigue-fighting and adrenal support, and mood balancing.
This weekend, Scott and Ramke were asked to present a breakout session about their book in Las Vegas at the annual National Ovarian Cancer Conference. For more information about “Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen,” go to www.thekickingkitchen.com.
Savory stuffed acorn squash
Kendall Scott notes: “I love making stuffed squash. It fills my kitchen with sweet and savory scents and fills me up without feeling bloated and tired afterward. My mother-in-law also makes her own delicious version of stuffed squash. She gave me the idea to make them up ahead of time, wrapping each half of a stuffed squash in aluminum foil, baking some immediately to enjoy now and storing the rest in the fridge for up to three days. Then you just pop them in the oven and they’re ready to eat in an hour!”
Yield: makes 4 stuffed squash halves
1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
2 acorn squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small zucchini, small chop
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
5 crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cups baby spinach, loosely packed
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
Cook the brown rice according to directions (note: approximate cooking time for 2 cups is 45 to 60 minutes). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Gently scrub skins of the squash and cut off any long stems. Slice the acorn squash in half, from end to end, and scoop out seeds and loose membranes.
To prepare the stuffing, saute the red onion in olive oil for two minutes over medium heat or until onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and saute for one minute until it just begins to turn a very light golden brown. Add the zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms and cook for five minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the spinach, paprika, cumin, yeast, salt and pepper. Stir and let simmer for five minutes. Stir in the cooked rice and remove from heat.
Turn the squash cut-side up and scoop stuffing mixture into each squash half, packing it well and mounding the mixture high. Wrap each squash half in aluminum foil and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for one hour until the squash is thoroughly tender and easy to pierce with a fork.
Baked squash seeds
A easy recipe from co-author Annette Ramke.
Save those squash seeds to make a healthy snack. Place the seeds in a bowl with cool water and use your fingers to remove the squash membrane. Rinse the seeds and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Add the seeds to a bowl with a little sea salt, a dash of olive oil and any other desired seasonings, like cumin, cinnamon or garlic powder. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet. Bake the seeds at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they turn a light golden brown. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container for about one week.
Chocolate-cherry fudge brownies
Kendall Scott said these brownies are made with black beans instead of flour, so you get plenty of protein, fiber and extra nutrients. The oats and pecans add vitamins and minerals, so you enjoy a chocolaty, decadent dessert that is nutritious.
Yield: makes 16 2-inch brownies
1 package organic dark-chocolate or vegan chocolate chips (12 ounces)
3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil, plus additional for greasing
1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed (15 ounces)
3 flax eggs (see directions) Note: Organic or free-range eggs can also be used.
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup organic rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries, small dice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-9-inch pan with coconut oil. Place the chocolate chips and the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a heat-resistant glass container in a pot of water on medium heat. Heat until melted, stirring occasionally. Transfer the melted chocolate mixture to a blender or food processor. Add all the remaining ingredients except the pecans and cherries and blend them until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Stir in the pecans and cherries. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for approximately 50 minutes (30 or 35 minutes if using regular eggs) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the dish comes out mostly clean. Allow the brownies to sit for a few minutes, then serve, for a warm, gooey brownie. Or place them in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight before serving, to create a firm, fudgy brownie.
Vegan flax egg
Create a flax egg by whisking together 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water for each “egg” needed. Allow to sit for five minutes before using in recipe.
Recipes reprinted with permission from "Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen" by Annette Ramke and Kendall Scott.