Rethink Tested: The Living Kitchen Cookbook
By Shauna Krajacich
The first place I headed after being told, Hey it’s CANCER, was a well-lit, well-decorated café near the hospital.
I’d been eyeing it for a while, location scouting it as the perfect place to indulge before remotely finishing up the workday (as my biopsy results were going to come back fine anyway). The warm cappuccino and cozy cookie I was planning to order would be a much-deserved treat after celebrating the culmination of a months-long, anxiety-building ordeal.
Reality ended up being far less romantic – the stylish cafe was too bright, too bustling and I most certainly had cancer. Any sane person would have headed home, but being the stubborn Taurus that I am, I marched right up to the cash ready to claim my cookie prize. But, with nervous energy buzzing in my ears, the only order I could muster was green tea.
This moment marked an immediate shift in my lifestyle. For better or for worse, my old motto of “treats on treats on treats” was a thing of the past. I ferociously took on a new, healthier way of living. Whether or not that changes my outlook is uncertain, but I do have more energy and I feel good, and that gives me back some agency in my life.
When “The Living Kitchen” came my way, I was immediately excited by the book’s premise of helping cancer patients with recipes to support them from diagnosis to recovery, so I challenged myself to cook from the book for a week. Here’s what I experienced.
At First Blush…
Besides its bright and beautiful appearance, this book is written by two certified nutritionists – Sarah Grossman and Tamara Green – and has received praise from various oncologists. I took comfort in this immediately, trusting that these recipes would make me feel satiated and also provide me with the nutrients needed in recovery.
I only wish I had something like this at the start of my cancer experience (vs. months after active treatment), as it would have provided some much-needed guidance and kept me out of the scarier corners of Google.
Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Bowl and Classic Granola
How long it lasted: I doubled the quinoa recipe, giving me four servings to get me through Monday to Thursday. The book claimed that the granola would give me 12 servings, which I felt was more realistically seven.
The verdict: Surprisingly and unsurprisingly delicious! Unsurprisingly, because, how could you go wrong with homemade granola? It’s much less sweet than store-bought but still a way to sneak in the power couple of chocolate (or cacao nibs) and coconut. Surprisingly, because, sweet quinoa – whodathunkit?! A wonderful, warm alternative to my tried-and-true overnight oats, which were too cool for the colder months.
Turkey White Bean Stew
How long it lasted: Two work weeks (roughly 10 days). I was pleasantly surprised there were leftovers to throw into the freezer!
The verdict: I’ve been seeing so many white bean stew recipes pop up through my feed and so I was excited to finally try one. I wasn’t disappointed – this not only tasted good but left you with the hearty feeling that only a home-cooked meal can give you during the dark winter months. However, word of caution for the hungry – without some sort of carb like rice or quinoa I was starving once that mid-afternoon slump hit.
Mushroom Walnut “Meatballs”
How long it lasted: The recipe made 12 meatballs, which sufficiently got me through four meals when paired with pasta and marinara sauce.
The verdict: This one was a little more daunting at the outset as it requires a food processor. And a “chia egg” which, spoiler alert: is not very egg-like at all. That being said, this recipe impressed me the most, taste-wise. But, these misnomer “meatballs” are delicious, filling and something to wow your vegan (and even non-vegan friends) with at your next dinner party.
Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges and Sunflower Hummus
How long it lasted: I brought the wedges with me to a friend’s place where it was devoured so ….minutes? The sunflower hummus was a good companion to my veggies, lasting about four days.
The verdict: I was so happy with how delicious and easy the sweet potato fries were. One of the biggest challenges of eating well is having something quick and easy to bring to parties. This is certainly a recipe I’ll be adding to my roster!
The sunflower hummus, albeit delicious, was the least impressive of all the recipes I tried. I will make it again, but next time with a little bit of spice or something to make it worthy of unpacking my heavy-duty blender.
Overall I really enjoyed these recipes and the book’s holistic approach to food. It does a great job of providing cancer patients with tangible tips rooted in science, that can be adapted depending on where you are in your cancer experience.
The first chapters of the book explore topics like “Replacing food fear with food mindfulness”, “Breathing Before Eating” and “Eating to combat common side effects” while also breaking down some common questions – what oil do I cook with, how do I get macronutrients into my diet, or what are antioxidants even? I found these initial chapters to be insightful companion pieces to the recipes.
Eating well should make you feel happy and satisfied, not unfulfilled and restricted. This book provides a bounty of options that will leave home chefs with full bellies and excited taste buds. It’s an excellent addition to the recipe library!
For more ideas on healthy eating when it comes to cancer, click here.