Food & Healing

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!


41 thoughts on “Food & Healing”

  • Dear Katherine:

    Thanks for your post. I am sorry for the diagnosis. I am on a similar food/healing journey, so I look forward to learning more as you have energy and ideas to share. A huge help for me has been juicing veggies and fruit, plant based proteins and fish.

    Best wishes to you,


  • I’m also very sad to learn of your diagnosis and so glad you’re using food to heal! Stay strong and fight back with loads of antioxidants and vitamin C. Cancer cells hate both! Breathe in all the oxygen and life force you can, they also squelch cancer cells. Wishing you the best and support from a naturopathic oncologist.

  • Candace Ford says:

    Good luck with your treatments. I am a 16 year breast cancer survivor, went though chemo and radiation and while I seemed to be cold all the time and all my hair, eyelashes and eyebrows fell out (being bald may have contributed to being cold – I wore a stocking hat to bed) it wasn’t the most horrendous thing I’ve ever faced – by a long shot!!! Much harder dealing with my teenage son’s fear for me!) So my advice is keep faith that it will be fine, pamper yourself and enjoy – as we all should do – life to the fullest. Sincerely, Candace

  • Teri Simpson says:

    Surely, you know so well about nourishing your mind, body, and spirit. You will be in my thoughts as I cook and eat in the way that you have so inspired.

  • Alison Valier says:

    I am sorry to hear of your cancer diagnosis. You are an inspiration to so many and posting about your nourishing foods related to your medical journey is another example. Thinking of you, Katherine, and sending hugs! ~Alison

  • Oh, Katherine, I am sorry to hear this news of your cancer diagnosis. It is in your typical fashion that you are writing of this with thought for food and how it will nourish you through this process of treatment. Your experience and guidance will help others too, many of whom have/or will deal with this disease. Wishing you the best on your journey.

    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Thanks Marilyn. The food aspect of this journey is giving me so much to be excited about, learn about, explore and share.

  • Dear Katharine,
    We are holding you in our heart, sending you love, strength, feistiness, courage. Thanks for your willingness to be open about your journey. It allows more of us to send you energy and hold you close. xo

  • Ellen Goldsmith says:

    Katherine, You are a mighty woman, bringing your journey and gifts outward to your community. I send you light and love and would love to cook for YOU!

  • This post is beautiful, honest, brave and practical-just like you! Thanks for sharing, and I do LOVE that tahini spread 🙂

  • Oh no Katherine. You are such an inspiration around food and health and I know you will fight the heck out of this diagnosis. I am happy to take the journey with you as you learn and share new ways to eat. Sending love! xoxo

  • oh, hell, I am so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. My sister is a survivor. Best to you and yours. I am currently underemployed: I would be delighted to help, if I can.

  • Katherine,
    We’re also saddened to hear that you have breast cancer.
    Durga and I will hold you and your family in our hearts
    and please let us know if there is any other form of support that you could
    use during this time.
    Many Blessings,

  • My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and treated it with food only? The tumor shrunk and all symptoms disappeared for 12 years? Food only! Macrobiotic. Love to you on this journey.

  • Lonnie Port says:

    Hi Katherine,
    my aunt had a double mastectomy and has been cancer free for over 15 years, but just caught pancreatic cancer at stage one.. so luckily they did kemo for a couple of months to shrink it and she will be going in to remove it…. she got a lot of great support from the Pink Phoenix rowing team.. not sure if you are interested but it is a great group of awesome people. If you need someone to talk to, my auntie Kay worked at Good Sam hospital for 30 years and has a good ear and has been through quite a bit.

    You are in my thoughts dear lady

  • You are a beautiful soul Katherine. #@$%! cancer. When does the chemo start? You’ll need to buy a new fridge/freezer to hold all the food all your friends and loved ones will want to bring to you.

  • Renee Niquette says:

    My dear Katherine, I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis. I know you will come through with flying colors. As well as you eat I am a believer that environment and genetics play a much bigger role.

    My son, in spite of not being a cook, has come through two cancers and a liver transplant in his 40+ years which all started when he was 2 yrs old. OHSU remains his second home. A lifelong learning curve and the reason I am so food conscious.

    You will be in my thoughts and prayers, Renee Niquette

  • Gaylen & Darren says:

    Katherine, Darren and I are so sorry to hear of your diagnosis and we’re both sending love and prayers to you and your family. Our family has been inspired and learned so much from you with healthy easy cooking and want to thank you for sharing your story and how you continue to inspire us each day through this journey as well. xoxox – Gaylen & Darren

  • Katherine,
    I am so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. This seems way to common of an occurrence. Meditation & Qi-gong can be amazing tools to add to your box o fighting tools.

  • Stephanie Peters says:

    Dan and I were so sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. We are encouraged that you are being so proactive with your treatment and using diet to fuel your recovery. I’m looking forward to reading about what you are cooking and eating throughout this chapter in your life. Best wishes for strength, stamina and peace as you move toward healing. xoxo Stephanie & Dan

  • Please know that my positive thoughts are with you whole-heartedly, Katherine. Thank you for sharing your journey and your amazing food – I look forward to hearing more…

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