Cook for Your Life: Delicious, Nourishing Recipes for Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment

Cook for Your Life: Delicious, Nourishing Recipes for Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment

by Ann Ogden Gaffney


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781583335819
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/29/2015
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 246,636
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ann Ogden Gaffney is the founder of Cook for Your Life, a cancer-fighting nutritional program validated by the National Institutes of Health, which offers free hands-on cooking classes in person and online to cancer patients.

Read an Excerpt



Good food is one of the most underestimated elements of successful cancer treatment. The ill effects both of cancer and its therapies—fatigue, loss of lean body mass, infection, and blood-clotting difficulties, to name just a few—can be positively influenced by optimal nutrition. Though supplements are widely available as canned drinks, capsules, or tablets, food’s beneficial and enjoyable properties need not be simulated when they are found at their best, in nature’s original packaging. Most of us connect healthy eating with cancer prevention, but much less attention is paid to the importance of appealing foods during or after chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.

Cook for Your Life is not your usual cookbook. Rather than being organized around meal types or biochemical categories, this wonderful book celebrates our primordial attachment to food: simple, soothing, safe, sweet, and scrumptious. The science stands behind the food rather than as its calling card.

When cancer cells grow and multiply quickly, they use an extraordinary amount of energy, estimated to be in the many thousands of calories each day. That is far more energy than is supplied by even a calorie-rich diet, causing a deficit that a specially designed diet has to address. The increased quantity of calories needs to be from good sources: deeply colored vegetables and fruits, whole grains, low-fat proteins, and monounsaturated fats—all necessary components to maintain one’s energy levels and bodily functions. When appetite is curtailed and fear grows, we often reach for our comfort foods, and Cook for Your Life shows how those can be both delicious and reparative.

Whether you are an experienced chef or need coaching for anything more complicated than reheating leftovers, this book can teach and motivate. With time between doctor appointments, chemotherapy, radiation, periods of recovering from surgery, learning a few basic cooking techniques is a welcome diversion as well as a practical guide to food as a potent recuperative approach. Appetite changes and difficulties with taste, smell, or even swallowing have tried-and-true workarounds with properly prepared high-quality foods. Ann Ogden has channeled her personal experiences as a cancer survivor, her professional skills as a chef, and her experience as a master teacher to bring this information to you and your supportive family and friends.

In every culture, food brings us together. That effect of community is never more necessary than when someone is facing cancer. To strive for the best and longest survivorship, let Cook for Your Life guide you to better eating, more energy, and an improved quality of life, whether you are at the start of treatment, in the middle of the journey, or beyond. This unique book gives special meaning to the wish offered by chefs through the ages: Bon appétit!

—Stewart B. Fleishman, MD, Founding Director, Cancer Supportive Services, Mount Sinai Health System

My Story

If you’d told me ten years ago I’d be a leader in the world of culinary medical initiative, collaborating on programs with Columbia University and backed by data and studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and a published academic researcher, I would have asked you what you were smoking. And yet, that is what happened. 

I was a fully paid-up member of the glamorous world of fashion. I’d started out as a painter, and while at art school I made clothes, both for myself and for friends. This morphed into a career in fashion after an editor at British Vogue spotted one of my jackets at a party and introduced me into the London fashion scene. A year later, I was scouted for a job in Paris, and I moved there intending to stay six months. I stayed twelve years. I worked for some of the top names of the time, including couturier Hubert de Givenchy. In 1985, I moved to New York City, where I became a design consultant for industry giants like Calvin Klein, J.Crew, Saks, and Barneys.  

My fashion career allowed me to indulge in two personal passions: food and travel. I come from a family of foodies and world travelers. Dad was a master baker, and on Mom’s side, all Italians, both my grandfather and uncle were chefs. I first traveled abroad at age eight and began cooking at twelve, learning Italian specialties from my mom’s side of the family and sturdy British classics from my dad’s. Wherever I traveled as an adult—and in fashion that meant often and worldwide—I steeped myself in the local cuisines. These new flavors eventually made their way into my cooking.

During the years when AIDS decimated the fashion community, I cooked and cared for one of my oldest friends during the last six months of his life. This guy was amazing. He lived until he simply couldn’t be himself anymore. In the process, he taught me not to be afraid. The experience changed me. I didn’t realize how much until years later while on my cancer journey.

I was first diagnosed with cancer after a routine ob-gyn checkup in fall 2001. It had completely taken over my right kidney. I was lucky. I had surgery to remove the offending organ and life went back to the normal routine of work and travel. Three and a half years later, it was a different story. My second diagnosis was an unrelated triple-negative breast cancer that would require surgery, chemo, and radiation. I’d just finished a big project. I knew I wouldn’t be able to travel and doubted I would have the energy to give the 110 percent needed to start something new. And I would be bald. I decided to take a hiatus from work and to give myself the time and space to get through my treatment.

This decision changed my life. Taking that step back helped me to connect with my new reality. As I became immersed in the world of hospitals and cancer treatment, I began to understand how my cooking skills were helping me to cope with my side effects better than my fellow travelers on the cancer road. Cooking allowed me to adjust to taste changes and adapt my food to how I was feeling at any given moment. One day, while listening to a friend at a support group describe her problems with food and taste, I realized that the hospital staff was giving her information on alleviating her symptoms but couldn’t help her put this advice into action. That’s when I knew I could help. My love of food and cooking had given me the tools to deal with my own treatment side effects, and my experience as a caregiver to my friend with AIDS had taught me the importance of nourishment and the sheer comfort good food could bring during illness. I started to offer advice, then recipes, and then I organized free cooking classes. I loved it.

When my treatment finally ended, I took a meeting with a client to talk about a new fashion project. As I sat listening to the talk of color and trends, I realized that my heart was no longer in it. I didn’t want to get back into endless discussions about a shade of blue or skirt lengths. I wanted to go back to the people in the cancer suite who so badly needed help to cook and eat better.

I didn’t take the job. In 2007, I founded Cook for Your Life.

Since that time, Cook for Your Life has gone from a one-woman show to a thriving nonprofit organization that is a leader in the growing field of the culinary medical initiative. It has directly served more than seven thousand New Yorkers and has a peer-reviewed and published National Cancer Institute–funded research program in collaboration with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, as well as an interactive recipe website that serves more than one hundred thousand patients and their families each month.

This success has been built on the relaxed, caring atmosphere of our classes. Working together in the warmth of a kitchen helps people to build confidence, share support, and learn skills that get good nutrition onto their plates and good eating habits into their lives. It also empowers. At a time when patients’ lives are ruled by their medical teams, our classes are geared toward giving them back control over one major aspect of their lives: food. With this cookbook, I hope to bring into your own kitchen the warmth, joy, and delicious food we make at our classes.

Sidelining the Side Effects

I love to cook and I live to eat. Two cancer diagnoses couldn’t put a dent in that, but they did get me thinking about food.

When I was going through chemo and radiation for my second cancer, a well-meaning friend who knew of my love of all things edible sent me two cancer-themed cookbooks to help me along on my journey. One was written by a nutritionist and the other by a doctor. Great, I thought. I opened the first book randomly to a recipe for soup with a huge list of ingredients to prep. The second book was similarly complex, with recipes that were dull and uninspiring. Both books were well-intentioned, but clearly neither author had experienced the mind-numbing fatigue of chemo or radiation or the vagaries of damaged taste buds. The thought of shopping for and chopping all those vegetables was more than my limited energy could cope with. The books were relegated to the shelf, and I returned to cooking the simple, healthy food I’d been making all along—food that felt right for me and my body.

I am grateful to these two books. Their shortcomings gave me an insight that has proved invaluable. When you have cancer, cooking isn’t just about healthy eating; it is also about feelings, both physical and mental.

Cancer treatment protocols have their ups and downs, bringing good days and bad, and although each day is different, a rhythm starts to build that allows you to predict when you’re going to feel your worst or be at your best. Good food can help you get through all of it. It can soothe or it can excite. It can certainly make you feel human again.

And, of course, good food is delicious food. I dislike the attitude of deprivation and faddishness attached to the idea of healthy eating. I’ve been around long enough to see eggs both vilified and lauded, butter banned from our tables then grudgingly invited back. And so it goes. To my mind, good food is never about what you can’t have; it’s always about what you can.

During the often arduous cancer journey, cooking also gives you control. When cancer forced me to hand my body over to my medical team, I found that cooking for myself and my family gave me a positive path back into life after doctors: At least I could control the food I put into my body. Many of the people who come to Cook for Your Life classes feel the same way. And cooking can bring a rush of instant gratification at a time when it feels as if you’re always waiting for something, whether for test or CAT scan results, or your doctor, or simply for the grueling months of treatment to be over. Cooking a meal that gives you healthy deliciousness in minutes equals control over an important part of your life.

I wanted the layout of this book to reflect and connect with how it feels as you work your way through the different phases of treatment. To give you what you need, the recipes are organized into the chapters “Simple,” “Soothing,” “Safe,” “Spicy,” “Sweet,” and “Scrumptious.” On the days during chemo and radiation when you feel at your exhausted, nauseated worst, or hormone therapy has sucked up all your energy, go to “Simple” or “Soothing.” On the days when life is all but back to normal and you just want to enjoy feeling better and being alive, tuck into the recipes of “Safe,” “Spicy,” or “Sweet.” And I haven’t forgotten healthy survivorship, either. “Scrumptious” is there for that. It is essential. There are more than eighteen million of us in the United States either living with cancer or having survived it. I want to help us all to eat better, stay well, fight cancer with our forks, and to cook for our lives.

How to Use This Book

In each recipe you’ll find boxed text titled “Ann’s Tips.” These are some of my tried-and-true tricks in the kitchen as well as ingredient replacements or adjustments you may need or want to make. There are also “Health Tips” to give you useful information about ingredients and help with problems of treatment.

“Health Considerations” and “Food Preferences” appear at the beginning of each recipe, as they apply. These are to help you navigate any of the special diets or dietary recommendations you may have been given by your doctor or registered oncology dietician (a glossary of terms follows).


This is a guide to the way the recipes are labeled for quick reference. For example, if your doctor has put you on a bland or a neutropenic (antimicrobial) diet, the appropriate recipes are grouped under those headings. Or if you want recipes specific to being in treatment, there are recipes listed under that, too. And there are also recipes listed under specific side effects like nausea or fatigue. All the recipes in this book are in the 400-calories-and-under range per portion, so if you need to up your calories, increase your intake of healthy oils, like olive oil, or healthy fatty foods, like avocado.

And for those of you who want to search by ingredient, food preference, or health consideration, you will find the recipes pinpointed in the index at the end of the book.

Here is a glossary of terms.


These recipes contain important nutrients needed to maintain strength throughout chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery recovery. They tend to contain comforting, cooked foods. As chemo affects everyone’s tastes a bit differently, the options range from easy-to-digest to hot and spicy.


Fatigue is, sadly, a necessary evil of many treatment protocols. While there is no “magic” food to combat these feelings of exhaustion, our recipes offer easy, comforting options for when you may be too tired to prepare a complex meal. Although sugary treats will pick you up temporarily, excess amounts of refined carbohydrates can increase feelings of lethargy once the initial burst of energy wears off, so the foods in this category tend to be lower in starches. As a side note, one of the proven aids for fatigue is exercise! It seems counterintuitive, but moving can provide energy, helping one feel less tired. Getting off the couch and into the kitchen to prepare a simple meal will not only nourish you but could lift your spirits as well!


A side effect of some chemo drugs is painful mouth sores and cankers. People undergoing radiation to the head or neck will also have to deal with severe mouth or throat soreness, and many find it difficult to eat at all. I would advise anyone in this situation to consult an RD. Foods in this category are soft and smooth and low in acid, to minimize irritation. I sometimes add citrus to a dish at the end of cooking to lift its flavors. This can be left out to prevent discomfort. Most soups in the book can be blended to a smooth consistency to make eating them easier. For this I recommend using a high-speed blender, as an immersion blender will leave the food too chunky. Food should be eaten or sipped in frequent small portions and served warm instead of hot. To make foods easier to swallow, add smooth, fatty foods like avocado to, say, a smoothie and even unsalted butter to a soup.

Ann’s Tips

Always take care when blending hot liquids. Fill the blender vase only halfway, and keep the lid tamped down with a cloth. This will prevent the heat from the liquid from expanding and lifting the blender lid off, which will either scald you or redecorate your kitchen with soup.


This category contains easy-on-the-stomach, bland-tasting, inoffensive foods and beverages: think bananas, white rice, applesauce, and plain toast.


A bland diet is made up of foods that are soft, not very spicy, and low in fat and fiber. This diet may be used to ease ulcers, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and gas or may be recommended after stomach or intestinal surgery. It may also be advisable to follow a moderately bland diet leading up to or following chemotherapy infusions, particularly if you’ve experienced digestive side effects in the past.


A high-fiber diet is recommended to promote regular bowel habits, manage weight, and encourage general health. This diet may be particularly important for someone who is prone to constipation or is experiencing irregularity as a result of treatment. Twenty-five to thirty-five grams of fiber per day is thought to be ideal, but increase the fiber in your diet slowly; if you’re not used to it, it can cause intestinal discomfort, aka gas. As you add more dietary fiber, make sure to increase your fluid intake, too. It will help avoid constipation.


Similar to the bland diet, low-fiber diets may be necessary after stomach, gynecologic, or intestinal surgery and may be used as part of the management of treatment-induced diarrhea. Unlike the bland diet, those on a low-fiber diet can have moderate amounts of fats but need to drastically reduce fiber intake to rest bowels or intestines.


Gluten is a protein found naturally in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). Gluten is also found in many processed foods to act as a binding agent. A gluten-free diet is one that excludes any gluten-containing food. Sufferers of celiac disease must avoid even trace amounts of gluten. Some others may experience a level of intolerance to this protein and feel relief by limiting intake of it. Except for some cakes and cookies, in most of the recipes where we’ve used the usual wheat products, you can easily substitute gluten-free breads, flours, or pastas.


Some medical centers recommend this diet (otherwise known as “low microbial” or “low bacteria”), if neutrophil (a type of white blood cell) levels get too low to adequately protect from infection. When white blood cells are low, microbes your body typically deals with easily could send you to the ER. A neutropenic diet is low in foods that are prone to containing bacteria, helping to keep you well. Neutropenic diet restrictions vary depending on white blood cell counts, so make sure you talk to your RD for specifics. Usually raw foods, sushi, and food from buffets, salad bars, and delis are off-limits. Some medical centers also add probiotics like yogurt to this list, so it’s always best to ask. These no-nos may make you feel as if you can’t eat anything, but if you look through our recipes, you’ll see this isn’t so. There is still a lot of tasty, good food out there for you.


A cancer survivor is defined as any person with cancer from the moment of diagnosis. Recipes in this category include foods that are beneficial for overall health and vitality. The recipes we have chosen for this category follow the American Institute of Cancer Research’s rules for eating for prevention that may help to reduce the risk of recurrence. As we need to increase our fruit and vegetable intake to stay healthy, these recipes are mostly vegetable based, are low in saturated fats, have no red meats or smoked meats, and have no added sugar. That said, with the exception of sweets—which should only ever be treats—all the recipes in this book can be eaten for healthy survivorship as part of a vegetable-rich diet.


These are very basic and are to help those who followed a particular diet or lifestyle before diagnosis.


Recipes contain no animal products whatsoever.


Recipes contain no meat but do include eggs and dairy.


Recipes without dairy. Unless also marked “vegan,” these may contain animal products.


Recipes that use either nuts or nut flours. Those who are allergic can discard where used as a garnish. Substitutes are suggested where possible.





Basic Vegetable Broth

Quick, Rich Chicken Broth

Basic Poached Fish

Quick Tomato Sauce

Basic Vinaigrette

Soft- and Hard-Boiled Eggs

Poached Eggs

Basic Brown Rice

White Rice

Basic Quinoa

Mashed Potatoes with Nutmeg

Steaming and Freezing Greens at Home

Spicy Chickpeas in Chipotle Broth

Basic Beans #1

Basic Beans #2

When I was going through cancer treatment, I found it important to be prepared. I always kept the basics on hand so I could cook without too much thinking or effort when the fatigue became intense. Staples are the pantry essentials and basic recipes you’ll see used throughout this book. I can’t do without them. They are what make cooking great food easy.

Pantry Essentials: These are the items I suggest you stock your pantry, fridge, and freezer with so you can magic up a tasty, nutritious meal without having to go to the store.

Basic Recipe Essentials: These range from instructions on how to cook basic things such as broths, beans, rice, and quinoa from scratch to how to boil an egg or prep greens for your freezer.

Speaking of the freezer, both during treatment and as a busy survivor, make your freezer your friend, your home convenience store. Use it to freeze basic home-cooked beans, greens, rice, and broths, or leftovers of a tasty soup to keep in readiness for the down times during treatment, or simply to have a good homemade meal at your fingertips that just needs defrosting if you get home late.



Although not listed as fridge items, it is always best to store whole-grain flours, nuts, and nut butters in the fridge to keep them fresh. The oils in them can go rancid if left on the counter. Do the same with cooking and salad oils. My bulk olive oil stays in the fridge while I decant what I need for the week into a smaller bottle that I keep on the counter.

   • Almonds (sliced)
   • Arborio rice
   • Brown rice
   • Canned beans (all kinds)
   • Canned tomatoes (whole and diced only)
   • Cider vinegar
   • Dijon mustard
   • Extra-virgin olive oil
   • Lentils (French and brown)
   • Maple syrup (real)
   • Oats (rolled)
   • Quinoa
   • Raisins
   • Soy sauce
   • Tahini
   • Walnuts (halved)
   • Whole-wheat pasta
   • Whole-wheat pastry flour


Spice racks look nice, but they don’t help your spices last. Store spices in airtight containers in a cool, dark place, like a cupboard or a drawer. I usually grind whole spices to powder as needed in a coffee grinder that I keep just for this purpose. Whole spices keep their aroma for up to a year, but ground spices generally only last about six months before the flavor fades, so if you buy ground, change them often.

   • Bay leaves
   • Cayenne
   • Cinnamon (ground)
   • Cloves (whole)
   • Cumin seeds
   • Curry powder (mild)
   • Kosher salt
   • Nutmeg (whole)
   • Paprika (ground, smoked)
   • Peppercorns (black)
   • Rosemary (dried)
   • Sea salt
   • Thyme (dried)
   • Turmeric (ground)


I love these items. They are multipurpose unifiers for so many recipes that make meals in their own right. Maybe not the butter or the coconut oil, but the rest all easily lend themselves to quick and delicious dishes.

   • Butter (unsalted; pastured, if available)
   • Coconut oil
   • Eggs (hormone- and antibiotic-free)
   • Feta cheese
   • Miso (white)
   • Parmesan cheese (chunk)
   • Plain Greek yogurt (whole milk or 2%)
   • Tofu


With these in your freezer, a meal with the taste and high-nutrition value of fresh fruits and vegetables is always at hand—without all the prep. Don’t defrost them before using. The nutrients tend to leach out as they soften.

   • Baby lima beans
   • Blueberries
   • Garden peas
   • Green or French beans
   • Kale (or collards)
   • Leaf spinach
   • Mixed berries


Last but not least, the produce you should always have on hand. These are the aromatics—onions, garlic, and shallots that, along with carrots and celery, make the flavor base for so many soups and stews—while lemons, gingerroot, and parsley add delicious accents. I’ve added beets to this list because I love them, and, when vacuum-packed, they are particularly trouble-free. Apples and bananas are great year-round fruits that can be used for simple desserts and smoothies. Store onions, garlic, and shallots on the countertop—bananas, too. Everything else can stay in the fridge.

   • Apples
   • Bananas
   • Beets (vacuum-packed)
   • Carrots
   • Celery
   • Garlic
   • Gingerroot
   • Lemons
   • Onions
   • Parsley (flat-leaf)
   • Shallots


Broths and beans are the building blocks of good food and essential elements of a vegetable-based diet. Although you may not feel like making these recipes during treatment, they’re worth it. They will help you to make quick nourishing meals straight from your freezer.

Basic Vegetable Broth

Meal: Basics

Main Ingredients: Water, soup vegetables

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 60 minutes


Vegetable stock is really easy to make and stores perfectly in the freezer. This recipe is a classic and uses whole vegetables, but you can also mix together the peelings from carrots, potatoes, and onions or leek tops, kale ribs, or parsley stalks to make stock. Add a bay leaf and some peppercorns and you’re on your way.

2 large yellow onions, unpeeled, cut in half

2 whole cloves

3 leeks, trimmed and washed well, dark tops reserved

8 cloves garlic, smashed but not peeled

4 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into 3 equal lengths, then cut in half lengthwise

2 waxy potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

2 stalks celery, scrubbed and each cut into 3 pieces

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs Italian parsley

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

5 quarts water

Sea salt, to taste

   • Stud the onions with the cloves. Cut the white part of the trimmed leeks into three equal lengths, then in half lengthwise. Set aside. Cut the tender parts of the dark leek tops into 3-inch lengths.
   • In a 7-quart pot, cover the onions, leeks, garlic, carrots, potatoes, celery, bay leaf, parsley, and black peppercorns with enough water to completely cover the vegetables by 1 inch or so.
   • Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Gently simmer the vegetables for 1 hour.
   • Taste for salt and adjust the seasonings. Strain the stock and let cool. Discard the vegetables. Use immediately or bag and freeze.

Ann’s Tips

You can make this broth in a slow cooker overnight by placing all the ingredients into the cooker and cooking on low for 10 hours, or on high for 5 hours.

If you make broth with vegetable peelings, go easy on using too many from pungent vegetables such as celery root (celeriac), unless you want your broth to taste only of them, that is.

Quick, Rich Chicken Broth

Meal: Basics

Main Ingredient: Chicken

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 to 60 minutes


Broths are soothing and nutritious. This one is really quick and easy to make and is quite delicious. You can make it in an hour on the stove top, but if you have a slow cooker, just put in all the ingredients and let it cook all day (or night). Either way, you will have a rich-tasting chicken broth to use as a base for some of the simple, nourishing soups in this book.

6 (antibiotic-free) skinless, bone-in chicken thighs

1 medium carrot, scrubbed and halved

1 stalk celery, scrubbed and halved

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 medium onion, peeled and halved

4 whole cloves

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

   • In a large stockpot, place the chicken thighs, carrot, celery, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Stud each onion half with 2 cloves and add to the pot. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sea salt.
   • Add enough cold water to cover the chicken and vegetables by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 45 minutes. Taste for salt. If you want to eat the chicken, remove it now. Otherwise let it cook 15 to 20 minutes longer for an even more flavorful broth.

Ann’s Tips

If you remove the chicken from the broth after 45 minutes, carve the meat from the bones, return the bones to the broth, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes more.

Basic Poached Fish

Meal: Main

Main Ingredient: Seafood

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes


This method and broth will work for all kinds of fish, including salmon. When buying fillets of any large fish, always insist on having the thick piece from behind the head, and not the thin, pointed tail end. This will ensure a uniform thickness of fish for an even cooking time.

1 large shallot, peeled

2 whole cloves

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 small carrot, scrubbed and halved lengthwise

½ fennel bulb, cut into ¼-inch slices, stalks and fronds removed

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon whole peppercorns (optional)

½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

2 quarts water

1 to 1½ pounds fish fillets (cod, hake, Chilean sea bass, or salmon) either in one thick piece or cut into 3-inch slices

   • Make the broth: Stud the shallot with the cloves. In a sauté pan, add the shallot, garlic, carrot, fennel, bay leaf, and peppercorns, if using. Stir in ½ teaspoon of salt and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the water starts to bubble, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Taste for salt.
   • Add the fish fillets to the pan, in a single layer if sliced. Add extra hot water to just cover the fish if needed. Increase heat to medium and bring to a simmer. As soon as the water starts to bubble, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook the fish at a bare simmer for 10 minutes.
   • After 10 minutes, if the fillets are in one piece, turn the heat off and leave the fish to steam in the broth for another 5 minutes. If the fillets are in slices, remove the fish with a spatula and transfer to a plate. Discard the broth and vegetables. Serve the fish with your chosen sauce.

Ann’s Tips

If you are poaching a piece of salmon fillet to eat cold, after you’ve brought the broth back to a boil in step 2, cover the pan tightly, turn off the flame, and leave the salmon to poach in the broth as it cools, about 30 minutes. The fish will be perfectly cooked.

Quick Tomato Sauce

Meal: Basics, Sauces

Main Ingredient: Tomatoes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes


This is the sauce base I use for nearly all the tomato pasta dishes we eat at home. It is the easiest thing you could ever make, and quick, too. It freezes like a dream, so you can always have it on hand for a fast dinner.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin lengthwise

1 small dried red pepper (optional), seeds removed

1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

Sea salt, to taste

   • Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the garlic and stir-fry until it just begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. If you want a spicy sauce, add the pepper.
   • Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt. There will be a lot of spitting and hissing as the tomatoes hit the hot oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook the tomatoes down until most of the juices have evaporated and the tomatoes have taken on a more orangey hue, about 10 minutes. If the sauce looks like it’s drying out too much, add a little water. Taste for seasoning. Freeze if not using immediately.

Ann’s Tips

In the summertime, when tomatoes are at their peak, use 2 pounds of ripe Roma or beefsteak tomatoes in place of the canned tomatoes.

Basic Vinaigrette

Meal: Basics, Sauces

Main Ingredients: Extra-virgin olive oil, White wine vinegar

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes


An oil-to-vinegar ratio of three-to-one (3:1) is the key to this basic 101 vinaigrette salad dressing; it is the dressing from which all others start. You can change the vinegar you use, add citrus, flavor it with chopped herbs, you name it. Get comfortable with this, and you can make any dressing.

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pinch of brown sugar or honey (optional)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon water, or to taste

   • In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar, if using, until the salt has dissolved.
   • Gradually beat in the olive oil until well blended. Taste for seasoning. If the vinegar is too strong, add some water a little at a time.

Ann’s Tips

For a lighter dressing, substitute 1 tablespoon of water for one of the tablespoons of olive oil.

Although my mother taught me to add a pinch of sugar to this dressing, I no longer do so. If I want a little sweetness, I add some diced apple or a tablespoonful of raisins instead.

Soft- and Hard-Boiled Eggs

Meal: Basics, Breakfast

Main Ingredient: Eggs

Cook Time: 7½ to 10 minutes


Hard-boiled eggs are your safest egg option during treatment and make an easy, nutritious snack eaten straight from the fridge.

4 large eggs (antibiotic-free)

Pinch of sea salt

   • Gently place the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover them with cold water. Add a pinch of salt. The salt will set any seeping egg white, should an egg crack during boiling.
   • Bring the water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Cover, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 2½ minutes for soft-boiled eggs or 5 minutes for hard-boiled eggs.
   • Remove the pan from the heat and place it in the sink. Run cold water over the eggs until the water in the pan is cold. Peel if eating immediately. If not eating warm, leave the eggs to sit in the cold water until completely cooled. Store in the fridge to use as needed. They will keep for 3 to 4 days.

Poached Eggs

Meal: Basics, breakfast, lunch

Main Ingredient: Eggs

Prep Time: 0 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Poaching is a great low-fat way to prepare eggs. Very fresh eggs work best for poaching. Their firm, domed whites will make them easier to handle. If you are in treatment, particularly if you are on a neutropenic diet, it’s best to cook the eggs until the yolks are hard and completely cooked through.

4 large eggs (antibiotic-free)


1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

Pinch of sea salt

   • Add about a 1-inch depth of hot water to a frying pan. Add the teaspoon of vinegar and a pinch of salt. Heat over high heat until the water just starts to boil. Reduce the heat to low. The water should be barely moving.
   • Carefully break the eggs into the water—the whites will start to set immediately. Cover with a lid and cook, occasionally spooning water over the eggs, until the whites have set and the yolks are cooked to your liking and have an opaque film over them, 3 to 5 minutes. If you need to be sure the yolks are hard, cook the eggs for 7 minutes to be on the safe side.

Basic Brown Rice

Meal: Basic, Side

Main Ingredient: Brown rice

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes


This is the simplest way to make al dente brown rice. This method of cooking uses little water and a lot of steam. It is pretty much foolproof if you have a pot with a tight-fitting lid. The secret is to stop yourself from peeking—from the moment the rice starts to boil until the steaming period is over.

2 cups long-grain brown rice, washed in several changes of water

2⅓ cups water or stock

Sea salt, to taste

   • Place the rice in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to low.
   • Simmer the rice gently for 40 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the rice to steam for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid on. Fluff with a fork and serve. Freeze flat in 1-quart freezer bags if not eating immediately.

White Rice

Meal: Basics

Main Ingredient: White long-grain rice

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes, plus 10 minutes resting time


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Cook for Your Life: Delicious, Nourishing Recipes for Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
ksnapier475 More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful resource for anyone who cooks. This book has sensible, nutritious, easy-to-follow recipes that anyone can cook. The recipes that are included help the consumer to become or stay healthy. I believe this book is an excellence resource for anyone that is interested in cooking and good health. This book was given to me by NetGalley and Penguin Books - Avery in exchange for my honest review.