There are at least two ways to think about diet after a cancer diagnosis. One way is to say, “Look, I have CANCER. I’m going to eat whatever makes me happy,” and the other is to say, “I have cancer, FFS, I’d better find out which foods promote cancer growth and which inhibit it.” Guess which approach I’m taking? (My friend Rachel’s response: “I guess this is what happens when a Type A person gets cancer.”)
If you’re interested in learning more about food and cancer, a good place to start is Foods That Fight Cancer by Richard Béliveau and Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber. It turns out that foods that promote cancer are just about ALL THE COMFORT FOODS, including dairy, sugar, gluten and refined grains, alcohol, and meat. So I’m seriously limiting these foods, which is not as drastic a change as it may seem, since I’ve actually been eating dairy-free and gluten-free for 4 years. The big adjustment was going from meat-loving quasi-paleo omnivore to nearly vegan. Fortunately, there is a vegan renaissance happening, a.k.a. a “new veganism” movement, a.k.a. “vegetables forward” cooking, evidenced by a number of popular blogs and cookbooks and even a number of vegan restaurants popping up in my small Ontario city. I’m in the midst of a deep dive into these cookbooks and food blogs, and I bring you the fruits of my labor.
Behold: The Breakfast Cookie! This recipe is from Sarah Britton’s My New Roots. Here’s what I love about it: it’s a grab-and-go food, it provides the comfort of an actual baked good, but it also meets my onerous dietary restrictions. Since it’s nut-free, I can put it school lunch boxes, and it has less sugar than granola bars. (Even the healthiest home-made granola bar recipes rely on a lot of honey/agave/maple syrup to hold them together.) This one is held together with white beans, coconut oil, and soaked chia seeds. The orange zest gives it a really nice flavor. However, Rob would want me to add the caveat that these are not really cookies in the sense of being sweet, sticky treats. They’re more like healthy snacks that are shaped like cookies.
I tested this recipe with different gluten-free flours in place of the processed oats, and the texture was too heavy. I also tried replacing the 1/4 cup melted coconut oil with one egg because I think it’s better for binding and browning, and that worked fine, though it makes the cookies not vegan. I tried different combinations of dried fruits, and all were good. I also tried replacing the applesauce with carrot and beet pulp from our juicer, and that was fine, too, if you’re looking for something to do with all of that vegetable pulp. No doubt you can go to town with nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, whatever you fancy. If you want it sweeter, you could easily double the maple syrup. It’s a pretty flexible recipe.
Breakfast Cookies from Sarah Britton’s My New Roots
Makes 10-15 large cookies or about 24 small ones
1 tablespoon chia seeds
3 1⁄4 cups / 325 g gluten-free rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1⁄2 cups / 250 g cooked white beans, such as navy, white kidney, or Great Northern (about one 15-ounce / 250 g can)
1⁄4 cup / 60 ml coconut oil, melted, or 1 egg
1⁄4 cup / 60 ml pure maple syrup or raw honey
Grated zest of 1 organic orange
1⁄4 cup / 60 ml unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄3 cup / 60 g chopped unsulphured dried apricots
1⁄4 cup / 30 g raisins
1⁄4 cup / 35 g pumpkin seeds
2 cups / 60 g organic, non-GMO cornflakes (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
Combine the chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water in a small bowl, and set aside for 15 minutes to gel.
- Pulse 1 1⁄4 cups of the oats in a food processor until they resemble a very rough flour. Transfer the flour to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the remaining 2 cups oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
- Pulse the beans with the coconut oil in the food processor until the mixture is creamy. Add the maple syrup, orange zest, chia gel, applesauce, and vanilla extract, and pulse until smooth.
- Add the bean puree to the oats mixture and stir until everything starts to come together. Add the apricots, raisins, pumpkin seeds, and cornflakes and stir to combine—you may need to use your hands at this point.
- Shape the dough into balls, and then flatten each one into a patty shape. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the bars are golden. Let cool completely before enjoying.
My young assistant demonstrated that these can be shaped as round cookies of different sizes or elongated bars or irregular lumpy masses.