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As a mother struggling with her young son’s cancer treatments, Danielle Cook Navidi quickly realized that the side effects caused by chemotherapy included a host of problems that diminished – or outright obliterated – his appetite.
When her physicians couldn’t provide any answers, she took it upon herself to learn about cooking nutrient-dense foods that he could not only tolerate, but that would ease his symptoms and boost his energy.
As his cancer went into remission, Navidi began teaching cooking classes to families of cancer patients at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital. (For more information about that program, call 202-342-2400.)
She’s now published a cookbook, “Happily Hungry: Smart Recipes for Kids with Cancer.”
The book includes an index of which symptoms can be treated by specific foods and recipes.
Navidi shared with us the four recipes below (printer-friendly/PDF version here), including:
2 Idaho russet potatoes (can substitute one sweet potato and one russet), peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sour cream
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs, poached in simmering water with 1 tablespoon white vinegar (directions below)
Put the potato chunks in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook until very tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain well, transfer back to the pot and with an electric beater, whip the potatoes until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the butter, sour cream and salt; whip another minute. Adjust for taste. Keep warm while you poach the eggs.
To poach eggs, bring a saucepan filled about 2/3 full of water – enough to cover the eggs – to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add the vinegar to the simmering water (this will help the egg coagulate). Crack one egg into a ramekin or small bowl and carefully slide the egg into the water. Do the same for the second egg. Cook for 3-4 minutes, making sure the water does not return to a boil. Remove with a slotted spoon, letting excess water drip into the pan. Serve on top of mashed potatoes. Serves 2.
Nutritional info: Calories: 331; Total Fat: 18; Protein: 9.5g; Carbohydrates: 34g.; Sugars: 1.6g.
2 lbs. Yukon gold, red bliss or new “baby” potatoes, or a combination, unpeeled
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup (2 ounces) feta cheese, crumbled
3-4 scallions, trimmed and sliced, for garnish
Chopped mint, for garnish
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the potatoes with olive oil. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Toss and roast another 15 minutes, or until nicely browned and tender when pierced with a fork.
While the potatoes are still hot, toss with pesto (recipe below). Garnish with scallions and chopped mint. Serve warm or room temperature. Serves 6-8.
¾ cup pitted black olives (Kalamata or oil-cured Moroccan)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lightly packed chopped fresh mint
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients in a food processor. Process, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, until mixture is smooth. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper and lemon, as needed.
1 ½ lbs. organic sweet potatoes (garnet or jewel)
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½ inch strips. Transfer potatoes to a resealable plastic bag or a low glass dish, add the oil, sea salt, paprika and cinnamon. Close the bag and toss well to coat the fries. Spread the potatoes out on the baking sheet, making sure they don’t crowd each other.
Cook for 30 minutes, without turning them, then give the sheet pan a good shake so the potatoes turn on their own. If they don’t, let them cook another 5-10 minutes and try again. Continue to cook for a total for about 45 minutes, until they are slightly browned. Let cool slightly before serving. Serves 4.
Nutritional info: Calories: 182; Total Fat: 9g; Protein: 2.3g; Carbohydrates: 23.7g.; Sugars: 7.3g.
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
½ cup blueberry juice
¼ cup soft silken tofu
¼ cup plain or vanilla soy milk
Squeeze of lemon juice, to taste
Agave nectar, to taste
Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Makes 1 (17-ounce) smoothie.
Nutritional info: Calories: 311; Total Fat: 5.4g; Protein: 10g; Carbohydrates: 46g.