The Meals to Heal Cookbook by Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta

Cancer is hard. Cooking and trying to balance nutrition with what tastes good during cancer treatment is even harder. I know this from experience fighting breast cancer and undergoing a dose dense ACT chemotherapy. Nothing really tastes good during chemo, you have no energy to cook, and at times it is much easier to choose comfort food over what you probably should be eating.

Cooking During Chemo

I am lucky. During my dark days of chemo where I couldn’t get out of bed and my husband worked long hours, I had a dedicated group of moms who would make nutritious and great tasting meals for me and my kiddos. The rest of the time, I had to get off my tush and figure it out. And easy it was not at times, when even food ingredients themselves make you sick to your stomach.

Recipes you need during cancer treatment: ones that nourish you from the inside without giving you stomach or mouth upset. Those with strong smells can make you nauseous, and beloved spicy foods that once brought comfort can otherwise ruin an already small appetite simply by making your mouth drier than it already is.

The Meals to Heal: Great Tasting Recipes that Address Cancer Symptoms

The Meals to Heal Cookbook by Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta tackles all these problems and presents 150 recipes to prepare during a cancer fight. Each recipe is marked with what side effect it helps to manage: lack of appetite; nausea, vomiting, or heartburn; constipation; diarrhea; fatigue; mouth sores; dry mouth; chewing or swallowing difficulty; taste aversion (to sweet, or sour and bitter); lack of taste; and smells bother.

I took a chemotherapy class before treatment and quickly learned that there was a whole list of favorite foods I had to avoid during treatment, such as bulk bin ingredients and deli meats, miso (fermented soy paste) and tempeh (what?!), and raw foods including any fruit and veggie that I couldn’t scrub clean. Looking at the list of foods to avoid that your oncologist gives to you isn’t the end of the world. You just need the right recipes using the right ingredients that you can use. The Meals to Heal has recipes for everything from beginning your day with healthy breakfasts to entrees and midday snacks to good sweets for dessert.

The authors dedicated Part 1 of their book to making food work for your benefit, even titling it “Getting Started: Food Can Change Your Cancer Journey.” Safe food handling tips and nutrition info is at the back of the book along with a wonderful appendix that identifies in chart form which recipes help with a certain symptom or side effect. This part I found to be very helpful as I could easily choose a perfect recipe for what I was experiencing. For example: looking for a soup when you are constipated from pain meds, have a dry mouth and an aversion to anything sour and bitter, have heartburn, AND strong smells bother you? Then, the Orzo Kale Soup would be a perfect match. Enjoy. Love that.

If you are on a cancer treatment path that includes chemo, then this is the perfect book to have in the kitchen. No empty promises for an easy ride through treatment (because there isn’t one), just real world, wholesome recipes that provide nutrients making you stronger – and presented in a way that tackles your side effects and manages your symptoms. Highly recommended read.

Enjoy a recipe from this great cookbook: Paper Steamed Fish and Vegetables.

Paper Steamed Fish and Vegetables | Sand and

Parchment Paper Steamed Fish and Vegetables
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  1. 1 1/2 pounds mild white fish, such as cod, tilapia, or halibut
  2. Zest of 1 lemon
  3. 1 scallion, chopped
  4. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 6 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  6. Juice of 1 lemon
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  9. 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper in half, then open it back up and place the fish on one half, close to the crease.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients and place on top of and around the fish.
  3. Fold the other half of the parchment over the top of the fish and vegetables. Working around the edges, fold the parchment over tightly in 1/4-inch folds, then fold up the ends to make a closed packet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  4. Place on a plate and carefully remove the fish from the paper and serve.
Adapted from The Meals to Heal Cookbook
Adapted from The Meals to Heal Cookbook
Sand & Succotash

Book Information:

Disclosure: Excerpt from The Meals to Heal Cookbook: 150 Easy, Nutritionally Balanced Recipes to Nourish You During Your Fight with Cancer by Susan Bratton and Jessica Iannotta. Copyright © 2016. Available from Da Capo Press, an imprint of Perseus Books, a division of PBG Publishing, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own. Any affiliate links help support this site. Thanks.

For Cod and Country: CBOW

Barton Seaver in his book, For Cod and Country, cooks up delicious, sustainable food by promoting smaller fish portions and healthy amounts of vegetables.


Cookbook of the Week: For Cod and Country: Simple, Delicious, Sustainable Cooking by Barton Seaver

Barton Seaver practices what he talks about with fish sustainability and cooking: he’s a National Geographic fellow increasing awareness to ocean issues and is a practicing chef. His dedication to both industries has made For Cod and Country more than a cookbook. It provides tips for sustainability through portion size, using fish that are seasonally caught, and encourages the use of fresh produce.

Seaver uses the term ‘eat low on the food chain.’ Smaller fish are lest costly to purchase and are able to replenish themselves at a faster rate than larger predatory species. If there is a fish species you especially enjoy that is on a seafood watch list, he gives several seafood substitutions. For example, instead of Chilean sea bass, try sablefish, Pacific halibut, a farm-raised sturgeon instead. Another reason to steer away from larger fish is the levels of mercury and other toxins are considerably higher in larger fish. As the food chain travels up, so does the amount of toxins that are absorbed in the fish.

Descriptions of many sustainable fish and seafood species are listed. Seaver gives information on where they are found, why they are good choices, and tips for cooking them. There are numerous color pictures throughout the book. Techniques are sprinkled through the different sections such as cutting raw fish, shucking oysters, and shopping for fish.

For Cod and Country Cookbook Chapters and Overview

The recipes are separated by season: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and A Separate Season. Each chapter features fish caught in those seasons, and the fifth season incorporates farm-raised fish and seafood. The Techniques section has useful information on different cooking methods and brining fish. For those interested in smoking fish, Seaver goes in depth on both methods: cold and hot smoking. There are three fish brining recipes for hot smoking as well as three rub recipes for cold smoking.

Recommended For People Interested In Basic Fish Cookery AND Sustainability

If there is one topic that is highlighted throughout For Cod and Country, that is to choose fish lower on the food chain and eat it in smaller portions. Categorizing the recipes by seasons helps to illustrate that fisheries also have seasons. All recipes are either photographed in the finished stage or show you how to do it. Seaver’s descriptions of the different catch methods is valuable to those who are interested in responsible fishing, and teaches which methods are best at reducing bycatch, anything not targeted by fishermen.  Enjoy the recipe for mahi mahi below.


Mahi Mahi with Grilled Peaches and Buttermilk-Mint Dressing
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  1. 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  3. 1 teaspoon sugar
  4. 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  5. Juice of 1/2 lemon
  6. Leaves from 8 sprigs fresh mint, chopped
  7. Salt
  8. Four 5-ounce portions mahi mahi fillet
  9. 4 ripe peaches, cut in half and pitted
  10. 1 pound arugula leaves
  11. 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  1. For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, mustard, sugar, buttermilk, lemon juice, and mint. Season to taste with salt and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes and up to two hours so that the flavors combine.
  2. For the mahi mahi, preheat a grill using charcoal or gas heat. Place the fillets on the coolest part of the grill and the peach halves over the hot part of the fire. Cover the grill and cook about 15-20 minutes for fillets 1 1/2 inches thick. The fish should be cooked through but only just beginning to flake when gentle pressure is applied. At that point, the peaches will be slightly charred and beginning to soften.
  3. To serve, mix the arugula and onion, toss with two-thirds of the dressing, and season with salt. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Place 2 grilled peach halves next to the salad. Place a piece of mahi mahi on top of the salad and spoon the remaining dressing over it. Serve immediately.
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Book Information

  • For Cod and Country: Simple Delicious Sustainable Cooking; by Barton Seaver
  • Sterling Epicure, 2011
  • ISBN13: 9781402777752
  • Hardcover with Jacket, 304 pages; Full Color – over 200 photos

Recipe adapted and reprinted with permission from Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher and any opinions are my own.

Hot Smoked California Yellowtail

Market black box: Hubbie nailed the yellowtail on a fishing trip.

What I did with it: froze some, and smoked a whole yellowtail. (Yikes! Never smoked before!)

I love hot smoked fish. Depending on where you get it or who makes it, the flavors range from salty to slightly sweet and herby to spicy – simply from the brine recipe. I’ve been hesitant to try smoking but it was one of those culinary techniques that I’ve always wanted to experiment with – read extensively about it but never attempted it. A good fishing day for hubby resulting in gorgeous yellowtail gave me the perfect opportunity to do just that: I can only put so much fillets in the freezer. I decided to do something special to one of them, and try my hand at smoking.

Yellowtail is a moderately fat fish, and is perfect for grilling, sauteing, baking, and smoking. It is found on sushi menus under the name “hamachi”. But don’t confuse this fish for the yellowfin tuna – it is a completely different fish altogether. Yellowtail meat is tender, and is mild and very flavorful. Depending on the size, fresh yellowtail can be filleted or steaked.

Hot Smoking California Yellowtail

The first thing to do is prepare the fish for smoking. The bigger they are the more in depth the process is for gutting and cleaning, but the little boy of the house enjoyed watching me gut and fillet the fish. He even helped, which I was surprised. I reserved two large sides for smoking and cut up the rest for future enjoyment in the freezer.

We don’t have a dedicated smoker so I used our combo BBQ/smoker for the fish. If you do the same, it is important for you to regulate the coals and wood in the firebox to keep the smokerbox at a constant temperature that you’ll need for the job. It took me a while to figure that part out, but once I did, smoking was a relaxing event in the backyard – me reading a book for a few hours and tending to the smoker while the kids played in the pool.

Smoking fish is a form of food preservation, and if done incorrectly can lead to food borne illnesses. I’m a safety girl in the kitchen, practically being obnoxiously so: no licking egg-based covered beaters (sorry kids), observant of the two-hour rule, use of kitchen and refrigerator thermometers, etc. Being in the food service business has its rewards – you can cook anything set in front of you – but also makes you cognizant of the many bad things that can happen if the food isn’t prepared or cooked in a safe manner. So, attempting something like this presented me with a whole new set of worries. But the Pacific Northwest Extension publication Smoking Fish at Home – Safely was an excellent brush up on my smoking knowledge. Also, visit Dana Point Fish Company for a word on brining and forming the pellicle.

Brines are used in smoking to give flavor but are primarily used to control moisture content and inhibit bacterial growth. The use of a cooking thermometer is also important as the fish needs to reach a core (center) temperature of at least 160 degrees F. For me, I’ve found 165 degrees to be a good safety target range. The texture of my fish wasn’t dry, but that may be because the sides were so thick. Once the fish was smoked and cooled, it froze really well in vacuum sealer bags for future meals.

Hot Smoked California Yellowtail
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  1. Fresh yellowtail fish
  2. Salt water brine (see recipe below)
  1. Pan dress the fish for smoking - gut and clean the fish, remove head and tail, backbone, and any pectoral fins. If the fish has scales, scale the fish. Remove the bones if desired - otherwise you'll need to be careful when eating it after smoking.
  2. Rinse off the fish with clean water to remove any traces of blood or viscera. Remove any bruises if you see them. You want a perfectly cleaned and clean fish.
  3. Brine your fish using a proper ratio of salt and water and for a recommended time. I used the ratio and time listed in the publication above of 1 cup plain non-iodized salt to 7 1/2 cups of water for an hour. I had to make that two and a half times to completely cover the fish in the brine. I also have a salometer so if you have one, prepare the brine from 60º to 80º SAL.
  4. During brining, fire up the smoker. As I didn't have a commercially dedicated smoker, I built a charcoal fire in the firebox of our BBQ smoker and brought it to a constant temperature of around 200 degrees F inside the main smoker/BBQ part.
  5. Many recipes will call for rinsing the fish from the brine before smoking. Because this was my first time, I overlooked that and skipped it, and just drained the fish and patted it dry with paper towels. My fish turned out fine but was a little salty at the surface. I might rinse it next time but since it didn't affect it negatively, I might skip on purpose next time. Pat with paper towels and let it air dry for about a half an hour to an hour. Lightly oil the racks and place the fish skin side down.
  6. Smoke the fish, tending the fire and coals. Add to the fire or a give a spritz of water to keep the temperature constant. Continually add in wood blocks and chips for constant smoking. Do this for about 2 hours depending on the thickness of the fish. Any hardwood can be used. I used hickory with great results but stay away from conifer wood no matter how plentiful in your area.
  7. Continue smoking and begin to increase the heat until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees and flakes easily. Time will depend on the thickness of the fish.
  8. Eat fresh, or wrap and freeze for storage.
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