The idea for “Cooking for a Cure” — really a guide book more than a cookbook — came after Maranda Cress’ husband was diagnosed with brain cancer.
She wanted to compile in one volume all the information she wished she had.
“No one sat down and explained the entirety of it,” Cress said. “They gave me test results, but not the explanation of it. We had 12 doctors on our oncology team. I guess they all assumed someone else had told me about it.
“As a caregiver, you’d be watching someone you love go through it. You would be totally confused and baffled. None of this information is all in one place.”
The Coshocton woman likens “Cooking for a Cure: A Nutritional Guide for Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers” to the famous handbook by Heidi Murkoff, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” that doctors often give to first-time parents. She hopes that her book will be a tool that oncologists provide to cancer patients.
Besides recipes, the pages include personal stories from survivors, stories told by caregivers, cancer facts and figures, terminology and interpretations, tips on dealing with grief, and ways to explain to children and family members what’s happening. The resources and contacts sections even include where to go if you have terminal cancer and want to get married, along with what groups will pay for the wedding.
There’s even a section with games, activities and play lists to occupy the patient during chemotherapy and radiation treatments. “My late husband always got bored during chemotherapy and started to listen to music,” Cress said.
“Originally, the book was to be 150 pages. It ended up being 400 pages,” Cress said. “It’s not the kind of information that you get at the doctor’s office.”
Many hospitals, including those in the Mahoning Valley, offer nurse navigators who are always available to talk with patients and caregivers. But Cress said when she went through her journey a decade ago, “No one told me there was a nurses’ line I could call.”
On top of everything, the demands of life didn’t let up.
“I wasn’t just taking care of Joe, I was taking care of a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. I was the only one working. I worked third shift. Fast food was convenient but not nutritious,” she said.
One of Cress’ goals was to find nutritious meals that were easy to prepare for her husband and children that used common ingredients. Her husband, Joe, died Jan. 2, 2012. Since remarried, the now-Maranda Milligan remains busy as the mom or stepmom for seven children, six of whom are still at home. She still looks for easy, healthy meals that pack a nutritional punch.
Some foods can help repair damaged cells and give the body a boost in building new cells.
“The recipes are all vitamin rich,” she said. But each has an emphasis, from carbs for energy to aroma to visually appealing to dishes that are easy to swallow for patients with throat cancer or blisters on the throat caused by radiation treatments.
While she stands by the recipes, Cress also notes that she is neither a physician nor a dietitian. She is not licensed to provide medical advice. Cress said she writes only from the perspective of what she learned through experience.
“Always listen to what your doctor says,” she said.
Cress said she originally wrote the book as a fundraiser for American Cancer Society Relay For Life events. Now that in-person Relays are getting going again — including the Mahoning-Columbiana counties Relay June 18 in Boardman — she hopes to have “Cooking for a Cure” available.
“Cooking for a Cure” can be found through Amazon and other online bookstores or at the Cooking for a Cure-By. Maranda Cress page on Facebook.
Following are some of the recipes found in “Cooking for a Cure: A Nutritional Guide for Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers,” by Maranda Cress.
This light summer salad is a beautiful quick meal at any time of the year. Because it is a “severe cold,” this dish is good when experiencing an upset stomach and sore throat / mouth that often comes following radiation treatment.
Paired with grilled salmon or eaten alone, this is an excellent addition to any diet. The onions in this dish add a new level of flavor and much-needed antioxidants; remember to let them rest for at least 10 minutes before tossing them into the mixture to ensure you are getting the complete vitamins available.
This salad is easy to make a few hours in advance, and the longer you let it sit together before serving, the more the flavors will blend. Be sure to wash the kale thoroughly and allow it to air dry to avoid any bacteria.
This dish goes best with a vinaigrette though any dressing your patient tolerates will work well.
8 ounces feta cheese diced
6 Roma tomatoes
1 large cucumber
2 large bell peppers, 1 green, 1 yellow
1 medium red onion diced
1 bag fresh kale
Wash all fresh ingredients thoroughly before cutting. Set kale aside to air dry on a clean towel.
Chop vegetables into 1-inch pieces.
Place prepared ingredients into a large serving bowl. Toss together.
Sprinkle with feta cheese and olives. Add fresh cracked pepper and Sea Salt to taste.
Severe cold with choice of dressing
Country Style Ham
and Potatoes Salad
Ham and potato salad is a terrific dish for either lunch or dinner. This low-calorie, low-carb, high-protein, easy-to-make recipe can be served at room temperature or cold and can be made a day or so in advance when you know your afternoon will be full.
I always leave the skins on my potato as the peel has the majority of vitamins and use a mixture of red, white, and yellow for color; however, if your patient is suffering from mouth sores, it’s much easier to swallow if you first peel them. Either way, this dish is very filling, savory, and satisfying.
I use leftover honey-baked ham, which gives this dish a sweet note, though I have heard of using deli-sliced ham in a pinch. The longer this dish sits together, the more the flavors mingle, and the dill helps calm the stomach while giving it an extra, unexpected pop of taste.
3 pounds mixed potatoes cubed
1 cup celery, chopped
4 ounces smoked ham, cubed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespooon fresh chopped dill
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, fresh cracked pepper to taste
4 large hard-boiled chopped eggs
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
In a large pot, boil cubed potatoes until soft. Set aside to cool.
Add celery, ham, parsley, chives, dill and corn to the potatoes. Lightly toss to combine.
In a separate bowl, mix buttermilk, lemon juice, oil, salt, paprika and pepper. Stir together before drizzling over the potato mixture. Top with egg.
Make this fun, simple fruit salad all year as a vitamin-rich meal, snack or dessert. It is a great recipe to make the night before and allow to set or to whip up last minute when you’ve been on the go all day. I always added whipped topping for my kids, but this sweet and healthy meal can stand on its own.
The mint helps calm an upset stomach while the honey coats the throat. It works great after a day of dealing with mouth sores or a sore throat, and we often made it as a mid-morning snack before heading into chemotherapy. You can use frozen fruits in the winter when fresh fruits are harder and more expensive to find or use alternate fresh fruits to mix up the taste and texture.
When we needed a quick protein boost, you can try adding nuts. My Joe’s favorite was cashews, but I preferred pecans as they are softer and less salty.
High in vitamins.
Easy to swallow.
1/2 quart frozen or fresh strawberries
1 container fresh blueberries
3 fresh peeled kiwis
2 sprigs fresh mint, chopped
1 can Mandarin oranges
1 can pineapple chunks
4 tablespoons honey
1 cup orange juice
Begin by peeling and dicing up all your fruit and washing them thoroughly. (Do not cut blueberries.) Place into a large bowl and toss together gently.
In a separate container, mix chopped mint leaves, orange juice, and honey, stir together until well mixed.
Spoon mixture over tossed fruit; you may add almonds slivers or chopped walnuts to add taste, texture and a boost of protein.