Lockdown lunches and delicious dinners were on the menu everyday, when Penny was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of lockdown, 2020, at the age of 47.
During my time in isolation for cancer treatment, I spent all my days cooking.
For two reasons really; one, I had loved to cook and two, I believed that the food I ate would play a huge part in my recovery. I healed well internally and I believe one of the reasons for this was down to the food I prepared for myself. I had always been a good healthy eater, with everything in moderation, but of course I questioned things after my diagnosis and made some changes that, upon reflection, I felt were highly beneficial in the long run.
I wasn’t going to give up chocolate, but did opt for vegan brands. I feel I now have become a slight connoisseur of the vegan chocolate world. 😀 However, my one biggest cravings became mushrooms on toast. I was very fortunate that I didn't lose my tastebuds and I didn't lose my appetite throughout. So, I would like to share my recipes that I love with you, and my favourite snacks and meals, while I was going through treatment. It’s not a miracle cure it won’t make you thinner, or grow taller, or your hair curl, it’s just foods and snacks I like, which make me happy.
Mushrooms on toast
- Seeded wholemeal bread
- Button or capped mushrooms (I was addicted to both)
- Walnut or sesame seed oil
- Pumpkins seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Glove of garlic
- Flat parsley
First, chop the garlic (I used lots of this because I love it and I was isolating alone so didn’t have to worry about garlic breath. It also helped that masks in public were compulsory 😀).
Next, wash and slice mushrooms.
Then, gently heat the oil in a pan then and add the garlic, followed by the mushrooms.
Fry until lightly browned, then add the seeds. Finish off with a big handful of flat parsley.
Serve on toast.
Another favourite of mine was something I just made up really, it’s my little sweet fix and it's better than sugar, because I wanted to cut that down where I could. I’ve been making these for years:
Nutty Date Energy Balls
- Handful of dried dates
- Handful of almond nuts
- Spoonful of cocoa powder
- Splash of either oat milk, soya or almond milk
- A handful of desiccated coconut
Add all the ingredients to a blender and blitz until a doughy consistency.
Then, roll the mix into balls and toss them in some more desiccated coconut and place in the fridge. They keep longer in an air-tight, glass container and taste lovely. It’s a quick sweet fix without too much naughty sugar.
It’s like a not-so-naughty chocolate truffle.
Carrots with Coriander Seeds
This become my quick go-to snack. I would add this to either a salad, or have as a side vegetable dish.
Heat walnut or sesame oil gently. Then, add coriander seeds until they start pop. They start to pop and smell delicious. Add your grated carrots, until lightly browned. Finish off with lots of fresh coriander leaves.
I would wrap then up in brown paper and eat from the bag and pretend I was at the sea side, or walking through the streets of New York whilst sitting in my garden. Delicious.
Coconut and Sweet Potato Soup
Finally, this is one of my favourite soups and everyone I’ve ever made this for just loved it.
- Knob of butter
- 1 small red or white onion
- 2 sticks of celery
- 1 sweet potato
- 1/2 litre of vegetable stock
- Tin of coconut milk
- Handful of desiccated coconut
In a saucepan, add butter. Add onions and celery, gently cook until soft. Add sweet potato cut into small pieces, stir in the stock and cook for 5 minutes. Finally, add the tin of coconut milk. Blitz in a blender. Add salt and pepper to taste, and eat.
This soup is always a winner and is perfect all year round .
If you're experiencing mouth ulcers as a result of cancer treatment, coconut cream can be a great help to soothe these.
For me, food became something I was in control of and that was so important. When the rollercoaster of a diagnosis starts, there are many areas you are not in control of. I couldn't control what treatment I could have or what changes it would bring physically and emotionally. But, I was going to make sure that what I could control, I would. I took control of what I put into my body, in the form of soothing coconut and natural, high-vitamin recipes, and I also took control of the natural oils and butters I was applying to the outside of my body, to my skin.
I started creating an indulgent skincare routine using a variety of Jennifer Young's Beauty Despite Cancer skincare and beauty products. Using a variety of products for both my morning and night routine. The products which helped the most were the Defiant Beauty Cleanse & Moisturise the Beyond Beauty Night Mask, the Beyond Beauty Morning Mask. I found, keeping to this new routine helped to rebuild a sense of control within my life, despite the lack of control I felt during treatment.
With lockdown in full swing, food supplies were becoming a little bit scarce. Let’s face it, flour was in short supply during the first lockdown, with a huge increase in home baking. Flour was being transported to me and I was giving to others, like an illegal, underground trading network. I was starting to feel like some kind of drug mule, not to mention all the injections for my treatments.
Cooking provided such a pleasure for me again and there is nothing better, for me, than someone really enjoying what you’ve made for them. Food became the conversation starter when we couldn’t talk about, "When are you planning on going on holiday this year?"
Food deliveries arriving at my back gate and front door became a huge highlight for me. Looking at all the ingredients and goodies arriving at my back door was just wonderful when I wasn’t allowed out to make my own shopping choices.
I even made cards with "Best shopper awards goes to…" for the friends who dropped off supplies. Those who I could see were proper foodies by their shopping habits were always the winners. The best treat was when family, friends and neighbours brought flowers,chocolates and ice creams. Finding something in the bag that I hadn’t ordered was a surprise like no other.
"What have you had for you lunch?" became the top topic of my day. "What will you have for dinner?", the next.
I definitely cooked more vegetable curries and become more creative with dishes I made. Adding more vegetables and cooking vegan meals was more interesting than I ever thought. I was given a lovely cookbook at the beginning and thought "here we go, another old cookbook" but it was great. I found cooking using vegan foods as an alternative, added flavour and put my on style on the dish.
That book became one of the best presents that was given to me during treatment, along with a box of Jennifer Young's Every Day Balm Set which my colleagues got for me. It's hard to know what to get someone as a gift when they are experiencing cancer. It is also nice to get alternative gift to flowers, although I do love a flower.
Having colourful food dishes brought me happiness which may sound silly, but I just appreciate the real, simple things in life now. Being creative and adding colour to your meals is similar to happy home, happy life to me. Meals start in the home and by surrounding myself with ingredients I loved, I lifted the lid of happy memories.
This gave me the relaxed environment I needed.
My own childhood memories of eating strawberries while Wimbledon was on the TV and chopping mint reappear during the lockdown summer. Passed times came flooding back . The overload of food nostalgia made me smile; from fish finger sandwiches in the 1970s to work dinners of jacket potatoes in the 1990’s.
It filled me with warmth and reminded me of happier times.
The beautiful hot summer days allowed me to rest and take my time to cook.
Cancer and the lockdown had given me that time.
Happy, nostalgic food memories gave a sense of love, security and calmness, when I wanted the crashing waves of emotion to be still.
Taking time to prepare wholesome, tasty foods is one of the many ways Penny takes care of herself. Penny has talked through many of her self-care tips in previous blogs and loves using Jennifer Young's Beauty Despite Cancer skincare ranges to create a relaxing and serene skincare routine.
Find Penny on instagram as @yellow.kettle and go and read through her other blogs here.