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cooking for chemo patient 3

Updated on July 31, 2012

Cooking for Chemotherapy 3

Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments often suffer from side effects like nausea, mouth sores, and alterations of taste that can lead to an inability to eat certain foods or even certain textures of foods.

If making appetizing, appealing meals is the goal, I've got a super game plan for you - recipes for dishes that taste good, can be adapted to a patient's needs, and are simple to prepare. See below for my top tips on what to cook (and how to cook it). Want more recipes and helpful tips? Visit these other lenses:

Cooking for Chemo Patient I

Cooking for Chemo II

How You Can Help

Before we get started with the recipes, I wanted to let you know that cancer patients often feel alone and isolated because they might not feel up to personal visits or phone calls. Friends and family may be afraid of saying the wrong thing, or doing something upsetting. Greeting cards are an excellent way to stay in touch, and give encouragement and support as well as vital contact. "Get Well" cards don't do, which is why artist Corrie Kuipers has teamed up with Nene Adams to create greeting cards designed especially for cancer patients of all ages - adult, young adult, teen, tween (pre-teen) and child.

See The Full Selection of Greeting Cards for Cancer Patients







In the original Cooking for Chemo lens, I gave easy recipes for basic dishes like Cheese Sauce (for Macaroni and Cheese), Risotto, etc. In Cooking for Chemo II, frozen popsicles were featured. In this lens, I'll be delivering recipes for five more easy and basic dishes suitable for people undergoing cancer treatment.

Keep in mind that everyone responds differently to chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Some can't tolerate even the blandest of foods; others find food too bland and crave only hot and spicy dishes. All recipes can be customized to suit the patient's individual needs.

Continue below to find recipes for Chicken and Dumplings; Chicken Noodle Soup; Polenta; Oatmeal; and Baked Oatmeal.

Recipes That Feed Body, Heart and Soul


"This dish is one of those comfort foods that warms body and soul. Some dumplings are more of a kind of chewy noodle; these are fluffy and delicious. Although you can warm up leftover dumplings, they tend to go gummy. The dough recipe will make 8-12 generous dumplings. My advice if you want to make smaller portions is to cook the broth and chicken ahead of time, then when you want to eat, make just enough dough to serve whoever will be eating (the recipe is easily halved for 2 persons). Broth and cooked chicken freezes well, too.


"You can use canned low-sodium chicken stock, but processed foods often have an unpleasant metallic taste to chemo and radiation patients. Besides, this method allows you to cook your chicken and make a delicious stock at the same time."

1 5-6 pound chicken cut into pieces with skin removed

2 bay leaves

1 stick celery

1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks

1 carrot, cut into chunks

3/4 teaspoon salt

5 whole black peppercorns

Olive oil

6 cups cold water

Add a splash of olive oil to a large Dutch oven or saucepan. Brown the chicken pieces about 5 minutes, or until they are no longer pink. Add onions, celery and carrots; cook just until onions begin to soften. Add water, bay leaves, salt and peppercorns. Bring to boil, then let simmer, skimming off any scum that rises, for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from broth; set aside. When broth is cool, strain off solids. Return to Dutch oven or saucepan. Remove meat from chicken pieces, tearing or cutting into bite-sized chunks. Add to broth. At this point, you can also add flavorings as desired, such as thyme, chopped parsley, sage, chives, marjoram - all herbs that go well with chicken. You can also add vegetables: fresh or frozen peas, pre-cooked diced carrots, and/or pre-cooked leeks, if the patient tolerates them. Bring broth to a simmer while you make the dumpling dough.


2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons melted butter

3/4 cup buttermilk

Stir together flout, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add melted butter and buttermilk. Gently stir just until a soft dough is formed (you don't want to work it took much, otherwise your dumplings will be tough). If desired, you can add fresh snipped chives or fresh parsley to the dough. While your chicken broth is simmering, drop dough by heaped tablespoons into the broth. Immediately put a lid on the pot and turn heat to low. Cook 15 minutes without lifting the lid - this is very important! For a fluffy texture, dumplings need to steam.

Serve immediately. If patient has difficulty eating very hot food, here's a tip: allow a portion of the broth and chicken to cool to warm, then use another portion of stock to cook the dumplings, which can be served at once in the cooler broth.



"Nothing comforts more than a bowl of homemade soup. It's good, versatile, and has health benefits as well. Once you've made the soup but before you add noodles, the broth can be allowed to cool, then portioned into individual servings that are easily re-heated (and at that point, you can put in oodles of noodles)."

1 onion diced, or 1 leek cut into thin pieces

1 large carrot, diced

2 stalks celery, diced (optional - some patients can't tolerate strong vegetable flavors)

Strained broth and cooked chicken from recipe for Chicken and Dumplings (above)

Pepper to taste

Herbs like thyme, sage, marjoram (fresh or dried to taste)

Olive oil

In Dutch oven or large saucepan, add olive oil. Over medium heat, cook onions (or leek), carrot and celery (if using) until onions are translucent (be careful not to brown too much). Add stock, chicken and herbs (if using). Simmer 10 minutes. At this point, you can remove pot from heat, let soup cool, and freeze into portions. To serve, to simmering stock add a generous handful medium egg noodles; let cook until noodles are done to taste.

If desired, you can further flavor the stock with 1 or 2 cloves of garlic and/or a thumb of grated ginger (cook with onions and vegetables, be careful not to burn). Be sure to check the patient's tolerance before making additions.

If the patient has difficulty with hot foods, serve just warm.




"Smooth and creamy, easy to eat, heart-warming and delicious, polenta satisfied on every level. The basic recipe can be adjusted with the addition of 1 or 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic and/or a small diced onion sautéed in olive oil beforehand. Be aware some patients have difficulty with strong flavors, so you should customize only as far as they can tolerate.

1 quart water (or for more flavor, use homemade chicken stock. If you have to use canned stock, pick a low-sodium variety, just know that for some patients, processed foods have an unpleasant metallic taste. Vegetable stock can also be used)

1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal (stone ground, not quick cooking or instant) or polenta (not instant - also known as yellow corn grits)

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F) or 180 degrees (C). Bring water or stock to boil in Dutch oven or oven-safe saucepan. While whisking constantly, add the cornmeal or polenta in a steady stream (to prevent lumps). Cover pot, put in oven, and cook 35-45 minutes, giving the polenta a stir every 10 minutes or so. Once polenta has achieved a creamy texture, remove from oven; add butter, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

This is an excellent "soft food" recipe for a patient with mouth sores, however once the polenta cools, it becomes firm rather than creamy. You can reheat polenta by adding a little stock to loosen it up before heating in a pan or in the microwave. If getting protein is a concern, add 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (which tastes somewhat cheesy) to the pot in the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Other cheeses you could try are blue cheese or sharp cheddar cheese, or even pepper jack, but only if stronger flavors are desired.



"Whether the preference is for a thin porridge or thick and gooey consistency, oatmeal is a comfort food that's highly adaptable. Don't buy those expensive packages of instant oatmeal; it takes 5 minutes to make a bowl that's ultimately much more satisfying, better for you, and doesn't contain high amounts of sugar (unless you want it to, of course)."

2/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup full-fat milk (or soy milk for vegetarians or lactose intolerant)

Pinch salt

Add oatmeal, milk and salt to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved. Sweeten to taste and serve immediately.

Dried fruit such as raisins, apples (with a pinch of cinnamon), blueberries and/or craisins can be added during the cooking process; small bits of fresh banana and walnuts or pecans just before serving. Sweeten with maple syrup or brown sugar for a change. This recipe will make a single portion of oatmeal for an adult.



"An interesting take on the common bowl of oatmeal. By adding a few other ingredients, you create a dish that's full of nutrients, some protein as well, and can be customized as desired. In texture, it's soft and light. Allowing it to cool changes the texture to thick and slightly chewy, but leftovers are easily re-heated in the microwave."

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats

2 heaped tablespoons multi-grain hot cereal

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown sugar (if you want it more sweet, you can add up to 1/4 cup sweetener in total)

1 egg

3/4 cup full-fat milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F) or 180 degrees (C). Butter a small baking dish (you're shooting for a dish that's about half the size of an 8x8 dish, either ceramic or glass; if you don't have one, there are 2 other choices - either divide the mixture between 2 ramekins, or double the recipe and cook in an 8x8 dish).

In a bowl using a fork, mix together all dry ingredients. Add egg, milk and syrup, if using, and thoroughly combine. Pour into buttered dish and cook 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

To make baked oatmeal that taste like banana bread, add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 mashed ripe banana to the mixture before pouring it into the dish, then sprinkled a few walnut pieces on top (if patient can tolerate nuts). You can also add finely chopped apple, fresh or frozen blueberries, or dried apple, raisins, craisins or other dried fruit. This recipe makes 2 adult-sized portions and can be reheated in the microwave; just add a little milk to loosen it up, and be sure to cover the dish to avoid splatter.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very, thank you, my husband begins his chemotherapy in a few weeks after recovery from colon procedures. Weight loss seems to be a problem and being able to digest foods, home made soups seem best at moment. Any advice appreciated.