Atheist Oatmeal

Information comes roaring at you once you become diagnosed with cancer. In the first few days alone you are inundated with literature, binders, books and opinion. In a steady stream, the many different brains of all the slightly weary but steeped-in-knowledge specialists are paraded in front of you as they give you their take on “the matter at hand.” (Thank goodness for note-taking, question-asking, hand-holding backup, in the form of husbands and sisters!)

This is all invaluable for someone like me, who likes to do my homework, understand what’s going down and make a plan. But, as many people warned me… be careful what you google in the wee hours of the night. When you enter “breast cancer life expectancy” or “chemo side effects” into that search field, oceans of data points, POV’s and individual patient and survivor voices can easily submerge you.

Oregon Hoods

One area in which I’ve taken a lot of interest and inspiration is food. We Portlanders are lucky to live in the fine cuisine mecca of the Northwest where so much is so fresh and diverse, and best of all, local. Especially this time of year. The markets are filling with new green veggies and before we know it, berry season will be upon us.  (Bring on the Hoods!  Single best part of living in Oregon in my mind.)

One of my biggest fears with chemo was that I’d lose my appetite and worst of all, be sick to my stomach all the time. Car sick, air sick, pregnant sick, I’ve always been a girl with a jumbly tummy. Happily one of the biggest advancements in oncology are the drugs available to stem the tide of dreaded nausea. They have it down pretty well and for me at least, along with acupuncture, it has worked wonders.

So that’s the defensive take.

On the offense, there is so much we can do to heal and prevent breast cancer! It’s amazing to learn the power of the choices we make in terms of what we eat everyday. I knew it of course with the many recent articles regarding anti-oxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and free radicals…. But between busy lives and old habits, it was all just a vague state of healthier living that I’d try to get to “someday.” Meanwhile I’d eat my oatmeal and throw in some sliced almonds and dried fruit and feel somewhat better about myself. I’d even splurge the prep time and money for the top shelf choice of Bob’s Red Mill steel cut, much to the annoyance of the girls. As my nephew Nicholas recently said,

“I don’t want that “good for you” oatmeal. Can’t we just have that one in the round box?  The one with that guy on the front?”


“You know, the atheist?”

“Oooooohhh! You mean the Quaker.”   :-)

Since this has all happened, something has been reverse engineered in my brain. I don’t “have to” eat my fruit and veggies anymore. I choose to for my family and for me. It will help save my life, yes, but I also want to.  The problem for me now is where do I stop? And that really is the key. Pursuing a diverse daily diet of a variety of colors and kinds of produce is where all the good news is today.

There is so much wonderful out there that tastes incredible. Here’s what’s made it onto my super foods dance card for managing treatment and prevention in the future…

  1. Blueberries are top of the charts. But all dark berries and stone fruit rock. This is one case where organic is worth it.
  2. Salmon is a salve! (Omega 3 is key – splurge often for wild King though, not the crap farmed kind)
  3. Green tea works wonders (3 cups a day is magic bullet.  But need to avoid during chemo).  And soy, after all the hubbub, looks like a good thing.
  4. Turmeric is the most powerful anti-inflammatory identified today (inflammation promotes growth of cancer cells), it also promotes apoptosis (cancer cell suicide… I think there’s a t-shirt in there somewhere!?) and inhibits angiogenesis (blood vessel growth that feeds cancer cells) so it is effective on 3 levels.  But, to be effective it must be mixed with olive oil and black pepper. Recommendation is to mix 1/4 tp of tumeric with 1/2 TB of olive oil and pinch of black pepper and add to veggie soups, salads, etc. Adding agave can remove slightly bitter taste.
  5. Less red meat and more beans. Use grass fed as much as possible.
  6. Cruciferous veggies (Combine with the beans for more power – potent in more ways than one!)
  7. Shiitake, portabella, crimini, oyster, enoki, maitake mushrooms – all fantastic in flavor and have anti-cancer properties.
  8. Try agave sweetener vs sugar.  I know… I was skeptical too but it’s really a great substitute.  Big blood sugar spikes actually feed the cancer cells and Agave is absorbed much more slowly.
  9. More whole grains vs. white bread (“The whiter the bread the sooner your dead” – Food Rules, by Micheal Pollan)
  10. Dark chocolate (more than 70% cocoa) – contains molecules that can slow growth of cancer cell.  Yes!

I’m spending a lot more time back in my kitchen again on my good days… apron tied, Emma usually at my side, cookbook in hand, and New Seasons shopping list in front of me. For me, the wonder and gratification in the preparation of great food that is great for you is more healing than anything else could be.

So bon appétit and enjoy your steel cut spiritual oatmeal!

Thanks, Bob…



Finally, here’s a recipe from my new favorite cookbook, called One Bite at a Time, by Rebecca Katz. Although written as “nourishing recipes for cancer survivors and their friends,” I’d recommend it to anyone. Ms. Katz has a thing against “wall spackle” oatmeal that is usually served in the U.S. and I concur. Try it!

p.s. If you’ve got any great cancer-stomping recipes that you want to share I’d love it.


1 cup steel cut oats

1 ½ TBS fresh lemon juice

1/8 tsp sea salt

¼ cup dried berries (any will do) or raisins

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp maple syrup

¼ cup organic milk or soy milk (optional)

Chopped toasted almonds or walnuts or a dollop of fresh fruit compote for garnish.

Place the oats in a pan or bowl with water to cover and add the lemon juice. Soak over-night. Drain through a fine-mesh sieve and rinse well under cold water.

In a 4-quart pot, combine the oats, 2 cups water and the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cover. Decrease the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the dried fruit, and cinnamon (can also add 1/8 tsp or so of cardamom and ginger). The oatmeal will become very creamy as the water evaporates. Add the maple syrup and milk and stir. For less-moist oatmeal, leave the lid off for the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking.

Serve in colorful bowl; garnish with toasted nuts or compote.

Serves 2.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Leah
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE this article and have printed it out to refer to more easily. Coincidentally I have 5 jars of tumeric capsules on their way to me right now because I know it to be a miracle spice. I also just discovered an awesome naturopath/chiropractor and she and I are working on a better cleaner diet & life. She is a closet sun worshipper and says that lack of vitamin D causes way more cancer than causes skin cancer. Interesting. In any case, both my herbalist friend and new naturopath recommend 10,000 IUs of vitamin D/day. Wow! We still need to get together and I am around this Friday but flying off to sunny Sedona to turn 40. If I don’t see you before old age sets in I will see you when I get back (I’ll be the one with the tan). LOTS of love, Leah

  2. Annie Skoglund
    Posted May 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Nicholas – love that kid! Too funny! Bob has been residing in my cupboard for almost a year now. Erika encouraged us to try his healthy, steel-cut oatmeal and I went right out and bought me some…have yet to consume it though! You’ve inspired me and I will attempt your recipee tomorrow morning.

    My girlfriend, Tracy, once entered a body building competition and to be a good friend I decided to support her by doing her “diet” for two weeks. Thought I would perish but I made it. Along those lines, I will eat dark chocolate several times a week for you!!!~annie

  3. Cherri Langley
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    great blog Kerri….
    atheist oatmeal…so funny!
    we took a tour at Bob’s Red Mill, met Bob himself, and bought one of each grain on the shelves! Vince likes to mix the grains with the oats he cooks every morning….needless to say, breakfast is an adventure….always a new mix!

  4. Nancy Olson
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Yo Mama here,too. Your blog is super great. I really like reading the comments. Thanks for doing it. As per, you probably think my ideas are a bit radical re: nutrition. I am so happy to see your wise recommendations for good food for support of you and your family’s health. I also recommend the recipes in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, by Sally Fallon that I gave you and the accompanying book, The Fourfold Path to Healing by Thomas S. Cowan, MD. It addresses the nutrition issues for healing and prevention of Cancer. In addition to what you have found it emphasizes: lacto-fermented foods, soup broths, flax seeds and flax seed oil, beets and lacto-fermented beet juice(to support the liver), coconut oil and fat from grass-fed animals.
    I will do what I can to bring down some of that wonderful Chinook Salmon from Alaska.
    The book also addresses meditation suggestions. They suggest :
    * contemplation of great music(especially Baroque) and works of art(especially
    * Contemplation of the “Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and Beautiful Lily ” by Goethe.
    Carry On, Ms. Kerri. You’re beautiful. Mix in enough rest with your daily walks. Love You, Mom

  5. robert
    Posted April 25, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I want to be the first person to use HTML in a post.

  6. robert
    Posted April 25, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Brueberries! That’s what they’re called in our house. Not because Isaac has started talking yet but because we often speak in cloying baby-speak. We are doing our best to finish off last year’s crop of frozen blueberries. I went a bit crazy and froze about 5olbs and I’m not allowed to buy any new berries until we finish last year’s. It’s a bit of a crusade now. Blueberries on oatmeal, blueberries to Isaac one-by-one, blueberry crumble for lunch today after the salmon-belly bbq.

    I know what you mean about the dangers of Google. When Isaac was diagnosed with Down Syndrome last year, we both spent wayyyy too long surfing and worrying ourselves silly. It’s a great resource but also dangerous for a hypochondriac like me. With Isaac, we basically ignore the bad prognoses and decide what WE want to happen and focus on making that the reality. We’re writing our own history.

    So, the lesson is: WRITE HISTORY!

  7. Posted April 24, 2010 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    Hi Kerri! I’m a friend of Kelli’s from old Central Asian days – thus, the connection to your blog. How I wish we could’ve met under different circumstance. But while I’m here reading your blog, I wanted to let you know that I think you totally ROCK and I am sending all the hope, positive mantras and determination straight to you from Tajikistan!

    I, too, am a food lover!! I start most of my days with steel cut oats. My fave as of late is to add a teaspoon of peanut butter, a finely diced apple and tons of cinnamon. Cinnamon is also an anti-inflammatory — and an antioxident — and controls blood sugar.

    Keep the humor and great attitude coming!


  8. Anna Cornell
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    The photos of the strawberries and the blueberries make me drool.

  9. Kevin Burke
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Another awesome blog, Kerri. I particularly love that the Quaker Oats guy is now an atheist. Should someone call Pepsi (who owns Quaker I believe) and let them know that they might have a teensy problem with how Quaker Man is being perceived by the younger generations?

    Then again, when you figure that Quaker Man is shoveling coal for Pepsi, wouldn’t he have to be an atheist? Or at least agnostic.

    I love your food suggestions. Right up my alley! Blueberries and poached eggs are #1.

    And thanks for reminding me that Bob of Bob’s Red Mill is a righteous dude. You have to trust the products from a guy who would give his company away to his employees on his 81st birthday.

    Can’t wait for the next post.

  10. erika
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    Posing as your old sis, this is your old pop with a bit of 3am advice.
    As for music. I am a Luddite and figure the radio suits just fine if you know where to go. My dial is welded to KPLU in Tacoma for jazz, blues and NPR. Saturday and Sunday nights is blues from 6 to midnite. Upbeat and my personal fav. You can get it any time on the net , either live feed or selected poison. Try it. A little Big Momma Thornton will do you good.
    As for your nephew of Athiest Oatmeal fame, what can be said? The boy is a genius.
    The opening photo of you on this posting is way cool and familiar. I have had that look directed at me many times over the years. Please update your photos so we all can keep up with what I expect will be a plethora of groovy hats and scarves.
    As for me and 3am. A perfect storm of spring sinus, nearly successful smoking cessation, over enthusiastic bladder, and other failing body parts woke me from a troubled sleep at the scariest time of night. 3 am has always and forever bothered me. I was born now (well, now in terms of the clock, certainly not the calendar). My later years find me semi conscious at this hour, on my way to the john, and troubled by the knowledge that this is the hour when souls travel. Never know who you’ll run into in the hallway. Ask me about Albert Einstein, Steven Hawking, and The MellowTones sometime.
    I love you girl. Remember you don’t have to kiss any old drunk that asks you (editor’s note: this is a long ago story from Seattle childhood!). It is always your choice.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>