Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fall Breakfast + Brain Boosters

This week, I was fortunate enough to come back home to LA for Thanksgiving weekend and spend time with my family. The first morning back, I decided to cook breakfast, and I chose two dishes I had never done before. With fall comes a lot of good produce and seasonal vegetables, and one of my favorites is pumpkin! I've been meaning to make some healthy pancakes, and I thought it would be nice to make them using this autumn squash. I needed to accompany the pancakes with a healthy protein, so I turned to eggs. I make eggs almost every single day, but I've never made a proper frittata, so I thought while I had the kitchen space and resources, I would give it a go.

While brainstorming possible nutrition ideas, it came to me that a lot of the ingredients I used in this super-breakfast are good brain boosting foods. I've been spending a lot of time researching the effects foods have on the brain, as this is a large part of my journalism senior thesis. Few people realize the impact of what we put in our mouths and how it controls our moods and the way we behave. Luckily, the ingredients in this breakfast promote alertness, happiness and calmness. This is a breakfast that pleases the senses, as well as the mind!

Power of Pancakes:

Oats: Oatmeal provides our brains with sustained fuel power with a healthy, natural boost of glucose. Eating oatmeal rather than sugary foods prevents a sudden spike and drop in blood sugar, and it instead provides a steady few hours of brain power. Oatmeal also fights anxiety and fatigue with its level of magnesium. 

Dark Chocolate (72%): Dark cocoa is also a brain booster, containing a large percentage of flavonoids that preserve cognitive abilities in the brain such as memory. It is also a mood booster, bolstering positive mood with the release of endorphins. 

Pumpkin: Aside from the other health benefits of pumpkin (immune system booster, antioxidant, rich source of fiber), it's a natural energy boost, with an even higher potassium level than bananas. 

Coconut Oil: Coconut oil has a plethora of health benefits, one of them being a brain booster due to the brain's alternative fuel, ketone bodies, being present in medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil. Additionally, the lauric acid in this beneficial saturated fat releases a gut hormone that reduces sadness.

Milk: Milk can help improve memory, as well as improve mood. The calcium levels reduce stress and anxiety, and the tryptophan present increases serotonin, which elevates mood.

Feel Good Frittata:

Eggs: Eggs are both strong brain boosters and mood boosters! Vitamins D and B12 increase levels of serotonin, a mood elevator, and the vitamins also help enhance memory. Eggs are also high in omega-3s, the ultimate mood booster.

Tomatoes: High in lycopene, folate and magnesium, tomatoes enhance mood and lower depression, and they also promote an alert mind and memory function.

Rosemary: Rosemary is a powerful and pungent herb that can improve brain performance as well as boost mood, presumably through the chemical compounds in its oil.

Onions: Onions also boost our brain's memory power, and they help prevent degenerative diseases such as stroke from its antioxidants. Onions are also rich in chromium, which boosts mood.

Garlic: Garlic is a blood thinner, which increases blood flow to the brain and increases its functions. The extracts in garlic have also been shown to increase cognitive functioning, which includes increased memory and stronger ability to complete tasks.

Spinach: Spinach is filled with folic acid and magnesium, two depression-blasting nutrients. The folic acid in spinach also protects neurons in the brain. 

Recipes under the cut!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What I Ate During Hurricane Sandy

Sorry again for the all the delays in posts, it's been a pretty crazy month. I've been really sick, and then we got hit with the hurricane, and I lost power for 5 days. It was inconvenient, but my roommate Sara and I still managed to have a little fun with it, and we went old school and cooked by candlelight. During the four days we were still here, before we ran out of refrigerated food and escaped to Boston, we cooked all our meals using the frozen and refrigerated foods before they went bad. I tried to take as many pictures as I could, so enjoy this compilation of some of my Hurricane Sandy meals.

Before the power went out:

Poached Egg over Swiss, Avocado, Tomatoes and Spinach over Whole Wheat Toast:

My first attempt at a poached egg! I used Mark Bittman's directions here, and it's a lot harder than it looks! I lost a little bit of my yolk, I think because my water wasn't hot enough after I turned it down. I'm going to have to attempt it again sometime soon. 

Lemony Quinoa and Kale Salad