New Year, You’re Strong: 3 Recipes for Mental Strength

Recipe by Leandra Rouse Photography by Sam Emmons

As you set about keeping your goals for the new year, consider how you fuel your brain for the day. Nutritional research shows that people who eat breakfast do better on mental performance tests, have better focus and even say they feel in a better mood when they eat breakfast. What you eat is also important. Following a Mediterranean diet—rich in whole grains, pulses (like chickpeas), vegetables, fish, eggs, and olive oil, along with limiting saturated fat and sugar—has been found to protect brain function as we age.

Read on for three delicious and nutritious recipes that put these techniques into practice—and boost brain health, mental strength, and longevity.

Turkish-style scrambled eggs with yogurt

Inspired by a traditional Turkish breakfast consisting of eggs, thick yogurt, spices and fresh herbs, this healthy and filling dish is eaten alongside pita or crusty bread. It’s very simple, yet a very unusual dish combination for an American diner.

The bright colors of the spices stand out against the white background of the thick yogurt, making this dish beautiful enough to be the star of a special occasion brunch, but so ridiculously easy to prepare that it can become your healthy weeknight breakfast. The combination of eggs and thick Greek yogurt makes it packed with nearly thirty grams of protein per serving—the perfect start to a busy day.

Adding turmeric to hot olive oil gives flavor to the oil and color to the egg whites. The result is a vibrant orange egg. And, when combined with red paprika (or Aleppo pepper), bright green kale and fresh herbs, the colors of this dish really stand out from the crowd. Try serving it with some kind of pita or crusty bread, so you can soak up and absorb the yogurt and egg yolk with each bite.

Ingredients:

2.5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 bunch kale (6 to 8 leaves), stems removed and roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or Aleppo pepper

Half a teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Half a teaspoon of turmeric

4 large eggs

1 cup (250 mL) plain unsweetened low-fat Greek yogurt

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 clove garlic, shaved

½ teaspoon chili flakes, optional

1 round whole wheat pita, cut into quarters

2 teaspoons mixed fresh herbs such as mint, dill, and parsley, roughly chopped

Instructions:

Start by preheating the oven to 375F (190C). Toss shredded kale with ½ tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Toss to coat and add kale to hot oven. Cook till it starts drying out and gets a little crispy on the edges. About 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully remove from hot oven and set aside.

Mix yogurt with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon lemon zest, grated garlic, and ¼ teaspoon salt. To prepare each plate, spoon 1/4 cup of the yogurt mixture onto each plate with the back of a spoon and sprinkle with smoked paprika. Place half of the baked kali evenly around the curd on each plate.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large well seasoned cast iron pan or nonstick skillet. When the oil is hot, add the turmeric and stir to combine. Cook the turmeric in the oil until it is fragrant and well blended, about one to two minutes. Keep the oil just below the smoking point. A small drop of water added to the pan should sizzle immediately.

Carefully crack the egg into the hot pan and season with the remaining salt and pepper. As the eggs cook, tilt the pan to the side and use a spoon to baste the eggs with the yellow olive oil. This will help the eggs cook while keeping the middle moist. It will also make whites bright yellow. Continue basting until the eggs are puffed and cooked through, about a minute or to your liking. Transfer to a plate and arrange on top of the yogurt and kale.

Finish with a teaspoon of fresh herbs and serve with pita.

Serves 4 (one egg per person).

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories 285 kcal/1194 kJ

16 grams of protein

16 grams of total fat

3.5 grams of saturated fat

Cholesterol 190 mg

24 grams of carbohydrates

6 grams of fiber

Total sugars are 6 grams

0 grams of added sugars

Sodium 505 mg

Quinoa Egg Bowl with Smoked Salmon

This easy and healthy quinoa breakfast bowl is sure to be on high rotation in your kitchen. Quinoa contains eight grams of protein per cup and impressive levels of fiber and B vitamins. Try this quinoa breakfast bowl where the grains are topped with a perfectly poached egg and the vibrant flavors of fermented vegetables and smoked salmon.

The trick to cooking great quinoa is to add flavor to the cooking water. In this dish it is achieved by cooking the grains in a broth, adding spices and finally tossing in a little butter. Another great trick to bring out quinoa’s unique nutty flavor is to toast the dry grain over medium heat before adding any liquid.

The protein in this breakfast bowl comes from quinoa, eggs, salmon, and even tahini sauce. The flavor is rounded out with the umami of the acidic pickled vegetables and miso tahini sauce. You might consider making a double batch of tahini sauce to maximize your efforts in the kitchen. It makes a great dressing or marinade for a future dish.

There are many ways to poach eggs and many strong opinions about which method is “correct”. In this recipe, it’s done by adding vinegar to the cooking water, turning a complicated process into a weeknight breakfast. Also the added vinegar flavor adds a nice sharpness to the dish.

Like any “bowl” recipe, this one can easily be adapted to your refrigerator and to your personal taste. Don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s how great food is invented!

Ingredients:

1 cup (180 g) dried quinoa

2 cups (470 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth

½ tablespoon butter

2 bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, whole and peeled

4 oz (110 g) dry smoked salmon

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons vinegar – white, apple cider or red wine vinegar

1 12 ounce (340 g) bunch spinach

4 tablespoons of pickled vegetables, we used a store bought beet sauerkraut

Miso Tahini Drizzle Sauce (serves 10)

2 tablespoons miso, white preferred

2 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 clove of garlic

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1/4 cup (60 mL) rice vinegar

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

Toast the quinoa over low heat until fragrant, taking care not to burn. Then add the stock, bay leaf, garlic cloves and butter. Bring the pot to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Be sure to keep the lid on the whole time and avoid letting any steam escape. When the water is absorbed, remove the pot from the heat, fluff the quinoa with a fork and pull out the bay leaves and whole garlic cloves. Cover and let stand for another 5 to 10 minutes.

While the grains are cooking, fill a saucepan ⅔ full and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of vinegar to the water on low heat.

Make an easy miso tahini drizzle by combining all the sauce ingredients in a blender and blending on high until smooth. Pour into a jar and reserve.

Dish the quinoa into four bowls and divide the smoked salmon into four servings among the bowls. Top each with a tablespoon of greens.

Once the grains and sauce are ready, you’re ready to poach the eggs. Crack and carefully slide each egg into the boiling water leaving plenty of space between them. If the egg whites spread, use a spoon to bring them closer to the yolks. Poach each egg until the white is firm and the yolk feels soft but remains. Use a spoon to carefully pour hot water over the egg yolks until they are opaque. When you believe the egg is poached, carefully lift the egg from the water using a slotted spoon and touch the yolk to check for its desired consistency. A runny poached egg takes about three to four minutes.

When the eggs are ready, use a slotted spoon to carefully remove them from the water and nestle two eggs on top of each quinoa bowl. Drizzle the dish with a tablespoon of miso tahini sauce and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Serve hot.

Serves 4.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories 360kcal/1506 kj

22 grams of protein

14 grams of total fat

3.5 grams of saturated fat

Cholesterol 193 mg

72 grams of carbohydrates

7 grams of fiber

Total sugars are 3 grams

Added sugars are 1 gram

Sodium 530 mg

Coconut Ginger Chickpea Stew

This dish is warming and nourishing, satisfying and full of spices. It’s reminiscent of Indian dal – hearty and delicious, and is best served alongside warm flat bread or over basmati rice. It has become our go-to soup to bring to friends when needed. And we always recommend doubling that recipe, because it freezes beautifully and makes a healthy meal in a pinch. Coconut milk can be omitted in whole or in part and replaced with an additional low sodium vegetable broth.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 tsp red-chili/chili flakes, plus more for serving

½ teaspoon salt, divided

¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 15-ounce (425 g) cans of unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed. Reserve ½ cup (130 grams) for serving

1 15 oz (425 g) can light coconut milk, (optional)

3 cups (700 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth

1 bunch 12 ounce (340 g) spinach, roughly chopped

½ cup (125 g) non-fat yogurt, for serving (optional)

1 cup mint leaves, torn into pieces for serving

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425F (215C). Drain half a cup of canned chickpeas on a paper towel to remove any loose skins, and place on a small baking sheet with two teaspoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Fry for about 5 to 7 minutes until crispy. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic and ginger to the pot and cook until the onion is fragrant and translucent, about five minutes. Then add the turmeric, red chili/pepper flakes, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Let the spices heat for one to two minutes, stirring well to incorporate everything. Then add the chickpeas and carrots and toss to combine. Fry for 5 minutes until carrots are soft. Finally add the vegetable stock and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes.

When you’re ready to serve, ladle a cup or so of the soup into a bowl. Top with a dollop of yogurt and a pile of fresh today. You can also finish the dish with a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Enjoy on its own or alongside a salad, flat bread or rice.

Serves 6.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories 310 kcal/ 1297 kj

12 grams of protein

14 grams of total fat

5 grams of saturated fat

Cholesterol 0 mg

37 grams of carbohydrates

11 grams of fiber

9 grams of total sugars

0 grams of added sugars

Sodium 360 mg

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