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New Year, Strong You: 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. Nutrition research shows people who consume breakfast do better in mental performance tests, have improved focus and even say they feel in a better mood when they have breakfast. What you eat matters too. Following a Mediterranean style of eating—which is rich in whole grains, pulses (like chickpeas), vegetables, fish, eggs, and olive oil, in addition to limiting saturated fats and sugars—has been found to protect our brain function as we age. 

Keep reading for three delicious and nourishing recipes that put these strategies into practice—and promote brain health, mental strength, and longevity. 

Turkish-Style Turmeric 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 is so simple, yet a very unusual food combination for an American diner. 

Bright colors of spices stand out against the white background of thick yogurt, which makes this meal beautiful enough to be the star of a special occasion brunch, but so ridiculously easy to prepare it could become your healthy weekday breakfast. The combination of eggs and thick Greek yogurt makes it rich in protein with about thirty grams per serving—the perfect start to a busy day. 

Adding ground turmeric to the hot olive oil flavors the oil and brings color to the egg whites. The result is a vibrant orange egg. And, when combined with the red paprika (or aleppo pepper), bright green kale, and fresh herbs, the colors of this dish really stand out from the crowd. Try it served along some sort of pita or crust bread, so that you can scoop up and absorb the yogurt and egg yolks with each bite. 

INGREDIENTS: 

2.5 tablespoons olive oil, divided1 bunch kale (6 to 8 leaves), removed from stem and rough chopped  

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, or aleppo pepper

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh black pepper

½ teaspoon turmeric

4 large eggs

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

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 clove of garlic, shaved 

½ teaspoon chili flakes, optional   

1 round whole wheat pita, sliced in fourths 

2 teaspoons mixture of fresh herbs such as mint, dill and parsley, rough chopped 

INSTRUCTIONS: 

Begin by preheating the oven to 375F (190C). Toss the torn kale with ½ tablespoon of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper. Toss to coat and add the kale to the hot oven. Cook until it begins to wilt and get a little crispy at the edges. Approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully remove from the hot oven and set aside. 

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

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

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

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

Makes 4 servings (one egg per person).

NUTRITION FACTS (PER SERVING): 

Calories 285 kcal/1194 kJ

Protein 16 g

Total fat 16 g

Saturated fat 3.5 g 

Cholesterol 190 mg

Carbs 24 g

Fiber 6 g

Total sugars 6 g 

Added sugars 0 g

Sodium 505 mg

Quinoa Egg Bowl with Smoked Salmon 

This simple and healthy quinoa breakfast bowl is sure to be in high rotation in your kitchen. Quinoa has eight grams of protein per cup and impressive levels of fiber and vitamin B. Try this quinoa breakfast bowl where the grains are topped with perfectly runny poached egg and the vibrant flavors of fermented veggies and smoked salmon..

The trick to cooking great quinoa is to add flavor to the cooking water. In this dish this is  achieved by cooking the grain in a broth, adding aromatics, and tossing in a little butter at the end. Another great trick for bringing out the unique nutty taste of quinoa is to toast the dry grain over medium heat before adding any liquid.

The protein in this breakfast bowl comes from the quinoa, egg, salmon, and even the tahini sauce. The flavor is rounded out with acidic pickled vegetables and the umami of the miso tahini sauce. You may want to consider making a double batch of the 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 on which method is “correct”. In this recipe, it’s done by  adding vinegar to the cooking water, turning a complex process into an achievable weekday breakfast. Plus the added vinegar flavor adds a nice sharpness to the dish. 

Like any “bowl” recipe, it can easily be adapted to what you have in your refrigerator and your personal tastes. Don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s how great meals are invented! 

INGREDIENTS: 

1 cup (180g) dry quinoa 

2 cups (470ml) low sodium vegetable broth

½ tablespoon butter  

2 bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, whole and peeled

4 oz (110g) dry smoked salmon 

4 large eggs 

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

1 12 oz (340g) bunch spinach 

4 tablespoons pickled vegetable, we used a store bought beet sauerkraut 

Miso Tahini Drizzle Sauce (Makes 10 servings)

2 tablespoons miso, white preferred 

2 tablespoons tahini 

1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger 

1 garlic clove

2 teaspoon maple syrup 

1/4 cup (60ml) rice vinegar

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS: 

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

While the grain is cooking, fill a saucepan ⅔ of the way full and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Once at a light simmer, add two tablespoons of vinegar to the water. 

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

Dish quinoa into four bowls and split the smoked salmon into four servings among the bowls. Top each with one tablespoon of fermented vegetables. 

Once the grain and the sauce are prepared, you are ready to poach the eggs. Crack and carefully slide each egg into the simmering water leaving plenty of space between them. If the egg white spreads out, use a spoon to bring it closer to its yolk. Poach each egg until the white is firm and the yolk feels soft but contained. Use a spoon to carefully ladle hot water over the egg yolk until the top becomes opaque. When you believe the egg is poached, use a slotted spoon to carefully lift the egg from the water and touch the yolk to test for its desired consistency. A runny poached egg takes approximately three to four minutes. 

When the eggs are ready, use the slotted spoon to carefully remove 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. 

Makes 4 servings.

NUTRITION FACTS (PER SERVING): 

Calories 360kcal/1506 kj

Protein 22 g

Total fat 14 g

Saturated fat 3.5 g

Cholesterol 193 mg

Carbs 72 g

Fiber 7 g

Total sugars 3 g

Added sugars 1 g

Sodium 530 mg

Coconut Ginger Chickpea Stew

This dish is warming and nourishing, satisfying and rich in spices. It’s reminiscent of Indian dal—hearty and flavorful, and is great served alongside warm flat bread or laddled over basmati rice. It has become our go to soup to bring to friends in need. And we recommend always doubling that recipe, because it freezes beautifully and makes a healthy meal in a pinch. The coconut milk may be totally or partially omitted and replaced with an additional low sodium vegetable broth. 

INGREDIENTS: 

3 tablespoons olive oil 

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced 

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

1 teaspoon ground turmeric 

1 teaspoon red-pepper/chilli flakes, plus more for serving

½ teaspoon salt, divided 

¼  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced   

2 15-ounce (425g) cans no-added salt chickpeas, drained and rinsed. Reserve ½ cup (130g) for serving

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

3 cups (700ml) of low sodium vegetable broth 

1 bunch 12 oz (340g) spinach, rough chopped

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

1 cup mint leaves, torn into pieces for serving

INSTRUCTIONS: 

Preheat the oven to 425F (215C). Dry ½ a cup of the canned chickpeas on a paper towel removing any loose skins and place them on a small baking sheet with two teaspoons olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast until crispy for approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced onion, garlic, and ginger to the pot and cook until the onion is fragrant and translucent, about five minutes. Then add the ground turmeric, red pepper/chilli flakes, salt, and pepper and toss to combine. Let the spices heat for one to two minutes, give everything another good stir to incorporate. Then add the chickpeas and carrots and toss to combine. Sautee for 5 minutes until carrots begin to soften. Lastly add the vegetable stock and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and cover, simmering for 15 to 20 more minutes. 

When you are ready to serve, ladle a cup or so of soup into a bowl. Top with a dollop of yogurt and a pile of fresh herbs. You may also finish the dish with a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. 

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

Makes 6 servings.

NUTRITION FACTS (PER SERVING): 

Calories 310 kcal/ 1297 kj

Protein 12 g

Total fat 14 g

Saturated fat 5g 

Cholesterol 0 mg

Carbs 37 g

Fiber 11 g

Total sugars 9 g

Added sugars 0 g 

Sodium 360 mg

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