Brain-Boosting Foods: What to Eat While Studying for Final Exams

June 14th, 2016

Quinoa with eggs, tomato, onion, and jalapeno

Its’ that time of year again…final exams! It’s the first year in the Solomon house that we are going through exam week. Snack food is at a premium, as I seem to have a revolving door of study buddies and tutors arriving and leaving at all hours of the day. What are the best foods to eat when studying?   Can foods help you to study better? Can the correct foods give you the energy you need to study for long periods of time? The answer is YES.

Here’s some information to boost your brain while studying…

Many of the foods that are generally considered healthy for you are also the best foods for shoring up your mental acuity. Foods that contain protein like lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy, quinoa, Greek yogurt, spinach and broccoli are ideal because our brains need protein to function most effectively. Many of these foods also contain iron (red meat, spinach) and vitamin B (whole grains, eggs, nuts, fish, soy) both of which have been found to improve brain function. My favorite dish is quinoa with eggs, sautéed tomatoes, onions and jalapenos.  Make some quinoa according to the box directions.  Then dice up some tomatoes and onions and sauté them in a bit of oil with a sprinkle of salt.  Fry up an egg or two and top with raw jalapeno for spice and crunch.

potato skin

Brains also need complex carbohydrates to function properly. That means whole grains, legumes or beans, potatoes, oatmeal and brown rice. Complex carbohydrates don’t lead to the same crash in energy levels that you get from refined (or simple) carbohydrates and sugars. This is really important. White bread, pasta, pizza, chips, cookies and candy all contain lots of sugar and give you a short-term boost followed by a crash in energy. Want something savory? Try a baked potato filled with cheese and broccoli. Or want something sweet? Try these Mango Creamsicles. Or a few pieces of dark chocolate.

Mango Creamsicle

IMG_6261

Feeling like something sweet, but want to stay alert and focused? Try having a handful of berries. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are all excellent snack choices. They produce clean energy for your body and are filled with antioxidants that improve blood flow to the brain. Bananas offer the same brain benefits. Try these Greek yogurt and dark chocolate covered blueberries. They are super easy to make and perfect to eat. Take 1 small container of flavored Greek yogurt, add a pint of blueberries and spoon them out onto a wax paper covered sheet pan or plate.  Freeze for 1 hour.  Melt some dark chocolate in the microwave, drizzle on top, and re-freeze for 15 minutes.  Eat frozen or at room temperature.  You can also try a banana and almond butter roll-up.

Greek Yogurt Blueberries

Greek Yogurt Blueberries

IMG_6269

Ever heard of omega-3 fatty acids? These are found in salmon, tuna, walnuts, egg yolks and flaxseeds. One of their jobs is to keep your brain healthy. Omega 3’s even lead to stronger neural function. Ground flaxseeds are easy to add to smoothies and cereal.  For a brain-boosting snack try smoked salmon on whole grain toast with cream cheese and diced red onion (red onion contains a flavonoid called quercetin which has been found to enhance memory function ).

Salmon toast

In a study conducted at Harvard, cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts have all been identified as foods that have a positive effect on memory retention. How cool is that? Eat more broccoli and improve your memory.

Here are a few additional brain-boosting tips to remember when studying for finals. Eat 5-6 small, though well-balanced meals each day, don’t skip breakfast, and stay hydrated.

Good Luck!  And please tell me about your favorite foods to eat when studying…

 


Summer Slim-Down: Day 2

April 27th, 2016

Best laid plans . . . Here’s how day 1 actually turned out: I did have the delicious scrambled eggs with salmon and onions for breakfast. Lunch was a BBQ Chicken salad from Mt. Kisco Diner (turns out Truck is closed on Mondays). BBQ sauce has quite a bit of sugar and there was lots of corn and black beans which are high in carbohydrates, but overall a great lunch. For snack I had 4 pieces of a brown rice California roll (left-over from my son’s snack) and dinner was Zucchini Taco Boats as planned. The Taco Boats were out-of-this world delicious! I was prepared for a whole song and dance from my husband, but instead I found him gobbling down not only his boats, but mine as well! Luckily I caught him, fork and knife raised, but only one bite in. We both loved it! I did make a few adjustments so it would be easier for me to prepare . . . I used a taco seasoning mix instead of the spices Gina listed, I used Marinara sauce instead of tomato sauce (oops), I added extra onions and pepper, omitted the water, and found they only needed about 10 minutes in the oven.

Day 2:

Breakfast: I hope to make Lemon Blueberry Quinoa Pancakes from Simply Quinoa. They look amazing but have a few ingredients I don’t stock in my pantry. I also have some old bananas and plan to add those in as well. Wish me luck!

Here’s the Recipe:

http://www.simplyquinoa.com/lemon-blueberry-quinoa-pancakes/

Lunch: I think I’ll have the leftover eggs for lunch with a salad. Not too exciting but really easy.

Dinner: Quinoa Greek Salad with Grilled Shrimp and Tzatziki

Greek salad Quinoa and Pan Seared Chicken

This is pretty straight forward.  Cook the quinoa according to the instructions on the box.  Remove the quinoa from the pot once it’s cooked, as it will continue cooking and become mushy if you leave it in the hot pot.  Dice up some cucumbers, red onions, black olives, feta cheese and tomatoes.  Mix the quinoa and salad ingredients together.  I made a quick dressing from lemon, olive oil, dried oregano and black pepper and poured it on top.  I salt/peppered some shrimp and chicken and pan-seared them in a hot pan with oil.

Dessert/Snack: I am still hoping to try the Baked Pear with Cinnamon Ricotta. I have apples in the house so I’ll use that instead and maybe add a few rum soaked raisins?

Healthy Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies are some of my favorite cookies. They are gluten free and sweetened with bananas and chocolate chips, but no white sugar.

Here’s the Recipe:

http://castlewalkkitchen.com/2014/01/healthy-banana-o…ate-chip-cookies/

Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Posted in Main meals

Summer Slim-Down

April 26th, 2016

While my posting has been sporadic at best, I am hoping to try something new and fun this week. My daughter’s Bat Mitzvah is coming up in June and I am eager to slim down just a bit and get back on the “healthy-eating wagon”. I really believe that “we are what we eat”. So my plan is to put good foods into my body, making it strong and healthy. If I look better in my swimsuit, that’s just frosting on the cake (or the cherry tomatoes on top of an iceberg wedge. I’ll work on the metaphors).

I am loving the www.skinnytaste.com blog. Gina is an awesome chef and a really nice person (I know, I’ve met her!). She has weekly dinner plans to help make meal time a breeze. Best of all, she gives you an amazing guide to help you assess the recipes that are best for you (Weight Watchers, Vegetarian, Paleo, Gluten-Free). I am planning for lots of vegetables, a moderate amount of protein/fruit/grains, and low sugar/processed foods/gluten.

I thought I’d blog about the foods I’m eating with photos and simple recipes. Some won’t really be recipes at all, but an easy compiling of foods (like a salad). Please follow along and let me know how it’s going for you. Also, I’m taking quick photos to post, so please forgive any less-than-stellar photographs.

Day 1:

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Salmon and Fried Onions

I used some leftovers I found in my refrigerator. Some already broil salmon (about 6 ounces). One piece of salmon should be about 1” in width. You can also ask your fishmonger to cut 6 oz. pieces. Salmon is a great food to eat, as it’s high in the nutrients and minerals your body needs to stay healthy (you can read about some of the health benefits here (http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/salmon-one-fishes-can-eat-5512.html#page1). I also used 3 eggs (you could only whites if you want) and half an onion. If I had scallions or spinach I would have used those too. I really like adding extra vegetables as often as possible.

I sprayed the pan with canola oil and added the onions. I cooked those until a bit crispy on the edges. In a separate bowl I scrambled the eggs and crumbled up the salmon. I poured the egg mixture over the onions. I ate half of this and saved the remaining half for tomorrow. I ate this with a cup of decaffeinated coffee and a tablespoon of non-fat, non-dairy creamer, as well as a glass of water. Try to drink 2 8oz. cups of water with every meal and you’ll be on your way to staying hydrated.

Eggs with Salmon and Crispy Onions

 

Lunch: Salad with Tomatoes, Corn, Avocado and Grilled Shrimp

I am heading to my favorite restaurant for lunch, Truck, in Bedford, NY. It’s farm-fresh meets Mexican. Most of the ingredients are locally sourced and seasonally based. The food is incredible (same holds true for the specialty cocktails and dessert). Again, this is pretty easy to make. You can follow the Tortilla Salad recipe on my blog and add the protein of your choice. The amount of protein you use should equal the size of your fist. If you want to make shrimp, but don’t know how, leave a comment and I’ll post some additional information. I would omit the tortillas for myself, as I’m avoiding processed foods (tortillas are from the factory, not the farm, unless you are making them from scratch) and gluten.

Tortilla Salad

Here’s the recipe

http://castlewalkkitchen.com/2014/01/261/

 

Snack: Apple

 

Dinner: Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Here’s the recipe

http://www.skinnytaste.com/taco-stuffed-zucchini-boats/

 

Dessert: Baked Pear with Cinnamon Ricotta

Here’s the recipe http://www.health.com/health/recipe/0,,10000002002233,00.html. I’ve never made it before, but it sounds like a perfect, sweet treat.

 

Posted in Main meals

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Honey Balsamic Glaze

March 21st, 2016

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

It’s been a long time since my last post. Have you heard this before? My apologies again!  This year has been filled with exciting changes for my family, but those also came with a much bigger time commitment. My three children are now in three different schools all over the county. They all play different sports and have different activities. I will have to learn to write my entries on an ipad so that I won’t be as horribly delinquent in the future. But this is the year of kindness, so I won’t beat myself up for not writing more often. I’ll simply get back on the wagon and move forward.

While I haven’t posted much this year, I’ve been trying recipes from other bloggers and tinkering in my own kitchen. My favorite new dinner is a recipe I found on Buzz Feed by Christine Byrne for Lighter Alfredo Pasta with Mushrooms and Spinach http://www.buzzfeed.com/melissaharrison/how-to-make-lighter-alfredo-pasta-with-mushrooms-and-spinach#.lqwRvZE5Rm. It’s quick, easy and delicious. I make it with a combination of spiralized zucchini noodles and Annie Chun’s Brown Rice Mai Fun noodles. I use low fat cream cheese too. It’s great! I also made S’mores Chocolate Fudge Bars from Cookies and Cups http://cookiesandcups.com/smores-fudge-bars/. These need no introduction. They are perfect.

At home I made Honey Balsamic Brussels Sprouts. A week after eating dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, The Cookery, in Dobbs Ferry, NY, I was still dreaming about their Brussels sprouts. Sweet, salty, crunchy, my mouth would literally start watering just thinking about these Brussels sprouts! Who talks about green vegetables with such gusto and admiration? Enough talk more action. Just make them!

INGREDIENTS:

1 bag Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons honey
2-tablespoon balsamic vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Using a rimmed and lined baking sheet, rub the olive oil, salt and pepper on the Brussels sprouts.  Roast for about 25 minutes or until dark and nicely browned. Transfer to a serving bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the honey and vinegar. Drizzle the sauce over the Brussels sprouts and serve hot.

*These can also be deep fried for a crunchier and more decadent sprout. Please use a splatter top, as even when seemingly very dry, these little sprouts make quite a hot mess.

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Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup with Spicy Whipped Cream and Crispy Croutons

January 5th, 2016

Roasted Tomato Fennel Soup

I’d like to dedicate this post to my sister-in-law Manuela . . .

A few weeks ago my baby sitter was in a car accident. She is fine, though suffered a bit of whiplash from the impact of the airbag. While the pain abated pretty quickly, her doctor informed her that it would be at least four weeks until she could drive again.

Of course timing is everything, and my husband and I were schedule to fly down to Miami for our once yearly “alone” vacation. I have three kids, in three different schools and only one gets a bus. That means I need two drivers everyday just to get everyone home from school.

Some years if we had to cancel our trip it would be a bummer, but okay. This year I was desperately in need of some time away and had been counting down the last one hundred days, knowing that salvation was just around the corner. I sat down and cried when I realized the trip wasn’t going to happen. I really needed it. I was tired, overwhelmed, and unable to offer anyone anything but the worst version of myself. Then, in a cloud of magic dust, my fairy sister-in-law walks in.

Zio Christian, zia Manuela, and my delicious niece and nephew were in town visiting us for the Thanksgiving holiday. I am very lucky to have such wonderful family and truly love spending time with them.

I was in such dire straights I just blurt out one morning to Manuela “Please, please, please stay for a few extra days and take care of my kids. Please, help me out, please”! Yes, I was begging. She just chuckled, and like the loving person she is, smiled and said “of course”.

I could not be more grateful to her for her selflessness and generosity. She sent her husband home with her kids to LA, so that she could stay in New York with my children. Everyone ended up having a wonderful time (including my husband and I), and this storm cloud ended up having a silver lining. Even my baby sitter felt better (I think she was secretly thrilled to have me away for a few days and that alone made the pain more manageable). Even our friends pitched in to schlep my kids from activity to activity. So while my sister-in-law was definitely my savior, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped us out. Manuela, please remember you have a free pass from me, anytime, anywhere. Grazie mille!

INGREDIENTS

Soup
6-8 vine-ripened tomatoes, large dice
1 fennel bulb, reserve the fennel fronds (the leafy top that looks like dill), large slices
1 small, brown onion, large dice
2-3 cloves of garlic, whole
3-tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Whipped Cream
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, Sriracha, or Tabasco sauce (you can always add more!)
1-tablespoon dill fronds, minced
Salt

Croutons
2 slices bead, small dice
1-tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Spicy Whipped Cream

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the to 400 degrees. In a medium sized bowl add the tomatoes, fennel, onion, garlic, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix it around so all the vegetables are evenly coated. Spread the vegetables onto a rimmed cookie sheet lined with a silpat. Roast them for about 30 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times until you have a smooth consistency with a bit of texture. Be mindful that the vegetables are very hot. Add the balsamic vinegar, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

In a medium sized bowl add all the ingredients for the spicy whipped cream. Using a hand blender, whip until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat a medium sized frying pan. Add the oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. When hot, add the diced bread. Toss the bread a few times and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the bread is toasted.

Serve the soup hot with the whipped cream, croutons, and bits of fennel frond.

Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

 

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