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!
Mixed Vegetable Cheesy Frittata and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pancakes
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pancakes
1/2 cup whole wheat or almond flour
1/2 cup quick cook oats
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup egg whites
1 tbsp coconut oil
3/4 cup milk or almond milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 squares of 70% dark cocoa, chopped
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or just cinnamon)
2. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir until combined.
3. Spray pan with oil, or if you want a sweeter taste use coconut oil.
4. Once the pan is heated, spoon batter onto pan. Flatten, and let cook.
5. Once pancake looks set on the bottom, flip.
6. Cook until both sides are golden brown.
Makes about 10 pancakes.
Mixed Vegetable Cheesy Frittata
1/2 large onion
3 green onions
1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms
1 1/2 cups spinach
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup tomatoes
1 cup of shredded cheese blend
Pinch of rosemary
2. Chop vegetables.
2. Heat oil in a large, oven-safe skillet. If your pan is non-stick, it's not oven safe. It's also not safe if the handle has plastic. It's best to use a stainless steel skillet, but check yours first to make sure it's oven-safe.
3. Saute vegetables in skillet until cooked.
4. While vegetables are cooking, beat your eggs thoroughly.
5. Add a pinch of rosemary to egg mixture.
6. Once vegetables are ready, pour eggs over vegetables. Set on low heat, and cook for about 5 minutes until edges of eggs are set.
7. Sprinkle cheese over the top of your eggs. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until eggs are firm.