Summery Farro Salad

The height of summer means stone fruit, and that includes cherries. Deep red cherries add a sweet, mildly tart and bright note to the nutty and earthy base notes of the farro in this whole grain salad. Pickled cucumbers and shallots add another dimension of contrasting flavor, texture, and temperature. The magic is in the medley and how all these flavors play together and in reaction to each other.

 

Recipe

MIND foods: whole grains, vegetables, nuts, berries

Prep: 10-15 min | Cook: 15-20 min | Total: 25-35 min

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

1.5 cups farro (here’s a 10-minute farro that’s good for busy weeknights)

1 medium-large cucumber, skin peeled in stripes, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, halved lengthwise again, and chopped (will be 1.5-2 cups when chopped)

2 medium shallots, peeled, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced (will be about a 1/2 cup loosely packed)

2 large handfuls of fresh red cherries, pitted and roughly chopped (about 30 cherries; will be about 1 cup roughly chopped)

2 T coconut vinegar

1 T fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup roasted and lightly salted pistachios, roughly chopped (reserve a small handful for garnish)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method

Prepare farro according to package instructions. While farro is cooking, wash, dry and prep all produce. In a medium bowl, combine cucumbers, shallots and vinegar, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let marinate for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When farro is done cooking, thoroughly drain and then transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste. Fold in cherries, cucumber-shallot mixture and pistachios just before serving. Top with reserved pistachios. Enjoy.

Tip: Get the kids involved! Have kids wash their hands and help remove thyme leaves and cherry pits.

Banana Nice Cream Dairy-Free Frozen Treat

I pride myself on my omnivore status, and having a curious palate open to the world’s flavors. My take on a healthy balanced diet is quite inclusive. So when I tell you this is a vegan and dairy-free dessert, know that those qualities are mostly incidental. True, my body hasn’t had a decent relationship with dairy since I was a toddler, but I hold no grudge. Therefore, I give you a very simple and delicious “nice cream,” which is a vegan, dairy-free way to enjoy a creamy dessert that is 100-percent cream-free with no added sugars (none needed). There’s a good balance of fiber from the bananas, protein from the peanut butter powder, and natural sweetness from the bananas and vanilla extract.

I topped mine with freeze-dried blueberries I picked up on a whim from Trader Joe’s (brain-healthy berries!). I think a sprinkle of cinnamon and some dark chocolate nibs would also be delightful toppings. In our home, we’ve enjoyed this as breakfast, snack, and dessert. With a handful of wholesome ingredients, it is truly a guilt-free indulgence.

The one snafu could be the frozen bananas. Here are a few options:

  1. You can start with frozen bananas from the freezer aisle.
  2. If you eat bananas regularly, you know sometimes one or two can get too ripe before you can finish the bunch. These are great to break up into pieces and stash in the freezer until you have enough to make some nice cream.
  3. Or, you can buy a bunch of bananas for the singular purpose of making nice cream. If this is the case, you must wait for them to ripen (you can use the brown paper bag trick to speed up the process), then break into pieces and freeze.

Recipe

Prep: 1 min | Cook: 3 min | Total: 4 min

Serves: 2

Ingredients

2 medium-large ripe bananas, broken into 2″ pieces, frozen
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened
3 T peanut butter powder

 

Method

Combine bananas, vanilla extract, and half of almond milk in blender or food processor. Pulse to start to combine, about 1 minute. Add peanut butter powder. Pulse again, slowly adding more almond milk as needed to reach desired consistency (somewhere between ice cream and soft-serve). Enjoy immediately or return to freezer until ready to enjoy.

Vegan No-Sugar-Added Chocolate Pudding with Pistachios and Orange Zest

The Inspiration

First of all, I made this recipe with my septuagenarian parents in mind, as a naturally sweet and totally healthy dessert for the Thanksgiving table. However, my master taste-tester (aka my husband) also approves – he especially enjoyed eating a spoonful with a little bit of pudding, pistachio, and orange zest all together.

It Is So Easy

The prep is a snap, and most of this dish can be made well ahead of time. In fact, it’s advisable, since it is ideal to have the pudding chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. This makes it pleasantly cool to the palate, and it also diminishes any latent banana aromas (which may seem strong right after blending ingredients).

This ABC pudding is kicked up a notch with chili powder + pistachios + orange zest #brainfood #healthy #noaddedsugars Click To Tweet

Pro Tips

The aromatic oils that arise from citrus zest are fragile, so it’s best to zest your orange just before serving. Bonus points if you zest directly into your dessert bowls at the table – since this helps get the most out of that magical spray that results from zesting, and is fun for your guests, too. If that’s not practical, it’s still nice to zest nearby your final product before serving.

Why it’s MDM-Approved

This recipe is MIND Diet Meals approved because it is bursting with healthy fats, antioxidants, and more fiber than you might expect (32% of the Daily Value in one serving of this smooth, creamy dessert!). There’s no need for any added sugars in this recipe because it gets its sweetness naturally from ripe bananas. There is no saturated-fat laden cream in this recipe either. It gets its creaminess from ripe avocados. While this dessert tastes great and looks beautiful, most of all it’s heart-healthy and brain-healthy, too. Healthy and delicious? That’s an MDM win.

Vegan ABC Chocolate Pudding with Pistachios and Orange Zest
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 8 servings
  • Serving size: About ½ cup
  • Calories: 165
  • Fat: 10g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Unsaturated fat: 8g
  • Trans fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 22g
  • Sugar: 7 g (zero added sugars)
  • Sodium: 42mg
  • Fiber: 8g
  • Protein: 5g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: California
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 3 ripe medium bananas, peeled
  • 2 ripe medium California avocados, peeled and deseeded
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ½ cup pistachios
  • Zest from 1 medium orange
Instructions
  1. Prepare pudding: Blend all ingredients together until smooth, except pistachios and orange zest. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, or until completely chilled.
  2. Prepare pistachios: Preheat oven to 350 F. Toast pistachios on baking sheet for 3 minutes. Toss, and bake for additional 3 minutes. Let cool and coarsely chop. Store in airtight container until ready to serve.
  3. Serve: Divide pudding into 8 dessert bowls, top with pistachios. Zest an entire medium orange (or two, if you love orange zest), and divide zest among bowls. Enjoy.
Notes
MIND diet foods: Nuts

 

Chicken Curry Salad with Ginger, Almonds & Grapes

I was invited to a lovely birthday gathering at a friend’s home in Venice Beach, and was excited to bring something to share with the group. I wanted it to be fresh, flavorful, and satisfying, while being easy enough to sample among a mix of offerings (I was not the only one bringing something to share!). This awesome recipe is the result – it’s my take on a chicken curry salad, with excellent ingredients and add-ins, served with delicate butter lettuce cups.

MIND foods: Poultry, vegetables, nuts, leafy greens

Yield: 8 servings

Time: 30 minutes active; 30 minutes inactive

Difficulty: Easy

 

Chicken Curry Salad Ingredients

2 cups chicken broth (I used a store-bought organic chicken broth, but this is a great way to use any homemade broth you may have laying around in the fridge or freezer)
1/2 cup almond slivers, toasted
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I made my own with olive oil, see below if you want to, too)
1 1/2 lb skinless boneless chicken breast (I used Kosher)
5 teaspoons mild curry powder (I used a mild aromatic curry)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (plus extra for adjusting to taste at the end)
6 oz cup plain strained yogurt (e.g. Greek or Icelandic yogurt works great)
1 teaspoon honey (I used an organic raw honey from Wholesome)
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger root, peeled and minced (peel it with a spoon; you’ll thank me later)
1 medium red onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and small diced (this adds such an awesome crunch)
1 1/2 cup seedless grapes, halved or quartered (depending how big they are) – pick your favorite, I used a mix of red, green, and black California table grapes (these are so crisp and sweet right now)
2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated
salt and pepper to taste

Chicken Curry Salad Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Wash, dry, and prep all fresh produce. Spread almond slivers in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes (check after 5 minutes), until lightly browned.

On medium heat, combine chicken broth and 3 cups of water in a medium pot. On low heat, add curry and ginger powder to a small saute pan, stirring occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Set aside. Meanwhile, pat chicken breasts dry with paper towels. When liquid is simmering, add chicken (it should be covered by the liquid), adjust heat to maintain a simmer if needed. Cook, uncovered, for 7 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pot and let rest on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes.

While chicken is cooking, make the mayonnaise (see directions below) if making, and set aside in refrigerator. (Do it, you know you want to.)

In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, lime juice, honey, curry and ginger powder mix, and fresh ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Add in onion, bell peppers, grapes, and almonds, gently stirring to coat (I used a soft spatula for this part).

When chicken is cool enough to handle, dice into bite-size pieces (~ 1/2 inch squares). Gently fold chicken into main salad mixture, using a soft spatula or gloved hands.

Taste it. If it needs adjusting, seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and lime juice. For my tastes, I ended up adding another tablespoon of lime juice just at the end.

Make Your Own Mayonnaise (It’s simple, I promise)

Mayonnaise Ingredients

1 egg yolk (since these stay raw, I’d use pasteurized raw eggs from Davidson’s Safe Eggs)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard (got mine from Trader Joe’s – the smooth kind, not the grainy one for this recipe)
1/2 cup olive oil (I used “Everyday” extra-virgin olive oil by California Olive Ranch)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mayonnaise Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolk, lemon juice, and mustard together until smooth and homegenous. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, constantly whisking to keep mixture smooth. See, super easy, and tastes so much better than store bought.

Nutrition: 280 calories, 20 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 14 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber

chicken curry salad and butter lettuce cups plated

What Makes a Meal MIND-Worthy?

MIND Diet book author is a registered dietitian, and culinary school trained, so recipes are healthy and delicious
MIND Diet book author in her chef whites

There are 75 recipes in The MIND Diet book to get you started, but when you’re ready to make your own meals, rest assured that the guidelines for creating healthy MIND diet meals are simple. The beauty of the MIND diet is its simplicity. The complicated part is done (the research). Based on natural whole foods, the MIND diet includes plenty of plant foods, complemented by a healthy helping of seafood and poultry. And don’t forget the wine!

How do you know if your meal is worthy to be tagged #minddietmeals? Simple, it will contain any of the 10 basic brain-healthy food groups, and none of the five brain-harming ones. With these basic guidelines, you’ll be creating your own MIND diet meals in no time.

The MIND diet’s brain-healthy food groups (and how often to eat them):

  1. Whole grains – 3x per day (i.e. daily)
  2. Vegetables – 1x per day (i.e. daily)
  3. Leafy green vegetables – 6x per week
  4. Nuts – 5x per week (e.g. a daily snack during the workweek)
  5. Beans – 3-4x per week (i.e. about every other day)
  6. Berries – 2x per week (e.g. fresh berries over 2 to 3 days, or frozen berries anytime)
  7. Poultry – 2x per week
  8. Fish – 1x per week
  9. Olive oil – use daily (I like CA Olive Ranch because it has a seal of authenticity from California Olive Oil Commission)
  10. Wine – 1x per day (i.e. one 5 oz glass daily)

 

The MIND diet’s brain-harming food groups (You’ll see there’s room for moderation, but reducing these foods as much as possible has many benefits for overall health):

  1. Butter/solid fats – less than a tablespoon per day
  2. Pastries/sweets – less than 5x per week
  3. Red meat – less than 4x per week
  4. Fried/fast foods – less than 1x per week (e.g. one or two times a month)
  5. Cheese – less than 1x per week (e.g. one or two times a month)

 

What are some simple meal ideas you can think of that include some of the 10 brain-healthy food groups?

Creamy Berry Smoothie

This superfood smoothie features the berries most researched for brain health: blueberries and strawberries. A protein bonus comes from the almond butter and soft tofu, a mild-tasting and very blendable kind of tofu that incorporates seamlessly into soups and smoothies, where it adds a high-protein, vegetarian and dairy-free creaminess.

MIND foods: Nuts, beans, berries

Prep time: 5 minutes

Skill level: Easy

 

Ingredients

1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup soft tofu, drained

1 T almond butter

1/2 cup unsweetened almond-coconut milk

1 medium ice cube, optional

blueberries, almond milk, almond butter, strawberries, soft tofu
ingredient

 

Instructions

Combine all ingredients into a blender. Pulse until fully combined. Additional ice cubes may be added for a colder temperature or thinner consistency, according to preference.

 

Nutrition: 180 calories, 8 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber