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5 recipes to boost your mood during lockdown

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So we are edging gingerly back to a new normal, holding on tight to whatever keeps us calm in a world that is anything but. For many—judging by our social media feeds—that has involved baking and cooking.

But the power of food to affect our mood is about much more than the soothing effects of cooking itself. In fact, the importance of diet for our psychological health—or nutritional psychiatry—is finally being taken seriously by mainstream psychiatrists; never more so than now as we face a tsunami of anxiety as lockdown lifts. Microorganisms in our digestive system, which are affected by our diet, both secrete and react to serotonin and dopamine, our ‘happy hormones’. In fact, around 90 per cent of our serotonin is made in the gut—there is more serotonin in the gut microbiome than in our brains.

As someone with a history of depression, using food to boost mood has become an important tool in my own wellbeing kit, so much so that I co-wrote a book, The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food with nutritional therapist Alice Mackintosh. The book summarises the research in this important new field of wellbeing, as well as sharing recipes to put the theory into practice. Here are five recipes which I hope will help your mental wellbeing.

1. Recipe: Steak salad 

Fatigue can be one of the most potent side-effects of antidepressants. Alice says that before dealing with anxiety, our best bet is to boost energy levels: “Once you feel more energetic, you will in turn exercise more and sleep better, both key for mental wellbeing,” she says. Iron is fundamental to our energy levels and essential for keeping our blood oxygenated.

The marriage between the iron-rich steak, colourful salad, zingy horseradish and creamy feta is perfect. Be sure not to buy artichokes soaked in vinegar as the flavour will overpower the salad. If possible, use grass-fed steak, which contains more nutrients than intensively farmed beef.

If you’re vegetarian, swap the steak for dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and watercress, as well as edamame beans—all great sources of iron. Ideally, have this recipe with a glass of orange juice as vitamin C aids iron absorption.

Ingredients:

  • 2 x 250g rump steaks, ideally around 3cm thick

For the dressing:

For the marinade:

  • 1 handful parsley, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  • Juice and zest of ½ lemon

  • 4 drops Tabasco (optional)

For the salad:

  • 80gm flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • 4 artichoke hearts, quartered

  • 100gm rocket, washed and drained

  • 8 red radishes, thinly sliced

  • 70gm feta cheese, crumbled

  • 4 tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)

  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts (optional)

Method:

  1. 1

    Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients and shaking them together in a jar.

  2. 2

    Trim the harder fat off the steaks, brush with oil and season both sides with salt.

  3. 3

    Heat a griddle or heavy-based pan and add the meat. Cook for four minutes on each side. If you prefer your steak well done, then leave for another 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

  4. 4

    Meanwhile, make the marinade. Whisk together all the ingredients in a dish big enough to accommodate the steaks.

  5. 5

    Place the steaks in the marinade for eight minutes, turning them halfway through. Then remove them to a board and slice them thinly on the diagonal.

  6. 6

    While the meat rests, combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour over three-quarters of the dressing and toss everything together.

  7. 7

    To serve, place the sliced steak on a bed of the salad and pour over the rest of the dressing.

2. Recipe: Chicken pie

Many of us continue to grieve in some way for the loss of loved ones or for a future which now looks very different. Rather than feel like you must stop comfort eating, Alice taught me to redefine what comfort food is, substituting healthy substitutions for less healthy ones. Classic comfort foods tend to be high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, creating the kind of sugar highs and lows that play havoc with mood. Our chicken pie is a healthy twist on a familiar favourite. Chicken is rich in protein, as well as zinc and B vitamins, and sweet potatoes are a great source of fibre and beta carotene. If you prefer white potatoes, leave the skin on to retain the fibre.

Ingredients: 

  • 500gm sweet or white potatoes

  • 5 tbsp olive oil

  • 300g chicken thighs or breasts, skinless and boneless, chopped into 2cm chunks

  • 1 leek, cut into slices

  • 10 brown mushrooms, diced

  • 1 lemon’s zest

  • 2 tbsp wholegrain flour

  • 50ml water

  • Juice of ½ lemon

  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche

  • ½ to 1 tsp wholegrain mustard

Method:

  1. 1

    Preheat the oven to 180°C or gas mark 4.

  2. 2

    If using white potatoes, leave the skin on and chop them into small chunks. Boil them in a pan of salted water until soft. The time will depend on the size of the chunks but it should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes.

  3. 3

    If using sweet potatoes, peel and chop them into chunks, toss in one tbsp of the olive oil and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until soft (they absorb too much water if boiled).

  4. 4

    In a pan, fry the chicken with the leek in two tbsp of the olive oil for three minutes, then add the mushrooms and lemon zest and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. The chicken pieces should be around 80 per cent cooked by this point.

  5. 5

    Add the flour to thicken the sauce, stirring for around two minutes.

  6. 6

    Add the water and stir in the lemon juice, crème fraîche and mustard, then take off the heat.

  7. 7

    Once the potatoes are cooked, mash them with the remaining olive oil.

  8. 8

    Spoon the chicken mixture into a small baking dish or two individual ramekins and spread the mashed potato over the top.

  9. 9

    Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the oven. If you wish, you can place them under the grill to brown the mash before serving.

3. Recipe: Cecilia’s purple risotto with goat’s cheese and beetroot

Mental clarity can be a casualty of worry. Our purple risotto with goat’s cheese and beetroot is designed to boost clear thinking. Purple foods may clear our minds, their pigment indicating that they contain a lot of antioxidants. These help the body produce nitric oxide, a compound that improves blood flow by relaxing blood vessels. The walnuts provide omega-3s, a source of healthy fats linked to improving immunity.

This risotto recipe was given to us by Cecilia, a friend and an accomplished cook, who helps develop healthy recipes for mothers with small children.

Ingredients:

  • 300gm cooked beetroot, fresh or precooked

  • 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 200gm risotto (or brown) rice

  • 600ml vegetable stock, heated up

  • 60gm soft goat’s cheese

  • 100gm walnuts, chopped

Method:

  1. 1

    If you are using fresh beetroot, wash and trim them but don’t peel. Place them in a large saucepan and completely cover with water. Bring the water to the boil then reduce the heat, put the lid on and simmer until they’re just tender. This should take around 30 to 40 minutes depending on size.

  2. 2

    Leave the beetroot to cool and then peel and dice them. If you are using pre-cooked beetroot, simply dice them into small chunks.

  3. 3

    Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan and sauté the onion and garlic until softened, then stir in the rice and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes. The grains should go slightly translucent.

  4. 4

    Add a splash of water to the pan and stir, then turn the heat down and add the hot stock, ladle by ladle, stirring the rice regularly to ensure it doesn’t stick—a lovely soothing process, I find. This is what releases the starch and gives the risotto its creamy consistency.

  5. 5

    When the stock is almost used up and the rice is cooked—this should take 15 to 20 minutes—stir the diced beetroot and half the goat’s cheese in. Leave for about 5 minutes before switching the heat off.

  6. 6

    Toast the walnuts in a frying pan over a moderate heat for 2 to 4 minutes, tossing regularly to prevent burning.

  7. 7

    Serve the risotto with a scattering of chopped toasted walnuts, the remaining goat’s cheese and a crisp green salad.

4. Recipe: Best-ever red cabbage

This recipe makes the most of red cabbage’s virtues: it’s packed with anthocyanin, an antioxidant which, as mentioned earlier, may have a positive effect on mental agility. Have it as part of a roast dinner, or with a sandwich.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 medium-sized red cabbage, outer leaves and stalk removed (approximately 800g)

  • 1 tbsp salted butter

  • 2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and grated or cut into small chunks

  • 2 red onions, cut into small chunks

  • 2 tbsp blackberry jam

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar

  • 1 glass red wine (optional)

Method: 

  1. 1

    Finely shred the red cabbage, removing all the thick stalks.

  2. 2

    Heat the butter in a large saucepan and sauté the onions for two minutes, then add the cabbage and apples.

  3. 3

    Cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for 30 minutes.

  4. 4

    Add the remaining ingredients and cook for a further 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

5. Recipe: Dark chocolate Brazil nut brownies

We spent ages perfecting our brownies, ensuring they were soft, rich and gooey in the centre. Though they’re still a treat, you have more control over the ingredients as you’re making them yourself. Spelt flour is wholegrain, meaning it won’t lead to a sugar spike as white flour does, and Brazil nuts contain selenium, which plays an important role in the immune system. Cacao is a rich source of magnesium and antioxidants which reduce anxiety.

Ingredients:

  • 10 Brazil nuts

  • 125gm dark chocolate (ideally 100 per cent cocoa)

  • 100ml almond milk

  • 150gm coconut oil, plus extra for greasing the tin

  • 250ml maple syrup

  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract or seeds from vanilla pod

  • 50gm raw cacao powder, sieved

  • 3 eggs

  • 130gm spelt flour

  • 1 tsp baking powder

Method: 

  1. 1

    Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.

  2. 2

    Grease a 30cm x 20cm brownie tin and line with baking parchment. Leave the paper sticking up at the sides to make it easier to lift the brownies out when they’re cooked.

  3. 3

    Roast the Brazil nuts in the oven for 15 minutes, turning them once halfway through. They should be slightly browned. Leave them to cool, then chop coarsely.

  4. 4

    Put the chocolate, almond milk, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla seeds or extract in a saucepan over a very gentle heat, stirring regularly, until everything has melted and you have a rich, glossy-looking batter.

  5. 5

    Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cacao powder.

  6. 6

    Allow the mixture to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then beat in the eggs. Add the flour, baking powder and chopped Brazil nuts.

  7. 7

    Pour the mixture into the pre-prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 12 minutes. Insert a cocktail stick—it should come out with a little chocolate residue. If you like your brownies less gooey, put the tin back in the oven for a further 3 to 5 minutes but take it out before the top starts to crack, otherwise the consistency will be more like cake.

  8. 8

    Remove the tin from the oven and use the baking parchment to help you slide the whole brownie on to a cooling rack. Cut into squares once it’s cooled completely.

Rachel Kelly is a writer and mental health campaigner and author of The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food published by Short Books. Twitter: @rachelkellynet

Also read: 

4 easy ice cream recipes you can make without an ice cream maker for the ultimate summer treat

2 healthy desserts that you can make in under 20 minutes at home

5 easy-to-make vegan smoothie recipes to try during quarantine

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Recipes

5 Healthy Almond Recipes You Can Try At Home For A Nutritious Meal

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Besides being loaded with nutrients, almonds are super versatile as well.

Highlights

  • Almonds are packded with essential nutrients
  • They are also very versatile to add in to a number of dishes
  • Here are 5 healthy almond recipes you can try at home

Crunchy, nutty almonds are usually associated with a healthy diet. With various nutrients packed into such bite-sized nuts, they have secured their position in the list of superfoods. Proteins, omega-3 fatty acids and fibre are some of the nutrients that make almonds a must-have our diet. No wonder our parents always coaxed us to have a handful of soaked almonds every morning. The omega-3 in almonds helps improve heart and brain health, and the low glycaemic index in almonds makes them ideal for diabetics too.

Besides being extremely healthy, almond is included in a number of delicious dishes too! Soups, smoothies, sweets and many crunchy snacks and curries have almonds in them, lending a rich and nutty flavour to the dish.

(Also Read: 5 Easy Almond Snacks Recipes To Prepare At Home)

1. Almond And Spinach Smoothie

Nothing is like having a glass full of wholesome smoothie in the morning, right? Smoothies are easy, quick, healthy and too delicious to resist. Here’s a yummy blend of whole raw almonds, spinach and milk with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and crushed black pepper corns. A wholesome quick breakfast you would love to indulge in! Find the recipe here.

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2. Almond and Broccoli Soup

Goodness of two nutritious foods combined into one wholesome meal! This almond and broccoli soup is just what you need for rich meal brimming with fibre and protein. The nutty flavours of almonds and nutrition of broccoli make this soup a great addition to your diet. The freshly ground black pepper lends a nice tinge to the soup. Find the recipe here.

(Also Read: 5 Almond Soup Recipes You Must Try For A High Nutritive Meal)

3. Almond Pearls

With the goodness of toasted oats, this recipe has mustard, cumin, and ajwain seeds tossed in with corn flakes and blueberries along with crunchy, toasted almonds. A nutritious bowl with tangy flavours of lemon on top, almond pearls makes for a perfect snack for all your mid-day cravings. Find the recipe here.

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4. Almond, Sweet Potato And Pomegranate Chaat

Who doesn’t love a tangy combination of fruits, nuts and veggies?! Here is one with tantalising flavours of chaat masala, chillies, mint chutney, tomatoes and onions tossed in with pomegranate, sweet potato and crunchy almonds! Find the recipe here.

5. Pearl Barley, Almonds and Pomegranate Salad

With the added goodness of barley, known for a high-fibre content, this salad is a great pick a quick, wholesome meal. Crunch of nuts, sweet pomegranate pearls and cooked barley mixed with coconut oil and harissa paste make for a perfect breakfast, lunch or a mid-day meal. Find the recipe here.

Try these interesting healthy almond recipes at home and let us know your experience in the comments section below.

About Aanchal MathurAanchal doesn’t share food. A cake in her vicinity is sure to disappear in a record time of 10 seconds. Besides loading up on sugar, she loves bingeing on FRIENDS with a plate of momos. Most likely to find her soulmate on a food app.

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Shadowlands Game Director Ion Hazzikostas Confirms Legendary Power Recipes To Be Account-Wide

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Throughout the progress leading up to the release of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands in this Fall, there’s been a great amount of discussion over what sorts of features from the current iteration should be kept and which should be removed.

Among these many discussions, one of the things that has been discussed the most has been the need for some progress to remain account-wide. This was most prominent during the discussion around Battle for Azeroth’s Azerite Essences.

In the current iteration of World of Warcraft, Essences are an extremely powerful core piece of a character’s loadout. However, they also typically take quite a bit of grinding to get, with each having their own unique way to be obtained.

Some require the player to complete time-gated tasks such as reputation grinds or limited endgame content. Others send players on Azerite Expeditions, into PvP settings, or any other list of areas.

While the grind can be obnoxious on one character, repeating the same time-gated grind on an alt is so unspeakably frustrating and monotonous that most chose not to do it. In response, Blizzard finally implemented a form of account-wide essences, allowing players to purchase an essence that they had reached rank 3 on with another character.

Thankfully, it seems that this lesson is being kept in mind moving forward into the Shadowlands. As discussions around Legendary Power Recipes has already begun to kick up, game director Ion Hazzikostas took to Twitter to clarify the obtaining of these Recipes.

“Reading the responses here is interesting. What would folks prefer?” Hazzikostas wrote in response to Wowhead via Twitter. “Currently, if you want, e.g. the Sun King Pyroblast legendary, you get the recipe from a specific source (say a Nathria raid boss drop), get a cloth base item from a tailor, and go craft the legendary.”

Hazzikostas went on to mention that “Recipe unlocks are account-wide, including generic powers (a la Prydaz or Sephuz-type effects from Legion), so alts automatically have access to them from the start.”

In short, this is a direct announcement that Recipe unlocks will not be kept behind the same gating that the Essences of Battle for Azeroth were originally stuck behind. This will be a massive step towards making the game more comfortable for alts.

This also might be more important now than ever, as players will have the choice of four separate Covenants to join, likely meaning that the average player will have several alts to experience each Covenant properly. With the game becoming more alt-friendly in general, it’s a massive step in the direction that will likely make the most players happy.

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Recipe of the week: Use lasagna noodles to make this pasta with olive sauce – Food and Dining – Austin 360

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Homemade mac and cheese has been a go-to during this extended summer at home, but now that my kids are increasingly interested in olives, capers, salami, goat cheese and other tangier foods, I think they are ready for some new pasta dishes.

I love this recipe from “Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners: 75 Dishes With Inspired Sauces” (Page Street Publishing, $21.99), a new book by Nikki Marie that lives up to its title. I always have lasagna noodles in the pantry, but I so rarely make lasagna. Flat pieces of pasta are a perfect vehicle for this olive-heavy sauce. If you don’t want to use red wine, a splash of red wine vinegar and an extra tablespoon or two of pasta water will help the sauce come together.

Pasta Giada Alla Olive (Pasta With Olives)

This is one of my daughter Giada’s favorite dishes and was therefore named for her. This recipe is reminiscent of a puttanesca sauce in that it uses tomatoes, capers and olives — though I prefer a mix of varying types of olives and only roughly chop them. The irregular shape of the broken lasagna adds to the interest and the comfort of this dish. Get the kids involved with this recipe — they’ll love breaking the noodles! A splash of red wine adds depth to the sauce and leaves its fragrance behind after it has cooked out. The only thing you’ll have to keep in mind is that the olive ratio should be slightly less than the liquids you’re using. The sauce should be fluid and loose and should not resemble a tapenade.

— Nikki Marie

1 pound lasagna noodles

Kosher salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (substitute with red pepper flakes)

1 small onion, diced

4 tablespoons tomato paste

1 large clove garlic, finely grated

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes (including the juice), ends trimmed

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

1 cup mixed olives, pitted and roughly chopped (Italian Castelvetrano, Greek Kalamata and black oil-cured)

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or other hard cheese, to garnish

Break the lasagna noodles into irregular bite-size pieces over a large bowl and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, generously salt and then add the broken lasagna noodles. Continuously stir the pasta for the first 15 to 20 seconds, as the flat shape of the broken noodles will try hard to suction together. Cook the pasta until just shy of al dente, tender yet firm to the bite, according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining. Drain well.

In the meantime, add the olive oil to a large 12-inch skillet with deep sides over low-medium heat. When it is hot and shimmery, add the Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes) and onion. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and saute, stirring often, until the onion is tender and translucent and has begun to caramelize, about 10 minutes, careful not to let the oil smoke.

Push the onions to the sides of the pan to expose the hot center of the pan. Add the tomato paste to the center, spreading it out a bit with the back of a cooking spoon, and let it sit until it begins to caramelize, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir the onions and the tomato paste together to incorporate. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the wine. Return to low-medium heat and scrape the bottom of the skillet to deglaze any flavorful brown bits that may have accumulated. Add the tomatoes along with the juices and use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to roughly break and crush the tomatoes, stirring well to mix. Add the capers and olives, stirring again. Continue to simmer, stirring often, 10 minutes. If the pasta is not finished cooking, it’s fine to turn off the heat under the olive mixture at this point.

Add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water; toss until the flavors are well incorporated, 1 minute. If necessary, add a splash more of the reserved pasta water to loosen the pasta. The sauce should be silky and not sticky or pasty. Serve with grated cheese and a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Serves 4 to 6.

— From “Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners: 75 Dishes With Inspired Sauces” by Nikki Marie (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)

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