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Feed Your Mind

BOTTOM_STICKY_0320_OC_COOKING“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss memory the most.” Mark Twain.
So begins “The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory” (Whitecap Books, $50), a new cookbook by famed kosher cookbook author Norene Gilletz and food research scientist Dr. Edward Wein, PhD., which provides health and nutritional advice for people with memory loss as well as teaches the reader how to avoid or slow down potential cognitive decline.

A recent Harris poll suggested that when Americans think about aging, fear of memory loss is a primary concern. “Memory is about who you are,” writes Gilletz. “It’s about your very identity…so it’s understandable that people fear losing memory the most as they age.” While there are plenty of books out there that offer various techniques for slowing down memory loss, such as brain exercises and physical exercises, “The Brain Boosting Diet” focuses solely on nutrition and brain health, a relatively new field, claims Gilletz. Each of the over 200 recipes is accompanied by commentary from Dr. Wein (or Dr. Ed, as he’s referred to in the book), who identifies the foods that prevent cognitive decline and explains their action in your body. Interesting tidbits of information appear in frequent “Did you know?” boxes scattered throughout the book. You also learn which foods and patterns accelerate brain decline, the so-called “three deadly dietary sins”: too much food, too much sugar and carbs, and too much processed foods.

Gilletz and Wein compare and contrast the generally accepted current diet plans for brain health and then offer their own Brain Boosting Diet, which is easy to follow and offers the greatest brain benefits. For example, this approach emphasizes “the impact of sugars and digestible carbohydrates on brain and heart health. We concluded,” the pair write, “based on updated research, that sugars and carbohydrates are a greater threat for cognitive decline than fats, and that Alzheimer’s disease/dementia could be considered the type 3 diabetes of the brain.”

Gilletz’s mantra is “Food that’s good for you should taste good. Cook smarter, eat smarter.” No austere regimen here; you will learn how to create meals that are “fast, fabulous, flavorful and fun. Taste always rules.” Ditch the dry toast for breakfast and enjoy Bran-ana Chocolate Chip Loaf, Blueberry Cinnamon Pancakes, Spinach and Cheese Frittata or Apricot Almond Muffins. Enjoy “Marvelous Mains” like Low and Slow Brisket, Pomegranate Chicken, Quick Chicken Cacciatore, and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie, as well as meatless mains like Individual Eggplant Lasagnas, Confetti Vegetable Strudel and Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza. There’s no need to give up dessert when you can indulge in Peanut Butter Cookies, Mini Cheesecakes, Chocolate Bark, Rugelach Rollups, and Secret Ingredient Brownies. (Spoiler alert: Would you believe black beans?) Even traditional Jewish dishes get the Gilletz makeover: Miniature “Notsa” Balls (Chicken Kneidlach), Vegetarian Cholent, Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls, Shawarma-Style Chicken, Smashed Potato “Latkes,” Kasha and Bowties, and Biscotti Thins (Skinny Mandelbroit).

The Mediterranean Stuffed Mushrooms featured here are not only a satisfying and company-worthy appetizer, but are also a boost for your brain. Mushrooms are high in antioxidants, provide fiber and protein and are also very low in sugar and digestible carbs, reports Dr. Wein, as well as being a source of brain-related nutrients: vitamin E, folate, vitamin C, magnesium, and manganese.
According to Dr. Wein, “Black cod is a fish with one of the highest Omega-3 concentrations available, at an average of 1.4 grams per serving… the highest Omega-3 content of any white fish, even higher than many species of salmon.” In addition black cod is high in vitamin D and B12. Tomatoes provide a high content of carotenoid antioxidants, especially lycopene, and are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and zinc.

“Only one percent of the American population takes care of themselves,” a frightening statistic reported by nutritionist, chef and wellness educator Patricia Greenberg, who recently introduced her new book “Eat Well, Live Well, Age Well” (The Fitness Gourmet, $19.95) to a group of food writers and bloggers at Melissa’s Produce headquarters in Vernon. While the book is not a cookbook, attendees were treated to a delicious lunch, made, of course, with Melissa’s produce, that illustrated that healthful eating can be delicious too.

“How do we defy age? That’s impossible,” she said. “There’s no way to stop the clock. We want to maximize our lives every day as we get older with bite-size solutions.” With ten chapters on all aspects of good health including nutrition, fitness, appearance and relationships, “Eat Well, Live Well, Age Well” poses the questions we all have about aging and offers practical solutions and strategies for living well today. “Life begins when you start to live it,” Greenberg said. “Get away from thinking what is bad and what is good. Think instead about the choices you can make today. This is your path and your path alone.”

“Eat Well, Live Well, Age Well” will teach you that physically, emotionally, and professionally we all have room to learn and grow. By following the simple concepts outlined in the book you can dramatically reduce the stresses that contribute to energy drain and premature aging. It also reveals some promising research into diminishing the ill effects of aging. With a positive attitude about aging and an understanding about what is going on within your own body, you can dramatically improve the quality of your life. “Mental attitude and how you see yourself today will play a huge role in keeping you feeling youthful and vibrant in all your days to come,” said Greenberg.

Mediterranean Stuffed Mushrooms

24 large cremini mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic (about 1 teaspoon), minced

½ cup roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped

1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup grated low-fat mozzarella or Parmesan cheese
1) Wash mushrooms quickly and pat dry with paper towels. Remove stems and chop coarsely, reserving mushroom caps.

2) In large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium. Add onion, garlic, and chopped stems. Sauté about 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in roasted bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes (if using), and spinach. Cook until most of the moisture has disappeared, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. If mixture begins to stick, add a little water. Season with basil, salt, and pepper; let cool.

3) Stuff mushroom caps with onion/garlic mixture, using a teaspoon to mound filling slightly. Arrange stuffed mushrooms in oblong baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with Parmesan. (Can be prepared in advance and refrigerated, covered, overnight.)

4) Bake, uncovered, in preheated 350°F oven for 15 minutes until golden.

Black Cod with Tiny Roasted Tomatoes

Halibut or Chilean sea bass may be substituted for the black cod.
Tiny roasted tomatoes:

4 cups (about 2 pints) cherry or grape tomatoes (remove any stem ends)

2 cloves garlic (about 1 teaspoon) minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Fish:

4 black cod fillets (5 ounces each)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic (about 1 teaspoon), minced

  1. tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish

1) Preheat oven to 400°F. Place oven rack in the lower third oven and second rack in the middle of oven.

2) Tomatoes: Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. And tomatoes and sprinkle with garlic, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and, using your hands, mix well, coating tomatoes on all sides. Spread out evenly and roast, uncovered, in lower third of oven, 6 to 8 minutes.
3) Fish: Meanwhile, coat a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place fish in prepared dish and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Top with garlic and basil. Place pan on middle rack and bake, along with tomatoes, an additional 10 to 12 minutes. When done, fish will flake when gently pressed with a fork and tomatoes will be tender.
4) Spoon roasted tomatoes over fish and garnish with additional basil. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Source: “The Brain Boosting Diet” by Norene Gilletz and Edward Wein, PhD.

Jlife Food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at www.cookingjewish.com.

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