Pack your menu full of mood-boosting ingredients and bright colours to raise your spirits on Blue Monday…
Breakfast: Baked Eggs, Mediterranean-style
This rustic Spanish-inspired brunch-style dish combines antioxidant-rich peppers and tomatoes with fresh herbs. Free-range and organic eggs are a good source of vitamin D, which has been shown to help boost mood. This is particularly important at this time of year as your best source of the vitamin – sunlight – is reduced. Serves 4.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/ gas mark 3. Warm 2tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan or ovenproof dish. Add 1 finely chopped red onion, a yellow and red pepper, cut into strips, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, ½ tsp Harissa paste and ½ tsp of Paprika. Cook gently for 10 mins or until the peppers are soft.
Add a 400g of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 1-2 mins or until the sauce has thickened. Stir in 2tbsp lemon juice and scatter over 1tbsp of both fresh parsley and chives.
If making this in individual portions, divide the vegetable mixture between 4 oven-proof dishes. Make a dip in each one and break an egg into each hole. Season with black pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 6-8 mins or until the whites are fully set but the yolks are still a bit dippy.
Lunch: Jjamppong Korean Fish and Noodle Broth
Using buckwheat noodles in this broth provides additional fibre as well as
slow-releasing carbs, which improve your mood by balancing your blood sugar. Prawns and other seafood are brain boosters, containing plenty of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids plus iodine, which can help combat low mood and depression. Serves 2.
Put 2 dried Shiitake mushrooms in a bowl and pour over 100ml boiling water. Soak for 15 mins. Strain the liquid into 500ml chicken stock and leave to one side. Slice the mushrooms.
Meanwhile, cook 100g Buckwheat noodles in a pan of boiling water according to the instructions, drain well and set aside.
Prepare 250g raw mixed seafood (such as prawns, mussels in their shells, squid). If using seafood in shells, scrub and discard any that stay open after being sharply tapped. Scrape off the beards from the mussels.
Heat 1tbsp oil in a saucepan, add 2 finely chopped spring onions, a crushed clove of garlic, ½ tsp peeled and finely grated fresh root ginger, 1-2tsp dried chilli/hot pepper flakes to taste, the Shiitake mushrooms and ½ a shredded Chinese cabbage. Stir-fry for 2 mins. Pour the chicken stock into the pan and add 2tbsp tomato purée. Bring to the boil.
Add the seafood to the pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 5-6 mins or until the shellfish have opened and cooked. Discard any shells that remain closed.
Add 1tbsp Tamari soy sauce and the noodles and heat through for a couple of mins. Season to taste. Scatter over some sliced red chilli and serve.
Dinner: Sweet Potato, Kale and Chickpea Curry
This is a super-healthy one-pot vegetarian curry, packed with colour and flavour. Serve with wholegrain rice – a source of complex carbohydrates – which can help prevent anxiety by increasing levels of serotonin. Chickpeas are rich in vitamin B6 and magnesium. B6 helps to combat low energy and anxiety while magnesium is crucial for a heathy nervous system, helping to calm the mind and body – particularly important during times of stress. Serves 4.
Place a crushed clove of garlic, ½ tsp fresh root ginger, 1 chopped onion, 1 deseeded and chopped red chilli and 1tbsp lime juice in a food processor and blend to form a paste.
Heat 1tbsp oil in a frying pan. Add the spice paste and 2tsp garam masala and stir in the oil for 1 min. Add 1 medium cubed sweet potato, 1 diced red pepper, a 400g can of chopped tomatoes and 2 diced tomatoes. Simmer the mixture gently for 15 mins or until the potato is tender.
Add a handful of chopped kale leaves and a 400g drained can of chickpeas and simmer for 1 min until the kale has wilted. Sprinkle over some fresh coriander leaves and Greek yogurt to serve.
Dessert: Banana Mug Cake
A delicious, speedy microwave cake in a mug, you can also use gluten-free plain flour and if you’d like to make it chocolatey, substitute 1tbsp of the flour for 1tbsp of cocoa powder. Bananas are a natural mood booster, rich in vitamin B6 and carbohydrates, which aid in the absorption of tryptophan and help convert it into the mood-lifting hormone serotonin. Serves 1.
Place 1tbsp melted butter (or olive oil), 1 beaten egg, 1tbsp milk, 1 small mashed banana, 2tbsp plain flour, ½ tsp ground cinnamon, 1tsp of honey or Xylitol, and ½ tsp baking powder into a microwave-proof mug. Beat together well with a fork to form a thick batter. If too thick, add a little more milk. If runny, add a little more flour.
Place in the microwave and cook on high for 2 mins or until risen and cooked through. (You can also bake this in an oven at 180°C, gas mark 4 for 15 mins). Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Snack: Chocolate Chip Seed Bars
These healthy flapjack-style bars are packed with healthy fats, protein and essential minerals for boosting mood – perfect for a grab-and-go breakfast or healthy nibble mid-morning. Dark chocolate is a well-known stress buster and increases the production of ‘feel-good’ chemicals called endorphins.
Place 1tsp vanilla extract, 60g nut butter (eg almond nut butter or peanut butter), 60g coconut oil or butter and 200g soft, pitted dates in a saucepan and heat gently to melt the coconut oil. Place in a food processor and process until smooth.
Add 125g porridge oats and 50g walnuts to the food processor and process to break up the nuts. Add 2tbsp ground flaxseed, and 30g of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries or cherries, and dark chocolate chips, and pulse gently to combine. Do not over-process as you want to keep some texture.
Press the mixture into a lined 20cm square baking tin. Place in the freezer for 30 mins to firm up. Cut into bars. These will keep in the fridge for 1 week or can be frozen for up to 3 months.