Tag Archives: blueberries

Foods That Fight Stress

Moist and delicious oatmeal blueberry cashew vegan cookies

It’s a natural tendency to reach for a cookie when we’re feeling stressed out. In addition to providing a little respite, they also make great projectiles. But these tasty Vegan Spiced Oatmeal-Cashew-Blueberry Cookies (recipe below) aren’t like most comfort foods that provide only a fleeting moment of emotional anesthesia. These cookies are actually packed with incredible ingredients that alter your brain chemistry to reduce stress hormones and increase the production of chemicals that will elevate your mood.

Can you believe that something as simple as eating the right foods can decrease anxiety, depression and stress? It’s pretty amazing! It’s all chemistry, really. Every time we feel tension, our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol, which elevates blood pressure, impairs the immune system, makes our shoulders reside near our ears, and inspires some of us to throw objects at the heads of annoying people.  Here’s why I’ve felt a bit stressed lately:

Our stress-inducing apocalypse-style patio

Yes, it’s loads of fun trying to write articles with the pleasant sound of the jackhammer just inches away! Stress is a killer – literally. John knows four people who have dropped dead at his workplace in the past year. Yikes!  So when I started seeing his brain-vein pounding more prominently in recent weeks, and when my legs began jackhammering at my desk (even when the demo guys were taking a break), I decided to do a little research about ways to combat our tension with food.

Check this out:

Oatmeal makes your brain produce the “feel good” brain chemical serotonin. It modulates mood, helps us combat stress and makes us feel happier.

Blueberries are high in vitamin C, which researchers have found reduces the psychological and physical effects of stress by curbing the secretion of cortisol. It has also been shown to help people bounce back from stressful situations more quickly. And bonus: blueberries are rich with anthocyanin, which improves cognitive function and memory. They’re also a source of potassium, which lowers blood pressure.

Cashews are rich with zinc, which has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. (By the way, did you know that our bodies can’t store zinc? Unless we consume some every day it can lead to zinc deficiency, which causes a host of other nasty problems like hair loss, mental lethargy and sexual health issues. So unless you want to be an impotent, balding slug, eat your cashews!)

So I figured: why not combine all these stress-busting, anti-anxiety foods into a delicious and healthy snack? Give these easy-to-make Spiced Oatmeal-Cashew-Blueberry cookies a try – they’re moist, delicious, addictive, and they’ll even help you suppress your urge to use one as a projectile. They’re so good that even carnivores who are fearful of anything vegan will love them.  And since they’re packed with complex carbs (verses the empty simple carbs found in most cookies) and are super good for you, there won’t be any guilt-related stress if you happen to gobble up, say, all 25 of them in one sitting. Enjoy!

Vegan spiced oatmeal-blueberry-cashew cookies. YUM!

Stress-Busting Spiced Oatmeal-Cashew-Blueberry Cookies

Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 25 cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour*
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp nutmeg
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup agave nectar**
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 olive oil
2 cups old fashioned oats (uncooked)
1/2 cup dried blueberries, rehydrated (soak in hot water for 5 minutes. Be sure to pat them dry)
1/2 cup toasted and unsalted cashews, chopped

* Whole wheat pastry flour is a little lighter and yummier for baking, but you can use regular flour if you can’t find the pastry flour, but if you do, just use a tiny bit less than ½ cup since regular flour is denser.

** If you prefer, you can use 2/3 cup brown rice syrup in place of the agave nectar. But cut back on the salt to 1/8 tsp. The cookies turn out even chewier this way, and with slightly crispier tops. 

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper or a light spray of olive oil.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking soda and all the spices. In a larger bowl, mix the applesauce, agave nectar, vanilla and oil until blended. Then add in the flour/spice mixture and stir well. Add the oats, blueberries and cashews and mix until blended. Now let the mixture sit for 10 minutes – this will soften up the oats and make the cookies chewylicious.

Using your cookie scooper or a spoon, create 25 little cookie mounds on your baking sheets and bake for 12-13 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Now here comes the hard part: wait at least 10 minutes before wolfing down the cookies. They hold together better after they’ve had a chance to rest. Plus, waiting will help you keep the flesh on the roof of your mouth!

Delicious Balsamic Peach-Blueberry Compote with Crispy, Sweet Tortillas Tricks the Carnivore

Have you ever seen the TV show “Chopped?” The host gives the chefs a mystery basket filled with a random assortment of oddities and they compete to see who can make the most delicious and creative dish. “Chefs, your mystery basket contains leftover pizza, pickle juice, bitter melon and an old shoe – you must use all these ingredients to create a stunning dessert.” I’m still not sure if I love the show because it’s hysterical to see the look of absolute horror on the chefs’ faces, or because they inspire me with their insane creativity. Either way, that show motivated me to create a pretty awesome “make it work” moment last night, which helped me trick my converting-carnivore husband into eating (and enjoying!) a non-dairy ice cream and a few servings of fruit – that’s a huge feat!

So my mystery basket (otherwise known as my fridge) contained: extremely stale low-fat tortillas, blueberries, pomegranate balsamic vinegar, peaches and Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream. The challenge: get John to eat fruit and fool him into thinking he was eating real ice cream (so he wouldn’t give me “the face.”)  Not an easy challenge! But I’m happy to report that the resulting concoction was spectacularly delicious and had a nice little surprise that kept my carnivore (and me) coming back for more.

In typical Cimeron fashion, this dish is super quick and easy to make. (John and I have several “I’m so hungry I’m going to start gnawing on the couch” moments each week, so I often have to cook fast and simple dishes or else risk having teeth marks on my arm).  And this dessert packs a nice punch of flavors and has some really beautiful texture combinations. There are two ‘wow’ elements in this dessert: one is the luscious balsamic peach-blueberry compote with blueberry syrup – the fruit is enhanced by a touch of balsamic vinegar, which adds just the right amount of acidity to balance out the sweetness of the dessert, and the flavor is simply addictive. The other is the crispy, cinnamon-and-sugar baked tortilla triangles, which miraculously stay super crunchy even when soaking in the blueberry sauce! That was a lucky surprise. John loved breaking up the triangles and using the pieces to scoop up the “ice cream” and fruit compote, and I just couldn’t get enough of the lovely crunchiness of it. While we were licking our plates, John turned to me and said: “You have not been Chopped! Oh, and can I have more please?”  High praise indeed.

Balsamic Peach-Blueberry Surprise
(with blueberry syrup and crispy cinnamon-and-sugar tortilla triangles)

Serves: 4
Active prep time: 6 minutes
From fridge to table: 30 minutes

3 tortillas, cut into triangles
2 large peaches, sliced
2 1/2 cups blueberries
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (note: I used a divine pomegranate balsamic from 11Olives.com and it was fantastic in this dish. But plain balsamic will work well too)
2 tbsp sugar
Cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling on the tortillas
Olive oil

Non-dairy ice cream (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Lay out the tortilla triangles on a baking dish. Spray with olive oil, or if you don’t have spray, lightly brush it on. Sprinkle each triangle with a little cinnamon and sugar. Bake until they are crispy and starting to brown, about 15 minutes. (Note: some may puff up while baking, which I think makes for an even prettier dessert!)

Meanwhile, slice up the peaches. Place them in a large bowl along with 1.5 cups of blueberries.

In a saucepan, combine the remaining 1 cup of blueberries with the 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp sugar. While stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Cook until a nice syrup starts to form and about half of the fruit has broken down,  about 1-3 minutes or so. Pour the hot syrup mixture over the fresh peaches and blueberries and stir well. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice while it’s sitting.

Arrange a couple baked tortilla triangles on a plate and put a generous scoop of non-dairy ice cream in the middle. Top with big spoonfuls of the peach-blueberry compote and syrup. For a pretty presentation, take a baked tortilla triangle and plant it like a flag on top of the ice cream. Then watch it all disappear in an insant!