Fight winter doldrums with good-mood maker foods
A meal of salmon, spinach and lentils is a good example of a mood-enhancing meal to fight off the winter blahs. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo
The Good-Mood Maker: Seared Salmon with Green Lentils and Spinach
Cut the veggies roughly the same size as the lentils to ensure even cooking times and pleasant texture. You’ll have leftover lentils when you make this, but serve them the following day topped with omega-3 enriched poached or sunny side up eggs for another mood-lifting meal.
2 cups dried green lentils
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups homemade chicken broth or low sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon cider vinegar
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
4 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
16 ounces fresh baby spinach
Cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat and sauté the onion, carrot and celery until beginning to soften (about 5 minutes). Season well with salt and pepper and add two-thirds of the garlic, turmeric and cinnamon. Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Stir in the soaked lentils and the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow mixture to simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Adjust seasoning and mix in the parsley and vinegar just before serving.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat an oven safe grill pan or non-stick skillet over high heat. Season the salmon with salt, pepper and a dash of turmeric for color. Drizzle the salmon with olive oil and place presentation side down in the hot pan. Sear for 2 minutes or until fish is golden. Turn the fillets and place the entire pan in the preheated oven for 6-7 minutes or until just opaque in the center.
While the fish is in the oven, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted. Add remaining garlic to the spinach, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.
To serve, divide the spinach between four dinner plates. Place a portion of the lentils next to the spinach and top each dish with a cooked salmon fillet. Garnish each plate with parsley sprigs and serve at once.
Updated: January 23, 2013 2:56PM
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been fighting the urge to crawl into bed with a bowl full of macaroni and cheese these days. What gives?
It turns out that the fatigue, irritability and carbohydrate cravings we experience during the doldrums of winter are not all in our head. Even though we’ve been experiencing an undeniably mild winter season, the long winter months, lack of sunlight and frigid temperatures can quickly cause a case of the winter blues to befall even the most upbeat of people.
A small percentage of the population suffers from a severe form of the winter blues known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, but the majority of people are simply feeling the very real effects of an annual biological clock disruption. Apparently this annual blip in our circadian rhythm makes us want to do nothing more than curl up for a long nap after enjoying a starchy feast.
Proper serotonin levels in the brain help regulate mood, but the dark days of winter cause a decrease in this important brain chemical. Scarfing down a plate of buttery mashed potatoes, chocolaty frosted cake or half a dozen rich brioche rolls help elevate depleted serotonin levels in the short term, but indulging simple carbohydrates does little to help combat a seasonal funk over time.
Getting as much exposure to the sun as possible, exercising regularly and sleeping soundly at night can help keep the blahs at bay, but a diet rich in B vitamins, antioxidants and vitamin D can actually help lift spirits. Spring is still a long way off; in the meantime, take some time to prepare my good-mood maker meal.
Several mood-enhancing ingredients unify in this healthy and flavorful dish. Spinach, turmeric and cinnamon are rich in antioxidants to help boost immunity, and salmon is rich in mood boosting omega 3-fatty acids. A serving of lentils alone provides nearly 100 percent of the folic acid needed to help maintain proper serotonin levels and contains enough fiber to help regulate blood sugar. Give these powerful little legumes a quick soak in some hot water to decrease the cooking time just enough to make this mid-winter dish perfect for a busy weeknight meal.
Serve this thoughtful dinner with a glass of low fat milk — a dash of vitamin D is all this dinner needs to bring a smile to most winter-weary faces.