PeaceMeal: Foods to Beat the Winter Blues

The dishes have just been laid to dry. Chairs and tables put back in their rightful positions. Friends bid adieu to go back into the chilly night.

This is the satisfied, quiet moment after every PeaceMeal that I love to savor. It’s the final crescendo of an opera has ended, but is still echoing through the air. I’m savoring the afterglow of great conversation, laughter, and, of course, great food.

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A group of 9 gathered to partake in a special PeaceMeal themed around “Foods to Beat the Winter Blues“. Because this has been a particularly difficult winter for many of us, I wanted to create a meal with nutrients that boost mood and energy levels, especially Omega-3s, Vitamins B6 and B12, Folic Acid, Vitamin D, and Zinc.

After discussing the principles of nutritional healing for depression around cups of lemon-ginger tea and homemade Lemon Lavender Cookies (see previous post), we enjoyed a fabulous, group-cooked meal of Parmesan Flax Crackers, Spinach Walnut Pesto Dip, Quinoa-Black-Bean-Cashew Stuffed Peppers, and (Decadent!) Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Strawberries for dessert.

Cooking with a group for a group takes flexibility, patience, teamwork, and a good sense of humor – all of which this group had in abundance. And with two professional chefs in our midst, we all learned some invaluable tips, not only about cooking, but also urban foraging (NB: never take a pan out of the oven with a damp towel, as it will transfer heat right into your hands. Never forage for nettles without gloves. Don’t try to make “French Frog Legs” from frogs you catch at the local pond…)

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We tested some new PeaceMeals recipes, and also tried some old favorites. One which is always a surprising hit is the rich and creamy Chocolate Avocado Mousse. I have shared the recipe below, so that you can make it for your next dinner party…or when you need an easy and nourishing pick-me-up.

Thanks to all who attended, and I can’t wait until we share a table again!

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium ripe avocados
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp non-dairy milk (optional for thinner consistency)

Directions:

  1. Halve the avocados, remove the pits, and scoop the pulp into a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add the cocoa powder, sweetener, vanilla, and salt.
  3. With a fork, begin to break up the avocado and mix the ingredients.
  4. Use an immersion blender or food processor to thoroughly whip the ingredients together until fully incorporated.
  5. Add milk (if using) to thin to desired consistency.
  6. Serve immediately with fresh fruit, or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

 

Always linger over dessert.

Always linger over dessert.

Benefits:

  • When we’re feeling blue, avocadoes provide a powerful kick of essential fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic and omega-3. These nutrients aid in normal brain function, and have been shown to be beneficial for those struggling with depression. In addition, these fatty acids are beneficial for healthy skin, hair and nails. Avocados are also a good source of tryptophan and Vitamin B-6, which help produce energy and the “feel good hormone” serotonin.
  • Cocoa is rich in magnesium which, together with calcium in the milk, can have a tranquilizing effect. Cocoa/chocolate is also one of THE best producers of endorphins, which are natural “happy opiates”, according to the University of Michigan Health System (UMIM). Cocoa also contains phenethylamine, explains Dr. Elson Haas, which is a neurotransmitter found in the brain that acts as a mood elevator and natural antidepressant.
  • Using natural, unrefined sweeteners like honey, agave, and maple syrup is easier on the metabolism than highly processed sugar. These sweeteners produce a more sustained release of energy, rather than a spike and crash in blood sugar.

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