In Healthy Mind Cookbook: big-flavor recipes to enhance Brain Function, Mood, Memory, and Mental Clarity Rebecca Katz put together good-for-you flavorful recipes that are easy to make in any kitchen. Whether you have been eating healthy for years or just starting on that journey for the first time, you must have read about the connection between brain health and food. You probably heard more than once that salmon is good for your brain and kale can improve your memory, but for most people that knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate into a kale-and-salmon dinner on a regular basis. And that’s unfortunate, considering that most people put their brains under a lot of stress, such as sleep deprivation, multi-tasking, and hurried meals with nutritionally questionable ingredients. This wonderful book comes to the rescue with appealing recipes that are easy to prepare and if they also happen to be good for you all the better.
Eating healthier becomes easier if you have the necessary information and then put a workable system in place to translate that knowledge into action. The book starts with a quick look into brain nutrition. Based on hundreds of studies the author put together the most promising candidates to improve your brain’s ability to handle cognition and emotion. This is the part of the book I went back to again and again as I was making weekly grocery lists. Chickpeas can improve memory? Fennel can boost learning? And halibut is believed to help the brain plasticity? I want them in my shopping cart! Once you start buying the things that you want to eat, the next step is planning the time to prep them. I absolutely loved the author’s Cliff Notes version of getting the most out of the prep time. Some of the prep things I was already doing on a regular basis, but others were pure genius.
I love how the author links cooking to meditation. I didn’t think of it this way before, but I certainly agree. I remember my friend asking me a couple of times, if she could come chat with me while I do the cooking for a week. I couldn’t clearly formulate the exact reasons why it was not a good idea, but after reading this book I understand that it was about being in a flow. When I cook I’m definitely in a flow and don’t want to be interrupted.
The beauty of this book is that even fancy sounding recipes that you might cook to impress your dinner guests are very manageable. I made Roasted Asparagus Soup with Pistachio Cream (page 49) for our guests and not only did they ask for seconds, they thought I should start a cooking show. I didn’t tell them that it was very easy to make. Last night we had Shrimp-Stuffed Avocados (page 104). Making them might not have been as easy as dialing the pizza delivery number, but it was definitely more satisfying and absolutely not as time consuming as you would think. Combining cilantro, parsley, oil, lime juice and spices in a food processor and mixing shrimp, avocado flesh, apple and scallion for the filling took all of 20 minutes on the first try, the time came down to 10 minutes on subsequent occasions. Add 10 minutes for clean up and good tasting health-supporting nutrition has never been easier.
No fancy equipment is required to create all this goodness, just a blender, pots and pans. There are very few specialty ingredients and I didn’t bother tracking them down but simply replaced them with what I already had on hand. So that ghee was replaced with butter and dried kudzu root replaced with arrowroot powder.
What I love about this book is that there is a whole chapter on Building Mind-Blowing Taste and Flavor that answers a sacramental question “How can healthy food taste great?” I also love that the book includes a wide-range of recipes suitable for every need. I am one of those people who loves nothing better than a bag of kale for dinner, but I have small kids so that won’t work as dinner plans. Not to worry, the wonderful Baked Chicken with Minted Chimichurri (page 121, blended mint, parsley, oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, sea salt, olive oil, lemon juice and zest) made an excellent dinner on more than one occasion and Turkey Meatloaf (page 117, gluten-free) couldn’t disappear any faster.
I’m big on soups and virtually at any given point you will find a pot of homemade soup in my fridge (or at least in my freezer), so you will not be surprised to hear that in four months of owning this book I already tried most of the 17 soups in this cookbook.
Not Your Grandpa’s Borscht (page 57) was tried both as a vegetarian version with Classical Magic Mineral Broth (page 44) and as a real thing with Nourishing Beef Bone Broth (page 67). It was absolutely delicious both ways and I talk from experience as borscht has been part of my cooking repertoire for years and years. I liked that the recipe starts with sauteing spices, deglazing the pot and then adding cabbage and beets one thing at a time. It is a completely different approach from a Russian way of cooking it and all the extra steps definitely contribute a new kind of flavor.
The vegetable section has 24 mouth-watering recipes. I could just live off this section forever and ever. From Coconut Ginger Lime Kale (page 86, prep time 5 minutes) to Castilian Cauliflower (page 99, 30 minutes) the deliciousness never ends.
The Meat and Seafood section has many recipes that are a healthier alternative to the classical comfort dishes. So that classical meatball dish gets a quinoa makeover (Quinoa Turkey Meatballs page 116) and Almost Better than Nana’s Brisket (page 130) gets a flavor boost from immune-boosting aromatics.
The recipes often feature small elements that make a huge difference. For example, adding pimento-stuffed olives gave Castilian Cauliflower (page 99) a new, unexpected flavor and combining pomegranate seeds with olives and funner created unbelievable salsa (Pomegranate Olive Mint Salsa, page 182).
There is an abundance of delicious recipes in this book and it’s hard to decide which one to highlight. Some of the sections I didn’t mention yet are: Anytime Foods (hummus, hash, rice), Dollops (vinaigrettes, salsa, and sauces), Tonics and Elixirs (Brain Tea and Mexican Hot Chocolate), and Sweet Bites (Almond chocolate chip cookies).
The only two gripes I can come up with are photography and editing. The photographs included in the book are gorgeous, but I wish there was more of them. Another one is better editing. Watermelon and Cherry Tomatoes salad (page 76), for example, is missing watermelon in the list of ingredients. But these are very minor things for the rare cookbook in which I not only love, but determined to try 100% of the recipes.
Take aways from this book:
The Healthy Mind Cookbook is proof that healthy eating can be flavorful, comforting and enjoyable with relatively little effort (if you are not a complete beginner). This book will show you what foods are good for you and why, how to prep them and how put them together in a delicious meal that your whole family can enjoy. It will definitely help you stay out of a rut and inspire creativity in the kitchen. It motivated me to cook lots of fresh and healthy meals: both directly from this book and creations inspired by reading the section on building taste and flavor. I would go as far as to say that if I was packing for a life on an Uninhabited Island and could only take one cookbook with me it would be this one.
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. This post contains amazon affiliate links. If you click on my link and purchase something, I will receive a small percent of your purchase at no extra cost to you.