Cindy Wang: Brain Boosting Snacks

It’s that time of year again! The weather’s getting colder, the days are becoming shorter, and we’re all going to need some serious fuel in order to make it to Thanksgiving break. While most Huskies will reach for a bag of chips to help burn the midnight oil, eating processed snacks loaded with sugar, preservatives, and unhealthy fats are a death sentence for the brain and body. Here are four delicious, easy, and brain boosting alternatives that will guarantee increased focus and productivity throughout the day!

Red Pepper Walnut Dip

Containing walnuts, an ingredient known for improving cognitive function, this adaptation of the Syrian muhammara does not include the traditional Aleppo chili flakes due to my pitifully low spice tolerance. However, feel free to add some if you would like a dip with more of a kick.

  • 1 16 oz jar of fire roasted bell peppers
  • ½ cup walnuts, plus extra to garnish
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 ½ tablespoon pomegranate molasses (can sub with balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon sea salt

Drain the peppers and place everything in a blender or food processor. Pulse until desired consistency and enjoy with pita bread, sliced vegetables, or on its own!

Spiced Edamame

In this recipe, a combination of warm spices flavors the edamame as they simmer, a superior alternative to the typical salt-seasoned edamame found at sushi shops. Packed full of protein, fiber, and iron, an essential nutrient that is important for brain function, these make a healthy and addicting snack.

  • 1 bag frozen edamame pods
  • Water 
  • 3 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
  • 2 star anise
  • ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 dry chili pepper

Add edamame to a pot and cover with water. Add the salt and spices and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 7-8 minutes, 10 minutes if you would like them softer. With slotted spoon, retrieve edamame from braising liquid and serve warm or tepid.

Almond Blueberry Muffins

Almond flour, packed with healthy fats and protein, thickens the batter and improves moisture retention for a muffin that is more tender and moist than one made from all purpose flour. Blueberries pack in brain-healthy antioxidants, making a nutritious and delicious treat! 

  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use 0%)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup creamy almond butter
  • 1/3 cup honey/ maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup fresh/ frozen blueberries

Mix yogurt, eggs, honey, almond butter, salt, and vanilla together in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the almond flour, rolled oats, baking powder and baking soda. Pour the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is well combined. Add the blueberries and evenly distribute into 12 muffin tins. Bake in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes and then lower heat to 350°F to continue baking another 10. Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Avocados are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids essential for healthy brain function. In this pudding, the deep flavor of the chocolate wonderfully complements the nutty presence of the avocado, a delicious treat! Avoid strong flavored sweeteners such as honey as they have a tendency to overpower the delicate flavor of the avocado. 

  • 2 ripe, creamy avocados
  • ¼ cup -½ cup almond milk
  • ¼ cup maple syrup/ agave nectar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • a handful of your favorite toppings (ie. chopped nuts, seeds, berries, sprinkles and crushed cookies)

Add all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with your favorite toppings. 

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