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Healthy Mind

Anti-Anxiety Herby Salmon + Avocado Recipes

July 21, 2015


Anxiety (aNGˈzīədē/) (n): an apprehension of the future, especially about an upcoming challenging task. Perfectly acceptable EXCEPT when the reaction is significiantly blown out of proportion.

I’ve always been a bit of an anxious person. Every time I think I’ve got a handle on my nerves, something happens that sets them off again. And it isn’t always the result of something drastic. Sometimes, it’s simply the to-do list in my brain firing off all of the things I haven’t done yet, and all of the dreams I have yet to accomplish.

My good friend and fellow over-achiever approached me the other day to tell me that her anxiety, unknowingly, had gotten so out of hand that it manifested in a physical reaction. She went to the doctor and was given, to my surprise, strict instruction to alter her diet temporarily to help her symptoms subside.

I love that this advice came from a traditional physician. I wish it were the solution more often instead of prescription drugs.

As much as I rely on food and nutrition to help me in every other area of my life, I had honestly never thought to use food to ease my stress and anxiety (wine doesn’t count). It makes perfect sense, however, that food can affect our mood. Everything you ingest has an affect on your body chemistry –whether negative or positive. So I did a little digging to see what foods could hit the calm-my-nerves-button. And this is what I found. I think you'll like what you see:


What it’s got: Folate
What it does: Helps your body produce serotonin (the-feel good hormone) and dopamine (chemical critical to coordination, memory function, and your mood).



What it’s got: Tryptophan
What it does: It’s the Amino acid that your body converts into serotonin (the-feel good hormone).


What it’s got: Probiotics
What it does: I've talked about the benefits of Fermented Foods plenty of times before. But here is yet another reason. The probiotics in fermented food nourishes your gut flora to support a positive mood.


What they got: The animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA
What it does: This one is a little more complicated, but, in my opinion, one of the most important. So I'm going to attempt to explain it with the help of Dr. Barry Sears

The brain is incredibly sensitive to inflammation. And when it is inflamed, it causes a breakdown in signaling between cells (which affects mood and anxiety). This cellular inflammation is caused by an increase in Omega-6 fatty acids (which is abundant in processed foods). In fact, many of the drugs that people with anxiety are put on are anti-inflammatory drugs for this very reason (aspirin, non-steroid anti-inflammatories, COX-2 inhibitions and corticosteroids). These drugs, however, cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. SO when it's inflamed, the brain's only protection is Omega-3. Unfortunately, most people aren't getting nearly enough of this in their diet (wild caught fish is expensive!). Studies have shown that high levels of Omega-3 can reduce anxiety (2). Which means, the more Omega-3 we get in our diet, the more seamlessly our brain can function, and the more we can relax. Salmon, sardines and anchovies have them in spades.  


What it’s got: Anthocyanins – the pigments that give berries like blueberries and blackberries their deep color
What it does: These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine (chemical critical to coordination, memory function, and your mood).


What it’s got: Flavonols, a subclass of flavonoids, which are natural chemicals found in plants, fruits and vegetables.
What it does: Reduces cortisol – the stress hormone that causes anxiety symptoms. It also contains other chemicals that prolong the "feel-good" aspects of anandamide. One study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology also revealed that drinking an antioxidant-rich chocolate drink equal to about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily felt calmer than those who did not.

KEY thing to remember here is that NOT ALL DARK CHOCOLATE IS THE SAME. The total antioxidant content of chocolate products are directly associated with the amount of raw cocoa it contains. So if you're going to eat it for the health benefits, the darker, the better. The Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with 88% Cacao is my absolute favorite. It is so smooth and indulgent with its high cacao content, but with a very small amount of sugar (5 grams/serving). 

Fun fact: Anandamide is a derivative of the Sanskrit word “Bliss”


WATER (genius, I know)

What it's got: Hydration
What it does: Dehydration affects as many as 25% of those with persistent stress or more. Dehydration is also known to cause more anxiety.


What it's got: Monosaturated fats
What it does: Regulates blood sugar levels. This combination of satiety and blood-sugar regulation can help keep your mood steady and even in times of stress.

Great. So what to do you do now? I guess you make a big green leafy salad with turkey, sardines, saurkraut, avocado and blueberries, wash it down with a BIG glass of water, and finish the meal with a nice piece of 88% cacao dark chocolate. Easy peasy. You'll be one relaxed, even-keeled cat. OR you can start small with a couple awesome go-to recipes of mine…



I was so glad to see avocados on this list, as they are one of my all-time favorites. And with their decadent texture and comforting qualities, I’m not surprised. I very rarely go a day without one – whether in my morning smoothie or chopped up in my afternoon salad. But this recipe is perfect for fast and immediate comfort and satisfaction.


  • 1 Avocado
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (fresh squeezed or bottled)
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast (if you’re dairy-free) OR 1 teaspoon shredded parmesan
  • Sprinkle of cayenne pepper


  1. Mash up together in a bowl with a fork (really get in there and smash it up to get out all that anxiety)
  2. If you choose…put it back in the avocado shell for smile-inducing presentation
  3. Eat with a spoon!



Omega-3 in Salmon


  • 3 oz. Grass-fed butter, ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 t. Course Himalayan salt
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 2 T. fresh herbs of choice (I used rosemary and thyme from my balcony garden)
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced
  • Dash of White Pepper
  • 4 Salmon Fillets, about 4-5 oz. each


  1. Preheat the oven to broil (or grill it if you've got one!)
  2. Chop up your herbs and your garlic.
  3. Toss them in a bowl, along with salt and white pepper and melt together for approximately 30 seconds. Stir until combined.
  4. Place the salmon fillets on a broiling pan lined with aluminum foil that has been oiled so it doesn't stick.
  5. Coat the salmon with half of the lemon herb butter, evenly spreading it over the tops of each fillet.
  6. Place pan on about 6 inches away from the heat source. Timing here is key and very delicate. Becasue you're broiling, it's going to go fast. Let it go for about 3 minutes. Take it out. Turn over each filet. Brush eash side with the remaining herby mix. And put it back in for another 3 minutes. I'm 99% sure you won't need more than that. It should be nice and flaky.


1. Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Merikangas KR, and Walters EE. "Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication". Arch Gen Psychiatry 62:617-627 (2005)

2. Buydens-Branchey L, Branchey M, and Hibbeln JR. "Associations between increases in plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids following supplementation and decreases in anger and anxiety in substance abusers." Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 32:568-575 (2008)

Like what you read today? Think somebody else could benefit from a few anxiety-reducing foods? See those cute little gray shapes underneath this post? They're for sharing! Click one to post to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or comment right here on the blog. I would love to hear from you.

Much Love,

A Very Healthy Stacey Thanksgiving (with Recipes!)

November 24, 2014

Well, I did it. I am ALL grows up. This year, I am hosting Thanksgiving at my place. Please, please, hold your applause.

Yes, it may be that “hosting Thanksgiving” means me, my boyfriend and my Dad at our humble apartment. But it’s still hosting nonetheless. And I must admit, I am excited – proud, even – to do it.

I grew up in a household of home-cooked, healthy meals. My mom felt it important to feed me and my dad real food (Thanks, Mom!). However, I don’t believe the act of cooking was ever an enjoyable experience for her. More like a necessary evil. 

She never once pushed me to learn to cook. But somehow, somewhere along the way, I found a real passion for it all on my own. If memory serves me correctly, the desire to cook came on hard and strong as soon as I decided to become a vegan. Why? Because I was forced to make my own food. 

How can I make this creamy without adding milk? How can I make this savory without using meat? How can I make this cheesy without, well, cheese? It was fun. And I got INTO it. I remember my first vegan Thanksgiving. I offered to cook a few dishes for our family’s meal. I spent days searching for the perfect recipes. I wanted to make dishes with layers of flavor and lots of texture. So good, they would never suspect the “vegan” in them. I was really excited to expose non-vegans to my food and show them how great it could taste.  

I am no longer a vegan. But I do have pretty high standards for what I eat. My diet includes LOTS of vegetables, a good amount of animal protein, little dairy, very little gluten, and as much whole, unprocessed food as my lifestyle will allow. This means I still have to get pretty creative in the kitchen. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Maybe this is just me being a naive newbie to Thanksgiving hosting. But I’m super pumped to chop, sauté, mix and roast some really good food for people I love. I mean, I get to expose other people to my way of eating, impress the pants off of them, and make them fall madly in love with whole food the way I have, or at least be happily satisfied. Could this holiday be more perfect? (read in Chandler Bing voice). (Actually, Chandler Bing would never say that because he hates Thanksgiving, but you get the idea).

The Mission:

A healthy, whole-food, gluten-free, good fat, unprocessed Thanksgiving

The Guest Lineup:

One hungry, open-minded boyfriend who pretty much eats whatever I cook, and enjoys it (for the most part). I am one very lucky woman because he really does like eating whole, healthy meals, and is always up to at least try my latest nutritious concoction. He’s still human though. And there are a few Thanksgiving staples that I think he’d appreciate having at the table, even if he doesn’t ask for it.

One simple, straightforward, no-frills Dad whose motto – for food and everything else – is “I’m flexible.” He’ll pretty much eat what you put in front of him. But when you can get him to compliment you on a dish, you know you did well.  

One extremely hard-to-please foodie with the highest expectations for what goes into her body, not only for its taste, but for its health benefits. Yes, I am counting myself on my dinner guests list. I’m a big believer in cooking great dishes for myself as much as I believe in doing it for others. Why? Because, I’m worth it. (Shameless Loreal plug)

The Game Plan:

Make a really delicious meal using only whole, unprocessed food, lots of veggies and no gluten or grains. What? You don’t think it’s possible? Just watch me.

Healthy Stacey Thanksgiving Menu:


My number one rule for any meat is knowing where it came from and how it was treated. I know it sounds very Portlandia, but seriously, eating an organic, free-range turkey is the difference between ingesting a bird with harmful antibiotics and eating a free-roaming, well-fed, healthy protein. I always think about it like this: I am eating what my food is eating. I don’t eat corn-based grain laced with antibiotics; neither should my food. For a no-brainer, I highly recommend getting your turkey at Whole Foods. They have some ridiculously high standards for their birds so you don’t have to worry about a thing.

6 to 8 servings | Prep 40 minutes | Cook 3 hours, 20 minutes


  • 1 10 Ib. antibiotic-free, hormone-free, free-range, organic turkey
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 large orange, cut into 1/8ths
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted, grass-fed butter at room temperature
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/8ths
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/2 bunch sage
  • 3 or 4 sprigs parsley
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups organic grass-fed chicken stock, for basting


  1. To make the brining solution, dissolve the salt and sugar in 2 gallons of cold water in a nonreactive container (such as a clean bucket or large stockpot, or a clean, heavy-duty, food grade plastic storage bag). Add the oranges, lemons, thyme, and rosemary. Note: if you have a big turkey and need more brine than this, use 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar for every gallon of water.
  2. Remove the neck, giblets, and liver from the cavity of the turkey and reserve for the gravy. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water.
  3. Soak the turkey in the brine, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  5. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels both inside and out. Place turkey, breast side up, in a large, heavy roasting pan. Rub breast side with orange segments and rub on all sides with the butter, stuffing some underneath the skin. Season lightly inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff the turkey with the onion, remaining orange, celery, carrot, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley. Loosely tie the drumsticks together with kitchen string. Roast the turkey, uncovered, breast side down for 1 hour.
  6. Remove from the oven, turn, and baste with 1/2 cup stock. Continue roasting with the breast side up until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the largest section of thigh (avoiding the bone), about 2 3/4 to 3 hours total cooking time. Baste the turkey once every hour with 1/2 to 3/4 cup chicken or turkey stock.
  7. Remove from the oven and place on a platter. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.



I refuse to have canned cranberry sauce at my Thanksgiving. I still have memories of seeing the cylinder-shaped cranberry mold that plops right out of the can. Eck. This recipe couldn’t be further from the canned crap. I love the idea of using dates as a natural sweetener. Adding jalepeno will give the turkey’s main sidekick a spicy/sweet kick. 

Makes about 2 cups | Prep 20 minutes | Cook 15 minutes


  • 4 dried dates
  • 1 large orange
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 small jalapeño, stemmed and thinly sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 450F. Cover a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil; set aside.
  2. Remove the pits from the dates and place in small bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow them to soak until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain off the water and place the dates in a food processor; purée until smooth.
  3. Using a peeler, remove the peel from the orange, taking off as little of the white pith as possible. Cut the peel into very thin strips about 1 1/2 inches long. Squeeze the juice from the orange and set aside.
  4. In a bowl, combine the peel, date purée, cranberries, coconut oil, salt, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and jalapeño. Toss well and transfer to the baking sheet. Roast until the cranberries begin to burst and release their juices, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Transfer the cranberries to a bowl and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the reserved orange juice. Let the flavors meld for at least an hour, but you can store in the refrigerator for a week or so. Remove and toss out the cinnamon sticks before serving.



Sweet potatoes are the one thing on the traditional Thanksgiving menu that I am ALL FOR. They are on my to-do list for a “healthy food of the week” post because they are so incredibly good for you. Their bright sunset-orange color tells you that they are high in antioxidants. Studies have shown (and I have found) that they are also beneficial to people with digestive issues. All health benefits aside, they taste like sweet yet savory gooey goodness. I could have chosen a million ways to prepare them, but I thought this casserole was a crowd-pleasing guarantee. I can’t wait to see what coconut milk and toasted cinnamon pecans will do for this dish.

Makes about 12 servings | Prep 20 minutes | Cook 25 minutes


  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
  •  1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  •  1/2 tsp nutmeg
  •  juice of half an orange


  • 3/4 cup chopped raw pecans
  •  1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp melted coconut oil


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While water comes to a boil, peel and dice sweet potatoes into large chunks.
  2. Add sweet potato chunks to water. Boil until fork tender–about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain potatoes, then dump them back in the large pot with all the other ingredients. Using a hand mixer, blend until potatoes reach desired consistency and flavor. (You may like to add a little more coconut milk, spices, or syrup based on your taste.)
  4. In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients until pecans are well coated.
  5. Dump sweet potatoes into an oven safe dish and top with pecans.
  6. Bake in preheated oven until topping is browned–about 15 minutes. Serve warm.




Root vegetables are like the slightly odd, under-the-radar kid at school that actually ends up being really cool when you talk to him. Don’t overlook them at the grocery store just because their kind of odd looking and you don’t know what to do with them. You can pretty much pick any of these underground veggies – Yams, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, yuca – toss them in coconut oil, and roast them in the oven for a slightly-sweet, full-flavored snack bite. Part of me wanted to make an unnecessary amount of veggie dishes for 3 people. But I thought better of it and just decided to go with one dish that combined them all together. 

Makes about 6 servings | Prep 20 minutes | Cook 1 hour


  • 4 beets (I used a mix of red and yellow), cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 small turnip, cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 parsnips, cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 cup apple cider
  •  1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar (be sure it’s a nice, thick one)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp grass-fed butter
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon, divided


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Whisk cider, vinegar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper in a 9×13 baking dish. Add root vegetables and toss to coat. Cover the baking dish with foil.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes, uncover, and stir the vegetables. Continue cooking, uncovered, stirring about every 20 minutes, until the vegetables are glazed and tender, about 1 more hour.
  4. While vegetables cook, place walnuts in a small skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted, about 2-6 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Stir until the butter melts and nuts are coated. Transfer to a plate and let cool in a single layer.
  5. To serve, place vegetables in a serving dish and sprinkle with the cinnamon walnuts.




Okay, I know I said just one veggie dish, but I can’t have Thanksgiving without brussels sprouts. These babies got a bad wrap when we were younger. But I honestly think that if you cook them the right way, you could get a picky, I-only-eat-macaroni-and-cheese-whining 7-year-old to eat them, and love them. I only wish I had that audience to prove it. I usually resort to bacon and brussels sprouts for special occasions. But sometimes I feel like that’s cheating because bacon makes everything good. This time, I am going to be a bit more adventurous with dijon mustard and coconut aminos. Fingers crossed…

Makes about 4 servings | Prep 15 minutes | Cook 35-40 minutes


  • 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and separated into cloves
  •  1 tablespoon ghee, melted
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos 
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise, keeping the leaves that fall off. (They’ll turn into crispy chips in the oven!)
  3. In a large bowl, mix the Brussels sprouts and the whole garlic cloves with the ghee, minced garlic, coconut aminos, mustard, and a robust sprinkle of black pepper.
  4. Spread the sprouts in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast 35-40 minutes. Take a bite, then add more pepper (and a pinch of salt), if necessary.




This one is purely experimental and a huge crap shoot. As I said before, my boyfriend is very open to my healthy cooking and (sometimes restrictive) diet. He’s not one to ask for dishes that he knows I wouldn’t eat. But one thing he’s always said he loves is cornbread. The chances of him saying it’s as good as the real stuff is slim-to-none. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll like it enough to request it again. 

Makes 10 servings | Prep 35 minutes | Cook 40 minutes




  1. Take out your 4 eggs and bring to room temperature. I crack mine in the blender and let them sit for 20 minutes or so.
  2. Add the apple cider vinegar, water and ¼ cup of melted coconut oil(not hot so you don’t cook the eggs) blend on low for 30 seconds.
  3. Then add in the coconut flour, garlic power, salt, ground caraway seeds and baking soda and blender for one minute.
  4. Grease your baking tin with the 1 tsp coconut oil. I used two small mini loaves for this recipe.
  5. Pour the batter in your pans and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Optional – if you want to get that nice golden look – 1 minute before you take the bread out of the oven, rub a small tsp of coconut oil on the top and broil on low until you get the color you want.