The Thinking Kitchen Dinner Party – chocolate banana bread

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It’s been a crazy busy week so this’ll be a fairly short post (I seem to have momentarily forgotten that I’m supposed to being doing work for my master’s instead of spending all my time researching, talking and thinking about food). There’s been a new development at the Thinking Kitchen – food workshops to encourage healthy eating and educate students about the link between food and mental health. We teamed up with the Oxford Hub for happiness week to make a ‘serotonin menu’, basically designed to increase serotonin transmission in the brain which has shown to boost mood and fight depression in a natural way.

The menu was based on the key nutrients and foods that promote serotonin functioning:

  • Tryptophan (precursor to serotonin) – nuts, lentils, beans, oats, seeds, tofu, chicken, seafood
  • Vitamin B12 (neurological synthesis) bananas, eggs, nuts
  • Folate (serotonin regulation) – spinach, dark chocolate, avocado, asparagus
  • Magnesium (serotonin transportation) – almonds, spinach, edamame, peanuts

Another vital piece of advice to improve happiness through food is to NOT CUT CARBS! Carbohydrates are better at passing from the bloodstream into the brain. You can boost tryptophan levels by eating more simple carbohydrates; they help eliminate the competition for tryptophan. E.g. whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

So I spent the whole day in the kitchen (sorry master’s course) creating the wonderful and vibrant menu for the 25 lucky diners. Bear in mind that I live in a student flat which literally only has one small pot and a rusty baking tray so I pretty much had to make each component one by one (I am now a pro pot-washer), but it all turned out pretty well!

In the spirit of being green and resourceful, the food and I hitched a ride with the lovely eco delivery service pedal and post to feed the hungry students.

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Here’s the high serotonin menu, adapted from some of previous recipes from the Thinking Kitchen

Superfood shots

Freshly pressed apple, cucumber, spinach, celery, lime, mint and ginger

 Main Course

Roast pear and lentil salad with goats cheese, walnuts and cherry tomatoes in a balsamic dressing

Dessert

Oaty banana cake with coconut, mango and guava ‘ice cream’
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The event was a great success and I think everyone left feeling happier and full of energy! This is hopefully the first of many more foodie events in Oxford, including meals and education on how to promote sleep and reduce stress. Watch out for these events as tickets are going pretty fast!

Here is the recipe for banana bread with mango and coconut ‘ice cream’ I made for dessert, it got rave reviews and is pumped full of serotonin producing nutrients!

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Ingredients

3 bananas

1 tablespoon natural greek yoghurt

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs (Use flax egg mix for vegan)

1 cup coconut oil (or butter)

1 cup plain flour (I recommend using wholemeal or buckwheat)

1 cup oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Handful dark chocolate chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 180

2. Mix coconut oil/butter and sugar in a bowl

3. Add mashed banana and eggs, whisk well.

4. Add all the other ingredients other than chocolate chunks.

5. Spoon the mixture into a square cake tin and scatter the chocolate chunks on top.

6. Bake for 20-30 mins, keep checking as it can overcook really easily!

7. Leave to cool and serve with vegan ‘ice cream‘.

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