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The typical, American comfort foods we love to eat for breakfast — pancakes, French toast and the Southern staple of biscuits and gravy — may taste good on a special occasion, but for fueling up on an everyday basis, they don’t provide the best boost for our brains and our bodies.

But if you bring together some protein, vegetables and whole grains — in a frittata, a smoothie or an oatmeal bowl — you’ll have more energy, be in a better mood and help your body detox at the same time.

“If you’re feeding the body with nutrient-dense foods, it can really help with seasonal mood disorder,” said Thais Harris, nutrition education manager for the Ceres Community Project, which teaches young adults how to cook and supplies critically ill patients around the county with healthy meals. “The fall can be very introspective after all the activities of summer. “

Nutrient-dense foods are what you’ll find on the menu at the Ceres Cafe, a breakfast and lunch restaurant run by Ceres at the Social Advocates for Youth’s new Dream Center in Santa Rosa.

Harris said it’s OK to enjoy a slice of avocado toast for breakfast, but it’s key to make sure the bread is organic and high-quality. You also may want to wash it down with a small smoothie that adds in greens, berries and protein in the form of chia or flax seeds, yogurt or kefir.

“At the cafe, we’re making some delicious smoothies,” Harris said. “I’m not big into fruit smoothies with bananas and peaches and apple juice — that’s a sugar bomb. The ideals is to make sure you’re doing equal parts fruit to greens, and berries are my favorite fruits, because they tend to be less sweet and have a lot of anti-oxidants.”

One of Harris’ favorite smoothies is the Brain Booster served at the cafe, which combines a cup of blackberries with a cup of chard, some mint for added nutrition, a tablespoon of chia or flax seeds and a cup of plain kefir or yogurt.

“You have a nice serving of protein in there,” she said. “And people could even add 1 to 3 teaspoons of honey, and a cup of water.”

Other sources of protein in a smoothie can include bone broth (high in collagen and healing for the gut) or whey. For vegetarians, it can be pea protein or organic sprouted rice protein. You can also use a nut milk, or if you have a Vitamix, throw in a handful of cashews with water and chia seeds, to create your own nut milk.

Another helpful smoothie in the fall and winter, when people tend to get blue, is the Mood Enhancer Smoothie, a delicious and nutritious combination of strawberries, basil and dates.

“Basil is one of those herbs that has B12 for energy production and it even has vitamin E, which helps protect cells,” Harris said. “And the strawberries are great for cognitive function and are anti-inflammatory.”

The dates not only tonify the blood and provide rich minerals, she said, but also help clean the intestines with fiber. They also offer B vitamins to boost energy and mood.

For a deeper body scrubbing, you can also order the Liver Cleanser, a veggie-centric smoothie made with beets, kale, parsley and lemon — “all things that are very cleansing to the liver,” she said.

But not everyone wants to drink their breakfast. And for those folks, the simple egg has come back into vogue.

“Eggs have gotten such a bad rap,and thankfully now, we’re starting to see a lot of really good research showing that eggs and cholesterol are not the problem,” Harris said. “There has been recent research showing that 75 percent of the population don’t show any changes in cholesterol levels after eating eggs. The hyper-responders — about 25 percent of the population — did have changes, but the bad cholesterol was not necessarily raised.”

At Ceres, the cooks source their eggs from Green Star Farms in Sebastopol, which only uses organic feed and allows the hens to forage all day in the pasture.

“For the most part, it is an issue of quality again,” she said. “If people can prioritize their budgets to buy organic eggs and pasture-raised eggs, then you can eat more.”

At the Ceres Cafe, there is a daily frittata that allows the cooks to mix in vegetables and add a side salad. But omelettes and poached eggs are also a good way to deliver a breakfast with veggies.

“I love poaching and soft-boiling eggs, because you really keep a lot of the ingredients in the yolk intact that way,” she said. “When you scramble an egg, the yolk is going to cook more so some of those nutrients will get lost.”

Lisa Monroe, a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, likes to pickle her hard-boiled eggs, then eat them with a vegetable or a healthy carbohydrate.

“They are readily available, they travel well and you can make them in a variety of ways,” she said. “Vinegar helps to re-establish proper stomach acidity, and there’s healthy lactic acid produced by probiotic bacteria when you lacto-ferment eggs and vegetables.”

Whole grains are another healthy option for breakfast, and you can go with the traditional oatmeal or branch out with a quinoa, couscous or a brown rice bowl, topped with nuts and seeds.

“People will do oatmeal with brown sugar and fruit, but that’s too many carbs,” she said. “So it’s good to add a healthy fat — grass-fed butter, coconut oil — plus chia or flax seeds ... and I like adding cinnamon, because it helps regulate blood sugar and is an anti-oxidant.”

And although they are not yet served at the Ceres Cafe, Harris has developed a recipe for high-protein pancakes that are made with eggs, almond flour, coconut flour and banana.

“You could top it with real, dark maple syrup — that means it retains most of its minerals,” she said. “Or just top them with some berries, a little bit of nut butter or Greek yogurt.”

And, if you enjoy eating salad for breakfast with some bread dipped in hummus, you may want to switch in the winter to a warm, vegetable soup that provides plenty of fiber and whole grains.

“It’s something that I make with leftovers,” Harris said. “You can put extra vegetables, quinoa, carrots and chard in a blender, and just add some chicken bone broth ... You end with a very creamy soup that’s very hydrating.”


The following three recipes are from the Ceres Community Project. For more healthy breakfast recipes, pick up a copy of the Ceres Community Project’s “Nourishing Connections Cookbook” by Cathryn Couch and JoEllen DeNicola. The Ceres Café is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2447 Summerfield Road, in the Social Advocates for Youth Dream Center in Santa Rosa.

Breakfast Couscous (or Quinoa)

Serves 2 to 3

1 cup water

1 cup whole dairy or non-dairy milk

1/2 cup couscous

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup currants

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the milk and the couscousa nd the remaining ingredients. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 mintues before eating.

Variation: To make this with quinoa, soak 1/2 cup quinoa for at least 4 hours or overnight. DRain and rinse well. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 to 8 minutes. ADd the milk and remaining ingredients, turn off the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes before eating.


The mix of vegetables in this frittata is totally up to you. Asparagus, zucchini, mushroomsa nd spinach are all wonderful choices.

Vegetable Frittata

Serves 6

2 bunches kale, collard greens or chart

4 cups broccoli florets and peeled, chopped stems

11/2 cups leeks, white and pale green, diced and rinsed well

1 /2 tablespoons olive oil

8 eggs

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

11/2 cups crumbled feta cheese

3/4 cup almond milk or milk of choice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons fresh dill weed, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 7-inch x 10-inch glass Pyrex baking dish.

Remove the stems from the greens, wash them well and tear into large pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the greens just until they are tender and bright green, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the greens from the pot using a slotted spoon, rinse under cold water and drain well, pressing out as much water as possible. Chop the greens finely then “fluff” to separate so that they mix well with the rest of the ingredients.

Blanch the broccoli in the same pot of water just until bright green and crisp tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, rinse the broccoli in cold water to stop the cooking, and then drain well.

Saute the leeks in olive oil until they are tender and golden in color.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and dill. Add the cooled vegetables and grated cheddar and mix to combine everything evenly.

Pour the egg and vegetable mixture into your prepared pan. Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the top. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the center is set and the top is golden. Let cool before cutting.


Mood Enhancer Smoothie

Makes about 20 ounces

2 cups strawberries

2 cups basil

5 dates

2 cups almond milk, preferably homemade.

To make your own almond milk: Soak 11/4 cup almonds in 2 cups water for 4 hours, strain, then blend with fresh water. Use a nut bag or sieve to strain it.

To make smoothie: Blend all ingredients well.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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