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Fish Provencale combats winter blahs

December 6, 2011
By Wendy Monro, Simply Food

Has it happened yet? Is anyone out there getting the winter blues?

I know it's early in the game, but I thought I would mention it before it's too late. Of course, I don't mean you. You and I don't go through this. We are practically perfect in every way (Mary Poppins and us). However, you might know someone who is affected by the winter season in a negative way.

I know as the temperature drops and the sun makes fewer appearances, people tend to lose their "sunny" dispositions. It's difficult to be very happy when it's grey, windy, icy, and oh so cold. For some people the winter may bring on symptoms of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to a study at Cornell University, SAD affects four times as many women as men. Thanks!

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Fish Provencale served on a dollop of healthy mashed potatoes.

To make matters worse, when people are getting moody and depressed due to the weather and lack of sunlight, they crave carbohydrates and heavy, high calorie foods such as foods containing white flour and pastries. This type of eating causes a quick "fix" to a bad mood. These foods quickly cause a spike in blood sugar and the person eating this way feels happy for a short period of time. He or she feels happy until the inevitable crash which brings with it irritability, mood swings and fatigue. I don't know about you, but I don't have time for this.

Research suggests a strong link between food and mood. I am not making light of the importance that sunshine, exercise, and vitamin D have in elevating moods as well. However, I am here to write about food.

Natural chemicals in food change how we feel. Eating fish in the winter can help us be happier people and stave off the winter blues. Vitamin B12 helps reduce the effects of SAD. Fish contains vitamin B12. Studies have shown that eating fish twice a week eases depression and anxiety. Also, fish with omega 3 fatty acids provide a building block for neurotransmitters, brain chemicals, connected with positive emotions.

Fact Box

Fish Provencal with

healthy mashed potatoes

Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4

12-15 small new potatoes, skin on, quartered

1 green pepper, diced

1 red pepper, diced

5 scallions (spring onions), diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 roma tomatoes, diced

2 tablespoons capers

2 tablespoons Kalamata olives, sliced in half

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs thyme, slide leaves off

2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 pieces farm raised tilapia

2 lemons

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons (tofutti) "sour cream" or low fat sour cream

3 tablespoons earth balance "butter" spread

1 cup vegetable broth

1/2 cup 1% milk

1 sprig rosemary, slide the leaves off of the stick

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While the potatoes boil, dice and chop everything. Spread the peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, capers, olives, spices and herbs onto a cookie sheet. Sprinkle on the oil and coat everything. Place in the oven for seven minutes. Remove from oven and place the fish on top of the vegetables. Squeeze the lemon juice onto the fish. Return to the oven for an additional ten minutes.

While the fish finishes up, mix the "sour cream." "butter," broth, milk, rosemary leaves, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Mix well with a hand held beater.

Place a scoop of mashed potatoes onto the plate. Top this with the fish and spoon on the vegetables all over everything. Enjoy!

Eating more fish can make you feel more cheerful. So, get out there and find some wild caught salmon, tilapia, tuna, or mackerel and start smiling more. If fish is not your style, walnuts and flax seeds also work.

This week, I made a dish I am calling Fish Provencal. It just reminds me of the south of France. The light fish and tons of delicious roasted vegetables cooked in olive oil along with capers and olives remind me of the many flavors I enjoyed in this part of the world. I chose tilapia because it is a simple white fish that the kids like and it's cheaper than many other types of fish at the market. You can use any type of fish you desire for this recipe.

I thought this was a good meal to fight the winter blues because it includes fish and tons of colorful vegetables, which remind me of summer. I did place these fish and vegetables on top of a mound of mashed potatoes. Don't start going crazy on me (you know who you are). You will be surprised at how healthy I made these mashed potatoes. I used to always use one stick of butter in my mashed potatoes. I believed that was the only way to make them unbelievably delicious. They were in fact extremely good this way. However, I was wrong. Mashed potatoes can also be delicious with heart healthy "butter" spread, vegetable broth, vegan sour cream, rosemary, and a tiny bit of 1% milk, making them so very healthy. I challenge anyone to notice the lack of the stick of butter.

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All in all, it was a delightful winter evening meal. What made me even happier than the vitamin B-12, or the Omega 3s, or the brightly colored vegetables, or the fact that I was guiltlessly eating mashed potatoes, was the fact that Jack ate it. Yes, my son Jack, who doesn't like anything, ate this meal. Sure, he scraped off the vegetables (I ate those), and the fish was barely nibbled on, but the potatoes were eaten clean off of the plate. That is an improvement for him. I am hoping the vegetables transferred into his body via osmosis. At least he no longer heats up a hot dog instead of eating what we eat.



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