Recipes for a Brain-Healthy Holiday Menu

At holiday time, we share food with the people we care about the most. It is vital that all foods served are attractive and delicious. Research shows that the food we eat, especially at holiday time, affects our brain power, how we feel, our mood and even our pain levels. We at the Brain Health and Wellness Center® offer you these recipes for family holidays and beyond so you can serve brain boosters instead of brain busters.

A word about turkey: When purchasing the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving or other holidays, we recommend you choose one that is free from antibiotics and hormones; organic and local is even better.



Derrick’s Holiday Fish Appetizer
YIELD: 12 servings (2 to 3 pieces per person and 2-3 bites per endive leaf)
Preparation time: 1 hour


  • ½ pound cod or other dense white fish, steamed or baked in foil, squeeze out excess water
  • 3 medium Belgian endive heads
  • 1½ stalks celery, diced fine
  • 1 medium carrot, diced fine
  • ½ medium red Bermuda onion, diced fine
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp kelp powder or seaweed flakes (or ¼ teaspoon of sea salt)
  • ¼ tsp white pepper, ground
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 Tbsp slivered almonds, toasted, for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp cranberries, dried, for garnish


  1. Prepare cod in advance: steam or bake in aluminum foil in 300-degree oven for 15-20 minutes; when finished, set aside to cool, then squeeze out excess water, flake with fork.
  2. Dice fine the onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté vegetables in olive oil until translucent. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, mix gently together flaked cod, cooled sautéed vegetables, yogurt, kelp or seaweed flakes,  white pepper, and fresh lemon juice.
  4. Chop off root ends of endive heads, gently ease off “flakes” or leaves one at a time to prevent breakage. 2-3 inches is ideal length for the endive leaves.
  5. Stuff the endive “boats” with the finished fish salad.
  6. Decorate the stuffed endive leaves with 2-3 slivered almonds along one side.
  7. Finish off with 1-3 cranberries along the other side of stuffed endive leaves.

This recipe was a big hit at the first “Chef’s MPN™ Cook-off.” This endive-encased appetizer is delicious, attractive on the plate, and easy to pick up and eat. The actual ingredients are a nice brain healthy surprise!

Original recipe by Chef Derrick Peterson, following the Memory Preservation Nutrition® program. Derrick Peterson was Executive Chef at The Cambridge Homes in Cambridge, MA.


IMG_1674Ryan’s Cauliflower and Potato Mash
YIELD: 8-9 Servings, about 1 cup each


  • 1½ pounds potatoes (general purpose, Yukon or red) (1 Qt cubes)
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets, stems included (2 Qts florets)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, extra virgin (or to taste)
  • ¼ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • Optional: ¼ tsp sea salt (or omit)
  • Optional: 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • Garnish: olive oil and thyme, fresh or dried, as needed


  1. Peel potatoes and cut into large cubes, about 1 inch, rinse.
  2. Cut large cauliflower head into florets and rinse.
  3. Place potato cubes in large pot, cover with water about 2 inches above potatoes and boil until potatoes are partially cooked, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add cauliflower florets to the same pot.
  5. Boil florets and potatoes until they are both tender.
  6. Drain and reserve stock from boiling. Use about ½ cup for mash (see below) and the rest may be saved for soup stock.
  7. Place cooked cauliflower florets and potatoes, extra virgin olive oil , pepper, any garlic cloves and any salt into a food processor or high-powered blender along with 1⁄2 cup of the stock from boiling. Blend ingredients until well mixed; more stock can be added to adjust thickness.
  8. Garnish with dollops of extra virgin olive oil and fresh (or dried) thyme.

Holiday Meal Brain Healthy Suggestion: Use this healthier combination instead of mashed potatoes. One may also omit the potatoes altogether and use only cauliflower. This recipe gets rave reviews! It is also easy to double or reduce this recipe.

Original Recipe by Ryan Snow consistent with, and adapted to, the Memory Preservation Nutrition® program, by Nancy Emerson Lombardo. Further adaptations by Dr. Emerson Lombardo and CC Donelan.


Seared Scallops with Warm Fruit Salsa
YIELD: 4 Servings (3 large scallops each serving as entrée; 1 scallop as appetizer or side dish)
Prep time: 2 minutes/ Cooking time 8 minutesMPN Scallops w Warm Fruit Salsa


  • 12 Large Sea Scallops
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/8 tsp ginger, powdered (or ½ tsp freshly grated)
  • 4 tsp fresh sliced green onions/scallions
  • Fruit salsa, warmed (see below recipe)


  1. Pat scallops dry with paper towel.
  2. Generously coat medium to large skillet with olive oil. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Note: a hot skillet is key to a deep golden sear on the scallops.
  3. Slowly place scallops into the pan allowing scallops to cook 2 to 3 minutes per side or until done (fluctuate heat levels if needed to ensure scallops do not burn yet achieve deep golden sear).
  4. Lightly sprinkle scallops with ground or freshly grated ginger just before pulling them from the heat.
  5. Once sea scallops are done, serve scallops atop plated Warm Fruit Salsa (Discard any accumulated juices from scallops).
  6. Sprinkle scallops with ground black pepper (or season to taste).
  7. Serve immediately. (If there are juices remaining from the separate pan used to cook the Warm Fruit Salsa, you may scrape the juices over the plated scallops as a savory coating).
  8. Suggestion: Serves well with brown herbed rice, and two cooked vegetables to complete the meal.

Nutritional information per serving:  202 calories  (16% from fat); fat; 4g (sat 0.5g mono 1.7g; poly 0.8g); cholesterol 47 mg; carbohydrate 17.7g; protein 24.9 g; fiber 2.2g; sodium Less than 300 mg; iron 1 mg; calcium 52mg.


Warm Fruit Salsa
YIELD: About 3 cups
Prep time: 8 minutes/ Cooking time: 4 minutes


  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 cups pineapple, diced (if using canned pineapple, use only pineapple canned in natural juices and drain)
  • 1¼ cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped green tea, freshly brewed
  • 1 tsp soy sauce, low sodium
  • ½ Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • ½ tsp cinnamon, ground
  • ½ tsp red dulse flakes or kelp powder.


  1. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté the garlic for approximately 1 minute.
  3. Stir in diced pineapples and chopped bell peppers until translucent (not thoroughly sauteed).
  4. Slowly incorporate green tea and soy sauce (slowly stirring while heat is at or near a simmer).
  5. Once the ingredients are evenly blended, stir in the ground cinnamon and red dulse flakes.
  6. Pull the salsa from the heat and set aside in serving bowl or container.
  7. Bruise mint leaves before chopping the leaves by folding the leaves together and slightly pounding the leaves with your knife handle or use a garlic press (lightly dash the mint leaves with lime or zest to enhance flavors).
  8. Fold in the chopped mint leaves and serve warm or allow salsa to rest for 30 minutes to one hour away from direct heat to allow total infusion of flavors.

Nutrition Information per serving: 77 calories  (30% from fat); fat 3g (sat.0.4g, mono 1.7g, poly 0.4g); cholesterol 0.0 mg; carbohydrate 14.3g; fiber 2.2g; sodium: less than100 mg; protein 1.1g; Iron 1 mg; calcium 18 mg.

Adapted following Memory Preservation Nutrition® program by Nancy Emerson Lombardo, Ph.D from – Oxmoor House, April, 2009. Selected by Cheryl K. Franchi, MS, MBA, RDN, CSG, LD/N, FADA, FAND. Recipe tested and perfected by Chef Myron Norman, fall 2016.


Pumpkin Gingerbread MPN Pumpkin Gingerbread[2667]
YIELD: 8 servings


  • 1¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, ground
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated or ground
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp green kelp powder or red dulse flakes or seaweed flakes
  • 1 packet Truvia®, Sweet Leaf® or other stevia mixture (avoid dextrose)
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, preferably omega-3 or free-range
  • 1 large egg white
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses, blackstrap organic preferred
  • 1 cup pumpkin, canned
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp ginger root, fresh, grated


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat 9”x 9” baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Combine flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, baking powder, nutmeg, baking soda, kelp powder (or dulse flakes), stevia and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk eggs, egg white, oil, coconut sugar, molasses, and grated fresh ginger in a medium bowl.
  4. Whisk in pumpkin.
  5. Fold into dry ingredients until just combined.
  6. Pour into prepared pan.
  7. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until gingerbread starts to pull away from pan sides and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  8. Remove from oven and cool on rack (may also be served warm).
  9. Garnish with sliced crystallized ginger if desired.

Nutritional information per serving: est. less than 300 cal.; 5 g protein; 49 g carbs; 16 fat (1.6 g sat. fat); 53 mg cholesterol; est. less than 250 mg sodium. 

Adapted from Prevention Magazine; found on by Nancy Emerson Lombardo, Ph.D. following Memory Preservation Nutrition®. Selected by Cheryl K. Franchi, MS, MBA, RDN, CSG, LD/N, FADA, FAND


Nancy’s Cranberry Fruit Nut Holiday Sauce
YIELD: 25 Servings (2 Quarts)


  • IMG_01911¼ lb fresh raw cranberries (rinse & remove any soft or rotten berries)
  • 1 cup pear, any variety (ripe, leave skin on, diced; may substitute ripe grapes or plums)
  • 1½ cups apple, ripe, skin on, diced (remove any bruised or spoiled areas – soft or wizened is fine)
  • 1½ cups fresh pecans or walnuts, shelled
  • 1 medium chopped orange – grate zest from orange, then peel and chop up the orange itself

LIQUIDS: You will need a total of about 2 cups of any combination – may substitute other sweet fruit juices available for those listed below.

  • ¾ cup apple cider or juice
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice mixture, ground
  • 2 packets Truvia® or Sweet Leaf®


  1. Wash, clean, dice or chop all fruit and nut ingredients (except orange) per above.
  2. Grate orange peel for zest, then peel and chop orange sections.
  3. Combine fruits, chopped nuts and zest into large 4 qt. cooking pot.
  4. Pour in 2 cups of liquid (mixture of fruit juices and water). Stir.
  5. Add cinnamon and pumpkin pie spices.
  6. Add Truvia® or Sweet Leaf® if using a sweetener. Stir.
  7. Place pot on the cook-top, on relatively high heat.
  8. Stir the mixture until it comes to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring as the cranberries “pop” and split.
  9. Remove from stove and allow to cool to room temperature.
  10. Store in refrigerator until ready to be served.

NOTE: Any leftovers can be stored in refrigerator, usually keeps 1 month or longer. Or, you can heat to boiling and use sterile canning processes to put into cup or pint-sized sterilized glass jars for future holiday meals (or holiday gifts!)

An original recipe by Nancy Emerson Lombardo PhD following principles of Memory Preservation Nutrition®


These are 5 of the many recipes available in Brain Healthy Foods for the Holidays, available for purchase on  

About the Author

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Nancy Emerson Lombardo, PhD has worked for over 30 years in services for older adults. She is a co-founder of the national Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Disease International.As President of the Brain Health and Wellness Center®, she developed brain healthy lifestyle interventions, most notably the Memory Preservation Nutrition® program. She offers both consultations to individuals and organizations and presentations to lay and professional audiences.Dr. Emerson Lombardo is Adjunct Research Assistant Professor of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine and BU Alzheimer’s Disease Center and recipient of an Alzheimer's Association grant to study a combination of nutritional supplements. With a Masters degree from Columbia University Teachers College, much of CC Donelan's career was as an educator specializing in the field of learning disabilities. This proved to be excellent experience for transitioning to work to improve lives of adults with cognitive impairments, and to promote brain health. CC held positions at Tufts University, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and various schools.CC joined the Brain Health and Wellness Center® (BHWC) in 2010. As Director of Education, she is responsible for BHWC’s educational and selected project initiatives both in Massachusetts and out of state, serving the aging services continuum. Given the high interest with the MPN™program, she works with professional and at home chefs-just like you in your home.She is a celebrated speaker and delivers presentations on brain healthy lifestyles to both professional and lay audiences across the US.

Read more from Nancy Emerson Lombardo and CC Donelan

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