4 ways to use leftover herbs

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four ways to use leftover herbs

Photo by Lindsey Johnson

Do you ever buy a bunch of herbs for a recipe that only calls for a small amount? Hate wasting food? Me too! The good news is that there are lots of ways to use leftover herbs that will either extend their life or give them a new one. I’m on Oh My Veggies talking about four of my favourite ways to use leftover herbs. Head over to Oh My Veggies for some inspiration, tips, and recipes, and be sure to let me know about your favourite thing to do with leftover herbs!

But wait! Don’t forget you have until Sunday July 6th to enter my giveaway for a bottle of six-month vanilla extract.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

coconut bacon – the real maple kind

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maple coconut bacon // the muffin myth

Happy Canada Day to all of my fellow Canadians all around the world!

I thought we should have something Canadian today, and what’s more Canadian than bacon? Maple bacon! You know, the real maple kind…

 

So, coconut bacon. Does it taste like bacon bacon? To be honest, I have no idea. I haven’t had the real thing in over 2 decades, so bacon bacon is a foggy memory at best. But I can assure you that coconut bacon is good. Really, really good.

I used to be really into fake meat products and there was a soy Canadian bacon that I was particularly fond of. When I started my first degree in nutrition I realized how processed those fake meat products really are and have more or less eschewed them ever since. I do still indulge in them from time to time (hello, veggie pizza pepperoni), but only as an occasional treat.

maple coconut bacon // the muffin myth

maple coconut bacon // the muffin myth

A friend asked me the other day how I define real food, and after some consideration my answer is that real food is either a whole food or food that is or that can be made by human hands. I could make my own tofu, I could make my own seitan, but making my own soy bacon would be tricky. Coconut bacon, then, is a game changer.

Since coconut is naturally fatty it crisps up nicely in the oven. The smoky flavour comes from a mix of liquid smoke and smoked paprika, which balances the saltiness of liquid aminos (or soy sauce) and the sweetness of good quality maple syrup.

maple coconut bacon // the muffin myth

Best of all, making your own coconut bacon is so dang easy. It’s a matter of mixing just five ingredients together, and then baking those ingredients in the oven. Be warned that coconut bacon is a bit of an attention seeker, so you’ll need to be available to stir the tray every five minutes and to watch it very carefully towards the end. Your efforts will be worth it though, as you’ll end up with a big old tray of salty, smoky bacon. The real maple kind, eh?

I’ll be back later this week for a recipe that uses some of this coconut bacon. Yum!

But wait! Don’t forget you have until Sunday July 6th to enter my giveaway for a bottle of six-month vanilla extract.

maple coconut bacon // the muffin myth

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Coconut Maple Bacon Recipe:

There are a lot of coconut bacon recipes floating around and they all look very good. It’s important to note that not all liquid smoke is created equal, so you may want more or less depending on how smokey it is. Mine was made from hickory smoke and a tablespoon was sufficient for a nice and smoky flavour. You can also dial back the maple syrup if you’d prefer your coconut bacon a little less mapley.

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3 cups large coconut flakes
2 Tbsp liquid aminos (I use Bragg’s) or soy sauce
1 – 1.5 Tbsp good quality maple syrup
1 Tbsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
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Start by preheating your oven to 325°F / 160°C. Line one large or two standard baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the liquid aminos, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and smoked paprika. Place the coconut flakes into a large bowl and drizzle the liquid mixture over the top. Stir for about one minute to ensure the coconut is well coated and the liquid is evenly distributed.

Spread the coconut onto the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Stir the coconut and redistribute on the tray (you can lift the edges of the parchment to tip all of the coconut towards the centre, then stir, then smooth back out). Repeat two more times, so you’re stirring at the 10 and 15 minute marks. At this point you’ll want to start checking the coconut every 1-2 minutes as it can go from browned to burnt very quickly. The coconut should be dark brown in colour but not burnt. Remove it from the oven and let the coconut bacon cool on the tray. It will become crispy as it cools.

Store in an airtight container, and use to add bacony deliciousness to all kinds of dishes. Coconut bacon not kept in an airtight container will become soft and will need to be carefully re-crisped in the oven.

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So what’s the deal with liquid smoke? Chips or sawdust from hardwoods such as hickory or mesquite are burned at high temperatures, and particles of the smoke are collected in condensers. The resulting liquid is concentrated down for a stronger smoky flavour. Not all liquid smoke is created equal, so read your labels! It shouldn’t contain anything other than natural smoke and water, so be wary of those that add additional flavour, colour, or other ingredients.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

smoothies vs. juice: the ultimate showdown

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smoothies vs juice: the ultimate showdown // the muffin myth

Smoothies and juice are both in vogue right now, but have you ever wondered which one is better? The truth is that there are benefits and drawbacks to each, and which one is best for you depends on you! 

I’m over on Oh My Veggies with a nutrition face off between the two super sippers. You’ll find a thorough breakdown of the pros and cons of each, and some good nutrition information too. Head on over to Oh My Veggies to find out everything you’ve ever wanted – and more – about smoothies and juice.

But wait! Don’t forget you have until Sunday July 6th to enter my giveaway for a bottle of six-month vanilla extract.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

chocolate and olive oil zucchini cupcakes with salted honey mascarpone + giveaway

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chocolate and olive oil zucchini cupcakes with salted honey mascarpone // the muffin myth

Today is a big day on The Muffin Myth! Exactly four years ago today I hit publish on my first post with absolutely no idea what would happen next. And what a four years it has been! There have been ups and downs. Celebrations and frustrations. New jobs, and new friends. Broken ankles and broken dishes. I’ve moved to a new country and learned a new language. And I’ve finished *two* degrees in nutrition.

This also happens to be my 300th post. Seems like we should celebrate, no?

chocolate and olive oil zucchini cupcakes with salted honey mascarpone // the muffin mythchocolate and olive oil zucchini cupcakes with salted honey mascarpone // the muffin myth

I’ve you haven’t tried chocolate zucchini cupcakes before, it’s time to get into it. It’s not just about sneaking vegetables into a dessert; the zucchini adds a ton of moisture. You don’t taste it, in fact, it practically melts away. I used olive oil in these cupcakes because I like the way the grassy flavour pairs with chocolate, and I thought it would be a nice complement to the zucchini. There’s also tangy buttermilk, whole wheat pastry flour, and the whole mess is studded with dark chocolate chunks.

chocolate and olive oil zucchini cupcakes with salted honey mascarpone // the muffin myth

I wanted to top the cupcakes with with something that wouldn’t add a lot of extra sugar to the recipe but that was still delicious and a bit luxurious. Mascarpone with a little bit of honey and sea salt swirled in did the trick, and by did the trick I mean you need salted honey mascarpone in your life right now.

chocolate and olive oil zucchini cupcakes with salted honey mascarpone // the muffin myth

Of course, cupcakes are only as good as the ingredients you use to make them, so when you’re celebrating I think it’s important to use really good stuff. Your vanilla extract for example, should be the best you can find.

Remember back when I made us homemade vanilla extract? That batch was infused for two months, and the people who I gave it to told me it was the best and most vanilla-ey vanilla extract that they ever did see. Well, unbeknownst to you, I started us another batch, and friends, this stuff has been infusing for Six Whole Months.

homemade vanilla extract // the muffin myth

To celebrate four years of real food and good friends, I’d like to send one of you a bottle of this six-month vanilla extract. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. You can gain additional entries by following The Muffin Myth on Instagram, and liking The Muffin Myth’s Facebook page. Leave separate comments letting me know you’ve done that! I’ll randomly choose a winner next Sunday July 6th.

chocolate and olive oil zucchini cupcakes with salted honey mascarpone // the muffin myth

Here’s to four years of blogging, good food, and good friends. Thanks for being along for the ride, it just wouldn’t be the same without you.

chocolate and olive oil zucchini cupcakes with salted honey mascarpone // the muffin myth

One year ago: Roasted Strawberries + Yoghurt Cake
Two years ago: 
Chocolate Yoghurt Bundt Cake
Three years ago: Strawberry Birthday Cupcakes
Four years ago: The Muffin That Started It All

Chocolate And Olive Oil Zucchini Cupcakes Recipe:

As is so often the case with cake, I think that these are better on the second day. You can bake them in advance and keep them stored in an air tight container until the next day. Whether you eat these on the day you make them (still delicious) or the next day (even better!) top with mascarpone at the very last minute.

Makes 12 cupcakes

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1 cup light brown muscovado sugar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 packed cups grated zucchini
2 cups whole wheat pastry or all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
100g dark chocolate, chopped

250g mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp sea salt

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Preheat your oven to 350ºF / 180ºC. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.

In a large bowl mix together brown sugar, olive oil, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk. Stir in grated zucchini, and set aside.

In a smaller bowl sift together flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add the dry mix to the wet, and stir to just combine. Fold in the chocolate chunks, and spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared cupcake liners.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, rotating the tin once about half way through. A toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake should come out with only a few crumbs attached.

Let the cupcakes cool in the tins for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While they are cooling, prepare the mascarpone. In a small bowl mix mascarpone, honey, and salt together until well combined. Using a spatula, spread a small amount of the mascarpone onto each cupcake. Serve immediately.

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You’re eating cake my friends! Glorious chocolately delicious cake, with an indulgent smear of mascarpone cheese on top. Yum! Enjoy every bite, and then maybe a salad?

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

what’s good around the web + weekly meal plan

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meal plan June 30 - July 4 // the muffin mythWait, what’s this? What’s Good Around The Web on a Friday?! Yup! Just trying to keep you on your toes! I’ve got something special planned for Sunday this week so I thought I’d post this today instead. And it has me thinking – is Friday a better day for this post in general, given that you may want to spend the weekend with some meal plan inspiration? Let me know!

Next week is totally normal week! No meals out, no celebratory lunches, no travel, no holidays. Except for just one thing… it’s Canada Day on Tuesday and I’m making poutine for myself and a Canadian colleague! I haven’t quite figured out the logistics, but I’m thinking I’ll make the vegetarian gravy and probably some oven fries the night before and then heat / assemble the poutine at the office. Not the healthiest lunch, but it’s patriotic, right? I’ll probably throw a salad alongside just to keep things balanced. I’m keeping the end of the week on the light side as I’ve got a hen party on the weekend which is sure to be indulgent. The chickpea salad I’ve got planned for Mon and Wed is a riff on this sandwich filling, bulked up with lots of veg and eaten with crackers or lettuce leaves. Yum!

On to the links!

MM_Web_Icon_FINAL1. Do you know the difference between an allergy and an intolerance?

2. Dr. Oz gets a talking to from senate. And a well deserved one, IMO.

3. The food industry’s solution to obesity (parasites, killing their host)

4. Using drones to expose food industry abuse? Sounds good to me!

5. How food companies trick you into thinking you’re buying something healthy. And here’s Coca Cola using exactly some of those moves.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

black bean and quinoa freezer burritos

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black bean and quinoa freezer burritos // the muffin myth

Hi, my name is Katie and I’m a lunch packer.

If you’ve been hanging around here for any length of time you’ve probably already figured this out. I plan meals. I pack meals. I prep in advance. One might even say I’m a bit compulsive about it, but I don’t care. I like having all of my ducks in a row, and I dislike having to think about what to eat. I also dislike feeling frenzied in the morning before work, so I really like when everything is done in advance.

black bean and quinoa freezer burritos // the muffin myth

Please know that this is essentially the only aspect of my life in which I’m this organized. In every other way I’m pretty much a complete disaster. I’m chronically late, my hair is a mess because I attempt to cut the back myself between appointments, I don’t know much about makeup or shoes, and although I exercise often it is somewhat begrudgingly. We’re all just people, right?

Anyways, I’m a lunch packer. So I’m sure you can imagine that when I go traveling and I’m not home during my normal lunch packing /organizing time AND our return flight gets us home in the wee hours of Monday morning when I’ve got to be at the office by 9, I’ve got a problem. What the heck am I going to do about lunch?

black bean and quinoa freezer burritos // the muffin myth

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like you to meet my BFF, my main squeeze, and the apple of my manic meal-planning eye, THE FREEZER!

I can’t tell you how many times individual portions of healthy meals stashed in the freezer has saved my butt. Remember last summer when I came back from my vacation with a broken ankle? That sucked. But luckily I had made a batch of freezer burritos before I went away, so I had lunches sorted for the first week I was back at work.

Those times I was working bonkers long hours AND getting up in the wee hours of the morning to work on my thesis? Coming back from Istanbul in the wee hours of Monday morning? Thank you freezer! And thank you ME for having the foresight to make freezer burritos in the first place.

black bean and quinoa freezer burritos // the muffin myth

Who doesn’t need a handy batch of burritos in their freezer? No one, that’s who! These black bean and quinoa burritos whip up pretty quickly, and they freeze and reheat like a charm.

Why quinoa? Well, the rice that is so often the filler turns burritos into a carb on carb situation (read the nutrition info on your tortillas, they’re often equivalent to 2 or 3 slices of bread) so I’ve replaced it with the protein-rich super-seed. Black beans, corn, and a whole mess of veggies round the situation out into a tasty and nutritious meal.

black bean and quinoa freezer burritos // the muffin myth

I used a bit of jalapeño cheese in my burritos because hello, cheese + burrito = delicious, but it’s totally not necessary and can easily be left out for a 100% vegan burrito. Also, you totally don’t have to freeze these. You could whip them up and have a big old burrito bonanza on the spot if you’d prefer. But if you *do* want to freeze them I fully encourage individually wrapping  those cute little burrito butts in foil or parchment and tossing them in the freezer for another day.

To enjoy your freezer burrito you can a) bake it in the oven from frozen, b) microwave it (take off the foil first!) or c) let it defrost and enjoy at room temp. It’s the easiest packed lunch ever because you’ve done the work way in advance. I promise you, you won’t regret it one bit.

black bean and quinoa freezer burritos // the muffin myth

Two years ago: Goat Cheese, Arugula, and Honey Baguette 

Black Bean and Quinoa Freezer Burritos Recipe:

There is a good amount of chopping to make these burritos, but if you do it all at once the filling comes together quickly. I use a garlic crusher basically 100% of the time when a recipe calls for minced garlic (it’s waaaaaay faster than mincing), and I totally encourage you to do the same. To make it vegan: leave out the cheese. To make it gluten-free: use gluten-free tortillas.

Makes 6 large burritos

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2 Tbsp canola or grape seed oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 – 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely minced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen, or canned are all fine)
1 large tomato, dice
1 cup cooked quinoa (from about 1/2 cup uncooked
3 cups cooked black beans (2 cans)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 a bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 cup shredded jalapeño cheese (optional)
6 large whole wheat tortillas

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Start by getting all of your chopping out of the way, it’ll help everything come together faster once you start cooking. Chop the onion, crush the garlic, mince the jalapeño, dice the zucchini and red pepper, and set everything into little bowls or on plates. Now you’re ready to go!

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and beginning to take on a bit of colour. Add the garlic and jalapeños and sauté for about 2 minutes more.

Now add the zucchini and red pepper and sauté for 8-10 minutes. The vegetables should be softened but not mushy, and just starting to brown. At this point add the corn, and tomato and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is well heated. Add the quinoa, black beans, cumin, smoked paprika, chile, and salt. Stir to combine well. Taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary. Stir in the cilantro, and remove from the heat.

Now you’re ready to roll! Divide the burrito filling between the six tortillas (or more if you want smaller burritos), sprinkle with cheese if desired, and roll! This is my burrito rolling technique. If you’re freezing the burritos, wrap individually in foil or parchment paper, and place in a single layer in the freezer. You can totally stack ‘em, the worst case is that they may be a bit misshapen, but I assure you your stomach will never know.

To enjoy your freezer burrito you can plan ahead and pull one out of the freezer the night before, or just grab one straight from the freezer in the morning. I let mine thaw beside me on my desk, then heat it up in the office microwave at lunch time. Enjoy!

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Black beans are a good source of folate, dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium and vitamin K. The protein-plus-fiber combination in black beans is one of the things that makes them special. A one cup serving contains 15g of fiber (over half of the daily recommended intake), and 15g of protein. Much of the fiber is indigestible, which supports digestive health, particularly in the lower part of our digestive tract. The protein-fiber combination is also key in stabilizing blood sugar levels, as both protein and fiber move through our digestive systems at a moderate pace. Black beans are also rich in soluble fiber, which is helpful for lowering blood cholesterol levels and supporting cardiovascular health. You know what they say, beans beans good for the heart… but if the second part of that rhyme concerns you, be sure to discard the soaking water when cooking dried beans. You’ll be tossing out a good amount of flatulence causing compounds, as well as some of the phytates and tannins that lower nutrient availability.

Quinoa not only has a very high protein content (about 18%), but this super seed also contains a complete set of essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It’s a great source of dietary fiber, phosphorous, and is high in magnesium and iron.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

strawberry coconut super smoothie

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strawberry coconut super smoothie // the muffin myth

The little university pool that I normally swim in on my lunch hour closed for the season about a month ago, so I’ve had to switch to morning swimming before work at a much bigger facility closer to home. Although this change in routine has its inconveniences (I’m totally not a morning person) I’m really enjoying swimming in the glorious 50 meter outdoor pool, my back becoming crisscrossed with bathing suit tan lines (which makes me happy – is that weird?) for the first time since I stopped working in aquatics five years ago.

strawberry coconut super smoothie // the muffin myth

This has also changed up my eating routine a fair bit. Previously I’d have a feathery light green smoothie early on, a snack later in the morning to fuel me through my swim, and then lunch at my desk when I got back to the office at around 2pm.

Now I need to have something a bit more substantial in my system before I hit the water, but not something that will weigh me down. Smoothies are a great pre-workout meal. Because the food has been broken down in a blender it’s easy to digest and clears the stomach about 4 times faster than a solid meal, which means I’m not tossing my cookies with my tumble turns.

strawberry coconut super smoothie // the muffin myth

A smoothie is a blank canvas – their composition can shift with our energy requirements. These days, I’m looking for something that’ll stick to my ribs just the right amount. This strawberry coconut super smoothie is a marriage of two of my favourite breakfasts – smoothies and overnight oats. The oats bring a good amount of energy to the table, adding fiber and bulk and making this smoothie into a proper meal. We’ve got magnesium coming from nut-milk, potassium from banana, healthy fats from coconut milk, protein from hemp seeds, and antioxidants from strawberries. Soaking the oats overnight means they are easy to digest and this smoothie becomes the perfect pre-swim meal… and post swim meal too. I tend to drink about a third before hand and guzzle the rest as a breakfast / recovery drink after.

In the autumn I’ll go back to swimming on my lunch hour and my needs will shift again, but for now I’m enjoying morning swims, bathing suit tan lines, and substantial meal-replacing smoothies.

strawberry coconut super smoothie // the muffin myth

One year ago: Okonomiyaki Japanese Cabbage Pancake

Strawberry Coconut Super Smoothie Recipe:

If you don’t have the time (or the foresight) to soak the oats the night before, you can grind the oats into a fine powder before blending them into the smoothie. Use gluten free oats if necessary for a totally gluten free smoothie. This recipe calls for lite coconut milk, but feel free to use full fat for a more decadent smoothie.

Makes 1 large smoothie

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1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup lite coconut milk
1 banana, preferably frozen
4-6 strawberries, fresh or frozen (about 1/2 cup chopped)
1 Tbsp hemp seeds
1/4 – 1/2 cup water

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Place oats, almond milk, and coconut milk in a jar with a lid and give it a stir or a shake to mix up. Place in the fridge overnight or at least for a couple of hours.

When you’re ready to make the smoothie place the soaked oats into the jar of a blender along with the frozen banana, strawberries, and hemp seeds. Add 1/4 cup of cold water, place the lid on the blender, and blend. You may need to add up to another 1/4 cup of water if the smoothie is very thick. Blend until smooth, and enjoy!

I like drink about a third of this smoothie immediately and pour the rest back into the 500ml jar the oats were soaking in and save that portion for after my workout.

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Oats are rich in indigestible carbohydrates called beta-glutens which help to lower blood cholesterol levels. Oats are also host to a number of phenolic compounds which have antioxidant properties, are helpful in stabilizing blood sugar, and are a good source of dietary fiber and protein.

Bananas are a great source of concentrated energy and potassium. They are also a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

what’s good around the web + weekly meal plan

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meal plan june 23 - 27 // the muffin myth

The wonky meal plans continue! I’ve got a really light day planned for Monday since we get back from Turkey laaaate Sunday night. I usually feel like I need a mini-cleanse after a weekend away, and I’m sure this will be no exception. I planned ahead and made a batch of my favourite freezer burritos before we went away (want the recipe?) so I can grab those for easy lunches this week. And the last two chipotle black bean burger patties in my freezer will be doing their thing in burger salads this week. Yum! I’ve also got a celebratory dinner out and the office summer shindig this coming week, so I’ve planned my breakfasts and lunches to be a little lighter on those days. On to the links!

MM_Web_Icon_FINAL1. Being happy with sugar. Long article, but worth reading to the very end.

2. Food for thought: saturated fat intake may influence expression of genetic obesity risk. 

3. Why diet and exercise are not the key to health. 

4. I’m not normally an emotional eater, but during the last week of writing my thesis I totally ate (and drank) my feelings. This is interesting: Emotional eating goes two ways. 

5. Great interview with Michael Pollan on cooking and eating.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

almond-pulp muffins with cherries and chia

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almond pulp cherry chia muffins // the muffin myth

Remember when we made our own almond milk? Mmmmm, home made almond milk is sooooo good! That pulp though! What do we do with the leftover pulp?! I hate wasting food, so I was determined to come up with a recipe that not only used the almond pulp, but used the whole batch. 1 batch of almond milk = 1 batch of leftover pulp = 1 batch of something delicious. Are you with me?

almond pulp cherry chia muffins // the muffin myth

The texture of freshly squeezed almond pulp is not all that unlike the texture of ricotta, so I looked to my whole wheat ricotta muffins for inspiration. Like that muffin, this one uses whole wheat pastry flour, is naturally sweetened , and is simultaneously delicate and substantial. Chia seeds add a bit of crunch, and the pairing of sweet almonds with in-season cherries is pretty much perfect.

almond pulp cherry chia muffins // the muffin myth

It may seem like a lot of almond pulp – one packed cup of pulp goes into these muffins, which came from one cup of almonds we used to make the almond milk – but consider how often you’ve added a cup of chopped nuts to a muffin recipe. I add a cup of chopped walnuts to my no sugar banana bran muffins every time I make them! Regardless, these muffins fall into the weekend / occasional category in my books, as do most muffins.

The big question is, what if I don’t have almond pulp? Can I use almond flour or ground almonds instead? Maybe, but I haven’t tested this. Almond pulp will definitely be wetter than ground almonds, so you may have to add a bit of moisture to the recipe. I can’t say for sure if that would work out or not because I haven’t tested it, but if anyone does, please write in and let us know how it goes!

Note! Paul and I are in Istanbul for the weekend, so I may not be able to respond to questions and comments as quickly as normal. I promise I’ll get back to you ask quickly as I can! If you’d like you can follow our trip on Instagram.

almond milk muffins with cherries and chia // the muffin myth

Two years ago: Strained Yoghurt, Naturally Sweetened
Three years ago: Vij’s Spicy Cauliflower Steak

Almond Pulp Muffins with Cherries and Chia Recipe:

This recipe makes 12 standard-sized muffins. You can easily cut in in half, but do know that leftover muffins freeze well, so you can set them aside for future weekends if you’d like.

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1 cup pitted and halved cherries (about 20 cherries)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup (packed) almond pulp leftover from one batch of almond milk
2 eggs
a scant 1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain yoghurt
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup slivered almonds

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Preheat your oven to 180ºC / 350ºF. Line 12 standard muffin cups with muffin liners or squares of parchment paper.

Start by pitting the cherries. This can be messy business so keep a cleanup towel handy and don’t wear white! There are many cherry pitting methods (maybe you even have a cherry pitter?) but what I usually do is slice them around the middle with a sharp knife, twist to separate the two halves, and pick the pit out with my fingers. Place the cherry halves in a measuring cup and stop when you get to one heaping cup.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together melted butter, almond pulp, eggs, honey, vanilla, yoghurt, and chia seeds. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the dry mixture into the wet, careful to not over mix – it should still be a touch lumpy. Fold the cherry halves into the batter, and spoon into the prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops with slivered almonds.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until muffins are puffed and golden and toothpick inserted towards the center comes out clean. Let cool in the muffin tins for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

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Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats – this is a healthy fat when consumed in moderation, the same type as is found in olive oil. Almonds are also a good source of manganese, vitamin E (which has antioxidant properties) and magnesium.

Cherries are rich in antioxidants: anthocyanidins (which give them their intense colour) which help improve antioxidant defences, and quercetin, which may help regulate blood pressure. Cherries are a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

your nutrition questions – is popcorn healthy?

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is popcorn healthy // the muffin myth

From time to time a reader emails me with a nutrition question, and up until now I’ve been answering most of them by email. I thought that I’d start answering some of these nutrition questions on the blog as y’all might be interested in the answer!

Is popcorn healthy? Well, yes. And no. Let’s break it down.

Popcorn is one of six types of corn cultivated around the world today. It’s scientific name is zea mays everta, and it is the only type of corn that will pop when heated. The ability to pop stems from the moisture content inside the kernel, which for popcorn is around 14%.

Popcorn is an intact whole grain, which means that the bran, the germ, and the endosperm are all intact within the kernel. Popcorn is high in fiber, particularly insoluble, which is kind of like a cleanup crew for your digestive tract. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, B3, and manganese.

In it’s purest form, air-popped popcorn is a healthy whole grain snack which per 1 cup has about 31 calories, 1 gram of protein, 6 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram of fiber, and only trace amounts of fat.

The nutritional value of oil-popped popcorn varies depending on the type and quantity of oil used to pop the corn. Oils that have high smoke-points are preferred as they won’t break down or oxidize as readily during the popping as would oils with a low smoke-point. Canola or coconut oil are good choices. Olive oil has a low smoke-point and breaks down easily when heated so it is a poorer choice nutritionally. (Real talk: I pop my corn with olive oil all the dang time. I just like the flavour.)

A tablespoon of vegetable oil has about 115 calories and 15 grams of fat, so if you’re popping half a cup of popcorn kernels (which, according to popcorn.org, becomes about 16 cups of popped corn, although personal experience tells me it’s about half that) in 2 tablespoons of oil it works out to about 40 calories and 1 gram of fat per cup of popped corn.

But we still haven’t put anything on it! I like my popcorn with melted butter, nutritional yeast, and Old Bay seasoning on it. Yum! Say we melted ¼ cup of butter to drizzle on that 16 cups of popcorn. We’re adding about 400 calories and 45g of fat in all, so our popcorn is now 65 calories and 4 grams of fat per cup. That still doesn’t sound so bad, but I know that I can take down half of that batch of popcorn no problem, which means my snack has just added up to over 500 calories and 64 grams of fat. And we haven’t talked about sodium yet. It adds up quickly!

To be honest, I don’t really worry about this because in my house we usually only enjoy delicious buttery popcorn as a treat on the weekends. Plus, with the fiber and nutrients popcorn is bringing to the table, that buttery bowl of corn is still a better choice than opening up a bag of chips. Air-popped popcorn would make a great every day snack, as would oil-popped if you kept it bare naked. The buttery stuff should be a moderation situation.

But what about microwave popcorn? Wellll, this is where things start to fall apart. There are two main problems here: the bag, and the contents.

The bag that almost all microwave popcorn brands use is lined with perflurooctanoic acid (say that five times fast). This is the same toxin found in teflon non-stick pans. PFOA can stay in the environment and the human body for long periods of time. When heated, this chemical has been linked to infertility, cancer, and other diseases.

What’s in the bag isn’t much better. It changes from brand to brand, but a quick skim of ingredients lists from some of the major brands reveals a slew of added oil included hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats) salt, artificial flavour and colour, and preservatives.

Have you heard of popcorn lung? That artificial butter flavour is so toxic it has been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare, life-threatening, and irreversible obstructive lung disease. This was previously thought to only affect factory workers who were inhaling air-born diacetyl in that buttery flavour, but in 2007 a heavy consumer of microwave popcorn (2 bags a day) became the first public consumer to be diagnosed with popcorn lung.

This certainly isn’t to say that the occasional bag of microwave popcorn is going to kill you, but keep it as an infrequent treat and don’t inhale when you open the bag!

Does organic matter? Again, yes and no. If you’re worried about GMOs then there’s good news! According to GMO expert Jeffrey Smith (executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology), although almost 90% of the corn grown and eaten in the US is GMO corn, popcorn comes from a different seed and has not been genetically modified. Yet.

Buttt, if you want to ensure that your popcorn is free from pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, and other chemical residues, then organic is your best bet. The good news is that organic popcorn still works out to mere pennies when you pop it at home.

The bottom line? Popcorn is a healthy whole grain and can be a totally nutritious snack. How you pop it and how you top it will of course influence the overall nutritional value. Air-popped is the best choice but oil popped isn’t far behind. Be conservative with the butter or oil toppings, and avoid frequent consumption of microwave popcorn.

This is how I pop my corn.

Note! Paul and I are in Istanbul for the weekend, so I may not be able to respond to questions and comments as quickly as normal. I promise I’ll get back to you ask quickly as I can! If you’d like you can follow our trip on Instagram.

Resources:
popcorn.org
Why microwave popcorn is an absolute health nightmare
World’s healthiest foods – popcorn

 

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

 

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