what’s good around the web + weekly meal plan

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meal plan June 16-20 // the muffin  myth

Happy Father’s day to all the poppas out there!!! I hope you’re having fabulous days and are on the receiving end of some well deserved pampering.

This is another kind of funky week for the meal plan. It’s a short work week (only 3.5 days) and my thesis supervisor is taking me out for a celebratory lunch on Wednesday so I only need to pack 2 lunches. I’ve got an excessive amount of carrots in the fridge so I’m going to make this carrot and quinoa salad and pack it along side some hummus for protein. On Thursday we’re off to Istanbul for a long weekend!!! The airline we’re flying with doesn’t provide lunch (and who wants airplane food anyways?) so I’m going to make some travel wraps with leftover carrot salad and hummus. Yum! The rest of the week and the weekend will be all Turkish all the time! Woot!!!

MM_Web_Icon_FINAL1. What’s healthier, almond milk or soy milk? This infographic is a good comparison. (Pssst – have you tried making your own almond milk yet?)

2. What causes weight gain? This is a great great great piece by Mark Bittman. It’s like he’s speaking words out of my own mouth.

3. This is awesome! Food that magically regrows its self.

4. 12 surprising foods with more sugar than a Krispy Kreme donut.

5. Healthy diet? Why plants outgrow all other trends. Eat plants, yo!

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

how to make your own almond milk

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how to make almond milk // the muffin mythWhen I first moved to Sweden I had a list of foodstuffs I needed to source out in order to ensure my happiness. Among other things, tofu, nutritional yeast, and soy milk were must haves. I’ve always been a soy milk girl when it comes to non-dairy milks, though I know that these days it isn’t particularly in vogue and people are slurping back almond milk like nobody’s business. I still treat myself to soy milk from time to time, but I don’t often buy it. My gripes with most store-bought nut milks are threefold. First, I find the protein : fat ratio is usually not what I’m looking for, second, there is usually a lot of added sugar, and third, most are loaded with all kinds of thickeners, stabilizers, and preservatives.

how to make your own almond milk // the muffin myth

I’ve come around to almond milk lately, especially when it’s home made. Soak, blend, strain, and boom! You’ve milked those almonds like a boss! The best part is how much better the almond milk is than the store bought stuff. Unless you water it down, home made almond milk is much creamier – in a good way – and it has a natural sweetness to it that the commercial version can’t rival. No preservatives, no thickeners, no added junk. It’s amazing!

how to make almond milk // the muffin myth

You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to make your own almond milk; just a blender, and something to strain the almond pulp with. If you have a nut-milk bag a) you’re my hero, and b) you already know what you’re doing so pay no attention to this. My straining set-up is pretty basic: I put a mesh strainer in a large glass bowl, and line the strainer with an old triangular bandage leftover from my days as a first aid instructor (I also use it for making ricotta and paneer). Cheese cloth probably isn’t fine enough to strain out the almond meal, so if you’re thinking of using that, I’d double it up.

how to make your own almond milk // the muffin mythhow to make your own almond milk // the muffin myth

Bonus! You get leftover almond pulp! There are all kinds of things you can do with this stuff – I biffed mine into the freezer to save for baking, but you can also dry it out into almond meal, toss it in smoothies, or fertilize your garden. I’ve got an almond meal muffin coming at you asap, so hang onto it!

how to make your own almond milk // the muffin myth

Want it on the sweet side? Try tossing a couple of dates into the blender with the soaked almonds. A touch of honey or maple syrup would also work nicely. You could also add vanilla extract (hey, we’ve made that too!) to round out the flavour a bit. I often make savoury cottage cheese muffins with lefotver almond meal, so I left mine unsweetened and unflavoured. However you like it, I hope you give this a go. It’s easy, nutritious, and delicious. Home made almond milk for the win!

But listen, I don’t always buy my own almond milk, and making your own almond milk doesn’t make you a better person. The quality is definitely better when you make it yourself, but life happens and we don’t always have the foresight to soak almonds overnight or the time or motivation to deal with straining nut milk and dealing with the leftover pulp. Give yourself a break, and save tasks like making your own nut milk for a weekend affair if it doesn’t fit into your life during the week – it sure as heck doesn’t fit into mine. If you’re buying commercial nut milks, try to find one without added sugars and with as few ingredients as possible. I’ve found a brand that works for me in a pinch (and my local grocery store has also started carrying unsweetened cashew milk, hello!) and I’m sure you can too.

how to make homemade almond milk // the muffin myth

One year ago: Hello!
Two years ago: Soba Noodle Salad with Spinach and Cucumber Gin Mojitos and Quinoa Crusted Mini Quiches
Three years ago: Springtime Fried Wild Rice

Homemade Almond Milk Recipe:

Homemade almond milk has a shorter shelf life than the store bought stuff. I’ve read that it will last anywhere from 3-7 days, but in my experience 7 is pushing it (I had to dump out a foul tasting almond milk matcha latte at the 7 day mark – boo!) so I’d err on the side of caution and use it up within 3-5 days. Blanched almonds are totally not necessary, I just happened to have some on hand. There is a lot of valuable nutrition in almond skins, so I would have preferred them with their skins on.

Makes 3-4 cups of almond milk

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1 cup whole almonds
3-4 cups cold water

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Place the almonds in a jar or glass bowl and cover with water. Place in the fridge to soak overnight, or for at least 8 hours.

When you’re ready to milk your almonds, drain and rinse well. Prepare your straining setup by setting a mesh strainer into a large jug or bowl, and then lining with a double layer of cheese cloth, or with a nut milk bag if you’re fancy like that. Place into the jar of a blender with 3-4 cups of cold water. How much water you use depends on how creamy you want your almond milk, and the capacity of your blender (you can always add more water to the milk after straining if your blender is small). I prefer 4 cups of water.

Blend on high speed for 2 minutes, then carefully pour the mixture into the prepared strainer. Wait a minute for the liquid to pass through, then get down to business squeezing as much liquid as you can from the almond meal. Pour the liquid into a clean glass jar and store in the fridge. Reserve the almond pulp for later. Now you’ve made your own almond milk. Yay!

MM_Know_Icon_FINALAlmonds 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. Note! When we strain the pulp out of the almond milk, we’re straining away a lot of valuable nutrition. The milk won’t contain any fiber, and not much in the way of protein. It still has a good amount of vitamin E and calcium, however. Whole nuts are the way to go if you’re looking for a source of nutrients, but almond milk is a good alternative to dairy for those who can’t tolerate it or those who just like to mix it up.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

 

now what?

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Now what // the muffin mythEarly on Sunday morning I woke up with a familiar lurch of anxiety. So much to do!!! Deadlines looming!!! And then slowly I realized that I had nothing to do. I wonder how long it will take for that to go away?

So now what?

(I think this is the question any recent graduate dreads the most)

When I started grad school I was in it for the long run. I wanted to go all the way, and so right from the start I was hustling, making contacts, and trying to arrange research opportunities and future fellowships. About half way through my thesis project, my supervisor offered me exactly the opportunity I had been looking for.

I turned it down.

I spent the last year living in a bubble that was all about artificial sweeteners. If anyone asked me a nutrition question outside of that world I felt overwhelmed. My knowledge and expertise became so narrow it was difficult to function outside of it. I’d get an email with a question about calcium and be like, “ummm, do you want to talk about artificial sweeteners?” or a question about a particular diet, “Does this diet include artificial sweeteners? Cause I know a ton about that”

I’m in the fortunate position to have a job I really like, so I didn’t finish this degree in a panic to find work. I consider myself to be very, very lucky in this respect. I also have a good idea of what I do want to do with my 9 years of nutrition education moving forward, and that makes me feel grounded.

For a long time my work as a writer and my life as a nutritionist felt like two totally different worlds, but I’ve realized they’re not. Now when people ask me what I do I tell them I’m a professional communicator with science-based expertise in food, nutrition, and health. I know it’s a mouthful, but there it is, that’s what I am. I want to spread the word, combining my background in writing and my nutrition knowledge in a meaningful way. I can speak science and I understand data, so I think a good part of this will revolve around translating nutrition research in to real-world language to help people make sense of a truly overwhelming subject.

I’d also like to do some nutrition consulting, so I’ve got work to do to figure out what that looks like, but this space will likely be the launching platform.

There are going to be some changes here at The Muffin Myth as well! Most importantly, I’ll be here a lot more often. All of the time I’ve been spending on my thesis I can now shift over here, which is where I would have preferred to be anyways! At times I seriously thought I should have written my thesis wearing an “I’d rather be blogging” t-shirt.

I’m also going to be moving The Muffin Myth to a new home later this month, and that will allow me more control over the blog.  I’ll finally be able to do things like add a widget that allows you to print just the recipe, a better search function, a recipe index, and so on. The move probably won’t affect you, but I’ll let you know just before it happens so if there are any necessary updates to RSS subscriptions you’ll know in advance. I’ve got a few more changes around the corner to do with how I filter content and categorize recipes, but I’ll save those for another time.

It’s going to be awesome going forwards, and I’m so glad you’re along for the ride!

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

what’s good around the web + weekly meal plan

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meal plan june 9-13 // the muffin myth

This week is all about eating down the freezer. I’ve been in London for the weekend visiting my sister and celebrating the end of my degree, so haven’t done my usual lunch packing to prepare for the week. I made some black bean and quinoa burrito filling before I left, which I plan to use for burrito bowls. There are still some veggie burger patties in the freezer for the burger salad, and the rest of the week is going to focus on veg veg veg. It’s been an indulgent weekend, to say the least. On to the links!

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1. Michelle Obama on attempts to roll back healthy reforms.

2. This article is depressing, but I don’t necessarily agree with it, and I firmly believe that prevention is the key moving forwards: Obesity research confirms long-term weight loss almost impossible. 

3. How to get your kids to like veggies? This study says start young and keep trying.

4. Study shows diet soda drinkers lose more weight? Consider the source. (ps – my research showed the opposite in a big way)

5. And here’s an interesting study on the efficacy of taxing sugary drinks.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

what’s good around the web + weekly meal plan

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meal plan june 2-6 // the muffin myth

This is a bit of a funny week for the meal plan. We’ve got a public holiday on Friday which means a 3.5 day work week. I’ve got a dinner out on Tuesday night (at a vegetarian Chinese restaurant, yum!), a post-defence (!!!) luncheon on Thursday, and I’m heading to London for the weekend on Friday. But most importantly, since the little pool near my office has closed for the season I’ve had to switch to swimming before work instead. So now instead of needing a breakfast that will fuel me all the way through a lunch time swim, I need a tiny bit of something in my stomach pre-swim and then something after that will take me through to lunch. I’m experimenting with adding beans or oats to my smoothies to make them more filling, and yes I’m aware how weird beans in smoothies sounds, but it’s actually pretty good. I’m working on a recipe to share.

In The Muffin Myth lunch box this week it’s this kale and quinoa salad, this bran muffin (aka branners), and I thought I’d try out this delish sounding variation on overnight oats. On to the links. Some good reads this week, enjoy!

MM_Web_Icon_FINAL1. Diet Lures and Diet Lies.

2. Michael Pollan on the benefits of home cooking.

3. Stressed? Try some dark chocolate. (I knew it!)

4. California wants to put warning labels on sugary drinks. (Cause warning labels have proven so effective on cigarettes, right?)

5. The FDA has just approved yet another artificial sweetener. Just what we don’t need.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

nouveau niçoise

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nouveau nicoise // the muffin myth

Every morning for the last 9 months my iPhone alarm clock has gone off before 6am with THESIS!!! in big bold letters across the screen. I tried out a few other variations, like GET UP AND WORK ON YOUR THESIS!!! or GET OUT OF BED YOU’VE GOT WORK TO DO!!! but THESIS!!! seemed simple and effective, so it stayed.

On Wednesday I submitted my thesis. On Thursday I woke up without an alarm and, after a cup of tea, went for a leisurely swim with my husband. And when Paul got out of the pool I decided to stay behind and swim a while longer, because the sun was shining, and because the 50m outdoor pool was gloriously quiet, and just because I could.

What a feeling.

nouveau nicoise // the muffin myth

It’s not quite over – I still have a defense to get through next week – but it almost is. Yesterday I met with some of my classmates for an informal ‘we’re almost there’ celebration after the thesis deadline had rolled by. It was mostly rosé and pretzels, cause we’re all pretty much running on empty right now, but a lovely time was had even if the offerings were sparse.

Had I been a little more organized I would have brought something like this Nouveau Niçoise salad. Hopefully this fish-free version won’t offend the good people of Nice too deeply – my sincerest apologies if it does. I know that two decades of vegetarianism has probably biased me in this direction, but I think that the Nouveau Niçoise is a fine offering. It’s substantial yet light, fresh, and a lovely way to enjoy the season’s new potatoes.

The beauty of this simple salad is that each of the components, from the steamed potatoes and green beans to the not-quite-hard-boiled eggs and the punchy vinaigrette, can be prepared ahead of time. If you had everything washed, steamed, chopped, and whisked in advance, you could walk in the door on a weeknight and have your Nouveau Niçoise assembled in a matter of minutes.

I’d even go as far as to say that if you wanted to pack this for lunch a few days in a row as opposed to a one-stop chop kind of deal, you could divide the prepared ingredients between a few containers, tucking an un-shelled egg and a tiny container of vinaigrette alongside each one. However you enjoy it, I hope that you do, and let me know how it goes.

nouveau nicoise // the muffin myth

One year ago: Nope.
Two years ago: Stewed Rhubarb with Vanilla Bean
Three years ago: Nothing!

Nouveau Niçoise Recipe:

If you’re serving a crowd, double the recipe and arrange this salad on a big platter that people can serve themselves from. As I mentioned in the body of this post, it also packs well for lunches.

Recipe adapted from River Cottage Veg. Serves 4.

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500g new potatoes
200g green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
4 large eggs, just shy of hard boiled
3 little gem lettuces, or about 4 cups of similar lettuce, washed and dried
1/2 cup mixed green and black olives (or whatever your favourite is)
12 large basil leaves, torn
salt and pepper

1 small clove garlic, crushed
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp water (optional)

Wash the potatoes and chop them into bite sized pieces of roughly the same size. Place them into a medium pot, cover with cold water, and a pinch of salt, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until the potatoes are just barely tender.

When the potatoes are just about done, toss the beans into the pot so they get a quick cook. Drain the potatoes and beans in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside to drain and cool.

While the potatoes are cooking you can hard boil your eggs. I like to use this technique. For this recipe I like the eggs just slightly under done, so I’d stop at the 8 minute mark rather than 10. Run the eggs under cold water to stop cooking, then peel and quarter them.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the crushed garlic, olive oil, cider vinegar, mustard, and sugar in a small jar and shake, shake, shake it up. If you find it to be on the thick side (I do) add 1-2 Tbsp of water to thin it out.

Arrange the lettuce, potatoes, beans, and eggs on a platter or on individual plates. Scatter some olives and torn basil leaves over the top. Drizzle the dressing over the top, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.

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Potato, poh-tah-toe! However you say it, potatoes are a great source of vitamin B6, which does all kinds of important things, like building new cells in your body. B6 is also needed for the creation of amines, like serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine that help to regulate mood, sleep, and stress, respectively. Diets rich in vitamin B6 are attributed to lower rates of heart disease. Also, B6 is vital for the breakdown of gylcogen – the form in which sugar is stored in our body – into usable energy.

Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorous, niacin, and dietary fiber. But! Most of the fiber content is in the skin of the potato, so leave the skin on for all of the important benefits of ingesting fiber. Good to know – potatoes are a member of the nightshade family (along with tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants), which some people have adverse reactions to. It’s also worth noting that potatoes are on the ‘dirty dozen’ list of foods to buy organic whenever possible.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

what’s good around the web + weekly meal plan

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bourbon arnold palmer // the muffin myth

This week’s meal plan is brought to you by the letter M for Meltdown, which is what I had this weekend. I finished a first draft of my thesis (a whole five days ahead of schedule! who am I?!) in between a lot of tears and irrational yelling, and fuelled by a lethal combination of bourbon and dark chocolate on the hottest weekend we’ve had so far. The beast has been sent off for feedback / proof reading and will be getting some fine tuning this week, but I’d say I’m in good shape for the Thursday deadline.

meal plan May 26 - 30 // the muffin myth

This is a bit of a funny week because THESIS but also because Thursday is a public holiday here. I’ve made a quick and easy broccoli fried rice for a few lunches this week using a technique very similar to this springtime fried rice. Yum. On Wednesday I’ve got a lunch meeting with the other copywriters at work – we get together once a month or so and talk things out – and it’s supposed to be sunny so we’re going to pick up salads and have lunch in a park. I’ve replicated my favourite salad from the place we’ll be going before. Last time I went there I gambled on trying something new, but I won’t be making that mistake this time! Paul is doing a marathon on Saturday, so our Friday dinner will be his usual pre-race carbo load. And yes, I’m still straight up obsessed with overnight oats.

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1. I’m sure you can imagine after having spent a year up to my eyeballs in research on sweeteners, I have a thing or two to say about the whole sugar phobia en vogue right now. It’s going to have to wait a bit, but for now, I like this article, particularly the infographic: Sorry, but there’s no such thing as a ‘healthy’ sugar. (Also, psssst)

2. Soy and cancer. To eat or not to eat?

3. Have you heard that American apples have been banned in Europe?

4. “The first step is promoting self-awareness, the trained realization that we are awash in scientific buzzwords—serotonin, cholesterol, hormones, neurons, vitamins, lipids—about which very few people have any real understanding.” Long but great article about why people believe in the magical powers of superfoods.

5. Obesity has topped tobacco as the #1 global health threat. 

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

toast for dinner – smashy smashy

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smashy smashy // the muffin myth

Lately I’ve been making lists of various things I could put on toast and reasonably call dinner. This is what one does when one is one-week from thesis deadline, right? Make lists of terribly important things. Much more important than working on one’s thesis, right? So we’re in a toast-for-dinner situation, and I thought I’d share one of my favourites: the smashy smashy.

This is the kind of thing I can use to talk myself out of ordering a pizza for dinner. Or when I get home from work tired and hungry on a Friday and the husband wants to do some ridiculous chore before we even think about dinner. Because I get hangry something fierce, it’s better for everyone that I just feed myself as fast as possible.

eggs // the muffin myth

Because that’s a six-minute egg smashed up on that toast, I can get this bad boy from concept into mah belly in just about 10 minutes. If things were really desperate, I could have already polished off the smashed avocado toast (which, by the way, is drizzled with pistachio oil and topped with sea salt) before the egg was done. And things do get that desperate, let me tell you.

I think that toast is highly underrated when it comes to a quick and easy dinner. With the right bread for your base and the right toppings, it can be a very nutritious meal. Fast, easy, and easily adaptable, what’s not to love? I like my toast for dinner on a pretty plate with some sliced tomatoes on the side, and a cloth napkin, because come on, toast or no toast, I’m still a lady.

What’s your favourite toast for dinner combination? I’m making a list!

smashy smashy // the muffin myth

One year ago: Nada.
Two years ago: Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies (my favourite!)
Three years ago: Rhubarb, Apricot, and Ginger Muffins

Smashy Smashy Recipe:

Ok, this isn’t much of a recipe, but more of a suggestion. For perfect soft-boiled eggs I use this technique and let the egg cook for six minutes (set a timer!) and then let it sit on the counter for half a minute or so to cool slightly before I peel it. If you don’t have pistachio oil you can sub in another nutritious nut oil like walnut or almond, or even use avocado or olive oil instead. Or skip the oil drizzle altogether and go for a splash of hot sauce!

Serves 1

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2 slices whole grain bread
1 egg
1/2 an avocado
pistachio oil (or other, see headnotes) for drizzling
salt and pepper

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Set a small pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Using a spoon, carefully dip the egg in and out of the water a few times, then lower it into the pot. Set a timer for six minutes.

When the timer is around the three-minute mark, pop the bread into the toaster. Get the avocado organized: I like to score it with a sharp knife and then scoop it out with a spoon.

The toast should be ready slightly before the egg is. Go ahead and smash the avocado on one slice. Once the egg timer goes, remove from the water and let cool slightly, only 30 seconds or so. Tap against the counter to break the shell, and peel carefully. Smash the egg onto the other piece of toast.

Drizzle a touch of oil over the avocado, if desired, and salt and pepper over both the avocado and the smashed egg. Serve immediately.

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Avocados are awesome! Around 80% of the calories in an avocado come from fat, which is about 20 x higher than most fruit. However, about 65% of this fat is healthy monounsaturated fat, in particular oleic acid. Avocados also contain an incredible range of phytonutrients, and many vitamins and minerals. Avocados are a good source of vitamin K, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, and potassium – more potassium than a banana even!

Eggs are an amazing source of high quality protein, vitamin B12, choline (important for your brain), carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Eggs are satiating; a study found that those eating a low fat diet which included 2 eggs a day for breakfast lost nearly *twice* as much weight as those eating a bagel breakfast with the same calories and mass, with no increase in blood cholesterol levels.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

everyday superfoods

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Everyday superfoods // the muffin myth

I’ve been a fan of the vegetarian mega-blog Oh My Veggies for a long time, and have watched with great interest as it has transitioned from a personal blog into the online magazine style editorial it is now. I’m sure you can imagine, then, how thrilled I was when Kiersten approached me about writing a monthly nutrition article for Oh My Veggies – especially when she told me that she was looking for someone who takes a common sense, no-hype approach to nutrition, which is why she had contacted me.

apples // the muffin myth

My first post, which goes live today, is about everyday superfoods. You know, the kind of awesome ingredients you’ve probably already got lurking in your cupboards – no need for a trip to the health food store!

I’ll be back on Thursday with a super simple dinner idea for you, but in the mean time, hop on over to Oh My Veggies and check it out some everyday superfoods!

Everyday superfoods // the muffin myth

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

what’s good around the web + weekly meal plan

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stockholm // the muffin myth

What a glorious weekend we had here in Stockholm! At times like these it’s hard to believe that this city can be so cold and dark in the deep of winter. It’s definitely not helping with the looming thesis deadline… 11 days, people. 11 days.

meal plan may 19 - 23 // the muffin myth

Due to said looming deadline, I’m trying to keep things pretty simple. Roasting up a head of broccoli or cauliflower is one of my favourite quick fixes, so I’m doing a riff on this lemony roasted broccoli dish for a couple of my lunches this week. And of course, veggie burger patties on hand in the freezer are meeting their maker with the veggie burger salad. Yum. On Wednesday I’ve got an event I’m supposed to be attending for work which will involve a lot of finger food and fizzy drinks, hence the canapé dinner. These things tend to not be very veggie friendly, so I’ll definitely be loading up with a lot of veg earlier in the day.

MM_Web_Icon_FINAL1. This is a really interesting read about non-celiac gluten intolerance, and what the real cause of those gastrointestinal illnesses might be.

2. Want to change the food system? Here’s where to start. 

3. The questionable link between saturated fat and heart disease

4. And, and and! The new dietary fat study. What you’ll hear, and what it really means.

5. Guess what? Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory and thinking skills. This makes me glad my bosses are so supportive of my lunch hour swims.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2014

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