Strawberry Almond Butter Muffins

Strawberry Almond Butter Muffins

The season for fresh strawberries is here! 🍓🍓🍓 I have friends who love making jams, jellies, shrubs, and compotes with this beautiful and flavorful berry, but my favorite way to eat this fruit is by themselves or in a baked good. 😉

Almond butter is another favorite of mine. It typically gives baked goods a fudgey consistency, or at the very least, produces a moist batter. The key is using a creamy, all-natural nut butter with just a touch of the oil that pools on top. I mix mine, but not as thoroughly as I normally would using it solo.

I created this recipe with vegans in mind, along with those who are sick of seeing bananas in every👏damn👏recipe! Don’t get my wrong, I love bananas. I eat them nearly every single day as a runner, BUT, I don’t find it necessary to use them as a natural sweetener in every bloody recipe. LOL. Let’s switch it up people!

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Strawberry Almond Butter Muffins

Prep time: 5 minutes

Bake time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

Wet 

  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 applesauce (I used unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup creamy almond butter (mix lightly and use top of jar contents)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 flax egg- click link to see how to make one (you can use a regular egg too)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 6-8 strawberries (depending on the size and amount desired)

Dry

  • 3 cups oat flour (rolled oats)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt (if almond butter has salt, use 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon

Tools

  • muffin tin
  • muffin liners
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • rubber spatula
  • ice cream scoop

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Get your muffin tin out and insert muffin liners.
  2. Prepare flax egg if using. Add all of the wet ingredients (besides the strawberries) to a large bowl and whisk until evenly mixed.
  3. Blend or process 3 cups rolled oats until a rough flour consistency is formed. I counted to 10 processing on medium and left a few broken oat pieces in because I like the rustic texture and look.
  4. Add all dry ingredients to a small bowl and mix to combine. Then add to wet ingredients.
  5. After the batter is formed, dice strawberries and add to the batter. Mix with rubber spatula. Use an ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup to add batter to each muffin liner.
  6. Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes, or until top is golden brown and the muffins pass the knife test- insert knife into muffin, if the batter is not on it, it’s fully cooked!

I hope you enjoy these summer treats as much as my husband and I did! I’m not sure about the shelf life, but since there are fresh strawberries in them, I would recommend refrigerating them for longevity.

 

 

 

 

Mushrooms & Coffee: Better Together?

Mushrooms & Coffee: Better Together?

The History of Mushroom Magic

Mushrooms…in coffee?! Yep. Mushroom coffee has been around since WWII. The people of Finland, like many other countries, experienced a shortage of coffee during the war. And who wants to live without coffee? No one. The answer is no one. So they got creative and started cutting down chaga mushrooms on local birch trees. These trees grew abundantly in the area, as did the mushrooms that look like burnt wood (see below).

Chaga
Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus)

So the Finnish had these chaga mushrooms. They soaked and pressed them to essentially steep their medicinal properties without eating them (which you can do by the way). Drinking this chaga “tea” resulted in long-lasting energy. It was similar to the stimulant effects coffee provides, but without the caffeine crash to follow. Many also noticed less stomach upset with increased focus. Once the war ended and coffee became readily available again, the Finnish kept their chaga ritual by mixing the mushroom “tea” in with their regular coffee. This is how mushroom coffee came to be.


Present Day Fun-guys

Today’s mushroom coffee is made from mushroom powders derived from medicinal mushrooms (mainly Chaga, Lion’s Mane, Turkey’s Tail, reishi, and cordyceps) that are then mixed with traditional coffee grounds. See the nutritional breakdown below.

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 1.48.23 PM
Example of nutrition profile. In this case, Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus).

Notice that Lion’s Mane mushroom powder is mostly comprised of carbohydrates and protein. Moisture and fiber content is minimal. Acrylamide is not considered a nutrient, but I included it in this table because it is present in mushroom powders.

Acrylamide is a byproduct produced during the heating process of drying mushrooms to make powder. It is considered a carcinogen, or cancer-causing substance. The FDA tests acrylamide present in foods and approves foods with <20ppm measurements. Mushroom powders are so low in acrylamide, it is either undetectable or in minimal amounts deemed safe by the FDA. 

The state of California does require that mushroom coffee companies, as well as other acrylamide-containing food products, display a warning label on their packaging. Their Proposition 65 law enforces companies disclose chemicals present in their products, including both coffee and mushroom powders separately. 

“WARNING: Consuming this product can expose you to chemicals including acrylamide, which is known to the State of California to cause cancer and lead, which is known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov. “


Don’t Feel Like Mush

Why not just drink coffee then? Sure, a regular cup of Joe gives you an instant boost of energy, but chugging coffee can be followed by an energy crash a couple of hours later. Caffeine can do this- provide a momentary jolt that makes you feel like a superhero, and 2 hours later, leaves you feeling exhausted and defeated. Unlike caffeine, mushroom coffee releases energy slowly due to its polysaccharide makeup that takes longer to break down in the body. The mushroom powders in this coffee are also proven to fight and improve both mental and physical fatigue, avoiding that afternoon crash while uplifting your mind, body, and spirit.


No Cap on Benefits

On top of giving you steady energy, the mushroom powder in this coffee protects your stomach lining against gastrointestinal irritation and bloating coffee can cause. In one study, the Lion’s Mane mushroom showed promise in reducing ulcerative symptoms, guarding the lining of the digestive tract, and fighting against the bacteria H. pylori (which causes infection in your stomach).

The medicinal mushroom powders also contain antioxidants, nutrient parts that fight off free radicals and stress. We can all use a little stress relief in our lives, am I right? In fact, mushrooms are considered adaptogens, which means they are considered a food that helps you adapt to stress.

They are anticancer too, a property we want all of our foods to have and protect us against. If you open my poster project I worked on this entire semester, you will be able to see the charts I made that display Lion’s Mane killing cancer at a 67% effectiveness rate, while Chaga killed all 4 strains of adenocarcinoma (commonly known as lung cancer). Chaga was 100% successful in killing these cancerous cells- amazing! More studies must be done before adding this to preventative and therapeutic treatments.


I Can’t Believe This Shiitake! 

Summary of the top 5 benefits of medicinal mushroom coffee…

  1. Fights mental & physical fatigue
  2. Protects gastrointestinal epithelial lining, limiting stomach irritation and upset
  3. Increases energy levels at a steady pace without the caffeine crash
  4. Is adaptogenic and contains antioxidants that fight stress!
  5. Contains anticancer properties

*You should not consume Chaga if you are currently on blood thinners or about to undergo surgery. Chaga is also not ideal for diabetic patients because it can induce hypoglycemia. Those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medication should consult with their physician before consuming this mushroom, or any medicinal mushroom/product.


Make ‘Shroom in Your Pantry

Are you interested in trying this alternative to mainstream coffee? Great! There are many companies who specialize in mushroom coffee, the most popular being Four Sigmatic. Their product can be found on their website, Amazon, and in many grocery stores. In grocers, these products may be found in the coffee aisle or by the health supplements. Don’t be shy to ask an employee where they stock their products.

If you find certain brands are more pricey, keep in mind that the medicinal mushrooms are worth the investment. Here is $15 off your first purchase with Four Sigmatic Co. Let me know what you think, and happy sipping this energizing brew! 


 Photo: Mushroom Coffee.; 2017. https://www.health.com/food/mushroom-coffee-trend. Accessed March 18, 2020.

References

  1. Sen M. The Hidden Wartime Origins of Mushroom Coffee. Food52. https://food52.com/blog/18958-the-hidden-wartime-origins-of-mushroom-coffee. Published September 26, 2018. Accessed February 10, 2020. 
  1. Kim SP, Kang MY, Choi YH, Kim JH, Nam SH, Friedman M. Mechanism of Hericium erinaceus (Yamabushitake) mushroom-induced apoptosis of U937 human monocytic leukemia cells.Food & Funct. 2011;2(6):348. doi:10.1039/c1fo10030k.
  1. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Survey Data on Acrylamide in Food: Individual Food Products. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/survey-data-acrylamide-food-individual-food-products. Accessed February 7, 2020..
  1. Crawford LM, Kahlon TS, Wang SC, Friedman M. Acrylamide Content of Experimental Flatbreads Prepared from Potato, Quinoa, and Wheat Flours with Added Fruit and Vegetable Peels and Mushroom Powders. Foods. 2019;8(7):228. doi:10.3390/foods8070228. 
  1. Baek J, Roh HS, Baek KH, Lee S, Lee S, Song SS, et al. Bioactivity-based analysis and chemical characterization of cytotoxic constituents from Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) that induce apoptosis in human lung adenocarcinoma cells. JEthnopharmacol. 2018;224:63-75. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2018.05.025.
  1. He, Xirui, et al. “Structures, Biological Activities, and Industrial Applications of the Polysaccharides from Hericium Erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) Mushroom: A Review.” International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, vol. 97, 2017, pp. 228–237., doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2017.01.040.

 

How Not to Spread Yourself [or Your Peanut Butter] Thin

How Not to Spread Yourself [or Your Peanut Butter] Thin

Preface

About a year ago, I started a new job. It wasn’t the exact position I wanted or originally applied for at this company, but it was a job in the nutrition field nonetheless. I was excited to get my feet wet and gain experience all while making money and contributing to my family financially. I also registered for two summer classes- Microbiology and Basic Chemistry. I thought to myself, “Great! I’ll work my ass off and save over the summer while knocking out a couple of classes”. In addition, I also signed up for a remote summer internship.

Sounds admirable, right? Well, after 3-4 weeks of working and going to class every single day, I came to the unideal conclusion that I had absolutely no time for the internship, let alone a social life or enjoying summer in Chicago with my husband and two pups (the 3 months us natives cherish). Not only did I have little to no free time, but I didn’t have a day off between work, classes, studying and homework for 2 months straight. Being the sensitive person I am, I fell into a deep depression (of which I won’t share the intimate details about, but it was one of the worst bouts I have ever experienced). Having limited time to exercise and partake in self care rituals only exacerbated this dark time in my life. I felt utterly defeated.

At first, I tried my best to internalize these “blues” and normalize my routine. After all, I had been the one to apply for the job and register for classes. It was MY responsibility to see them through and to carry my own weight. I already felt like I failed with throwing in the towel at my internship, so there was no way I was going to say decline additional work shifts or skip class. That just wasn’t an option in my stubborn mind. I stuck this brutal schedule out at the expense of my deteriorating mental health, and even my physical health. The stress had caused me to relapse with my disordered eating patterns. In hindsight, I think it was the only way for me to feel in control at the time. I barely made it through the summer, but when I did, I vowed to NEVER spread myself that thin again.

I added this preface to the article to share my first hand experience, in the hopes of being more relatable, and to let you know that you are not alone. Work addiction, work exhaustion, and work-related stress can be prevented and managed. There is hope. Allow me to help you begin navigating your way to a healthier and happier you while still maintaining success in the office.

How Not to Spread Yourself [Or Your Peanut Butter] Thin

As the title implies, not many people desire to be overworked and undernourished, in any sense of the definitions. This combination can be detrimental to our health, and it is quite unnatural for us as humans to self-induce exhaustion. We need rest and proper nourishment to regenerate and grow, and this starts on a cellular level.

Unfortunately, today’s world (at least in America) instills social pressure to be the most productive, successful in terms of career hierarchy and financial income, and the best at every single thing we do. There are only 24 hours in every day, and there are only 7 days per week…we know this. So how do we keep up with the demands of our families, jobs, and schoolwork while simultaneously enjoying life?

One way to approach this chronic epidemic of overworking is to simply ignore the “norms” of society and ask yourself, “What do I need that I am not receiving?”. If you are a husband, a wife, a mother, or a father, you need to take care of yourself first and foremost in order to optimize your duties as a spouse or parent. Some may call this selfish, but I call it an intelligent plan on action. If the answer to your question is clear, further explore how you can achieve what you so crave. Do you need a little more alone time? Do you need a date night with your significant other? What about indulging in a long lost hobby you no longer make time for? Whatever is missing, figure out how to incorporate that into your life.

Secondly, recognize that we as humans are very similar biologically, but our mental, emotional, social, psychological, and physical thresholds vary. You, and only you, know your true limits, so listen to your body’s cues. Do you feel physically fatigued? Then rest and get some sleep. Do you feel emotionally or mentally drained? Reenergize the best way you know how. Give yourself and your body what it needs and deserves. Only then can you optimally function and perform, in life and at work.

Thirdly, are you participating in self care on a basic level? What I mean by this is are you kindly allowing yourself to drink enough water, get ample sleep, and eat nutritious food (and not only nutritious food, but enough food)? Do you exercise 2-3 times/week? The exercise doesn’t have to be extreme, but movement has been proven to enhance organ function, sharpen clarity and cognitive processes, and improve your mood. Going for a  walk after you eat lunch at work will suffice and get your blood pumping, help you digest the food you just ate, and energize you for the second half of your shift. Another way to ensure health and performance is to eat enough calories in appropriate servings and macronutrient ratios. Don’t fear the fat or carbs! You need both for energy and many other functionalities. I used to stress about eating too much nut butter, but now I simply practice intuitive eating and eat as much damn peanut butter as I my body wants. 😉

A fourth thing to consider is the amount you have on your plate (no pun intended). I am a serial overcommitter, so I am far too familiar with this one. Ask yourself, “What do I want my work/life balance ratio to look like?”. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans work an average of 34.5 hours per week. That is less than most Americans think they work. Work is called work for a reason, and some days and weeks seem longer and more demanding than others. However, after subtracting the time we sleep (I accounted for 8 hours per night- 56) and the average work hours of 34.5/week, we still have 77.5 hours leftover. Sure, many of those hours are reserved for cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, and carting the kids arounds, BUT there are hours the individual takes for granted and doesn’t realize he or she actually has. Do yourself a favor and record what one regular week looks like for you to better assess how you spend your time. Perhaps you can tweak or adjust your activities and productivity after taking a better look. This includes scaling it back if you need to, and accepting that it is OKAY to QUIT anything you’ve previously committed to if it’s affecting your health to any extent!

The last thing I will leave you with is to find your purpose. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that finding purpose in life leads to contentment while focusing on being happy doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. Why you ask? For one, if you put too much pressure on being happy, then you automatically take joy out of the equation and are inadvertently self-sabotaging yourself. Viktor Frankl once said, “Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.” You may or may not agree with this quote, but after reading his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, it clarified the idea of finding purpose before manifesting happiness. Sounds backwards, but trust me that this book makes sense of it all. Many people find purpose in their work, hobby, or as a parent or caregiver. Whatever your purpose is in life, go out and find it- embrace it and don’t lose sight of it.

So let’s review. How can your avoid spreading yourself or your peanut butter too thin?

  1. Figure out what’s missing in your life and make time for it!
  2. Listen to your body’s cues and respond accordingly.
  3. Partake in basic level self care (whatever that means to you). This includes eating as much peanut butter or your idea of indulgent food as your body wants (not what your mind or stress wants).
  4. Figure out your desired work:personal time ratio. Optimize your time.
  5. Find your purpose in life.

As a result of the worst summer of my life, I felt compelled to write this article and help others avoid and manage their work-related stress. I hope these suggestions help make sense of the work demands in America and how we can optimize our time and quality of life while still being successful. Please take care of yourselves- physically, mentally and emotionally. You deserve it, as it’s a basic human right.

XO Danielle