Walnut Thumbprint Muffins - Vegan, High Omega3, Healthy!

I love a warm muffin anytime, but especially for breakfast!  These little guys are packed with Omega-3 nutrition, low in sugars, and absolutely cholesterol-free!  Along with some bright light (outdoor light preferred, but next best thing would be the Lumie Bodyclock Active 250 Wake-Up Light, Alarm Clock with FM Radio and Extra Audio Options you can purchase online through Amazon), some wake-up music and exercise, you are off to overcoming that nasty S.A.D. challenge for the day!  The following recipe is an adaptation of the recipe for Walnut Jam Muffins in Dr. Neil Nedley's book "Depression: The Way Out".

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 C. Flour (I used 1 C. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and 1/2 C. Organic Unbleached All Purpose Flour-- if you are gluten sensitive you will want to use the best GF Flour for muffin-making. You can find a good blend recipe here for non-yeast GF baking)

Home-Made Almond Sour Cream

  • 1/3 C. Coconut Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup non-Dairy Sour Cream (I make my own Almond Sour Cream-- you could also use Tofutti or other commercially-prepared vegan sour creams-- but making your own is cheaper and more satisfying because you can leave out the extra non-essential ingredients)
  • 2 Tablespoons Flaxseed Meal 
  • 1/4 C. Hot Water
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/4 C. Walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C. Homemade Jam (low-sugar, mostly fruit)
(You could also sub ingredients to have a savoury muffin recipe-- add a 1/2 teaspoon of favourite herbs and a small chunk of tomato, persimmon, or a walnut piece in lieu of the jam)

METHOD:
  1. If you are planning to use your own homemade sour cream, you will have to allow enough time for soaking the almonds, usually over-night at least
  2. I generally like to measure out all my dry ingredients into individual small ramekin bowls, although that might just be me (a little anal)
  3. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C 
  4. If using metal pans, spray oil on 12 small muffin cups or 24 miniature cups.  I used silicone muffin cups and thus skip the spraying and all that.  Some folks use paper muffin cups to help with clean up afterwards.
  5. Stir the ground flax meal with the hot water in a cup and set aside 3+ minutes.  (This is your "flax egg")
  6. In another small bowl, measure out the sour cream and vanilla, and then stir in the flax egg
  7. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) in a medium mixing bowl.
  8. Blend the sour cream mix and the chopped walnuts to the dry ingredients.  Mix well with a fork.  You will end up with a heavy dough-like batter.  Transfer batter to the muffin cups with a spoon until each cup is about 2/3 full with batter.  
  9. Make a shallow 'well' with the back of a teaspoon in each batter cup.  Add about 1/2 teaspoon of the jam to the well.
  10. Bake the muffins about 15 minutes (until golden brown and fragrant) in the oven.
  11. Cool on a rack
  12. Enjoy your day!

SAD- Seasonal Affective Disorder - Some Tips For Getting Through The Winter Blues

It is that time of year again when some of us are trying to cope with a lack of sunshine and the resulting lack of motivation to get outside, exercise, and do other things that will lift our spirits.

The short video above with its perky narrator might be just what the doctor ordered!

I personally like her way of explaining what happens to our brains during SAD- the erudite might see her explanation as "junk science" but anything that helps to give a more positive perspective in a dark time is as least as useful as reading over a more verifiable scientific theory that doesn't lend itself to being understood during a confusing and depressing time in one's life.  She explains that Seasonal Affective Disorder has to do with a brain chemical (hormone) imbalance.

In the evening our brain produces a hormone that helps us sleep, called melatonin.   As dawn light begins we our brain clicks over from producing melatonin, to producing the hormone serotonin.  Serotonin is the 'feel happy' 'wellness' hormone...  In this video the narrator suggests that the brain of the person with SAD does not click over to producing serotonin, possibly because it lacks the sunlight/dawn cues to do so.  So, the person with SAD goes through the day putting out the sleep hormone and thus often exhibits low energy, sleepiness, anxiety and grumpiness that we recognize in ourselves when we are sleep-deprived.  They are not motivated to do 'waking hours' work and play.

The video's author suggests 5 Tips for non-pharmaceutical that helped her* overcome the symptoms of SAD:
The Lumie can be ordered through Amazon

1. Artificial Light: She demo'd a clock-light called LUMIE that you place beside your bed and that simulates the gradual occurence of dawning light (with subsequent brightness) from the time you start the setting to when you want your brain to be cued to start the serotonin production at "daybreak" (your getting-up time).  Conversely, the Lumie will simulate sundown in the evening. (She didn't mention it, but Dr. Nedley and others suggest that going to bed 'early' is a good habit to get into-- every hour of sleep before midnight is apparently effectively equivalent to two hours of sleep after midnight).

2. Make Your Own Serotonin: She suggests two easy nutritional 'fixes' for getting the serotonin in: Chop some bananas into your porridge in the morning, and have a *tiny bit* (whatever that is, ha) of dark chocolate during your day.  Here is a recipe for a smoothie version  Dr. John Gray's seratonin-stimulating drink that I call Seratonin SendUp.  (You also get the bonus video of Dr. Gray's exercise protocol for boosting your seratonin, which goes with the next tip)

3. Exercise: Yes, perhaps what most of us least want to hear when we feel grumpy and blue is that it really really helps to dress up and get outside and do something active-- go to the gym or work up to a fairly brisk 10-15 minute walk.  You know that it works.

4. Put events into your Dayliner, or the diary on your phone, or calendar for one thing each day to look forward to-- and I don't mean a game of candy crusher on Facebook-- something that gets you out of your normal routine, gets you outside, if possible.  Do something fun with a friend. Schedule to get together for "a natter" as this affable Brit calls a"chat".  Go out for a mid-week supper with someone you would like to get to know better.  She suggests putting a post-it-note on your bedside table so you are reminded when you awake that you have something you enjoy coming up that day.

5. If you don't seem to be making the progress you want, you might want to try Vitamin D supplements or St. John's Wart... 

The idea is to keep yourself going and to recognize SAD symptoms so you can re-start some of what works above if you have found a particular tip really helped you. 

*While these 'tips' helped the video's narrator and are useful to many others, they might not alleviate your feelings of sadness, anxiety, etc. I am not a doctor. If you are feeling more than usually sad, anxious, hopeless, frustrated, unable to sleep, etc. please consult your health care professional.  All the best!


Turn off the news. Throw away the newspaper. Get outside and go for a walk. Dr. Christiane Northrup said going for a walk is a perfectly acceptable form of treatment for certain types of depression!~Tera Warner of Women's Wellness University