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Whole Food Plant Based Carob (or Chocolate!) Bark

Yes, you read that right.  And yes, it is possible.  You may think from a scroll through my recipe posts that it’s all sweets and treats at our house.  If J and T had their way, it probably would be.

Treats and sweets are the exception to the rule, the rule being things like soups, stews, tacos, veggie burgers, salad, pizza and, as of late, veggie sushi.  Plants are the chameleons of the food world (and not just because they are colorful!)

We have a lot of fun with plants at mealtime, but desserts are kind of my passion project.  Also the stakes are lower so I can get a little crazy since no one goes hungry if they don’t turn out (though they may get pouty….).  My risky kitchen exploits payed off with this yummy whole food carob bark.  I set out to make some coconut butter and ended up with this.

Why carob?  I have nothing against chocolate, but when it comes to evening treats the raw stuff can be a little stimulating.  In its raw state, cacao contains a decent amount of theobromine which is a mild, long lasting, mood enhancing stimulant.  Super in the morning, not so super at night (and definitely not super for a 3 year old who would rather bounce on his bed than sleep in it…).

Minimal ingredients, minimal effort, and entirely made of plants.  What’s not to love?

Whole Food Plant Based Carob (or Chocolate!) Bark

Ingredients:

-Roughly 12 oz unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut (depends on the size of your food processor.  You’ll want to fill as it will blend down quite a bit.)

-3 tablespoons roasted carob powder (or raw cacao, or cocoa)

-Pure stevia powder, or other dry sweetener of choice (date sugar, coconut sugar, etc.)

-Optional: Pinch of salt

-Optional: Mix-ins like dried fruit, nuts, seeds, cacao nibs, etc.  (I chopped up about 5 dates and they complemented the bark nicely.)

To make:

-Pour coconut into food processor and process until smooth and drippy, scraping down as needed.

-Add carob (or cacao or cocoa) and process again until well blended.

-Add desired amount of sweetener to taste (you’ll need less for carob since it has a natural sweetness, more for cacao or cocoa.) and pinch of salt if desired and blend again.

-Add mix-ins if desired and pulse until distributed well throughout.

-Spread mixture on parchment paper and place in freezer until hardened (15 minutes or so).

-Once hardened, move to fridge.

-Chop and store in airtight container in fridge.

For more plant based ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook

 

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Plants, in disguise….
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Why I Stopped Making New Year’s Resolutions

With 2019 now in full swing, the internet is rife with resolution charts and vision boards.  However, much like dieting, resolutions are swell in theory but less helpful in practice.

If you know my backstory, you may surmise that New Year’s and the time surrounding is a tricky one for our family.  5 years later, I know I am not the only one who struggles with this.  All it takes is digging a smidgen deeper than casual conversation to find many others in the same predicament.  Should we be partying or should we be solemn?  The best I’ve come up with is somewhere in between.  When it comes to the New Year, I tend to get reflective.  Where I used to make resolutions, I now set intentions.

Resolutions seem to be more about becoming some new and improved version of ourselves.  Intentions give credence to who we truly are.  To me, the word intention feels more spacious.  Like nurturing rather than forcing.  Gradually evolving instead of abruptly changing.  Believe me, I’ve spent most of my life trying to force and manipulate myself into the person I thought I “should” be.  The idea of nurturing authenticity is sort of a recent development, one that I believe came with motherhood.

If anything, having my daughter opened my eyes to life’s complexity.  As humans, most of us are in the process of healing from something.  Most of us are also doing the best we can with what we have.  Berating ourselves into some version of “better” doesn’t help the individual or the collective.  Can it be that compassion is the least talked about but most needed physical, mental, and spiritual hack?  I recently had the chance to ponder this on a very early morning run (one of the perks to having the occasional wakeful dark night of the soul….).

As I ran up a steep hill, I recognized my approach was different than several years ago (and not just because I am running on older knees…).  Though the burning in my quads was calling for my attention, I was able to relax the tension in my face.  My attention then shifted to my hands, which I released out of their tense fists in response.  The uncomfortable feeling was still there, but I was able to sense other feelings in the periphery.  With a widened focus, I could more comfortably proceed.  Instead of admonishing myself for not having stronger quads as I might have in the past, I embraced my humanness and created space for it.

Taking in the twinkling of stars and Christmas lights against the black sky, I thought about contrast.  Maybe it isn’t so unique to have tragedy bump up against celebration.  Humanness is never one dimensional.  It’s all twists and turns and constant imperfection.  It’s light and dark and infinite shades of gray.  It’s birth and death and sometimes, in my experience, both at the exact same time.  Setting the course is important, but recognizing that things may not go exactly as planned is important to.

When I hear the word resolution, my mind and heart get tight.  Granted, I have a hard time firmly committing to anything past what’s for dinner tonight (to give you some perspective, it’s just after lunch as I write this and I am still not completely sure….).  Thankfully, I am married to a logistics machine.  If it were up to me, we’d probably still be contemplating the the ins and outs of marriage these 9 years later.  That’s part of the reason I like intention.

Intention I can warm up to.  It’s less “this is how things must be for me to be ok” and more “I am ok regardless, but am inspired to explore what might happen if things were like this”.  Less rigidity, more space.

I guess what I am saying is, this year, I am inspired to explore some new things and do some old things in different ways (and thanks to J, these things may or may not be on an excel spreadsheet….).  I’ve spent so much of my life trying to walk a straight line on a windy road (or more accurately a labyrinth, with mid-western size pot holes…..).   I’ve also walked with many others to the point where I am no longer surprised to find their roads as windy and pot-holey as mine.  Success in fitness, or otherwise,  doesn’t mean never having complications.  It’s about being able to work with complexity and proceed forward, sometimes gracefully and other times shakily.

By all means, set your sights on eating more plants, picking up a mindfulness practice, and moving more…just don’t forget the golden rule works both ways.  Treat others as you would like to be treated, and try to treat yourself that way too.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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I wanted go “Wild” on my daughter’s birthday this year after listening to an interview with Cheryl Strayed, but settled on this trail a few blocks from my house…
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No Bake Balancing Bars

Travel, stress, and a variety of other factors can shift our bodily functions out of whack.  When sleep trouble and digestive discomfort rear there ugly little heads, I like to fight support my body with food.

The two main players in these bars, pistachios and dried plums (see what I did there?  A little rebranding?) have many health benefits.  According to NutritionFacts.org, pistachios my be a better source of melatonin than popular melatonin supplements. In fact, according to one study, consuming 18 pistachios is like taking 3 mg of melatonin!  Dried plums are well known for aiding digestion, with happy side effects like lowering cholesterol and building stronger bones.

These bars are meant to help you sleep better (and do other stuff better too😉).  I mostly stuck to the two aforementioned ingredients for potency, but added a bit of oat flour since it has shown to have positive effects on both areas.

Taste-wise, these are both toddler and husband approved.  Like an oatmeal cookie with benefits.  I used homemade pistachio butter which is so good I am not sure why it isn’t more popular (granted pistachios are a little on the pricey side…but worth it!).  You can also find it online or in some health food stores.  Just make sure the only ingredients are shelled pistachios, and maybe a little salt.

Happy sleeping (and doing other stuff😉)too!

No Bake Balancing Bars

Ingredients:

-1 and 1/3 cup dried plums

-1 cup shelled pistachios

-1/2 cup pistachio butter

-1/2 cup oats, coarsely ground

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

-1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

To Make:

-Combine plums and pistachios in a food processor until evenly blended.

-Add pistachio butter and blend until combined.

-Add oats and spices and blend until combined.

-Spread mixture on 8×8 baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Press down firmly.

-Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting and serving.  Store remaining bars in airtight container in fridge.

For more plant based ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook

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Let thy food be thy medicine…and let it be delicious!
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The 12 Days of Christmas Workout

So the other day I felt a little crazy.  I googled one of my own posts and my ego was rocked.  You see, as a gift to my clients last year, I came up with something called the 12 Days of Christmas Workout.  For the last year, I wholeheartedly believed that this was an original idea.  Then I fell down a google rabbit hole.

12 Days of Christmas workouts were everywhere!  Was this some kind of conspiracy?  After some furious research and a lot of date checking (someone had to have stolen my idea!!!!) my fantasy was shattered.  And so, with the sadder-but-wiser feeling of a little girl who just learned there is no Santa Claus, I invite you to share in this holiday tradition.  It may not be an original idea, but it’s still a darn good workout:

The following circuit is made up of entirely bodyweight exercises.  Each “day” builds on the previous, just like the song.  How many can you get through?

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-a jumping jack and a burpee

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-3 sumo squats

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-4 supermans

-3 sumo squats

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-5 shoulder swings! (rest)

-4 supermans

-3 sumo squats

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-6 hands-free get ups

-5 shoulder swings! (rest)

-4 supermans

-3 sumo squats

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-7 speed skaters

-6 hands-free get ups

-5 shoulder swings! (rest)

-4 supermans

-3 sumo squats

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-8 mountain climbers

-7 speed skaters

-6 hands-free getups

-5 shoulder swings! (rest)

-4 supermans

-3 sumo squats

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-9 lateral lunges

-8 mountain climbers

-7 speed skaters

-6 hands-free getups

-5 shoulder swings! (rest)

-4 supermans

-3 sumo squats

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-10 T raises

-9 lateral lunges

-8 mountain climbers

-7 speed skaters

-6 hands-free get ups

-5 shoulder swings! (rest)

-4 supermans

-3 sumo squats

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-11 perfect pushups

-10 T raises

-9 lateral lunges

-8 mountain climbers

-7 speed skaters

-6 hands-free getups

-5 shoulder swings! (rest)

-4 supermans

-3 sumo squats

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

-12 breaths downward-dogging

-11 perfect pushups

-10 T raises

-9 lateral lunges

-8 mountain climbers

-7 speed skaters

-6 hands-free get ups

-5 shoulder swings! (rest)

-4 supermans

-3 sumo squats

-2 walk out planks

-and a jumping jack and a burpee

Happy Holidays!

For more fun workout ideas check out the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook !

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That’s right T, keep those holiday fantasies alive…..