Healthy Snax: Chocolate Super Cookies

I don’t know about you guys, but this time of year my chocolate intake can get a little crazy.  With holiday parties, my boss’s endless supply of chocolate bars, my cousin’s holiday chocolate covered pretzels and MY own baking, it just doesn’t end.  And while my taste buds certainly don’t want it to, the rest of my body is left feeling icky and sluggish.  I’ve discovered too much refined sugar gives me a headache and can do a number on my skin.  It’s just not worth it.

So what’s a girl with a monster sweet tooth who loves snax to do?  Find healthy alternatives.  I know, easier said than done.  But that’s why I wanted to share this delicious treat with you: Chocolate Super Cookies by GoRaw.  A pretty great name.  Some of you may be a little put off by the raw factor, but I have to say, they are awesome.  They are crunchy, chocolately and given just a bit of sweetness from the dates and coconut (and I don’t even like coconut!).  Not to mention that these cookies are actually good for you!  There is nothing processed or bad for you in here, so you can feel good about eating it.

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My mouth is watering just looking at this photo.

 

Now, I’m not saying to stay away from all of the delicious holiday treats (I know I won’t), but finding balance is key.  Knowing that there are healthy but delicious alternatives out there makes it so much easier.  I’ll share others with you as I discover them.  In the meantime, what are some of your favorite delicious snax?

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Filed under chocolate, Food, healthy, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Day 30: Switching it up

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but Day 30 really snuck up on me.  I guess that’s what happens during this time of year!  But the yoga has been a great reminder to slow down and be in the moment, even if only for a few minutes each day.

Last night I was trying to decide what I should do for my last day of the challenge.  I knew I wanted to go to a class and not just do a Yoga Today class here at the apartment, so I checked the schedule at The Yoga Room.  The Astoria location listed a hot flow and an Iyengar class.  My first reaction was, “Darn, why isn’t there just a regular Vinyasa flow?”  But then I thought about it and realized that this is, after all, a challenge.  I should go outside of the box.  I decided to go to the Iyengar class.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Iyengar is a form of yoga developed by, you guessed it, B.K.S. Iyengar.  It is extremely precise and alignment-based and often utilizes props in order to help the body maintain proper alignment in each asana (pose).  My older sister Rebecca practices Iyengar almost exclusively; I have taken a few classes with her over the years and have discovered that, to put it mildly, it’s just not my cup of tea.  I find it to be too slow and choppy; I prefer more movement and flow (which, conversely, my sister absolutely dreads…but I’ll get her to a Vinyasa class one day :)).  However, you do end up learning a ton about your body in these classes, which is why I’ve said in the past that I couldn’t practice Iyengar exclusively, but it’s good to go occasionally for a tune-up.

"Seriously, Rebecca, vinyasa flow is awesome, you'll love it!"  :)

“Seriously, Rebecca, vinyasa flow is awesome, you’ll love it!” :)

It had been a while, which is why, upon rethinking my game plan for today, Tzahi’s Iyengar class sounded like a good idea.  Of course, within the first five minutes, I was quickly reminded why this is not my typical practice.  The focus for today was the movement of wrapping the inner thighs to the back of the body, of which we were constantly reminded as we stood in tadasana, urdhva hastasana, and parsvottanasana.  Times like these are when I just want to yell back to the teacher, “I AM wrapping my thigh!” or “I have NO idea how I’m supposed to do that!”  But then, it was as if the universe winked at me when he directed us to the wall to practice our full arm balances (a.k.a. handstands).  Sweet!  I went up a few times and felt pretty good, although my arms are definitely tired from all of the practicing.  Not to worry, however, because next thing I knew, the universe was giving me a huge hug when we were cued into Sirsasana (headstand) and Tzahi hooked up some straps to the rope wall and showed me how to hang…upside down.

You can pretend one of these people is me. :)

You can pretend one of these people is me. :)

Yes friends, the one thing that Iyengar has that vinyasa classes do not is a rope wall.  There are many ways it can be utilized, but up until today I had never used it for any inversions (though I had watched in awe in previous classes when fellow students easily strapped themselves in and let it all go).  Since I had told the teacher in the beginning of class that I wouldn’t be practicing headstand, he seamlessly set up the straps for me while I was resting after handstand.  It was a little nervewracking at first, but he guided me into it and before I knew it I was hanging upside down with zero pressure on my neck…total bliss!

I reluctantly came out of the pose and finished the class–which included more mind chatter about how much longer we’d have to hold a pose, but also a lovely supported savasana in supta boddakonasana (reclined bound angle pose).  All in all, I left class feeling more open and definitely more aware of my inner thighs.  Plus I’ve gotten a dose of Iyengar that should last a few months at least…

And that completes my 30-Day Challenge!  Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop yoga (or blogging).  I’m formulating a new challenge for myself already, probably for the beginning of the year.  Until then, I’ll continue to share insights into my yoga practice, delicious treats and whatever else strikes my fancy.  Let me know if you have any great recipes to share or thoughts for my next challenge!

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Filed under Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Days 28 & 29: Birthday Treat from Childhood

Hi all!

The last two days have been filled with preparations and celebrations for my awesome little(r) sister Katie. Every year I try to bake something a little extra special for the occasion. In the past there have been mint chocolate chip cupcakes, cookie dough cupcakes and (a not-so-successful attempt at) marshmallow-stuffed chocolate chip cookies. This year I was leaning toward another attempt at marshmallow goodness when I came across this ring ding recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but ring dings were a pretty big deal for Katie and I when we were growing up. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to recreate the delicious treat. It was quite a process, and I admit I need some work injecting icing into cake, but the result was pretty tasty.

Mmm mmm good.

Mmm mmm good.

Today my mom and aunt were coming into town for a birthday lunch with Katie, which meant some cleaning had to be done. However, I was able I get in some yoga time between baking and dusting.

Last night I opted to do a gratitude meditation before bed, thinking of everyone and everything I am thankful for in my life, and when I was done I sat and repeated a mantra of “Grateful” for a few minutes. This I the first time I’ve done this before bed and I have to say, it was a great way to end the day and clear the mind before getting into bed.

This morning I did my own personal practice, which included a flow of sun salutations and hip and hamstring stretches. Basically whatever I felt my body needed. I finished up with a little handstand practice and then I was ready to start my day.

Now it’s time to continue the birthday celebration! It’s hard to believe tomorrow is day 30. Time flies!

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Filed under Food, Goals, Meditation, Practice, Recipes, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Days 26 & 27: Turning Upside Down Part Deux

Hello Friends!

I had every intention of posting last night, but I ended up being preoccupied with decorating this new addition to the apartment:

I downsized this year, but he's a cute little guy.

I downsized this year, but he’s a cute little guy.

Nevertheless, I am really excited to tell you about the Inversion workshop yesterday at The Yoga Room.  It was taught by one of their teachers, Marko, and I think he did a fantastic job.  He began with a dharma talk that was all about the importance of process over final product; that, as much as we want to be able to do a handstand right now, the journey is the most important part.  Lessons like this are what yoga is all about.  What we learn on the mat is completely applicable to our lives off of the mat.  Breaking down a handstand into steps and practicing each step slowly and purposefully teaches us the value of hard work and persistence.  And when you finally reach your goal, it makes it all that much sweeter since you worked so hard to achieve it.

That is how Marko designed the workshop.  We worked on several variations of headstands and handstands over the two-hour class, and he broke down each pose into different steps, giving us the option to stop where we felt comfortable, or move on if we wanted to challenge ourselves.  My headstand practice is still on hiatus, which gave me the opportunity to really work on headstand prep, which is basically a downward dog with forearms and head on the ground.  If you’ve never done this prep before, it is challenging!  It really works your shoulders and core.  I also practiced bringing one leg in to my chest, which really got my ab muscles fired up.

By the time we got to handstand practice, my core was nice and warm, which, as I’ve mentioned previously, is really important for inversions.  We did several preps for handstand including L-shape against the wall and extending one leg up, which really helped me to get a feel for handstand away from the wall.  There was also more core work that included hopping over a block with our hands on the floor, arms straight.  This probably sounds easy, but it’s definitely work.  When he finally cued us to go up into handstand against the wall, it felt like my legs floated up, as opposed to my usual method of flinging my legs as hard as I can until I reach the wall.  I even managed to come off the wall for a few seconds.  If The Yoga Room offers this workshop again, I highly recommend it!

Today I found a Yoga Today class that was dedicated to handstands and forearm stands.  It was great to get in more practice, although I have to say my arms were tired from yesterday!  So I did what I could and either took a childs pose or just watched the yogis on the screen when I needed a break.  Marko made sure to let us know that consistent practice is the way to achieve our goal and I would have to agree; this 30-day challenge has definitely helped me to become more comfortable with turning upside down!

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Filed under Dharma, Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Day 25: Juicy Hips and Crispy Chickpeas

This morning I woke up feeling groggy, a combination of working until 1am and the head cold that came to visit yesterday.  The last thing I wanted to do was turn myself upside down in downward dog when my head felt ready to explode sitting right-side up.  So I decided to take it easy on myself and go back to my quick favorite Opening to Hanumanasana with Adi on Yoga Today (though, you’ll notice if you click the link that I actually do this practice on YouTube).  Even though this class is only 25 minutes, it is full of juicy hip openers (which, if you couldn’t tell by now, I love!) and, more importantly today, not too much upside-down time.  It had been a while since I’d done this one, and as much as I love it, I always dread the pose where you are in a sort of super wide pigeon, with your foot rolled to the outside.  I used to have the worst time with that pose, especially on my right side.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it didn’t make me want to cry or punch someone today.  I’m letting things go guys!

I spent the afternoon working on an online training to become a volunteer tax preparer, which was my favorite project in AmeriCorps and something I’ve wanted to get back into for a long time.  When I got home, I was hungry but still had some work to do before I made dinner, so I decided to roast some chickpeas.  This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but for some reason I never have–odd, since I always have several cans in the house at all times.  Anyway, I did a quick search on the googs and discovered the blog How Sweet It Is which devoted an entire post to roasting the little ‘banzos! Excellent.  I followed her method and decided to go with rosemary, garlic powder and salt for my maiden voyage of making what is sure to be one of my new favorite snax.

All ready to go in the oven!

All ready to go in the oven!

Nom

Nom

 

As you can probably see from the second photo, they ended up a little, shall we say, well done.  However, my good friends will tell you that I tend to prefer things on the crispier side, so I was ok with it.  Next time, I either won’t keep them in so long or will lower the temperature of the oven.  However the flavor was great and they were a perfect crispy treat to tide me over until I was finished reviewing filing statuses.

And now it’s time for a little dinner, movie and early bed time to get rid of this cold once and for all!  I’ve got a lot of upside-downing ahead of me tomorrow. :)

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Filed under Food, Goals, Practice, Recipes, Roasted Chickpeas, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Days 22-24: Almost there!

Hey yogis!

As you could tell in my last post, my time in Harrisburg was full of cooking and Christmas decorations–but I did manage to get my yoga in there thanks to Just Plain Yoga over in Camp Hill. I also taught a quick class of Sun Salutations to the man friend who had a sore lower back. **Quick Tip: Sore lower back is often a sign of tight hamstrings, so gentle forward folds, seated folds, or supine (on your back) hamstring stretches with a strap can do wonders!**

After running around the last few days, I woke up this morning with a cold…not so fun, but it’s also my body’s way of telling me to slow down. I’m glad it is happening now so I can have the chance to take better care of myself this holiday season (my mother can probably tell you the number of Christmases I woke up sick as a kid). So today’s practice will be something gentle and restorative–my bolster will definitely be involved.

An extra motivation for kicking this cold is the workshop I am going to on Saturday! Since handstand has been one of my goal poses, I signed up for another inversion workshop, this time at The Yoga Room (thanks to my wonderful roommate who alerted me it was filling up fast, I snagged one of the last spots!). Rumor is he has some crazy core work in store for us–I can’t wait! Until then, time to load up on Vitamin C.

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Filed under Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Yoga

Days 19-21: Weekend Snax

Hey y’all!

For the last few days, I’ve been in Harrisburg visiting the man-friend. We have been on the go non-stop! Cut down a Christmas tree, got decorations, and made a ton of food. In the middle of it all, I’ve managed to squeeze in some handstand practice using the tips I learned at the Inversion workshop on Friday. Yesterday I was able to stay up off of the wall for a few seconds! Feels good to make progress.

I don’t have much time, but I wanted to share yesterday’s recipe: Butternut Squash chili! It turned out really well, although it could have definitely been spicier. Also, next time I will add Cous Cous, as that helps to thicken it up and give veggie chili that meaty texture you get from ground beef. I found the recipe on Pinterest, but you can find the actual website here.

Of course where there is chili, there has to be corn bread, right? Who better to get a recipe from than one Ms. Paula Deen. Check it out! Usually I veganize recipes like this, but since the man-friend already had buttermilk on hand, I decided to use it. However, an easy way to make vegan buttermilk is simply adding 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per one cup of soy milk and let stand for 10 minutes–easy!

Time to try my hand at eggplant parm for the first time. I hope you all had a great weekend!

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Filed under chili, Food, Practice, Recipes, Yoga