Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Health-Nut Mom Makes Mountain Dew Cupcakes

Last Sunday I posted about the delicious and healthy whole wheat oatmeal blueberry muffins that I baked. They only lasted a few days because the kids - and me - scarfed them down. As I offered to share my baked goodies with those around me, a few people asked why I'd ruin a good muffin with healthy ingredients?

Some people have accused me of being a health nut - absolutely not true. I try to eat a mostly vegetarian diet but I'm not extreme or super strict about it. And some have accused me of not letting my kids have "good" food - again, absolutely not true. Just because my kids have never had Spaghettio's doesn't make them deprived!

Today, I did my usual pre-cooking for the week. I made a big pan of roast vegetables, four servings of steel cut oatmeal, quinoa, and a pot of Buddha's delight. I'll eat off all that this week when I get home in the evenings after teaching.

When I was planning my menu for the week, I mentioned I was also going to make root beer cupcakes. I found the recipe in the Happy Herbivore cookbook. I figured it might be a neat way to sneak in a vegan dessert on the kids!

Well, my kids don't really like root beer, so the oldest instead asked for Mountain Dew cupcakes.

I do NOT recommend drinking or
baking with this soda.
Mountain Dew cupcakes?

I googled and sure enough such a recipe exists. Now, being the health nut that I am (not), I don't allow my kids to drink soda. However, as the older ones have reached their teen years they are less under my control and unfortunately know all about Mountain Dew.

Now the really funny thing is, this Mountain Dew cupcake recipe says it makes "lite cupcakes" because it omits the eggs and oil. I guess us health nuts have a different version of "lite" because I would never consider 7 cups of powdered sugar to be lite!

Anyway, wanting to be a cool mom, I made the cupcakes. I don't drink Mountain Dew and I didn't try the cupcakes so I can't personally vouch for how good (or bad) they are. However, they smell so sickeningly sweet that the smell alone gave me a headache.

And the best part -- my kids don't love them! Even the oldest Mountain Dew guzzling teen said they were "OK, but too sweet."

I'm considering it a personal victory that just maybe some of my health nuttiness will rub off on them after all.

For those who want to give it a try, here is the Mountain Dew cupcake recipe:

Combine a yellow cake mix with 12 oz Mountain Dew. Bake according to package directions.

To make the frosting, beat 2 sticks butter, 1/4 tsp each vanilla extract and lemon extract. Blend in 7 cups* powdered sugar. We tinted our frosting with green food coloring.

* I'm thinking the recipe I used possibly had a misprint. 7 cups of powdered sugar is crazy! And it made enough frosting for three times the amount of cupcakes we had. So you could easily cut the powdered sugar down if you also have health nut tendencies.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Feeling Down? Pick Yourself Up and Move For Just 5 Minutes

Isn't it interesting how one moment we ( I ) can be feeling on top of the world, confident and happy and then in an instant we ( I ) fall down to feeling hopeless, frustrated and defeated?

And isn't it interesting how easily we ( I ) give other people the power to set us ( me ) on that downward spiral?

And isn't it interesting how all the self care, live your yoga, stay focused techniques we ( I ) teach seem so far out of reach when we ( I ) need them?

I had a private client this afternoon who shared with me her struggles with depression. She admitted to not being in the gym the past two weeks because she just feels so overwhelmed right now it's all she can do to come home from work and wallow on the couch. Things she normally enjoys: walking her dog, exercise, gardening, she hasn't been able to make herself do because it feels like it just takes too much energy.

As we talked she realized the vicious cycle she was allowing to happen. Frustrated with life --> depression --> not take care of herself --> poor food choices --> guilt over those choices --> depression --> frustrated with life.

We decided that the next time she thought she didn't have the energy to get off the couch, she would force herself to do a self care activity for just 5 minutes. After that 5 minutes, if she really still felt down and depressed, she had permission to return to the couch. But if after those 5 minutes she even felt a little bit better, she would continue the activity for another 5 minutes.

Makes sense right? It's an ingenious idea that I know will work.

Damn I'm good.

And then I came home from work and my feel good, I love my life, happy little mood went to hell in just one phone call.

As I hurried to get the kids dinner I was looking at the clock wondering how soon would be too soon to curl up in bed and veg out in front of the TV. And I was not-so-secretly searching the pantry for sugar and carbs.  Thoughts of "why bother" and "it's always the same" were running through my brain.

As usual, after dinner the kids and the dogs were both dancing around for their evening walk. Ugh, I really don't want to. Walking two big dogs and three little kids just seems like entirely too much effort tonight.

Instead, with my own advice still ringing in my ears, I agreed to a walk. But a short walk taking the short route through the neighborhood.

As we set out I realized there had been a small break in the heat wave. I wasn't immediately melting into a puddle of sweat. As we made the first turn, it felt good to get the oxygen and blood flowing. By turn two I was saying come on we might as well take the long route.

And before I knew it me and dog #2 were even jogging.  We'd jog up a bit, then slow to a walk to let older dog #1 and kids to catch up with us.

By the time we got home, yes I was sweaty and out of breath, but I felt just a bit better too. And we had been out for way more than five minutes. I no longer craved curling up under the covers, the sugary carb cravings had passed and even those negative voices had quieted a bit.

Get moving for just 5 minutes even if I don't feel like it.

It's an ingenious idea that I know works.

Damn I'm good - no matter what anyone else does.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

Is there anything better in the summer than home-made blueberry muffins? No. There isn't.

Tonight me and kid #4 made our first batch of blueberry muffins this summer.  I usually only let one kid at a time help me when I bake to cut down on fights and messes and to sneak in a little alone-with-mommy time.

With my large family I always double (or triple) recipes, but since I was experimenting with making the muffins super healthy I wasn't sure how they'd turn out so we only made a single batch.

I should have made more. Half of my super healthy blueberry muffins are already gone!

Jennifer's Whole Wheat BlueBerry Muffins  

1 1/4 C quick oats *
1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat baking flour**
1 T baking powder
1/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C unsweetened natural applesauce
Squirt of local honey ( I have no idea how much honey I put in, I just squirted some out)
1 1/2 C fresh blueberries

Mix all dry ingredients together then add in the wet ingredients. Fold in blueberries. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

* The only oats I had in my pantry were Steel Cut Oatmeal not quick oats. They give the muffins a unique little crunch and are really good!

** I usually don't have good results when I use only whole wheat baking flour as opposed to half whole wheat and half white flour. I'd really like to get rid of the white flour altogether. Anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, July 18, 2011

15 Blind Elephants

What happens when 15 Elephant Journal writers who have never met, aren't in the same place and come from different backgrounds decide to collaborate on an article? And they just happen to pick a really easy topic to start with:

Thank you to my fellow Elephant writers for including me in their think tank and letting me run with the big dogs! (or big Elephants as the case may be)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dancing With My Mom: In Spirit Only Now

Dear Mom -

I'm still pretty pissed at you.

You died and I wasn't done needing you yet.

And now it's been five months and you haven't even visited me.

Kim says you are still watching over me and that's why John didn't get hurt when the swing broke last week. Yes, in case she's wrong and you don't know about this, the swing broke just like last summer. He wasn't hurt this time, just scared to death.

Well if it was you that kept him from getting hurt thank you. But it's not enough.

You know we joked about how you'd come back and haunt us if we did things you didn't like. And I believed you when you told me how your grandmother visited you when Dad was in Vietnam. And I know you believed me when I told you about Pop being here in my house in Memphis the night he died.

So where are you? No dreams. No visions. No visits.

I want levitating dishes or things in the house mysteriously moved. I want vivid dreams that I remember in the morning of you telling me my future or giving me answers I'm seeking. I want that psychic lady that used to be on the Montel Williams show telling me something only you would know.

Tonight Matt was driving (yes, he has his permit now. At least you aren't around to have that worry!) and I was playing with the radio. He HATES when I constantly flip radio channels. Anyway, I was flipping through and he said "stop there."

It was Neil Diamond's Cracklin' Rosie. What 17-year-old boy wants to listen to Neil Diamond?

But we did. And I told him how when me and Kim were kids we would all dance in the kitchen to Neil Diamond.

And for a few minutes I laughed and smiled and forgot to be mad at you.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Stop & Rest: Even If In A Max Strom Workshop

Here is the Tweet I sent at 7am today:

Body saying Stop Rest or face injury/illness!
 Will have 2 wait till tmrow tho. Today is 
Yoga in the Park & then Max Strom wkshp 2! 

I am physically exhausted and I know the body can only do so much before it goes into self-protection mode and shuts itself down with either an injury or an illness.

I know this. I've experienced it many times. Too many times, in fact, that I should have learned the lesson by now.

But, I was busy today! 

The day started off with Yoga in the Park. A nice group showed up, the sun was shining and the breeze was blowing as we began our practice together. As I led the group I found myself repeatedly clearing my throat. And getting froggier and froggier each time I tried to fix my voice.

By the end of the hour my voice was very close to being all the way gone. Well at least I made it through class I thought. (A more mature response would have been - this is a warning sign I need to stop and rest!)

Instead it was off to day two of yoga workshops with Max Strom. Meeting him was way beyond cool and I wanted to soak up every word he said. I'd read his book A Life Worth Breathing - in fact I've read it twice now - and even wrote an Elephant Journal post about the book.

I left the first workshop last night inspired and keyed up. Today I entered session 2 tired and dragging. In fact I just lay on my mat waiting for the session to begin rather than socialize with the other yoga teachers in the room.

It was, as expected, a wonderful class. And when we went into savasana I really went into savasana. Yep, I did what so many yogi's are afraid will happen - I fell asleep.

Me and Max Strom

I don't mean just dozed off for a second. I mean drool rolling down my face and oblivious to everything around me sleep.

And oh how good it felt!

When Max rang the tingsha bells to bring us back, my first thought was "did I really just do that?" Followed immediately with "can't I have just a few more minutes here?"

I needed that rest today, as much as if not more than, I needed to learn what Max had to teach me. 

Or, perhaps that is the lesson. A lesson maybe he didn't intend, but the lesson I obviously need to learn.

When the body says stop! rest! - we should listen and stop and rest.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Yogi Gym Rat: Bosu Ball Workout Swap

At the end of a good vinyasa class I walk out feeling like my world is full of love and light and unicorns. At the end of a good, sweaty gym workout, I walk out feeling like I could kick someones ass.
It's a good balance for me.

So it's probably no surprise that my gym workouts are very heavily influenced by my yoga. I really like to work core strength and I always am taking into consideration what will enhance my yoga.

I've become Twitter friends with lots of really cool yogi's and gym rats and often we will share routines and offer pointers to each other. When @Krazy_Kris hurt her back, I was able to suggest some gentle yoga stretches to ease her pain. When I'm looking to kick up my gym workout,  @WorkoutNirvana  is always there to encourage me or give me strength training tips.

I don't usually participate in their workout swaps (truth be told, I'm pretty sure I'd tap out before both these ladies), but I thought I'd throw this Bosu Ball routine out there that I've been having fun with lately. And besides, like @Runnertrav says, "sometimes you gotta kick it up a notch, girl!"

Contraindications: Knee issues for lower body work - modify by doing leg work on the floor
Wrist issues for upper body/core work.

Equipment needed:  1 Bosu Ball (second Bosu optional), 1 set hand weights, 8-12 pound medicine ball

Cardio warm up:
  • Stand in front of Bosu holding medicine ball. Lower yourself to sitting on the Bosu and immediately stand up lifting medicine ball overhead. Repeat 8 times.
  • Toe taps. Stand behind Bosu, hop each foot to top of ball tapping your toes quickly. Repeat right and left 8 times.
Repeat entire set 3 times

This is NOT me on the Bosu.
Better alignment would be to
keep the chest lifted so not to
shift the weight forward.
Lower Body:
  • Stand with right foot on Bosu and left foot on floor to the side. Hop to other side landing left foot on Bosu and right foot on floor. Hop back. Repeat 8 times right and left.
  • Stationary lunges front to back. Stand with right foot on Bosu, left leg back. Lunge. Exhale up and extend right leg back into lunge. Repeat 8 times right and left. For more intensity add bicep curls with hand weights.
  • Side leg extensions. Stand with right foot on Bosu, squat back and extend left leg to side. Repeat right and left 8 times. For more intensity add shoulder lateral raises with hand weights.
  • Yoga Utkatasana (chair) pose (in gym lingo just called a squat) - stand with both feet on flat side of Bosu, squat with hips back and knees behind toes. Repeat 8 times. For more intensity add overhead press for shoulders with hand weights.
  • Bridge - lay flat on back with right foot on flat side of Bosu. Extend left leg straight up. Lift hips up and lower. Repeat 8 times right and left. For more intensity, add triceps press. As you lift hips, extend arms with palms facing toward each other holding hand weights. As you lower hips, lower arms so elbows are bent to 90 degree angle with forearms resting on floor.
  • Yoga Vrksasana (Tree) pose. Place right foot on Bosu and bring left leg into Vrksasana. Hold 8 seconds. Repeat right and left. For more intensity, stand on flat side of Bosu and/or add overhead tricep extensions with hand weights.
Repeat entire set 3 times
Upper Body:
  • Plyo push ups. Place right hand on Bosu and left hand on floor, with knees bent on the floor. Lower to push up, using force propel yourself to other side with left hand on Bosu and right hand on floor. Repeat 8 times right and left.
  • Hover to plank. Begin with both arms bent and forearms resting on round side of Bosu, legs extended in full plank position. Push up onto left hand, up onto right hand, down onto left arm, down onto right arm. That counts as 1. Repeat 8 times beginning with left hand then 8 times beginning on right hand.
  • Triceps push ups - place hands on Bosu, tuck elbows in and complete 8 push ups. For more intensity place hands on the flat side of the Bosu.
Repeat entire set 3 times

Core (using the Bosu works your core muscles for both the lower and upper body exercises. This next set is designed specifically for abs):
  • Yoga Navasana (Boat) Pose (in gym lingo called a V sit). Sit on the Bosu with your legs at tabletop and shins parallel to the floor. Holding the medicine ball in your hand, turn torso to the right, center, left center. That counts as 1. Repeat 8 times keeping legs up and back flat. Be sure to keep hips squared to center and turn from the waist only.
  • Four point balance. Place right knee and left hand on Bosu. Extend right arm front and left leg back. Hold 8 counts. Repeat right and left.
  • Plank toe kick. Place hands on Bosu with legs extended to full plank position. Bring right knee in under chest, quickly kick toe to the ball. Repeat 8 times right and left.
  • Double Bosu plank. Place forearms on flat side of Bosu and feet on flat side of second Bosu. Hold yourself in plank position 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Repeat entire set 3 times

Have fun and remember my rule: if I'm sweating, have my ear buds in and am over in the corner - this is MY workout. Don't talk to me!

But do let me know if you try this Bosu workout and what you think.