My all-time favorite chocolate snack!
We all need a little treat sometimes. But just because we have chocolate and sugar cravings, we don't have to resort to crummy checkout aisle candy bars. These little wonders are easy to make, vegan, gluten free, provide a kick of energy, and can even be frozen- seriously, is there a more perfect snack?! I've used my favorite combination of nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts), but you can use any unsalted variety or combination you like. You can also roll them in anything you like; I've used cocoa powder, chopped almonds and goji berries here, but coconut flakes or any other dried fruit would also be delicious. These keep best refrigerated, but will make it through a day in your lunch bag (or beach bag!)
Yield about 24 truffles
16 oz (or about 2 1/2 cups) whole pitted dates
2 1/2 cups mixed nuts (I use equal quantities raw walnuts, raw almonds, and toasted, skinned hazelnuts
½ cup cocoa powder, plus 1/4 extra, for rolling
2 Tablespoons agave (omit if you prefer; they'll still be sweet!)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Extra cocoa powder, chopped goji berries, chopped toasted almonds, for rolling
Place dates in a medium bowl. Cover with hot tap water. Let soak while you continue with the recipe.
Place nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until very fine, but not quite turned into nut butter.
Add half the soaked dates and process again until completely smooth. (No need to squeeze all the liquid out of the dates.) Add the other half of the dates and process again. You may need to pulse the motor and scrape down the sides a few times to get everything to combine. Reserve the date soaking liquid.
Add the cocoa powder, agave, vanilla and salt and process until completely combined. The mixture should be as smooth as possible, yet thick and sticky. At this point, you may need to add some of the date soaking liquid in order to make the mixture come together. It should be completely smooth, but not soft or watery. Add the liquid only a little at a time until the cocoa powder is completely incorporated. I find that the fresher the dates are, the less water I need.
Spread the cocoa powder out on a sheet of parchment paper. Spoon the truffle mixture onto the paper and roll in the cocoa powder, and in other toppings, if desired. Refrigerate immediately and for a few hours for best texture. Keep refrigerated for a few weeks, or wrap tightly and freeze for up to 5 months. Enjoy!
And when you're ready to treat your muscles, make a massage therapy appointment at my Westport office. I subtly suggest eating these after your session for an amazing day!
You may not even realize you need this!
In everyday movement, we may take our clavicle (collarbone) for granted. It attaches to to significant muscles and provides critical stability. When it's not moving as freely as it should, we can feel as if we can't take a deep breath, can't stand up straight, and can't move our neck and head easily. Understanding how to mobilize the clavicle, therefore, becomes very important.
The clavicle is sits above the first rib, at the sternum, and notches nicely into a part of the scapula (shoulder blade) called the “acromion process.” Understanding both of these attachments is critical in understanding how to mobilize this bone: The sternum has little or no movement in daily life; the scapulae, on the other hand, have an incredible range of movement. Every time we move our arms, the scapulae move, and therefore, the clavicle moves. The clavicle can also move independent of the sternum. This occurs when we shrug our shoulders, for example. Many ligaments are located in this region, and their job is mainly to keep the clavicle from dislocating. While we can't “stretch” ligaments, we can move them through the actions they allow, mobilizing and creating the feeling of freer movement.
As we learned above, to stretch the clavicle completely, we need to move it both at the sternal and scapular attachments. Although these motions are simple, we don't perform them in daily life, so take these stretches slowly and mindfully.
Begin standing with your arms at your sides, slightly pulled toward your back.
Flip your palms up so they are facing away from your body.
Touch your thumbs and fingertips together, but don't interlace them.
Keeping your fingertips touching, slowly move your palms toward the ceiling.
Your focus with this movement is not squeezing your scapulae together, it's moving your clavicles away from your sternum and up toward the ceiling. Gently let your neck and head fall backwards to increase the stretch. You may find that one side of your chest/neck is tighter at this point; you can move your chin gently toward the side that hurts, then the opposite side, and even in small circles to help mobilize the joints.
Don't hold the stretch for a very long time; you may tense more muscles than joints you help. After the stretch, move your arms freely and try to let your shoulders relax completely.
This is a fantastic stretch to try after sitting for a long time, like at your desk, in a car or on a plane. It's also great first thing in the morning as our clavicles often get a little squished while we sleep. Give it a try and I'm confident you'll feel that you can move your upper body more easily. As for the attached muscles, I can help you work that out at your next massage therapy session in my Westport office. I'll see you there!
Open up your entire chest and shoulder
Injuries abound as yard working season begins. I see many lower back and shoulder issues from clients as they create their backyard paradises. I've discussed lower back stretches previously, and this week I'm focusing on shoulder issues.
The shoulder is a complicated joint, but often, the pectoralis muscles are implicated in anterior (front) shoulder pain. That's actually good news; the pec group is one of the easiest to stretch.
The pectoralis group (including “major” and “minor”) attach from about the sternum, across the chest to the top of the upper arm. This means that in order to stretch them, we need to move the upper arm farther away from the sternum. One could just hold the arm behind the body, pretending to fly upward, but there's an easier and more effective way.
Position your body perpendicular to a wall, with enough space to reach your arm behind yourself completely.
Place your palm flat against the wall, directly behind yourself in a straight line from your shoulder. To complete the stretch, inch your body closer to the wall, until you're touching it. To deepen the stretch even more, hinge your body farther away from the wall, moving from being exactly perpendicular to facing farther away from the wall.
Breathe deeply, don't bounce and move slowly and deliberately.
To engage your pec minor muscle in the stretch, slide your palm from parallel to the floor to about 45 degrees. Many people find stretching this muscle FAR more difficult, but more valuable as well. The pec minor specifically can be implicated in nerve pain down the arm, so learning to condition it is extremely good for the body.
Stretching this muscle group before and after yard work and exercise is so effective! Since the muscles are so large and superficial, you'll note that you can train them fairly easily and should notice a difference quickly. I recommend stretching them at least before use, when waking up and before bed. When your chest is clear and open, you'll feel like you can stand up straighter and breathe more easily. You'll love these stretches! And when you need a little more help with tension or a demonstration of these stretches, book a massage therapy appointment. I'll see you in my Westport office!