My aching back!

When my muscles start screaming, I know they are overworked and need a little TLC. In my earlier days, I would have popped a few Advil and called it a day, but now I rely on natural methods of pain relief. Here are a few things you can do to ease muscle tension and discomfort.

Drink more water

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Don’t like drinking water? Make it into an hourly game or buy fun water bottles like this one!

I think the girls in my challenge groups must be sick of me saying “drink more.” What happens when flowers don’t get enough water? They dry up. What happens when lakes don’t get enough water? They dry up. What happens when your body doesn’t get enough water? You literally dry up – flaky skin, brittle hair, chapped lips, etc. Hydrate your body and your muscles to help increase your energy and prevent muscle cramping.

Stretch

Never underestimate the power of the cool down. I used to hate this so much. Once I was done with the meat of the workout, I was DONE. That meant no extra time to stretch out those muscles I just literally worked to the bone. It hurt, and I quickly learned my lesson. Think of it as your reward for finishing a tough sweat sesh – your muscles and body deserve it. I also recommend stretching or light yoga just before bed to prevent cramping at night.

Eat up post-workout

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I love Icelandic yogurt with berries and pistachios post-workout. It’s a nice treat!

I never miss an opportunity for a snack! After working out, you’ll want something to fuel the day as well as calm inflammation, aid in muscle repair, and improve mental focus. I have a brand of gluten free post-workout bars that I absolutely LOVE, but you can also opt for eggs, a protein shake, grilled chicken, oatmeal, bananas, cottage cheese, berries, or a handful of nuts.

Take a warm bath

Nothing is more soothing than a warm bath with lots of bubbles. Add some Epsom salts and lavender essential oil and take a deep soak. Both help to ease the tension in your muscles and joints.

Rub on some essential oils

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I use these two oils post workout and also diffuse the lavender one throughout the day.

There are a host of oils that are good for post workout – cinnamon bark, wintergreen, and basil (for sore muscles and joints), grapefruit (lessons mental and physical fatigue), lavender (eases muscle tension), and peppermint (clears breathing). Diffuse in the air or rub directly on your skin. For sensitive skin, you’ll want to use a carrier oil or cream. Just mix a drop or two of your essential oil with your carrier and apply. I only use 100% pure essential oils of high quality so I know I’m putting the good stuff in my body.

Try a foam roller

Foam rollers improve flexibility and also help to massage tired, achy muscles. For this reason, it might be painful at first, but after prolonged use, it will feel oh so good! Benefits include the reduced likelihood of injury, better sleep, boosted energy, and soothed muscles aches.

Get some rest

wp-1501720797577.If you’re feeling sore, don’t overdo it. Curl up with a book or find something on Netflix and then get a good 7-8 hours of sleep. Your body needs time to recharge and create energy, so don’t skimp out on those old fashioned zzzs!

How do you relieve your achy muscles?

Baking 101: Perfect Cakes

signature white cake, marshmallow creme frosting, raspberry filling

Let’s talk about cake. I’m not a fan, myself – I know, shocking! But I love baking it (mostly the decorating part) and I know a lot of people who love eating it. 

Baking can be really tricky – it’s just like a very precise science. Physics? Criminalistics? I’m not entirely sure of a good comparison here, just roll with it. Cooking is relatively simple. You can remedy a salty dish by adding more of the other ingredients, or swap broccoli rabe for fiddle heads. Anyone can cook. With baking, even 1/2 teaspoon discrepancy can make or break your cake. And, if you substitute baking powder for baking soda, God help your soul. 

So, understandably, many people attempt (and fail) at baking and never try it again. Honestly, I think I’ve had more flop recipes than successful ones. It’s easy to suck – the ingredients aren’t right, oven temperature is off, the weather is too humid. It’s not you, it’s the cake. 

After many, many failures I now have a tried and true method to baking (virtually) perfect cakes every time. Failures are bound to happen here and there, but the following tips will help prevent a multitude of disasters. 

Prep it. 

  • Read the entire recipe end to end. Twice. 
  • Take ingredient inventory. Note how much the recipe calls for and how much you already have on hand. (It’s always best to have more than you need.)
  • Make a list of the items you you don’t have and pick them up from the grocery store. 
  • Be aware of ingredients that need to be used at room temperature, such as eggs, butter, and cream cheese. 
  • ALWAYS use fresh ingredients. 

Bake it. 

  • If you over mix your batter you will end up with a tough and dense cake. Whisk or beat together wet ingredients until smooth and then gently fold in dry ingredients until just combined. 
  • Grease your cake pans with a thick coat of Crisco and thin layer of flour. Your cake should come out clean and neat with nicely browned edges. 
  • Use Wilton Bake-Even strips around your cake pans. They will distribute heat evenly to the entire pan (hence the name!), which will result in flat tops. 
  • Oven temperatures may vary. Check your cake during the baking process to prevent burning. An oven thermometer is a good tool to have on hand.
  • Cake is done when golden brown around the edges and when a toothpick, inserted into the center, comes out clean. Don’t wait until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan before removing from the oven – you don’t want to over bake it.  

Cool it. 

  • Let your cake cool down before trying to de-pan. Removing a hot or warm cake could cause it to crumble or break right in half (resulting in absolute devastation to the baker). 
  • Allow your cake to cool further on a wire rack. It will help release the steam and cool faster. 
  • Wrap the cooled cake in plastic and chill for a few hours or overnight before frosting. This will help prevent crumbs in the frosting and will give you a stronger surface to work with. 

Decorate it.

  • Use a cake leveler to evenly slice the cake to your desired height, or to remove the little mountain on the top if you didn’t use the Bake-Even Stips. The leveler is super cheap and useful – I got mine from Walmart for about $2. 
  • A cool environment is a MUST for successful decorations – especially when working with fondant and buttercream. If possible, I would also suggest frosting and decorating the day after baking. 
  • If you are making a multi-layer cake, pipe frosting onto a layer with a pastry bag and round tip, smooth with a metal spatula. Add the next layer of cake and chill. Repeat the process until the final layer is placed. 
  • To frost the entire cake, start with a crumb cover. This is a light covering that will “freeze”the crumbs from the cake edges in place and allow for a beautiful (and flawless) frosting cover. (Makeup lovers – think concealer before foundation.) Pipe frosting into sides and smooth out with a metal spatula. If needed, pipe more frosting between layers and smooth out. Chill. 
  • To cover the entire cake, you can apply another smooth layer or pipe designs. I prefer roses because they are very elegant, super easy, and work up fast. Just use a star tip and pipe swirls around your cake, working from the bottom up. 
  • Always keep finished cakes chilled until ready to eat. Many ingredients (cream cheese, butter, etc.) can melt and/or spoil when left out for too long, especially in the summer. 

With a little practice, you will be well on your way to making fabulously perfect cakes. 

signature white cake, pistachio buttercream frosting

Happy Baking ❤