If you follow me on Facebook, you know that L and I watched this video on the weekend and were inspired to incorporate some new practices into the way we live. Gratitude, journalling, exercise, meditation, and random acts of kindness, according to Shawn Achor, are powerful keys to creating more happiness in your life.
Going in, we decided to start by taking stock of where things stood for us. Gratitude? Check. Well, most days, anyway. On a good day you’ll find L and I lingering over the dinner dishes talking about what each of us feels grateful for—L scrubbing down pots while I tidy the after-dinner clutter. L is also pretty committed to meditation, though she’d tell you otherwise because of an occasional fall from her practice. (I, on the other hand, could always use a gentle nudge (or a more dramatic push) to sit and focus on my breath for a few moments. Will I ever learn?)Exercise, at least in its more traditional way, is more my thing. I am quite drawn to it, and am perhaps one of the lucky few who actually enjoys going to the gym. L practiced capoeira last year and spent time learning to longboard, but since starting school again, her schedule doesn’t leave her with much time for these activities. In the meantime, the dog gets walked a little longer and L gets to be out in the fresh air; it’s a pretty good balance between a “have to” and a “want to”. Lucky for miss Sunshine.
As for journalling, well… that goes on the list of things that I know are helpful, but for whatever reason I just can’t get myself to sit down and do. Finally, random acts of kindness are certainly not foreign to us (we try to live our lives each day with kindness), but we could certainly stand to be a bit more intentional and generous with others.Although I posted the link on Sunday, I will admit that, despite our good intentions (and the seeming simplicity of the tasks required), our happiness plan seems to have gotten off to a slow start. (Chalk it up to transition?) So we’re starting fresh today. For the next 21 days we’re committing completely to our happiness plan, and to living our lives with a bit more intention.
I thought I’d start things off by sharing with you one of my gratitudes of the day. This morning my mom pulled me out of a funk. The funk came on suddenly and out of the blue with some bad news I’d received. But the moment it hit, I got caught-up. Feeling sad and out of control, I apologized to my mom, embarrassed about becoming so easily overwhelmed. I hadn’t called her to cry and bemoan my life. I called to talk, to ask her advice. But there, welling up inside of me, were these big feelings. My mom did what moms are wont to do: she listened, showed compassion, and offered me a little help. Though help is not always something that we want, need, or often have the courage to ask for, today it was exactly what was most welcome. And I never would have asked because it would have felt like I was burdening her. But this simple gift—one that didn’t take much on her part—has already had a significant impact in my life, and I know that my mom feels good to have been able to do it. For me, the weight of a thousand layers were lifted off my shoulders. And for this I am filled with big gratitude. Huge. (Mom… thank you!)Not all gratitudes are going to be like this, nor do they need to be. I treasure this one, because it will carry me along for a big while. But the smaller gratitudes are equally important. These are the moments that make up our day. According to Shawn, part of creating more happiness involves retraining our brains to scan for the positive instead of scanning for the negative. For me, that can be as simple as watching our cat nuzzle up to our dog or noticing that I caught all of my transit connections with ease. It’s with this sentiment that I offer you these black bean brownies with bourbon-soaked cherries. Once you taste one, you’ll know just what I mean. A little more on the special side, but not at all hard to make, these brownies can give an ordinary moment a bit of a boost, perhaps even make it gratitude worthy.
- 1 cup dried cherries
- ¾ cup bourbon
- 1 stick butter
- 180 g unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped (you can also use semi-sweet)
- 1 190z can bpa free black beans
- ¼ cup cacao powder
- ¼ cup coconut flakes
- 2 tbsp bourbon, soaked in cherries
- 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped, divided in half
- a pinch of sea salt
- 3 eggs
- ⅔ cup agave
- A day or two before you want to make the brownies, place the cherries in a medium bowl and pour over the bourbon. Cover and set aside, stirring every now and then. You’ll notice that the cherries will swell and plump up.
- On the day of baking, preheat the oven to 325°F and line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
- In a medium size pot, over low heat, melt the butter. Break the chocolate into small pieces and add them to the melted butter. Stir until the mixture is completely melted.
- Meanwhile, strain the cherries, reserving 2 tbsp of the bourbon for this recipe and the rest for sipping. :)
- Put the black beans, cacao powder, coconut flakes, the 2 tbsp of reserved bourbon, and half of the walnuts in a food processor and process for a couple of minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and blend for another minute. Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes, until pale and creamy looking. Add the agave and whisk for 30 seconds to a minute. Pour the chocolate over the bean mixture and stir gently until you have a uniform mixture. Add the remaining ½ cup of walnuts and the cherries and stir to combine.
- Pour into the prepared baking pan.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes. They might still feel a little bit loose in the middle when you take them out.
- The brownies are extremely fudgy and with all of the add-ins, they can be difficult to cut.
- Wait until they cool completely to cut them. If you can hold off, the next day is even better. To get the cleanest cut, use a serrated knife, dip it in water and wipe it down between slices.
- These brownies freeze well and are easy to eat straight out of the icebox.