College, Black Beans, and Brownies

People always said, “Oh yeah, once you are in college, you will miss having a home cooked meal every night.”  And the true meaning of this statement never sank in until I was actually in college.  I have eaten cafeteria food for a little less than a month, and I cannot wait to go home and eat my parents cooking.  Not that our cafeteria food is bad, it just isn’t the food I’m used to. For all my UC school friends that still have another three weeks of summer, savor every bite of home cooked food.  Appreciate it in its entirety.  You will miss it.

I was assigned to live in a room with three other girls.  I was very unsure of how it was going to turn out because living in a cramped space with complete strangers for nine months could go many ways.  Then, the week before I left to go to school, one of my roommates emailed us and informed us that she toured the room and we have a full kitchen and bath in our room.  Um, excuse me?  What?  How is this possible?  As it turns out, we were randomly assigned to the Resident Director’s apartment that was converted into a student dorm.  We basically won the entire housing lottery.  It has been such a blessing to have a kitchen and be able to make my own food once in a while.  The truth is that I wish I could make every meal for myself and not even have a meal plan.  But alas, since I’m living on campus, I must have a meal plan and I should use it or it would be a huge waste of money.

Anyway, I have made eggs, chocolate chip banana pancakes, two batches of chocolate chip cookies, toast, and as of an hour ago, black bean vegan brownies.  I even sent some cookies home to my mom and sister, because my sister made a comment over the phone that she and my mom were down to their last homemade cookie after sending me so many in a care package and how it was too hot to even think of turning on the oven to make more.  So I sent them some dorm-made cookies because I wanted to repay the care package favor.  Because really, no one should be without homemade cookies for too long, especially after school has just started.  That cookie in your lunch very well could be the highlight of your day some days. (Sadly, this is the case once or twice in life; you have bad days that require a cookie to make it better.)  I learned to check with the person who ships your package as to how long it will take for it to arrive, because once they got back home, they were a little crumbly and drier than expected.  It’s the thought that counts, right?

Anyway, tonight I made plans with a friend(yes, I made a friend. Can you believe it?) to try out this new vegan recipe I found on Buzzfeed.  We had no idea how it was going to turn out, but after being sick all weekend and therefore doing nothing but homework and sleeping, I had a little free time tonight to try it out.

The verdict is that they are super fudgy, rich, and dense, and completely and unexpectedly good.  When I heard they had black beans in them I was a skeptic, but these are definitely brownies I would make again.

 

I stole this picture from Farmgirl Gourmet (link at the bottom of this post). It was way better than any picture I could have taken. But mine did turn out looking like this. :)
I stole this picture from Farmgirl Gourmet (link at the bottom of this post). It is way better than any picture I could have taken.  Props to her for this excellent piece of food art. :)

 

Here is the recipe that I got from Farmgirl Gourmet, and then tweaked to fit the ingredients I had in my dorm:

 

Dark Chocolate Vegan Brownies

Ingredients

1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and filled with new water

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder (I used regular unsweetened cocoa powder, because it was cheaper)

4 tsp instant coffee powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup of water (the original recipe calls for Guinness beer, but seeing as I am underage, that wasn’t going to happen)

3/4 cup chocolate chips (or nuts, if you so desire)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Drain the can of black beans into a colander, rinse the can clean and the beans until all bean juice is gone.  Pour the cleaned beans back in the can and fill the can back up to the top with fresh water.
  3. Puree the beans and water in the blender and set it aside.
  4. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and instant coffee powder. Mix together.  Make a well in the center to pour your liquids into.
  5. Pour bean purée, water, and vanilla into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix together, being careful not to overmix.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips or nuts and pour into a greased 9 by 13 pan.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes and rotate the pan halfway through.
  8. Let cool and enjoy! :)


Note: Depending on whether you like coffee or not, I would adjust the amount of instant coffee powder.  The four teaspoons definitely makes it so you can taste the coffee-ness but not in a bad way.  I don’t drink or enjoy coffee, but I loved the extra layer of flavor it gave the brownies and it complimented the chocolate very nicely(as expected). Also, I haven’t tried it with beer yet, but I am curious as to how it tastes, so when I get home I will be trying it again, this time with the beer.  Lastly, I am not vegan, so I didn’t worry about using butter to grease the pan, so if you are vegan use canola oil or cooking spray.

PS Don’t worry, I promise I have made more than one friend.  I mean, who doesn’t want a friend who will bake them yummy goodies all the time? :)

Click here to see the original recipe!

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Making an Impact

This past week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and in honor of it, I am posting something I wrote about my current English teacher, Mr. Theriault.  He is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for forcing me to do so.

“Young lady, do you need to change seats?” It was the first day of school my sophomore year, and I had completely forgotten to bring lined paper.  I had quietly turned around to my friend sitting behind me to ask for a spare sheet so I could write our essay on the assigned reading we had over the summer.  I was in shock and intimidated that I was scolded for asking for a piece of paper, especially on the first day of school.  I was so scared of my new English teacher that I left class that day thinking, “Okay, breathe and relax, if it doesn’t get better, you can always switch to another class.”

Switching to another class would have been one of the biggest mistakes in my academic career, if not my life.  I know it seems cliché, but it is true. I would have missed out on having an extraordinary teacher who does not just teach English, but teaches life.   Shortly into the school year, amidst his ridiculously hard bi-weekly quizzes, he told us, “I am going to grade you on your effort in this class.  The standard measures of competence and effort [by tests and quizzes] will have less value in my class; not so you can slack off, but so you can stretch yourselves to new levels without fear of damaging your grade because of it.”  Though his class is one of the most challenging classes I have had, it is addicting; there are too many days in which I walk out of his classroom, wishing I could stay in English all day, thinking “This is way more worthwhile and meaningful than any of my other classes.”

It was in his class that I first learned how to properly read and annotate a book and was able to enjoy analyzing the syntax of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.  It was in his class, that student presentations became something to look forward to, instead of a waste of a class period, as more often than not, they came with goodies and plenty of audience interaction which kept it interesting.  It is in his class, and really only in his class, that I feel completely at home.

The wheels are always turning in Mr. Theriault’s head, thinking of how to make himself a better teacher, his lessons more fruitful, keep students more engaged, and how to make education less daunting.  He is never afraid to share what he is working on with his students as well as the rest of the world through his blog and Twitter.  Mr. Theriault has taught his students to share their work and thoughts, by assigning weekly blogging and a twenty percent project every year.  Through blogging, I have written more this past year than ever before in the entirety of my high school career altogether.  He has given us the freedom to develop our own voice, something that is so hard to teach, yet so critical for higher level writing.

Mr. Theriault is one of the only teachers I have encountered that will take time out of his class period, his precious fifty-four minutes of teaching time, to ask how students are doing.  He will ask about the sports events that he couldn’t make it to and other school related topics, but he will also ask students how they are doing personally.  If he sees that someone seems down, sick, or just exhausted, the first thing he says is, “Is there anything I can do to make your day better?”.  From chocolate and hot tea to sharing half of his lunch, he is always there for his students.  He realizes that sometimes his class isn’t the most important thing in our lives, and that our overall well-being is much more important than anything he could teach in an hour. He genuinely cares for his students.

I have been blessed to have Mr. Theriault as my English teacher both sophomore and senior year.  As the number of days left until graduation dwindles down, it is a bittersweet feeling; the excitement of graduation and college combined with the sad realization that my time in Mr. Theriault’s class is coming to an end.  I can see why he always has college students coming back to visit him; days in his class are treasured memories and visiting him brings them all back.  Mr. Theriault makes a huge impact on student’s lives every year, and I can only dream of a world in which all teachers were as committed, caring, and compassionate as he is.

"Mr. Theriault, can we take a picture?" "Sure, how do you want to do this? Selfie style?" "Okay" He laughs. "I never take selfies" Personally, I think this one turned out great.
“Mr. Theriault, can we take a picture?”
“Sure, how do you want to do this? Selfie style?”
“Okay”
He laughs. “I never take selfies”
Personally, I think this one turned out great.

 

Thirteen Memories and Fourteen Hopes

It’s 2014. Where has the time gone?  I don’t really know, if anyone could tell me where my time, especially my free time, has gone please, do tell. Amidst the busyness of the Christmas Season, before the New Year, I have started to sit down and reflect on the past year and hope for the new one.

I say hope for the new year for two reasons.  First, I don’t make resolutions because they are silly and end up getting broken by February (if you are lucky to make it that long).  Why would we want to put extra stress and pressure on ourselves by making these lofty “resolutions” only to be disappointed and lose self-confidence when we break them?  This might seem like a pessimistic view of resolutions, but it is not that I am against people deciding to make change in their lives.  Change is good and crucial to life, but it seems a little absurd for people to try to change ten things about themselves at once.  Why not focus on one thing at a time and not just starting at the beginning of a new year?  Yes, we can “turn a new leaf” with the new year, but let’s not be a new leaf for a month, then go stale, then next year turn another new leaf, and start the process over again.
This year I made a list of thirteen memories of 2013 and fourteen hopes and prayers for 2014.  It seemed like a doable thing this year, but if I make it a tradition, I’m going to have to get creative in 2045.  I had trouble remembering thirteen individual things that happened this past year, Lord help me if I have to come up with forty-five in 2045.
Without further ado, here is my list of 13 Memories and 14 Hopes and Prayers.
Thirteen Memories of 2013
~Seeing my sister get baptized
~Camping in Zion National Park and hiking Angel’s Landing
~ Spending thanksgiving with friends and family
~ Getting accepted to all 5 if the schools I applied to via early action
~ Passing down my legacy after finishing 4 years of cross-country
~ Going on my first missions trip ever, to build a house for a family in Mexico
~ Going to the beach Christmas morning with my family and doing hand stands on the shore
~ Attending my last high school summer camp with my church
~ Cheering on my best friends as they raced in both track and cross country
~ Riding quads with my dad
~ Learning to make pillowcases with my sister
~ Riding bicycles to the beach with my mom
~ Finishing a year-long daily bible study of the entire New Testament
14 Hopes and Prayers for 2014
~ To be quiet more often, listen to both the silence and people
~ A relatively easy transition for my family when I leave for school
~ Take more pictures
~ Less scheduling, more spontaneity
~ God’s direction in schools, majors, life in general
~ Calculus gets easier and makes more sense
~ More time for outdoor adventures
~ Wear sunscreen everyday (every fair-skinned person’s mental goal)
~ Remember my priorities by not stressing out about the little things in life that don’t matter
~ Finish reading the Old Testament
~ Read more classics
~ Discover a new hobby/passion
~ Go on another missions trip
~ Treasure every moment

Question Revolution

Recently, my sister has come home with geometry homework that she does not understand and asks me to help her.  Now, I passed geometry, but I am not a math wiz by any means.  So, I slide over to her side of the desk and give it a go.

Our conversations go like this:

HER:  “Lindsey, can you help me?”

ME: “Sure, what’s up?”

HER: “I don’t understand how to do numbers 10-15.”

ME: “Hmmm…okay, you just do this, this, and that, because of this property.  Get it?”

HER: “Kinda”

ME: “Why dont you ask your teacher for help?  Because I’m not always going to remember the concepts and be able to help you.  Did it make sense in class today when you learned it?”

HER: “I don’t know. I guess it made some sense.”

ME: “Well did you ask questions?”

HER: “Well, no.”

ME: “Why not?”

HER: “Cause no one asks questions.  I don’t want her(the teacher) to think I’m dumb.”

ME: “Why would she think that?  Teachers want to know when you don’t understand something, so they can re-teach it to help it make more sense. Why don’t you go in early before school and get help?”

HER: “NO!  I can’t go in early. People would think I’m stupid.  And I absolutely can’t have a tutor, cause that is even worse than asking questions and going in early.”

 

I proceed to remind her of my failings in math and how I spent countless hours going in for extra help and then many more at the tutor in the afternoon, just to finally have a grasp of the concepts that were taught in class that day.  What took the other students thirty minutes to learn, took me two hours and countless questions.  She calms down and finishes her math, but I am stuck pondering why asking questions is such a “bad” thing.

I never have had an issue with asking questions.  If there is any question in my mind, I usually ask it.  You know how there is always that one kid in every classroom that seems as if  their hand is up 75% of the time and on its way up, the other 25% of the time.  The one that ALWAYS asks questions.  Everyone can think of at least one.  Well, I am not at all ashamed to tell you that I am THAT KID.

But, I don’t understand why I am the only one consistently asking questions.  And most of my questions are not about understanding what is being taught, they are questions that help me connect experiences with answers, questions that make my mind turn, get creative, and delve further into the subject being discussed.

Why is asking questions considered such a bad thing to do in a student’s mind?  Teachers normally like questions; they show that the student is engaging in the lesson and learning.  So, why is asking questions so bad?  It really concerns me that the majority of students have been basically taught to learn by rote memorization and regurgitate facts for a grade.  Is our society so cut-throat and judgemental, that even in middle school students are afraid to ask a question in class, as it looks like a sign of weakness?  I do not know, but it needs to change.

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Questions spur change, innovation, imagination, and learning.  Einstein puts it this way, ” Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Without questions, we would be stuck in a rut, doing the same things over and over again, the same way.  If Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Issac Newton, Rosalind Franklin, and Watson and Crick hadn’t asked questions where would we be?  We would never had been to outer space, believing by candlelight, and the field of medicine would be very primitive.  Questions are vital to life, yet today’s students-the leaders and innovators of tomorrow, are afraid to ask questions.

My challenge to you is to ask a question a day, for two weeks.  See what happens.  Who knows, you could be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.  Challenge yourself to be creative and innovative.  We need a question revolution.