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!

Over-Involved and Under-Committed: The New Generation

When I was growing up, my parents had a rule for my sister and I (well they had many) but the particular one had to do with commitment.  They told us that we could only choose one sport/ extracurricular activity at a time. We were not the over committed family that always had 3 soccer games, a softball game, church, and a girl scout meeting all in a weekend. The most I got away with doing was soccer and girl scouts at the same time.  And this was permitted only because Girl Scouts met once a week for maybe two hours at a time.  It wasn’t a huge time commitment, my parents believed it was important, and I liked it.  They wanted to preserve family time and their sanity.  I am so grateful that they did.

But I am noticing a growing trend that concerns me.  First in society as a whole; that we are way to busy.  I am totally guilty of this, so I am not preaching from any pulpit, that’s for sure.  Secondly, many people, especially high schoolers, are over-involved and under-committed.  Now, hear me when I say that.  Over-involved and under-committed; how is that even possible?

To answer that question, I ask you to reflect upon what most colleges are looking for in a competitive applicant.  They want a well-rounded individual, who has played a varsity sport, been the president of a club, while being involved in two other clubs, been involved in the community, and on top of all that maintained stellar grades and achieved great test scores. I feel like they are asking for their applicants to dabble and under commit to everything, just so they can attain that “over-committed” level that colleges look for.  If there was a common mantra among current high school students, I’m pretty sure it could be, “Just do it for the app.”

The frustrating thing about this over-involvement is that instead of picking a couple of things that they love and committing to them and being super involved with them, students are doing things for the label, just so they can say they are “involved” on their college application.  AND COLLEGES SEEM TO ENCOURAGE THIS!  Though I’m sure every admissions counselor would say, “We would much rather you be deeply involved in a few things that you are passionate about, instead of a bazillion different things”; the activities section on the common app begs to differ. There are ten different sections to fill out describing your different activities and involvements in high school.  And if you only fill out four of them, that’s leaving a lot of blank space on the application that decides your scholastic fate.  Thus, students are driven to over involve themselves and under commit.  It is impossible to be completely committed to ten different activities, maintain good grades, have some semblance of a social life, and still sleep for the 8-9 hours recommended for teenagers.

What is created is a “Do it for the college application” attitude. And one can assume how frustrating and annoying this attitude can be. Try taking already slightly noncommittal teenagers, throwing them into ten different activities, and telling them to be committed to every one.  What you get is the bare minimum, a warm body in meetings, brain only half there, constantly thinking of all the other things that have to be done.  The expectation is that we are able to do it all, while in reality we have no chance.

 

 

Failure is…Fun?

For the past three and a half years, I have been a cross-country and long distance track runner.  Running is basically all I know how to do well, sport wise.  I can throw a baseball, play soccer, and fumble my way through other sports, but I for sure do not excel at them.  Running, for me, is and was an escape, and it was something I was good at.

Unfortunately, I was too strong-willed and stubborn and made decisions that got me injured both at the end of my sophomore and junior year.  Sophomore year, I ran through a stress fracture and at the end of season had to take two months off.  Junior year, I injured my back before season even started.  I was out for five and a half months.  I learned a ton from these injuries, but that is a long story for another post.

Last Tuesday, I stopped running on cross-country and long distance track.  It was a huge step for me, because my team had become my family and my whole friend base.  Going into high school, I knew three people in the entire 3,650 student body.  Basically, I knew no one.  But once I joined cross-country, I knew and was friends over 200 people.

This post isn’t going to be what you think: a memory filled, sob story.  It’s about what I learned in the week after stopping.  Now, I didn’t stop entirely, I just moved events.  It feels like I am on a whole new team, playing a whole new sport, because I don’t practice with my old teammates anymore, but I’m still on the track team and so are they.  The only difference is now I’m a jumper and not a distance runner.  I choose to change events because my body couldn’t handle the high mileage of distance running any longer and it needed a break, but I wasn’t ready to give up all together.

This past week, I re-learned that one must fail in order for greatness to appear.  I failed on so many levels this week, but its okay because it is part of the curve of learning something new.  I had fun failing! Now, think about it, how many people can say that?

My favorite failure by far has to be weight room.  Distance runners at my school DO NOT lift any weights.  Picture the most scrawny arms you can imagine, got the image?  This week I failed at chin ups, dips, power cleans, and basically anything that we did that involved upper body strength.

We were doing chin ups from a dead hang (straight arms while hanging on to the bar).  We had a bungee to put one leg in and my friend had just flown through her sets, so I figured it couldn’t be that hard right?  Boy, was I wrong.  It took every ounce of concentration I had to pull my body up an inch from where it started.  And I still had at least a foot to go to even be near the bar.  Talk about weak and embarrassing.

Failing was fun this week, because I am challenging myself to do new things and break out of my comfort zone.  I look forward to the days when I have learned enough so I no longer fail everyday, but for now I’m okay and enjoying my failures. What about you?  How are you challenging yourself and enjoying the “failing” that comes with it?

success 2

Let it Shine

Remember when you were little, and you would spend hours imagining how your life would be once your “hidden natural talent” was found?  For me, I used to skate with a purpose on the ice rink thinking, “Maybe someone will see how amazing I am at skating and then ask to train me for the Olympics”  Or it was narrating imaginary cooking shows in the shower and thinking, “I can be like Rachel Ray!”

Then you grow up, no one has miraculously found you and your “hidden natural talent” and you end up hearing conversations that go on and on about people wishing they had a natural talent.  They wish that they could sing, be athletic, be smart, dress cute, play music, create gorgeous artwork, or one of the many other well-known and coveted talents.

It makes me sad that people don’t see their talents as those awesome “hidden talents” that every kid dreams about; that they don’t see themselves as good at anything, when it is a fact that everyone has a “hidden” talent if they just knew where to look.  I used to think this way too.  It has been a long road to reach a place where I can accept that my talent isn’t one that would rank in “The Top Ten Best Talents”  or even the top twenty.  My talent of listening and cheering people up with my smile, isn’t one that expecting parents would talk about saying, “I hope my kid smiles all the time, so he can cheer people up.”  I’m not artistic, gifted with hand eye coordination, or a musical genius, but I have seen the effects my smile has on people and have learned that it is my “hidden natural talent” and to use it as often as I can.

I wish people would see the talent they have and embrace it.  Remember the Sunday school song, “This Little Light of Mine”?  If not, maybe this will refresh your memory.

All around me I see people with great talents that they just need to let shine.  If your aren’t using and embracing the talents God gave you, then you are wasting them.  You have a talent for a reason, that reason being to let is shine.  I encourage you this week to FULLY EMBRACE YOUR TALENTS and LET THEM SHINE.  In fact, embrace other people’s talents while you are at it, too.  I’ll even wager a bet to say that if you do, your week will be way better than it would have been if you hadn’t embraced your talents.  So go out and start embracing talents.