Decadent, chocolatey black bean brownies

We are knee deep in birthday parties lately. It seems like we have a birthday party to go to every weekend, which the kids love because they can run around, stuff themselves with cake and then sneak goodie bag treats on the way home.  In fact, we’re so into birthdays right now that Brooke has already begun counting down to hers (it’s 5 months away) and misses no opportunity to point out to everyone that she’s four and a HALF. Remember when that half mattered so much?

Last week was my husband’s birthday and the girls were immediately excited for cake and ice cream when they realized it. The hubby requested brownies. I’m all for indulging every so often when the occasion calls for it, but the ingredient list in boxed Duncan Hines brownies leave a lot of room for improvement. Check it out:

Now, I am a BIG fan of brownies. I love them, especially when they’re all gooey and extra fudgey in the middle. So, when I came across THIS recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie, I was dying to try them. And to make it more fun, I was dying to try them without anyone knowing they were made with black beans.

They were super easy to make and took no time at all. I used all maple syrup instead of sugar and next time I make them, I would definitely add walnuts to give them a little extra something.

Man, they were good! You would never be able to tell that these guys were made from black beans. I almost pulled the wool over my husband’s eyes but I mistakenly left the recipe up on his iPad so he knew what I was up to. Ah, details! Not my strongest suit. He went right along with it though and I didn’t realize it until well after. He swears he would have never known. I had a few other taste testers who couldn’t believe it when I told them the main ingredient. My kids of course gobbled these up, even KNOWING they had black beans in them.

(For the record, if I told them the entire cast of Frozen was at the front door waiting to whisk them away for a sing-a-long in Arendelle and all they had to do was eat just ONE tiny little black bean, they would turn away and slam the door. No question.)

So, there you have it. You have to try these. Healthy brownies that taste like brownies! It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

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Ditching self care for something better

I don’t like the term self care. 

It conjures up images of spending hours soaking in a bubble bath with a magazine. Let’s be serious, it’s completely unrealistic and even if we did have the time to do that, the relaxation feeling would last until your kids tried to climb in with you. 7 minutes, maybe?

Self care feels frivolous and unnecessary, as in luxurious activities you only do when you have hours to yourself. Instead, we need to reframe the word so that self care means taking responsibility for your core desired needs. Self responsibility. THAT feels more realistic and doable.

Yesterday I was texting back and forth with friends. These woman all have little ones and we were comparing how long it’s been since we got our hair done, waxed our eyebrows and had 5 minutes to ourselves to shower. The shared stories were making me laugh and feel connected and understood on a day that felt endless and tiring.

The thing is, self care IS important! Ridiculously important actually. But instead of hours pampering ourselves in luxurious ways, we need to be able to take a shower, pluck our eyebrows, nourish ourselves with healthy food and move our bodies.

Basics! We need the basics.

The days that I skip my shower to get out the door,  forgo yoga because there isn’t enough time or order out instead of cook in, I end the day feeling restless and defeated because I’m giving up the things that are important to me. I’m failing on the responsibility I have to myself to feel human and feel good.

What we need as moms and busy women are strategies that will help us to take care of ourselves in a loving and real way in the midst of our busy and chaotic days. Continue reading

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Peanut Butter & Sea Salt Cups

Walk into any store this week and you’ll be bombarded with chocolate and candy… which is exactly why I’m staying home for the next few days. What kid can resist the pink M&M’s, Hershey Kisses and Sweet Tart hearts?

Last week we stood in the store while Jaclyn clung to a box of brownies and wailed in the loudest possible scream, “I want BOWNEEEES mama!”. Over and over.  I’m pretty sure I thought of myself as the kind of mom who would simply leave my cart of food and head for the nearest exit if my kids were causing a scene in the store.

And I did consider that for about one second. And then I tried to bribe her. And then I pretended to walk away. And then I threw my high standards out the window and the brownies into the cart. There was snow coming. And I needed eggs! And there was no way on earth I was making a separate trip back to that store. Continue reading

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The best way to get out of your own way

This weekend my family gathered for a sledding day. I truly only expected the kids to sled and maybe a few of the ambitious adults to join in. To my surprise and delight, 10 minutes in we were all bombing down the hill, laughing and yelling.  It was great and I left nearly an hour later with a huge grin wondering why I don’t do things like this more often.

It got me thinking. You know those days when you can’t seem to get out of your own way?

You’re in a funk. You overindulged and now can’t seem to stop. You have a decision to make and keep spiraling back and forth. Things aren’t going right and it’s just going on and on and on. Or perhaps, everything just feels hard right now?

Yes, I know those days well. You likely do too. Continue reading

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3 habits to give up to have your best year yet

Photo credit: April K Photography (www.aprilkphoto.com)

“Well, if you want to sing out, sing out. And if you want to be free, be free. ’Cause there’s a million things to be. You know that there are.” – Cat Stevens

I literally laughed out loud when I heard this Cat Stevens’ song come on my radio a few weeks ago.  I had just left a coffee shop on my work day and I was feeling stuck. I was thinking way, way too hard and desperately trying to force a 2014 plan for my business.

It’s easy to get all muddled up and trapped in your head when you’re feeling stuck. And these song lyrics that came on the radio at the exact right time just reminded me that it doesn’t all have to be so hard.

Even when you’re feeling stuck and backed up against a wall, you always have a choice. Even if you can’t change your exact situation, you could change your mind. Or, you could simply change the way you’re going to react to it. So much of how we experience our days is a choice.

“You can do what you want / The opportunity’s on
And if you can find a new way / You can do it today
You can make it all true / And you can make it undo
you see ah ah ah /its easy ah ah ah
You only need to know”

So, thanks Cat Stevens for that reminder to turn my thoughts around and give up trying to force an outcome. Which brings me to this: 3 things to give up in 2014 to have your best year yet. Continue reading

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Are you coming with me or what?

So, be honest. We’re 9 days into 2014. How are you doing with those resolutions?

I’m fascinated with the new year/new you mentality that comes with each January. I’ve been pouring over so many unique ways to process the past year and begin a new one.

I’m in the middle of reading Danielle LaPorte’s book The Desire Map. Danielle writes “What if, first, we got clear on how we actually wanted to feel in our life, and then we laid out our intentions? What if your most desired feelings consciously informed how you plan your day, your year, your career, your holidays — your life?”

So maybe what we’re chasing aren’t things at all. The pursuit and achievement of goals is less about them and more about the feeling they’ll give us when we get there. So, if you can identify the feelings you’re after, you can meet them in many different ways everyday rather than dedicating your life to achieving the goal. Amazing. I love this.

Resolutions are usually focused on deprivation, restriction or the solo headstrong pursuit to changing what’s wrong with you.

But ultimately, everyone makes resolutions for the same exact reason – to be happier. Continue reading

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The fight for the life you want

As I write this, I’m surrounded by rustic wood floors, big windows, coffee in the air. I have my laptop flipped open and that warm cozy feeling that always comes from coffee shops.  A few years ago, I dreamed of working in coffee shops.

Instead I spent my time in a cube. As I wandered around the city at lunch, I studied people walking with their kids and wondered what they did all day. I wondered what it would be like to have that life. It seemed so free, and relaxed and serene. I knew logically that this was probably not the case but the dichotomy between the life they were living and mine felt huge.

I was taking the train into Boston each day and working for a big consulting firm. I loved my friends and we had fun but at the end of the day, I felt like the opposite of those people wandering. I felt trapped. I remember thinking that I was not built to be working inside an office everyday for the rest of my life.

The truth is – I have two gorgeous kids, a beautiful business and I get to work in coffee shops if I want – yet I’m not the picture of ease I thought I’d be.

What I’ve realized is that no matter where you are in life, you have to WORK to make life feel like you want it to. You need to get down to the heart of what it is you really want – the feeling of what you want, not things or people or the stuff that fills up your life.

It’s freedom for me. Not freedom as in jumping on a plane and leaving my life, but freedom built into my beautiful, messy and busy life.

Nothing is ever black or white. You don’t magically shift into your ideal life and bask in the glow of it forever. I could spend all day busy with things that don’t feel important to me. I can easily fill up entire days with errands, cleaning and um, Facebook. Then I get to the end of the day and I’m frustrated and feel flat. Is that really any different that sitting in my cube feeling trapped?

This is where the fight comes in. Will you take the time to pepper the things into your day that will leave you feeling the way you want? Or will you get sidetrack, distracted and let the mundane take over?

Nobody but me is stopping me from grabbing my camera and going for a walk or  hitting up a yoga class and wandering into a bistro for lunch. I could take the kids and a thermos of hot chocolate to the beach one morning and watch the ocean.

This is why it’s a fight. Because it’s easier instead to grab the laundry that needs folding or check off another item on your to-do list.

I truly believe that living someone else’s version of the truth of your life will only leave you miserable, tired and sick. And damn, who is going to fight for the life you want if you don’t?

 

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A better life begins with what you put into your mouth

My biggest takeaway in the past few years of studying health has nothing to do with calories, fats or protein. It has nothing to do with how much you should eat to be healthy and has nothing to do the latest and greatest super foods on the market.

The most important thing I have learned can be broken down to this very simple takeaway:

Boom.  Let’s break it down. Continue reading

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Stop stressing about what your kids eat and focus on this instead


I have a daughter who is 4 and another who is 2 and here’s what I’ve noticed: they watch me very closely. It’s easy to forget that in the day to day of busy life but I remember when I hear, “Mommy! Your seatbelt isn’t buckled!” as I pulled out of the driveway. And I remember when I hear them singing the songs I’ve quietly sung to them as babies and I remember when I see them turn to watch me react to them being silly and having fun.

The truth is my kids aren’t the best eaters.  They go to birthday parties specifically for the cake and they would eat PB&J for every single meal if I let them. My oldest is terrified of trying new foods and generally sticks with 3 or 4 foods that she eats over and over and over. Continue reading

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Taste the rainbow, but lose the Skittles.

When I was in nutrition school, people kept claiming that carrots were sweet. Sweet? You have to be kidding me.

I couldn’t taste it because my body and palette was still very used to the overly artificially sweet foods all around me. But slowly, slowly as I worked it out of my system, I noticed…yes. Yes! They are sweet!

I’m not sure I ever would have noticed it if I hadn’t been looking for the flavor. Food had become something I shoved into my mouth, barely tasting while running out the door, or as fast as I could before a meeting. Food as it’s own experience? Hardly ever. Continue reading

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