I recently read of a study into mood and stress, which found that how you feel is only 10% determined by your circumstances — factors like genetics and your thoughts and actions have a far greater impact. This surprised me, for, as someone who would frequently describe myself as stressed, for both professional and personal reasons, I always assume that it is a result of factors I cannot control. I can’t help being stressed because of that situation, or that person, or that piece of work, none of which I have any say in. If those things didn’t exist I could be fine.
In fact, the study found that, contrary to common belief, we get used to our circumstances over time, so they don’t play as large a role in determining our happiness as we might think.
It is not the first study to conclude that our reactions to events/circumstances/situations are more important than the events themselves in determining our well-being. I actually find this quite reassuring, for it suggests we are not as helpless as we believe when it comes to fighting stress or unhappiness.
I am not the right person to dish out advice on dealing with stress, but I do know that a healthy lifestyle is important for overall wellbeing. There are also some specific foods which are thought to combat the stress hormone cortisol, one of which, you’ll be pleased to hear, is dark chocolate. Among its numerous health benefits, it is high in antioxidants and slows the production of cortisol, as well as being thought to lower blood pressure.
So as well as being dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and vegan, you can eat these brownies in the knowledge they may well be doing you some good. They contain a high quantity of almonds, which are full of protein, healthy fats, and vitamin E, great for your skin and hair. The chia seeds provide mood-boosting and heart-healthy omega-3s and pure unrefined maple syrup, though sugary, contains essential minerals and nutrients like zinc, manganese, and antioxidants. The benefits of the medium chain saturated fatty acids in coconut, as well as the vitamins and minerals it packs, are well known. These brownies are basically a superfood.
They are really gooey, as in stick-to-your-teeth gooey, which I like, but if you’d prefer them a little more solid I imagine reducing the almond milk by half would produce the desired effect.
Makes 12 brownies
- 1 cup almond butter (about 240g)
- 1 cup pure maple syrup (250ml)
- 1 tbsp vanilla essence
- 1/4 cup chia seeds (4-5 tbsps)
- 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup fairtrade cocoa powder (60g)
- 1.5 cups ground almonds (150g)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (125ml)
- optional: chocolate chips, chopped nuts, dried cherries etc.
For the icing:
- 300ml coconut cream
- 3-4 tbsps pure maple syrup, to taste
- 2 tbsps cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C . Line a 24cm/9inch square cake tin with greaseproof paper and grease it with coconut oil.
- Put the chia seeds and water in a bowl and leave for about 5 minutes to gel together.
- In a saucepan, very gently heat the almond butter and maple syrup and stir together, until it is all melted and runny and combined. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the ground almonds and cocoa powder and mix to combine. Pour in the cooled syrup mixture, vanilla extract and chia-water mix, and stir well.
- Lastly, stir in the chocolate chips/nuts if using.
- Pour the mixture into the tin, even it out with the back of a spoon if necessary, and bake for about 50 minutes. It will not be totally solid, but you want the top to be cooked and crispy. The insides will still be soft
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once the tin is cool enough, put it in the fridge and leave for a few hours to firm up and get fudgey, for want of a better term.
- Make the icing: stir together the coconut cream, cocoa powder, and maple syrup until all combined and pour it over the brownie. Return to the fridge to set.
- Finally, cut into 16 squares, transfer to an airtight container, and store in the fridge until needed.