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Baking Up a Fresh Batch of Mindfulness
Rediscover the fun of letting yourself follow the recipe and make yourself, and those around you, happier along the way.
Hi! I’m Owen, and I’m working this year as a Technical Intern here at Opsview. I’ve been studying Computer Science at the University of Birmingham for three years now, and decided that undertaking a work placement (or ‘Year in Industry’) was the ideal next step for me. That’s what led me to Opsview, and the fantastic company culture that I’ve found here!
So far, I’ve been working on two different teams with a variety of other developers and testers, and have helped to deliver multiple new Opspacks as well as helped test product components. After only 3 months, I’ve gained so much experience in multiple aspects of development mixed with testing, and feel really integrated into the Opsview family.
However, I always knew this was going to be a stressful year. Going from University into a full-time placement is a daunting prospect to say the least, and adding in moving to another city while meeting a ton of new people certainly didn’t help. But this sort of thing happens to everyone - it’s rare that anyone these days will tell you they’re finding life less stressful than it used to be. Not to mention the increased stress that something big like the release of Opsview Monitor 6.0 can bring, when everyone is working full pelt to achieve a deadline.
The fast pace that life is barrelling along at is certainly not slowing, and there’s been a rise of people touting the benefits of mindful thinking - that is, finding yourself in the present moment, and allowing all your worry about the past and future to stop ‘living inside our heads’, as the NHS puts it. They claim this can be as simple as enjoying the touch of a banister when walking up the stairs, or the feel of the air flowing past when taking a walk.
It’s true that this can be difficult for a lot of us to achieve, with the constant desire to control our lives meticulously preventing us from clearing our heads. That’s why I’ve written this today to share a technique that I find helps me relax, reconnect with what I’m doing in the moment, and enjoy letting go of some of that control. It’s as simple as finding a recipe, buying some ingredients, and taking the time to follow some instructions.
Baking was something I rediscovered during my first year at University - I remembered cooking with my mum when I was little but, as a teenager, it’s hard to be overly enthusiastic about making some fairy cakes. Once I did arrive at University, I had to start cooking my own food, and found that I grew more and more drawn towards the simple pleasure of finding a new bake. There’s something special about the measuring, the stirring, and just waiting for your sponge to rise that feels so therapeutic. You can relax in the moment, and allow yourself to get lost in the motions of the recipe.
An added benefit of baking as a hobby is that you get to share this newfound happiness with those around you - most people aren’t going to say no to a homemade slice of cake or a brownie (especially if they’ve got a good cup of tea to go with it!), and when you can help make the people happier and more relaxed, it’s hard not to have that feeling rub off on you too.
I thought I’d share a really nice brownie recipe that you can try yourself, and which opens itself to a whole host of fun variations so you’ll never get bored:
(Vegan) Biscuit Brownies
- ½ ripe avocado
- 250ml soya milk
- 4 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 100g caster sugar
- 125g all-purpose flour
- 200g cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 packets of your favourite biscuits (I like to use oreos, but you could use any biscuit - biscoff biscuits, custard creams and bourbons also work well.)
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200°C and lay down some baking paper in an 8” x 8” baking dish - I like to let the sides of the paper come well out of the dish to make it easier to lift it out for cooling.
In a blender, combine the avocado (peeled hopefully), soymilk, maple syrup and coconut sugar. Blend for about 15-20 seconds, until smooth.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt then stir together.
Pour the wet ingredients in the blender into the bowl with the dry. Stir them together (take special care to break up any clumps of the cocoa powder/flour as I often find them attempting to stick together).
Once the batter is ready, pour half of it into the baking tin. Then create a layer of your biscuits on top, as many as can possibly fit. Pour the second half of the batter over the top of them.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until set. I try to bake it until I can insert a knife blade into the brownie, and have it come out (almost) clean with no batter left on it - if you’re still seeing raw batter, add 5 minutes at a time until it’s gone. If you're using a biscuit with a filling/chocolate, be careful you don’t mistake any of this for raw batter and overbake! You can also add some of your crushed up biscuits on top if you have any left over - just be careful they don’t get burnt in the oven.
Once the brownie is done, leave it to cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then carefully lift it out onto a wire cooling rack. When it’s cool, you can slice it as desired and serve (although I always find brownie tastes best after it’s spent some time in the fridge).
This is a variation on the recipe found at http://makingthymeforhealth.com/vegan-avocado-brownies/.
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