Dialectical Brownie Therapy

I’ll admit it. Sometimes I eat brownies for breakfast. If they happen to be out, and I’m skidding through the kitchen on the whirlwind path to get dressed and upright on the moped and into the hospital, I’ll grab a brownie and chase it with a pot of coffee.

I’m getting help. Actually, I’ve invented my own Crisis Hotline for others with this same problem. I call it Dialectical Brownie Therapy (DBT), an adaptation of a cognitive behavioral therapy I’ve been learning to practice on my current psychiatry rotation. For my version of DBT, as in real DBT, the goal is to seek a synthesis between two extremes, between feeling overly controlled and feeling out of control.

When I ate brownies for breakfast before, I’d get caught in the Hegelian dialectic between 1) my own out of control emotional vulnerability of wanting the goodness of a gooey brownie regardless of the health consequences and 2) the over controlling invalidating environment that shames me for wanting to eat chocolate for breakfast and oversimplifies the ease of reaching for the banana or granola instead. The dialectic is that I get caught between blaming myself and blaming others for the problem of brownies for breakfast. Only after significant work at distress tolerance did I arrive at a revolutionary synthesis: I am fine as I am to have brownies for breakfast (acceptance) AND the brownies need to be radically different, healthier (challenge).

This is the fundamental approach to DBT—to be both entirely supportive of yourself and entirely challenging—at the same time. I love a good paradox. This is also the mark of a good teacher, and, consequently, the mark of a good doctor.  Support students/patients while you challenge them. Constant support AND unrelenting challenge. So, I put a can of black beans and ¼ cup of flax seeds into this chocolatey pan of goodness. Now my brownie breakfast has protein and fiber and I can eat them with peace and sublime satisfaction. Image

Dialectical Brownie Theory

Bean and Flax Brownies

Recipe adapted from the Hyvee Seasons Fall 2013 magazine

Theory adapted from Marsha Linehan, PhD, and Hegel

1 (15 ounce) can  black beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup flax seeds

1 1/2 c.  semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 c.  unsalted butter

3/4 c.  olive oil

1 3/4 c.  sugar

1 tbsp  vanilla extract

3  large eggs

1 1/3 c.  all-purpose flour

1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp  unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp  baking powder

1/4 tsp  salt

1/2 c.  mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a food processor puree black beans with 1/4 cup flax seeds until smooth, scraping the sides of bowl as needed. This will look so gross. Practice self-soothing. Image

Place a large heat-safe bowl over a pan of boiling water. Add pureed black beans, 1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter to bowl. Stir with a wire whisk until butter and chocolate are melted and combined. Remove from heat. Add olive oil and mix until combined. Stir sugar and vanilla into chocolate mixture until smooth. Image

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside. Place a large heat-safe bowl over a pan of boiling water. Add pureed black beans, 1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter to bowl. Stir with a wire whisk until butter and chocolate are melted and combined. Remove from heat. Add olive oil and mix until combined. Stir sugar and vanilla into chocolate mixture until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time. Mix thoroughly between additions until all 3 eggs have been added.

In a large bowl sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined. Add chocolate mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into prepared baking pan and smooth top of brownies with a spatula. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top of batter.

Bake brownies for 35 minutes. They may seem underdone but will continue to bake in pan after removed from oven. Image

Each time I bring one of these brownies to my lips I get the warm fuzzy knowing how supportive I am being of myself. And, as I’m doing so, I feel ready for the next challenge, the brownies can be healthier still—maybe next time I make these, I’ll add bananas or something.

**To be clear, I love DBT. By appropriating the acronym for my silly brownie blog post, I mean no disrespect, and wish to convey no satire. I have high esteem for the real DBT and think the whole world and the world’s grandmother should practice these skills on the regular. **

9 thoughts on “Dialectical Brownie Therapy

  1. Once again, your ability to use alchemy and make already-good medicine and baking practices even better in combination has amazed and delighted me! Also, I think Hyvee should be paying you for repping their recipes so well 😉

  2. Love it. I used to make cookies with applesauce instead of butter and honey instead of sugar. Outrageously granola and the consistency was a little cakier, but my blood sugar thanked me for avoiding the crash. xo

      1. These sound delicious, and I know my psychologist colleagues would get a kick out of the recipe. But I do have a question, Rachel–where’s the flax? I don’t see it in the ingredients list, but you do mention it in the recipe title. Is the flax seed experiencing a fugue state? Are you in flax denial, or is the flax being repressed? 🙂

        Looking forward to trying these this weekend!

      2. Great question and great catch! I mentioned them in my preliminary comments but failed to show how/where in the recipe to add the seeds. I have added them in to the recipe, at the stage of processing the black beans. It is my practice to impulsively add about 1/4 cup flax seeds to most of my recipes with my colon in mind. So into many of these recipes, between the lines, are scattered flax.

      3. Perfect, thank you! I too tend to substitute 2 Tbs of ground flaxseed for 2 Tbs of all-purpose flour in many recipes–scones, pie crust, everyday cookies, etc. It adds a nice nutty note as well as a dose of Omega3’s–ideal for my vegetarian daughter. I started subbing in ground flax (or whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose) when #2 Son went through a Carbophilia stage–wouldn’t eat anything but baked goods. He’s now an omnivore, thank goodness!

      4. Carbophilia, Not Otherwise Specified.

        I diagnose myself with that. Enjoy these brownies and all the flax seed recipes to come!

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