Last week, I received a very unexpected yet pleasant surprise in my mail – a check from my former car insurance provider for $700. Now to provide some context, I have not driven any vehicle even one time in over three years now. I have no desire to learn to drive on the opposite side of the road here on the windy and narrow roads of Ireland and living downtown Boston it was unnecessary, impractical and extremely expensive for both Jon and I to have a car. In almost any situation within the city of Boston, it takes roughly the same amount of time to walk, take the subway or drive and find parking and for anything outside of that, we still had one car to share. Furthermore, I am not afraid to admit that I am terrible driver. It is pretty boring to me and I am a crazy multitasker in all aspects of my life – as you may know, driving a car is not an ideal time to exercise that skill. So, I stopped driving and canceled my insurance on the car when I sold it to my sister who happily uses it now. Therefore, it was very odd to receive anything related to insurance, but a check for $700 was nothing to complain about. Of course, I contacted them to make sure they were looking for the right Miranda Vasquez, etc. and indeed it was intended for me and quite a pleasant surprise.
In general, I’d say I fall about in the middle of the “to surprise or not to surprise scale.” On one hand I am (in addition to being a manic multitasker) a extreme planner, often joking that planning is my favorite sport. I like routine and like knowing the expectations of me or for an event (something I recently learned is related to my Upholder tendency), but I have to admit sometimes a surprise is… well a pleasant surprise. Psychology shows that surprise in general tends to intensify an emotion, so something which is pleasant is made even more so when a surprise, although the opposite is also true. When something is unpleasant, it’s doubly worse when unexpected. In fact one study by psychologist Barbara A. Mellers showed that winning $9 as a surprise was more appreciated and had a more positive impact on a person’s emotions than receiving an expected $17 win.
Research has shown that preference for surprise is impacted by many variables especially including our cultural backgrounds, sensitivity to feeling somewhat vulnerable or embarrassed and our tolerance for ambiguity versus certainty and control. However, according to research by Tania Luna and Leeann Renninger surprise is a positive thing which helps increase vivacity and inject life into our lives by activating the dopamine system within the brain. In their book Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected, they outline several ways to “invite” more surprise into our lives, including being vulnerable and open with others, being more curious and asking questions, trying new activities, and surprising others with small, unexpected gifts or acts of service. We can also engage in activities in which there is uncertainty about outcome.
For me, this was the case when I was working on recipe development for a Desserts and Treats food workshop at Flex in the City. I was well versed in the 1937049234 ways you can use cashews for everything and had done some research to determine possible paleo cheesecake options. When I concocted this one, I was more than pleasantly surprised. In fact, I very obnoxiously told Julette that “I had made the best thing ever” (obviously demonstrating a need for greater humility). But really. This recipe is THAT good. Like the best ever. If I didn’t tell you, I guarantee you would never know that it is vegan and paleo (completely gluten-free, dairy free, and refined sugar free) and even if I do tell you – you may not believe it. It is shocking that so few and such simple ingredients could result in something so delicious. Better yet, it is simple to make as either a dip for fruits as pictured or as a cake with the crust outlined in the recipe. Try it – I guarantee it’ll be a very pleasant surprise.
- Raw Cashews 1 cup (150 g)
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- Pure Maple Syrup 2 TBSP
- Solid Coconut Oil 1 TBSP
- Sea Salt ⅛ TSP
- Chopped Dark Chocolate (70% or higher) .5 cup (60 g)
- Almond Flour 1.5 cup (145 g)
- Coconut Flour .33 cup (40 g)
- Tapioca Flour .33 cup (40 g)
- Baking Soda .5 TSP
- Ghee .25 cup (55 g) (this will not be vegan, you can also use coconut butter as sub)
- Pure Maple Syrup .25 cup (80 ml)
- For the whole cake with the crust, double all the ingredients, but follow the same process.
- Soak the cashews in a small bowl with enough water to cover for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Drain and rinse the cashews and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Add all ingredients (except chocolate) to a blender until completely smooth and creamy.
- Place in a bowl and add the chopped dark chocolate, mixing well. If you are leaving as a dip, cover the bowl and refrigerate for one hour to thicken.
- Enjoy by the spoonful or as a dip for fruit or spread on biscuits, bread, etc. and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- Preheat the oven to 325 F/162 C
- Lightly grease or spray a 8" x 8" pan with melted coconut oil.
- Add all crust ingredients to a food processor or blender and pulse until ingredients are well-combined and sticking together like a dough.
- Move the dough to the pan and press it evenly throughout the pan, allowing for some extra to come up around the sides/walls of the pan as well (at least .5 inch worth).
- Using a fork, poke holes in the crust throughout to avoid "over-rising."
- Bake for about 12- 15 minutes, until golden brown and slightly crisped.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. Once cooled you can scoop the double batch of cheesecake over the top evenly.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour and then enjoy! You can top this with fruit or additional chocolate if so desired. Keep refrigerated for up to one week