Espresso Bean Brownies

brownies finished

Do you know the feeling you get when you have a little too much coffee on an empty stomach? Like a whole hive of bees buzzing around in your head.

No!? Is that just me?

Too much coffee leaves me with an inability to concentrate and causes my mind to race. I get distracted easily and find it nearly impossible to listen attentively to anyone. These types of things also tend to happen when I get anxious – so you may understand why I don’t drink coffee often – and apparently caffeine can increase anxiety as well! But I oh so love the flavor of espresso especially when it is baked into things or put into ice cream. Chocolate + Espresso = Absolute deliciousness!

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Did I just put espresso powder in a cup of melted butter? Yep (and I am getting a little creative with the picture editing, too). Well I better get acquainted with some tips to help reduce my anxiety.

I am fairly good at being able to point out my anxiety and panic attack triggers. If you aren’t quite sure what your triggers are make a timeline or write in a journal when you had these symptoms and think back on what preceded these things. When your anxiety is triggered some helpful tips are listed on this website and it there are also a whole host of other helpful things.

Now back to these brownies.

The batter had an intense chocolate flavor with a slight coffee flavor.

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And then I added these to the batter. Poured the batter in the pan and waited (and waited). Pulled them out of the oven and burned my tongue on some hot crumbs that may have fallen off with a little help from me. Then I waited some more for them to cool.

Finally they were ready and I eagerly cut them. These little guys have such an intense chocolate flavor and subtle hint of espresso. They are extremely fudgy with a crunchy surprise of espresso bean chunks.

brownies utensils

Espresso Bean Brownies

Yields 16 brownies

4 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cups cocoa powder (not Dutch process)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces butter, melted

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup dark chocolate covered espresso beans, coarsely chopped (I used the kind in the bulk section at Whole Foods)

To make the brownies:

Preheat the oven to 300F. Spray an 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until fluffy and a pale yellow color. In a medium sized bowl combine the sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, flour, and salt. Combine with a whisk until thoroughly distributed and lump free. Add the espresso powder to the melted butter and stir well. Add the flour/sugar mixture to the eggs and mix on low speed until combined. Pour butter mixture and vanilla into the mixing bowl. Add the espresso beans to batter and stir until beans are evenly distributed.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for one hour or until brownies are at preferred doneness (I like mine quite fudgy so if you like them done more bake accordingly). Let cool in pan for a few minutes and then pull the brownies to cool completely on a rack.

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“Hear Our Voices” Film

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I had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of the film Hear Our Voices tonight and seeing the impact that mental health services had on children that were plagued with mental health diagnoses.

The documentary went into the lives of nine children that had been diagnosed with a myriad of mental health diagnoses. It explored their trials with the mental health system and how they were actively trying to make the system better for themselves and others that were in their position. It also gave the views of the mental health professionals in active roles to help change the system.

This documentary was an in-depth and upsetting look into the deficiencies in the  children’s mental health system. Throughout the film I was taken on an emotional journey with each of the children and allowed a peek into their past and present lives. An honest description of what it was like to be a child and live with a mental health diagnosis. These children had overcome unspeakable trials and labeled as “crazy, weird, and dangerous.”

The individuals in the field ripped down stereotypes of what it was to be diagnosed with bipolar, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental health diagnoses. They helped change the perception of what it was to be someone who suffered a mental health illness.

Stigma, I believe, is one of the biggest reasons people do not seek help for mental health struggles. They are terrified to be looked at as a deficient human being or a danger to society. Truthfully, most people would look at individuals this way because mental health is wholly misunderstood and so the fears of individuals who are suffering are justified.

A great way to stop this stigma is to talk about mental health. Talk about your struggles or talk with a friend who needs your support just do not sit and be silent about this issue. Others need to know they are not the only ones with an issue. The kids in this film did an amazing job at talking. They were most definitely emotional at times because they had difficult things to say, but the emotionality gave them power as well. I highly recommend this documentary to anyone who will sit long enough to watch it.

Go to the film’s website get a better look at what it is about!

After you watch the documentary, let me know what you think. I would love to hear other views on the film (positive or negative).

Blog for Mental Health 2013

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

As a part of this pledge the rules indicate a few things.

First, that I make the pledge above.

Second, that I link back to the person that who pledged me. I took the open pledge given by Canvas of the Minds through this post.

Third, that I must give a short biography of my mental health and what this pledge means to me. This is a little more difficult than I first imagined it would be, after all I just started this blog and opening up to this kind of vulnerability right off the bat is not something I wanted to do. I wanted to gradually let people into my world but let’s go ahead and briefly open the flood gates just to see what comes.

I first remember having panic attacks in the fifth grade so I have been plagued with anxiety for quite a number of years. My anxiety manifested itself in a number of ways including self harm, panic attacks, serious issues with food, suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol abuse, and depression. The climax of my anxiety was when I was admitted into an inpatient facility and began medical treatment of my anxiety and depression (as well as the whole host of other symptoms). After release, I continued to see a therapist and psychiatrist for about 6 and 3 years, respectively. Since this time I have had a better grasp on my anxiety and the other symptoms that came along with it; however, I will admit that I have times where I regress back into old patterns but I have a better awareness now and can detect when I am falling. Now I have devoted my career path to helping others, raising awareness of mental health issues, and helping to reduce the stigma of what it means to have a mental illness. Helping others get resources that I didn’t even know existed and couldn’t have dreamed of accessing is what I strive to do with this blog.

Now that wasn’t too horribly painful on my end. I guess I couldn’t hope to get rid of stigma if I was still clinging on to stigmatizing myself and the struggles I have endured. I plan to address a more in-depth look at what I have dealt with and also some things that I don’t have any first hand experience in with the future posts on this blog. I hope to have some guest writers as well that have first hand experience where I don’t.

Fourth, I am supposed to link to other mental health bloggers and ask them to take the pledge as well. However, this being only my second post I am not too familiar with other mental health bloggers at this time. As my familiarity grows, I plan on asking others as I come by them to take this pledge, if they have not already done so.

Lemon-infused Cherry Pie

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Baking can be a stress reliever for me. Not always though – finding out you don’t have any more flour or having something completely flop can definitely pile the stress on for me. But when you have all of your ingredients together and things come out tasting amazing, baking can actually melt my anxieties away.

I have definitely been known to bake chocolate chip cookies (one of my go-to recipes which I will definitely share later) at one in the morning because I have been so stressed I can’t sleep.

This whole summer I have not made a single pie and actually done very little baking at all, for my standards. While this is a good thing some times simply doing a task does not help alleviate my anxiety.

In the past I have had panic attacks that cause me to hyperventilate and cry uncontrollably and I would be paralyzed by fear until I became so exhausted I physically couldn’t carry it on. That is definitely an extreme form of anxiety and can/did disrupt my daily life. Times like this baking would not have helped me one bit even if I could manage to do it. What did help was deep breathing. Breathing in while counting to three, pausing, and then breathing out while counting to three as well. I would repeat this until I could at least talk.

While this type of symptom is what I experienced with anxiety there are other symptoms that may be a sign that you are experiencing something that is beyond normal stress experiences. This website has a couple lists of symptoms ranging from physical to emotional and also some symptoms of panic attacks. If you or someone you know is having symptoms like these, I suggest finding a doctor or therapist and discussing what could be causing them.

So what is the connection between this pie and anxiety? Some people think that cherries may help decrease anxiety. Am I trying too hard!?

Not only is it filled with anxiety busting cherries but it is deliciously juicy and bursting with a lemon-laced cherry filling. The crust is sweet and tender with a little crunch from the sugar.  The process was simple (in the pie world) with the crust coming together easily in a food processor. Simple pie? How could that not reduce anyone’s anxiety?

pie before

While the crust was chilling, I was able to pit the cherries (possibly the most arduous task – but if you have one of these little guys it makes it easy and relatively mess free) and make the filling.

If you like your pies to set up more I suggest boiling the filling before you put it in your crust or covering your crust so as not to burn it and bake the pie for a longer time so that the filling gets really bubbly and sets up more. I haven’t personally tried these techniques but it seems like a good way to get a less juicy filling.

Double-Crusted Lemon Cherry Pie

yields 1 9-inch pie

Adapted from Joy the Baker

For the Crust:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, frozen

1/2 cup buttermilk

For the Filling:

4 cups pitted fresh cherries

5 tablespoons cornstarch

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Zest of one lemon

Juice of half a lemon

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water

Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on crust

To make the crust: With a food processor grating attachment or hand grater, grate the full amount of butter and empty into a small bowl. Put the flour, sugar, salt into the food processor and pulse a few times.  Add the cold, grated butter and pulse a 3 to 4 times. Pour in the cup of chilled buttermilk and pulse until the dough comes together. The dough will be moist and the consistency of sugar cookie dough. On a lightly floured work surface, dump out the dough mixture. Divide the dough in two and gently knead into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour – I also put the wrapped pieces of dough into a sealed Tupperware container just to make sure I keep out any unwanted flavors from getting into the fat.

To make the filling: Gently stir together the cherries, cornstarch, sugar, salt, zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract in a large bowl.

To roll out the pie crust: On a well-floured surface and with a well-floured rolling pin, roll the bottom crust 1/8″ thick and about 12″ in diameter. Transfer it to a pie pan – you can do this easily by lightly rolling the dough over the rolling pin and moving it to the pan. Trim the edge almost even with the edge of the pan – leave enough extra hanging over to fold under with the top piece. Roll out the top crust exactly as you did the bottom. Use a small circle cutter – about the diameter of a dollar coin piece – to cut a hole in the middle of the crust. Gently pour filling into piecrust. Put the remaining butter in small chunks around the pie filling. Top with crust. Fold both layers of pie dough under and crimp with a fork.

To finish: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 F. Brush the egg wash over pie crust, then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place pie on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 F and bake the pie for 45 minutes more, or until the crust is golden and the cherry filling is bubbling – so that the corn starch in the filling will set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before serving ( I waited a full night and cut into for lunch the next day. Perfection.)

P.S.  I am not a fully licensed therapist (I have my temporary license in Tennessee for Marriage and Family Therapy) and this blog is not intended for diagnosing or treating mental illness. This blog’s intended purpose is for education and raising awareness of mental health issues and through that hopefully reducing the stigma surrounding them. Mental health issues are serious and are not something that should be dealt with lightly, especially if you are dealing with symptoms that cause you difficulty. Mental health problems can be prevented and when dealt with can vastly improve your quality of life. If you would like to talk to someone, you can send a message to diagnosablydelicious@gmail.com and we can find a suitable resource for what you are dealing with.