Confessions of a Recovering People-Pleaser (Stovetop Brownies)

(scroll down for brownie recipe) 

This week’s episode was inspired by an experience last year that had me shook. I was at a high-profile meeting for my job with several VIPs present (deans, chief of police, faculty, federal consultants, etc.) and I had to present about a project. Usually I’m very comfortable speaking publicly, but that morning I was jittery from a few too many gulps of the free coffee that was served. Plus, the handouts I prepared were mistakenly left behind by a coworker, so I didn’t have notes. As I went up to present, I was shaking and I could feel the warmth of my face flushing. I stammered throughout the whole presentation and bee-lined it back to my seat where I cowered in embarrassment for the rest of the meeting. I felt so self-conscious and terrible about it for weeks. I even stopped drinking coffee (my dearest love) since it was partially the culprit.

I talked to some mentors about it, and they suggested that since I can’t erase what happened, I can move forward by devising ways to prevent that from happening in the future. So, I came up with 5 Ways to Melt Away Insecurities and also decided to share my secret (until now) brownie recipe. You’re in for a treat; I’ve been making these for over 10 years and am known for them around the get-together scene. Enjoy!

Click photo to watch the video: 

browniethumbfinal

To review, here are my 5 tips:

  1. Don’t take anything personally (from The Four Agreements), the spotlight isn’t on you as much as you think.
  2. Observe how you perceive others.
  3. Temper and transform your thoughts with an Evidence Record (see below).
  4. Recite positive affirmations*.
  5. Stay ready.

*One thing I should’ve mentioned in the video is the importance of using “I statements” when reciting affirmations. Even if you do not yet believe these positive words about yourself, saying the phrases (out loud if possible) will get you there in your mind and eventually in reality. Even if we still feel insecure, we can start acting like we are confident. 

As you saw in the video, I recommend using an evidence record to monitor and manage your thoughts. This is a technique I learned in graduate school that uses theory from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This is by no means a substitute for treatment if your condition is severe, but it’s a key step in developing a clearer, happier mind.

Click below to download your free worksheet:

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 2.27.15 PM.png

And of course, here’s the recipe for you!:

Stovetop Brownies

Ingredients:
– 2 sticks of butter
– 2 cups of sugar
– 1/2 cup of cocoa powder
– 4 eggs, beaten
– 2 tsp. vanilla extract
– 2/3 cup flour
– 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1/4 tsp. baking soda
– 2 cups chocolate chips
– 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly grease a 9×13 in. baking pan.
2. Melt butter on medium heat. Add sugar and stir until combined. Add cocoa and stir until combined.
3. Remove from heat.
4. Temper the eggs (see video at 2:06), then stir into batter.
5. Add flour, salt, and baking soda to batter and stir thoroughly.
6. Mix in chocolate chips until well-incorporated.
7. Stir in nuts evenly.
8. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 28 minutes. Cool before cutting and serving.

As always, you’re welcome to comment or email me with any questions you may have. If you make these brownies, please tag me @DiningAtTiffs #DiningAtTiffs. Also, let me know if you found these 5 tips helpful or if you have any others to share from your experiences.

With love,

Tiffany R.
Your Cooking Counselor

 

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Comfort Food Confessions (+ Ooey-Gooey Mac & Cheese with Roasted Brussel Sprouts!)

Smile – we made it! This is the final full episode of Season 2 – Comfort Food Remix. Many thanks for tuning in and being so supportive on this journey. Aside from using this season as an excuse for me to eat a lot of carbs (lol), I’ve really appreciated everyone’s support as I’ve opened up to share more personal parts of my story. Thank you!!

Click here to watch the video (recipe below)

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.05.29 PMTo show my appreciation, I am divulging a secret to you all; while I framed a lot of this season around getting over heartbreak, it was a cover-up of sorts. All my reflections and advice about getting over hard times are really about another battle I’ve been fighting. It’s about how I learned to manage a bad bout of depression that knocked me down from about April – October this year.

I wrote the following article on my 26th birthday in September, from the pit of one of the lowest points of my life. I never thought I’d share this until way in the future when I was “ready,” but if there was ever a time for real talk, it’s now.

I want to show you that it’s possible to overcome great defeats. I’ve talked a lot about moving forward in the last few posts, but I know one of the biggest struggles can be getting up after a really bad fall. If you’re going through rough times, here is some comfort I wanna feed you:

  • You are not alone.
  • There is hope. There is purpose in the pain (Frankl, 1946)*.
  • Things will get better, often sooner than you could have ever imagined.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, I want to help. I truly believe that the purpose of pain is so we can in turn help others through our compassion & understanding. I wrote some lessons about my experience below and am more than open to having a conversation or assisting you out in any way I can. We’re in this together.

September 8, 2014

“Today I am 26. Like every year, I’ve had significant experiences. I met a lot of people, travelled to new places, and learned many lessons. I had my ups and downs, endings and beginnings. During the happiest of highs, my catch phrase would be  “Twenty-Five, Feeling Alive!”  Little did I know that just a few months later, my life would plummet in the opposite direction.

I’m pretty open about my depression and anxiety. It helps a little bit to express myself, and more importantly, I want to encourage others struggling with mental health troubles to move past any shame, embarrassment, or fear and get help like I did. I actually wish I’d gotten help much sooner, because it was almost too late. 

I spent my summer contemplating whether or not I wanted make it to my 26th birthday.

I’m not here to talk about where my depression stemmed from
– It’s in the past and there’s nothing we can do about that now
– It’s multi-faceted, and if I truly understood it all myself, I’d probably be a lot better by now. 

I’m here to elucidate the process of “getting help.” This is not the happiest of articles, but it’s the truth. And being real is helpful, I think.  

1. Deciding to get help is a step in the right direction. But only one step of many. 

Just as we can’t just inject a patient with diabetes with gallons of insulin and call it a day, healing from depression takes more than quick-fix doses of happy times. Therapy and medication helped, but by the time I got them, my condition was pretty severe. The deeper you sink into the depression, the harder you’ll have to fight to get out. 

Finding the right treatment can be a complicated process. You won’t get along with every therapist, and not every medication will work for you. Try to stay patient, and if possible, ask for help with getting help. Trying to sift through databases of treatment centers adds even more stress to your condition. 

There is no instant gratification. Sources of relief can be fickle and transient. So, be prepared for a tiresome journey.

2. Especially because your depressed self will resist everything that everyone tells you to do. 

From my experience with mental health professionals, being a counseling student, and extensive online research trying to figure out depression relief, I found that these are the common suggestions:

a. Eat well
b. Exercise
c. Maintain a good sleep schedule
d. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones
e. Try to think positively 

We all know these are great things to do (even if you’re not depressed). Logically, it makes so much sense. But it just feels nearly impossible because the above steps are the exact inverse of our toughest symptoms.

a. Depression will cause you to lose your appetite, or crave really bad food. (Real talk: I gained close to 20 pounds in 2 months because all I wanted to eat was donuts, cocoa swirl cookie butter, and chocolate covered pretzels #AllCarbDiet #TheseSweatpantsAreTheOnlyThingsThatFitMeRightNow)

b. Exercise? I can barely get out of bed.

c. Speaking of which, my body wants to sleep all the time for lack of energy; my mind wants to stay asleep to escape the pain.

d. I don’t like myself very much most days, so I don’t don’t expect other people to either. This makes the idea of socializing scary – a foreign phenomenon for me. And the considerate part of me doesn’t want to be a drag of negative energy for whomever I encounter. Even texting people back is unbearable; with that, I’m really sorry to everyone who didn’t hear back from me this summerI’ll try to be better. I’m trying to get better.

e. All of the above lead to those feelings of guilt and worthlessness they always talk about in the Zoloft commercials.
3. You’ll feel very alone, even with the best support system.  
To add to those feelings of guilt, no matter how much your family and friends love you, they can’t make it better. The warmth from their comforting and encouraging words and deeds will wear off much quicker than you’d wish.  And then you’ll start to feel bad for not being able to feel better. You start to feel inadequate for getting to this point despite having a good life. You’ll hope that no one will take it personally like you have something against them. You’ll hope that they don’t think they failed or are at fault. No one knows the right thing to say to someone that’s depressed. But trust me, they’ll remember that you tried and that’s what matters.

They can surround you with love, but learning how to love yourself comes from within. In the times when your craving for isolation takes over, when you succumb to the darkness, it’s up to all the will and faith that you can muster to keep a grasp on to that speck of light.  

4. And so, the only thing you can do is look forward, even if you’re just barely inching by. 
Everyday contains one personal struggle after the other, as sleepless nights melt into daytime darkness. On the worst of days, even the simplest tasks of the day are unbearable. Getting out of bed, deciding what to wear, making cereal. It’s demoralizing, really. I’ve actually had multiple days straight where I didn’t leave my room. It’s been a few months since I stopped replying to messages. 

I don’t know if I’ll be back to my old self again. Accepting that fact removes some of the pressure to not only heal, but get to 110% again.”

As you can see, I was still in a very bad place in September. Shortly after writing this article, I seriously contemplated dropping out of school and giving up on this whole YouTube thing. It’s only been three months and I’m happy to report that a lot of the above steps really do work and I’m feeling better and stronger than ever. My faith at the time was, like, mustard seed status, but I’ve experienced the joy of seeing it grow into something more fruitful than I ever thought possible:

“32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” – Matthew 13:32

I still have days when I feel down in the dumps, but getting over depression isn’t about making all the negativity go away; it’s about learning how to find the ooey-gooey positivity in the situation, no matter what.

Recipe: Ooey Gooey Mac & Cheese with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients:

– 1 box of whole wheat macaroni

– 3-4 cloves garlic

– 2 tbsp butter

– 2 tbsp flour

– 3/4 cup tangy orange cheese (such as sharp cheddar!)

– 3/4 cup creamy white cheese (such as monterey jack!)

– 1-2 cups brussel sprouts

– 2 cups of whole milk (I like organic)

– 1-2 pieces boneless skinless chicken breast
– 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

– olive oil

– salt & pepper

Instructions:

  1. Prep veggies

– Set oven to 400 F

– Roughly chop garlic & set aside

– Cut off ends of brussel sprouts & cut in half

– Toss brussel sprouts in olive oil, salt & pepper. Place on a cookie sheet (line with parchment paper or foil to make cleanup easier).

– Roast for 25-30 minutes, but after about 15 minutes, toss with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar & flip them all over.

– If the brussel sprouts finish before the mac & cheese, leave it the oven, but turn it down to 200 F.

  1. Mac & Cheese, please! 

– Boil pasta according to package instructions.

– Make a roux – cook garlic in butter medium heat until light brown. Add flour until light brown as well.

– Turn up the heat to medium-high & add the milk. Add a bit of salt & pepper. Whisk until well incorporated & heat until it starts to bubble.

– Turn the heat off & add the cheese. Stir until smooth and melty. Oh yes.

2.5 Do the Chicken (optional)

– Soak chicken in balsamic vinegar for at least 10 minutes

– cook in olive oil on both sides for at least 5 minutes on each side.

– Chicken is done when internal temperature is 165 F (No thermometer? Just slice it open & make sure there’s no pink. Rare chicken is NOT a thing, lol.)

– Remove from heat & let rest.

  1. Put it all together. Impress your friends. 

– Mix the cheese into the pasta.

– Add most of the brussel sprouts into the pasta & stir it in.

– Cut cooked chicken into bite-sized slices & mix those into the fun as well.

If you’ve read this far, here’s another oz. of encouragement:

*“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Thank you again for stopping by. Praying for hope & joy for you and yours this Christmas season!

With love,

Tiffany R.

Dining At Tiffany’s

Hungry for Comfort

Carne asada french fries. Freshly baked mac and cheese. Chocolate covered pretzels. These foods, paired with the comfort of my faith, family, and friends, can generally help me overcome just about anything.

Those close to me know that I somehow end up in charge of a lot of things. I’m a control freak. Just kidding. But really, it’s not necessarily by position, but I always choose to be a leader; I choose to take responsibility for the well-being of those around me. Whether it’s spearheading a project, or  simply recommending an awesome restaurant, ensuring that others have a positive experience has always been a priority of mine. 
 

And as a leader, when a bad situation unfolds “on your watch,” no matter the circumstances, you can’t help but feel partially responsible. In seeking comfort, I am often reminded that hindsight is 20/20; the shoulda-woulda-couldas are always clear upon reassessment and the only thing to do is move forward. 

But you know what? I’m tired of it. I’m sick of reactive action. I’m sick of the conversations and remedies that only occur as a result of trauma. To start creating pure, positive change, we need to stop letting good work be tainted by the bad situation that prompted it. Our paradigm needs to shift, making kindness and compassion a lifestyle, not just a tool used to fix problems. 

This brings me back to those carne asada french fries — what are we seeking when we turn to comfort food?
– Familiarity
– Warmth
– Control
– Security
– Gratification.
These are the things that are lacking when we’re not filled with enough faith, hope, and love.

We were all put on this world for a purpose. I also believe that we were not meant to live in isolation from one another. We’re here to connect with and comfort others — strengthening family and friendships and building strong communities. Make a conscious effort to feed those around you with the living comfort food of familiarity, affirmation, and support:
– call a friend to see how they’re doing
– volunteer to help out a neighbor
– take the time to smile and thank your bus driver or waitress.

Your kindness and compassion can go much further than you’d think, making someone even more joyfully full than a personal box of carne asada fries.

With love,

Tiffany R.

Dining at Tiffany’s