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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Outrageous Brownies

Seriously. The. Best. Brownies. Go ahead. Make them and you'll see. And if you think you have a better recipe, SEND IT TO ME! I'd love to compare! Okay - and a little poll -- do you leave out the nuts when you make cookies/brownies/fudge? I love nuts in mine, but no one else in the family does. To quote, "only women eat nuts". Whatever.

Outrageous Brownies
From Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook


* 1 pound unsalted butter
* 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
* 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
* 6 extra-large eggs
* 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
* 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
* 2 1/4 cups sugar
* 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 3 cups chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Expanding and Contracting: Managing Your Stress Level

As you may remember, I recently partnered up with Making Work at Home Work as a blogger.

Expanding and Contracting: Managing Your Stress Level

By Mary M. Byers

My work is seasonal. I make about 30% of my income for the entire year in one month! That's the good news. The bad news is that it can be stressful getting through such a busy time. That's where the concept of "Expanding and Contracting" comes in.

Expanding and contracting requires making a conscious decision regarding how big your life view is going to be at any given time. For example, I once had a speaking engagement in my home town. Since my mother lived there, I decided to take my children along so they could spend some time with grandma.

Several weeks before the engagement, my world view was still large. I could look at the calendar for the entire month, make plans for later in the summer, and keep an active “To Do” list for the week. As the engagement approached, however, I narrowed my focus to getting my presentation ready and getting myself and the kids packed. The day before our departure, getting out the door and to Grandma’s house was ALL I focused on. As soon as my presentation was over, however, I was able to expand my focus again and begin planning for our next trip—a family vacation.

You’ve probably used these concepts of expanding and contracting without even knowing it. Think about the last time you had friends over for dinner. When you called to extend the invitation, your life view was still large. As you approached the day of the meal, your view contracted as you began to plan the menu and make your grocery list. The day of the event, your view likely contracted even more, to the point of being focused on straightening the house and getting the food prepared. After your guests arrived, your view could begin to expand again and by the time they left, you were probably already thinking ahead to what the next day would bring.

Expanding and contracting your view is extremely useful in staving off stress. As I view my calendar some days and an overwhelmed feeling starts creeping over me, I simply take a deep breathe (or two, or three, or ten, depending on the situation!) and ask myself, “How can I contract my focus?” Doing so keeps me from being paralyzed and gives me a focal point toward which to direct my energy. It's an extremely effective means of staying sane when you're running a home and a business under one roof. Having a laser focus is necessary sometimes just to get you through the day.

What techniques do you use to help you get through your work-related busy times?
E-mail me at mbyers@marybyers.com and I'll share your tricks in my next post. Until then, now that I'm done traveling for awhile, I'm expanding my focus again and it feels good!


Mary Byers is the author of Making Work at Home Work: Successfully Growing a Business and a Family Under One Roof. You can learn more about making work at home work by subscribing to Mary’s free blog at www.makingworkathomework.com. Interested in more articles like this? Join the blog ring here.