January’s Website Review: The Happiness Project & My Simpler Life

– johanna | December 31st, 2008


This month’s website review happens to include two websites; The Happiness Project and My Simpler Life.

THE HAPPINESS PROJECT is a memoir written by Gretchen Rubin about her year long adventure as she sets out to test every theory, tip and scientific study on being happier. The website is her daily blog on the subject.

Beth Dargis is a simplicity coach. Her goal is to help teach others how to love life, work hard and have fun, how to stay positive and take time to relax. She helps her clients “uncover what is the most important things for them to be doing.” She coaches those individuals “searching for something more in their life while releasing what they no longer need.” There is no need to become a client in order to become inspired or get tips on time management off of Beth’s website.

Both The Happiness Project and My Simpler Life teach how to step back, breathe and enjoy what we have at the moment. My brother once told me you are who you are now, unless you change who you are today. I have come to realize their is never going to be a better day than today unless I make it so. I find I am happier when I break free of me. When I can step back and think of all the joy around me. It takes time and a lot of practice. I am also trying to laugh more. Something I lost for a while. It is really hard to be angry when I am laughing or singing.

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Almond Crescents with Burnt Butter Icing

– johanna | December 30th, 2008

Filed under: RECIPES - Breakfast

Found on Pittsburgh Needs Eated, adapted from America’s Best Lost Recipes. Similar to a bear claw.

Makes 2 crescents, each serving 6

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 package rapid-rise or instant yeast
1 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
1/4 cup warm evaporated milk (110 degrees)
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 large egg

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Burnt Butter Icing:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp milk

1. For the dough: Pulse the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal. Turn the mixture into a large bowl.

2. Beat the milk, water, sugar, and egg in a medium bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold the milk mixture into the flour mixture, then press against the side of the bowl. (The dough will be sticky.) Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

3. For the filling: Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Stir the brown sugar and almonds together in a small bowl.

4. Working with one piece of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 14×9 inch rectangle. Brush the dough with half the melted butter, then sprinkle with half the almond mixture, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edges. Starting at the long end, roll the dough into an even cylinder and pinch the dough to seal. Form the cylinder into a crescent shape on a prepared baking sheet and, with a paring knife, make cuts around the outside of the ring, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Rotate each piece cut side up. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray and let rise until the dough is almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

5. Adjust two oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake until the crescents are golden brown, about 20 minutes, rotating and switching the sheets halfway through baking. Cool on a rack until just warm, at least 40 minutes.

6. For the icing: While the crescents are cooling, heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, swiring the pan constantly, until the butter is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the butter to a bowl and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and milk. Drizzle the icing over the crescents. Serve.

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The Good Fortune Tree

– johanna | December 29th, 2008


Source: Submitted to the Meridian Magazine by Diane Thomas

Don’t take down that Christmas tree yet. Turn it into a fun New Year’s Decoration!

Leftover Christmas tree, undecorated
Balloons, 6″ to 8″
Chinese fortunes or wishes, typed on small pieces of paper
One-dollar bills
String confetti
Happy New Year’s hat

Remove the Christmas ornaments and lights from your tree and replace them with small balloons filled with New Year’s wishes, Chinese fortunes, and dollar bills. Tie the balloons to the tree with ribbon, being careful not to pop them. Finish decorating the tree with string confetti and a Happy New Year’s hat.

As the New Year rings in, guests can pop the balloons and claim the wishes, fortunes, and money inside.

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Hamburger Stroganoff

– johanna | December 28th, 2008

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Main Dish

Looking for a warm comforting meal during the long cold months of winter? Stroganoff is one of my favorite dishes to break the chill and fill bellies on the cheap. Serve with a side salad or green beans.

Source: my Grandmother Lois Jepson
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1/2 pound mushrooms, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 cup sour cream
1 pound egg noodles, cooked and drained

In a large skillet, saute onions, mushrooms and garlic in the butter until tender. Add ground beef, cook until browned. Cook until beef is completely browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and Italian seasoning.

Stir in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes to thicken. Slowly add beef stock and vinegar. Stir, bring to a boil, and let simmer until thickened. Stir in sour cream until combined. Remove from heat. Stir in noodles.

– Serve over rice or baked potato.
– Use ground turkey in the place of ground beef.
– Substitute Worcestershire sauce for red wine vinegar.

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The Columbia Restaurant Black Bean Soup

– johanna | December 27th, 2008

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Soup / Salad

Growing up, the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City was one of our favorite places to eat when visiting Tampa. The Cuban sandwiches were to die for and the black bean soup was just as amazing. I have since concocted my own version adapted from the back of a bag of black beans. It is tasty and most importantly Stephen and the kids love it. Still, it is not the Columbia. My mom is town for Christmas and black beans and rice were on the menu. On a whim we started searching the internet for a Columbia black bean soup imitation. I never thought the restaurant would post their most prize recipe on their site along with a few other favorites on their website. Lucy us.

This is a soup that is served over rice. With my own version I puree the soup slightly to get a thick consistency. That is not necessary with the Columbia’s version as the rice soaks up much of the liquid. I simmered the beans for about an hour before I added the other ingredients. Estimated time is probably 1 1/2 to 2 hours complete cooking time.

1 pound black beans
3 quarts water
1 ounce (2 tbsp) olive oil
1/2 ounce (1 tbsp) garlic
1 1/2 ounce (3 tbsp) chopped onion
1 ounce (2 tbsp) green pepper,
1/2 ounce (1 tbsp) salt
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 ounce (1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp) sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Soak beans in water overnight in a 4-quart pot.
Bring beans to a boil in the pot, using the same liquid that beans were soaked with and then simmer.
Heat oil and then brown garlic in a pan
Puree onion and peppers, then add puree mixture to oil and garlic in pan, sauté for 4 minutes. Then add mixture to the beans simmering in the pot.
Add salt, cumin, oregano, sugar and pepper to the mixture in pot.
Stir, simmer until beans are tender. cuisine

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Columbia Cuban Sandwiches

– johanna | December 27th, 2008

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

10-inch loaf of Cuban bread
4 thin slices smoked ham
2 thin slices fresh pork ham
2 slices Genoa salami, cut in half
2 slices Swiss cheese
3 sour pickle slices (may also use dill)
Yellow mustard

Slice bread down middle lengthwise. Layer ingredients to cover bottom half of bread in the following order: ham, pork, salami, cheese, and pickles. Spread mustard on top half of bread. Cover bottom half and slice sandwich diagonally. Sandwich may be heated in oven or served at room temperature. If Cuban bread is not available, you may use French bread (baguette type) or Italian bread.

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Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie with Maple Whipped Cream

– johanna | December 26th, 2008

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

“A cool alternative to traditional pumpkin pie. If you can find pumpkin ice cream, by all means use that. If not, here’s a quick and easy way to make some using vanilla ice cream, good canned pumpkin and lots of wonderful spices. When you first make the mixture the spices might seem strong, but remember that their flavors get a bit muted when they’re ice cold. If you’re doing Thanksgiving for a large crowd, make two of these. One is good for a small crowd and the ice cream alone is a simple, fun desert for a party of two.”

Source: GOOP
TIME: 20 minutes + at least 3 hours in the freezer
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs (about 1 sleeve, ground in the food processor)
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened
1 can pureed pumpkin (or 1-3/4 cups fresh)
1/4 teaspoon each ground allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
Maple Whipped Cream (see recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350º F.
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a pie pan. Mix together with your fingers and then press evenly to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. It helps to press the mixture with the bottom of a small measuring cup. Bake for ten minutes or until light brown. Let cool while you prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, beat together the ice cream, pumpkin and spices. Spread evenly into the cooled pie shell and stick in the freezer for at least three hours before serving. When ready to serve, spread the top with Maple Whipped Cream. Serves 6, very generously

Maple Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons real Vermont maple syrup

Whip the cream using a standing mixer, hand held mixer or whisk until stiff peaks form. Whisk in maple syrup to taste.

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Greens with Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

– johanna | December 26th, 2008

Filed under: RECIPES - Soup / Salad

Source: GOOP
3 small cloves garlic, pushed through a press
2 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons real Vermont maple syrup
1/3 red wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 large heads of endive, washed, chopped
1 1/3 large head radicchio, washed, chopped
4 large handfuls arugula, washed
1 1/3 cup goat cheese
3/4 cup walnuts, broken into pieces
3/4 cup dried cranberries

In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, Dijon, maple syrup and vinegar. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Combine the greens in a large salad bowl. Dress with about two thirds of the dressing. Divide the greens on eight plates and scatter over the goat cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries over the greens. Drizzle each salad with a bit of the leftover dressing. Serves 12

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Cranberry Chutney

– johanna | December 25th, 2008

Filed under: RECIPES - Sides

I could never stand the wiggly looking stuff in the bowl. Cranberry chutney takes on a whole new meaning for cranberry sauce. Just make sure to use ripe cranberries.

Source: GOOP
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup water
4 cups fresh cranberries
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
grated zest of 1 small orange or tangerine

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and add the rest of the ingredients. Turn the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for about ten minutes or until thick. Let the chutney cool before serving. Makes about 2 cups
Use brown sugar in place of the white.

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Apple Pear Raisin Syrup

– johanna | December 25th, 2008

Filed under: RECIPES - Breakfast

One December several years ago I was making pancakes for the family and realized I did not have any syrup. The spices remind me of Christmas time.

2 small pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 small apple, peeled, cored and sliced
Dash Nutmeg
1 / 8 tsp Cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
Dash ground cloves
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 / 2 cup water
1 tbsp butter

In a sauce pan add all ingredients let come to a boil then simmer until pears and apples are soft. Mash up some of the pears and apples slightly to blend.  If syrup is to runny, in a small bowl mix juice from pan and a little flour until smooth. Add to syrup.  Serve with pancakes, waffles or French toast.
Note: use older pears and apples that are on the mushy side.

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