Archive for January, 2013

gyro meatloaf

Whether from a vendor on the streets of New York City or from a takeout counter in Monastiraki Square in Athens, Greece, my family loves to eat gyros. Delicious memories of warm circles of pita bread wrapped around flavorful slices of meat, tomatoes, onions and french fries, drizzled with a wonderfully refreshing Tzatziki sauce, prompted me to search for a homemade version. Normally gyro meat is slow-roasted on a vertical spit, but this recipe simplifies that by baking the meat in a loaf pan. Then, after some time in the refrigerator, the meat is thinly sliced and pan fried or grilled to give it a crispy texture – as if it’d been on a rotisserie for hours. A platter of gyro fixings would make for a fun family dinner or make great Super Bowl party fare.

Favorite Meat Loaf Gyros
Recipe from Taste of Home

1 egg, lightly beaten
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons dried oregano
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef

1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

8 whole pita breads
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
16 slices tomato
8 slices sweet onion, halved

1. In a large bowl, combine the egg, garlic, oregano, kosher salt and pepper. Crumble lamb and beef over mixture; mix well.

2. Pat into an ungreased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

3. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 60-70 minutes or until no pink remains and a meat thermometer reads 160°.

4. Cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

5. For sauce, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

6. Brush pita breads with 1 tablespoon oil; heat on a lightly greased griddle for 1 minute on each side. Keep warm.

7. Cut meat loaf into very thin slices. In a large skillet, fry meat loaf in remaining oil in batches until crisp.

8. On each pita bread, layer the tomato, onion and meat loaf slices; top with some Tzatziki sauce. Carefully fold pitas in half. Serve with remaining sauce.

Yield: 8 servings.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. This was an easy recipe, but it does require some planning ahead. The meat loaf needs to be refrigerated for a couple of hours to allow it to be firm enough to slice into thin slices.

2. Although the meat was flavorful, it seemed a tad dry to me. The next time I try this recipe, I will chop my own beef and lamb, so that the mixture is more coarse – resulting in better flavor and texture. I’d also like to try making other meat versions of gyros. Here are links to other versions to try:

Pork Gyros
Chicken Gyros

3. The next time I’ll also experiment by adding chopped onions, ground rosemary, and ground thyme to the meat mixture.

4. I fried the meat slices in a nonstick frying pan, so no additional oil was needed.

5. I doubled the recipe and gave some to my son and daughter-in-law, so they’d have one less dinner to cook during the week!


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black lab photo

Photo by Linnell Chang

“But I haven’t even finished reading the instruction manual for my current camera!” I exclaimed as I looked at a new camera in my hand, a Christmas gift from my husband. I’m so far behind in reading instruction manuals, it’s not funny, but this gift of a new camera is his way of encouraging me to continue seeing my world in new ways. Buster, my grand-puppy, modeled for me today as I took my new camera out for a pre-instruction-manual spin.

#1 – Snowflakes
macrosnow-2 Russian photographer Andrew Osokin exposes the singular beauty of snowflakes. Using a macro lens, he captures snowflakes as they are melting. Their beautiful crystalline formations look surreal as they are juxtaposed against their natural outdoor environs. Check out some of his photos by clicking on his name.

#2 – Fire Safety
how to use a fire extinguisher I have a fire extinguisher at home, but don’t ask me any specific questions about it. After reading “How to Use a Fire Extinguisher” on the Art of Manliness site, my eyes were opened. I realized that my fire safety knowledge needs improvement. I learned much from the article, but I am still going to find and take a fire extinguisher training course. Do yourself a favor and do the same.

#3 – A Feast For The Eyes

painting of food

Painting by Tjalf Sparnaay

A work of art that looks good enough to eat, but cannot be put on a plate is most likely the art of Dutch painter Tjalf Sparnaay. He is part of a modern art movement called Hyper-realism or, as Sparnaay refers to it, Mega-realism. Whatever you call it, viewer beware: do not view this artist’s work on an empty stomach!

#4 – 30 Truths
Here’s a valuable list of truths from Marc and Angel Hack Life. Marc penned these gems of wisdom on the occasion of his 30th birthday, but no matter what your age, you’ll be the wiser if you open your eyes to some of these truths and incorporate them into your daily beliefs. I like number 11: Someone will always be better looking. Someone will always be smarter. Someone will always be more charismatic. But they will never be you – with your exact ideas, knowledge and skills. Which ones are your favorites?

#5 – A  Poem for January
German writer Jean Paul once wrote, “To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June.” This being the last Friday in January, here’s a poem for you to read:


Drop a pebble in the water: just a splash, and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling where the end is going to be.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness: just a flash and it is gone,
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Bearing hope and joy and comfort on each splashing, dashing wave
Till you wouldn’t believe the volume of the one kind word you gave.

Drop a word of cheer and kindness: in a minute you forget;
But there’s gladness still a-swelling, and there’s joy a-circling yet.
And you’ve rolled a wave of comfort whose sweet music can be heard
Over miles and miles of water just dropping one kind word.

James W. Foley

Sprinkle kind words wherever you go this weekend!

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sparerib recipe

Feeling the love for some tasty barbecued spare ribs, but not loving the idea of barbecuing outside in the cold? Assuage those rib cravings of yours by making “barbecued” ribs indoors. First, the ribs are baked in a low-temperature oven and then they’re basted and “grilled” under the broiler. Your reward will be smokey-tasting juicy ribs with a little bit of a kick that’s amplified by a sticky, sweet, and tangy finish. Get those napkins out, because the Super Bowl’s around the corner and you’ll want to serve these ribs at your party!

Beth’s Melt in Your Mouth Barbecue Ribs
Recipe from Food.com

4 lbs pork ribs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon hickory smoke salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Peel off tough membrane that covers the bony side of the ribs.
3. Mix together the sugar and spices to make the rub.
4. Apply rub to ribs on all sides.
5. Lay ribs on two layers of foil, shiny side out and meaty side down.
6. Lay two layers of foil on top of ribs and roll and crimp edges tightly, edges facing up to seal.
7. Place on baking sheet and bake for 2 – 2½ hours or until meat starts to shrink away from the ends of the bone.
8. Remove from oven.
9. Heat broiler.
10. Cut ribs into serving sized portions of 2 or 3 ribs.
11. Arrange on broiler pan, bony side up.
12. Brush on sauce.
13. Broil for 1 or 2 minutes until sauce is cooked on and bubbly.
14. Turn ribs over.
15. Repeat on other side.
16. Alternately, you can grill the ribs on your grill to cook on the sauce.

Serves 6

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I could not find hickory smoke salt, so I brushed a tiny amount of Liquid Smoke (Hickory) on the ribs before applying the dry rub. A little bit of Liquid Smoke goes a long way, so don’t over do it.

2. I used Kinder’s Mild BBQ Sauce, but any flavorful good quality sauce will do.

3. I did not add any salt to the dry rub mix, partially because I couldn’t find the hickory smoke salt and because I felt that there would be plenty of sodium in the barbecue sauce. My husband and I thought the ribs tasted great without any additional salt, but it’s up to you.

4. Come spring and summer, you’ll want to finish these ribs off outside on the grill instead of under the broiler!


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frozen bird bath

Photo by Linnell Chang

Rigid icicles, clinging tightly to the under side of a fountain, created a sharp contrast to the shape-changing droplets of water that danced over the edge. Overnight freezing temperatures transformed my backyard fountain into a winter work of art and also into a metaphor about life’s transformations. Like the internal changes water goes through, life can be transformed by changing our inner beliefs.

#1 – Code to Live By
The third entry in the Native American Code of Ethics reads, Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. Deep down, I think we all recognize the validity of these words, but how many of us actually walk our true paths? The other 19 aspects of the Code serve as additional reminders of how we can live honorable lives. Print up the Code and read it every morning before you start your day. If we all followed this Code, think about how we could transform the world.

#2 – Healthy Living TED Video
In this video author A.J. Jacobs presents his humorous talk on “How Healthy Living Nearly Killed Me.” Pay special attention to what he says from minute 7:20 to minute 7:41!

#3 – Cooking For Others
photo of casserole containers If you have a friend in need and you’re taking food over to help him/her, you might want to review this article, Cooking for Others: A Guide to Giving Sympathy Meals first. Read “tips, helpful suggestions, and friendly advice on bringing meals to others.” While reading through the comments section, I learned that many of us tend to bring over food for dinner, but rarely consider that the recipient might be in need of something else, like food for breakfast.

#4 – Ten Sentences
inspirational poster From the blog Lifehack come these Ten Sentences that Can Change Your Life. Which sentence has the power to transform your life?

#5 – Search Within
“People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within.”
Romana L. Anderson

Have a wonderful weekend!

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peanut butter oatmeal cookies

Two peanut butter oatmeal cookies lay temptingly before you. Each contains 13 ingredients. Which one will you reach for – the light-colored cookie that is deliciously thick, chewy, and on the healthier side or the divinely dark and crunchy one that not only has butter in it, but is loaded with chocolate as well? Tough decision. After making the two different recipes and tasting the cookies, I concluded that I liked them both, but for health’s sake and for ease of preparation, I’ll be making the light ones more frequently.

Chewy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe from passtheplate.blog

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1/4 cup cinnamon applesauce (regular works too)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Couple dashes cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1½ cups quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup ground flaxseed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ground flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

3. In a large bowl, beat together peanut butter, sugars, applesauce, egg and vanilla. Working by hand, stir in the flour mixture and the oats until just combined and no streaks of flour remain.

4. Drop tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 10-12 minutes.

5. Let cool on sheet for 3 or 4 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. Store in an airtight container.

Makes approximately 30 cookies.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I did not use quick-cooking oats. I could have pulsed my old-fashioned oats in a food processor to turn them into quick-cooking oats, but I decided to leave them whole.
2. These cookies supposedly only have 73 calories each!

Jose’s Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe from Epicurious

1½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
12-ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated

1. In a food processor pulse 1 cup oats until ground fine.

2. In a large bowl stir together ground oats, remaining 1/2 cup whole oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy and beat in vanilla and peanut butter. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and gradually beat in flour mixture. Add chocolate chips and grated chocolate, beating just until combined. Chill cookie dough, covered, at least 2 hours and up to 1 week.

4. Preheat oven to 325°F.

5. Form rounded tablespoons of dough into balls and arrange about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten balls slightly.

6. Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven 15 minutes, or until just pale golden. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes and transfer to racks to cool completely.

Makes approximately 60 cookies.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Grating the 8 ounces of chocolate was a lot of work. A large chunk of chocolate would have been easier to grate than the thin chocolate bars I used. If you have a grating disc on your food processor, that might also work. Chocolate should be at room temperature for hand-grating, but frozen for machine-grating.
2. I only baked half of the cookies. The remaining dough I froze for future use.


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bird bath photo

Photo by Linnell Chang

Do you long for the bright sunny days of spring? Winter doldrums affect many of us and require us to find ways to recharge our batteries and to uplift our moods. When you find those seasonal “blahs” taking over, try to live in the present and try to find something for which you are grateful. There’s always something to be grateful for – for starters, you’re alive!

#1 – Soothing Music
winter sonata OST In the early morning hours when the house is quiet and still, I like to listen to soothing music while I sip my first cup of tea and gaze out my kitchen window. The music replays in my head all day long and sets a calming beat for my heart. Here’s a lovely piece of music that’s perfect for those quiet times. Hope you enjoy Nibanmenoai by Park Joung Won and, if not, do select something more suitable for your heartbeat, one that kicks off your day just the way you want.

#2 – Lessons For Your Memory
On my list of New Year’s resolutions is a category titled “Things I Want to Learn.” Among the things I want to do, learn, or  re-learn: how to knit something other than a scarf; try to brush up on my conversational French; play one of my favorite songs on the piano from beginning to end; learn to use my new camera proficiently; learn more silver-smithing techniques; continue taking ballroom dancing lessons. A Fox News article lists 9 Tricks to Improve Your Memory and one of those tricks is to learn something new. If I accomplish all on my list, my memory should be in good shape. Here are the 9 specific tricks, but do your brain a favor and read the whole article:

1. Change your font
2. Learn ballroom dancing
3. Switch hands
4. Take breaks
5. Write by hand
6. Play a computer game
7. Distract yourself
8. Meditate mindfully
9. Read out loud

#3 – Three Breaths Meditation
Whether you’re wanting to start your day calm and fresh or you want to de-stress, try doing a quick “Three Breaths Meditation.” Zen Master Mary Jaksch leads you through the basics in this short video. If you’re feeling “droopy, exhausted, dry, joyless, irritated or anxious,” she also has a post worth reading for those people who are suffering from spiritual fatigue.

#4 – The Power of Beautiful Photos
balloon in the sky Like a soulful song, beautiful and inspirational images stick in my head and help boost my mood. Here’s a series of stunning photos, one of which will surely catch your attention and brighten your spirits.

#5 – Candle of Joy
“Remember to light the candle of joy daily and all the gloom will disappear from your life.”
Djwhal Khul

Maintain your sunny outlook all weekend long!

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When is a recipe more than just a recipe? If the mere thought of a particular recipe opens a floodgate of memories, then it transcends its written words. For me, this recipe for Pizza Spread falls into that category. This recipe, with only a few ingredients and very brief instructions, has been in my family for quite some time. No one in the family can remember the original source, but all can remember coming home from school and munching on mini pizzas made from Pizza Spread and English muffins. During my happy-but-poor years of marriage, I presented almost everyone I knew with jars of homemade Pizza Spread for Christmas. Fast forwarding to another decade, I remember the excitement in my children’s faces, when I’d make Pizza Spread for them. Later, when they left home for college, they did not leave empty-handed. One hand held a jar of Pizza Spread and the other held a bag of English muffins. Now my children make Pizza Spread on their own and I see mini pizzas in their children’s futures. One thing all Pizza Spread lovers agree on is the number of mini pizzas that are eaten: tasting just one mini pizza is impossible; nibbling on two is highly unlikely; eating a mere three is more probable, and devouring four to six is most likely!

Pizza Spread
Recipe from Linnell’s mom
pizza spread

1 two-pound block of Velveeta Cheese
2 cubes of butter, room temperature
2 – 6 ounce cans of tomato paste
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
8 stalks of green onions, sliced into thin rings
English muffins

1. Cut Velveeta into small cubes and then put into a large mixing bowl, food processor bowl, or electric mixer bowl.
2. Cut butter into small cubes and add to mixing bowl.
3. Add the two cans of tomato paste and dried oregano.
4. Wash and slice the green onions and add to the cheese mixture.
5. Blend all ingredients thoroughly together.

To Serve:
1. Turn on oven broiler.
2. Cut English muffins in half.
3. Spread English muffin halves with Pizza Spread and place them on a cookie sheet.
4. Broil until spread is melted and bubbling slightly.

Linnell’s Notes
1. Although any type of bread can be used, English muffins work particularly well with this recipe. The melted Pizza Spread flows into all the nooks and crannies of the muffins!

2. I do not add any additional salt. The Velveeta is plenty salty for me. In addition, I use unsalted butter.

3. Keep a watchful eye on the muffins when they are under the broiler, because they can burn quickly!

4. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


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chocolate truffles

photo by Linnell Chang

In the movie Forrest Gump, the main character repeatedly tells people that his mother always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”  In life each chocolate represents an adventure, an opportunity, a decision, a lesson, etc. You may not like what you’ve bitten off, but you had a choice and you made a decision. Good or bad, there’s always another piece of chocolate waiting for you.

#1 – Tiny Wisdom
From the site Tiny Buddha comes this tiny bit of wisdom on starting anew:

One of the greatest misconceptions in life is that we are somehow powerless to let go of what’s behind us. That we have to carry regret, shame, or disappointment, and that it has to dictate how today will unfold, at least on some level. It doesn’t. At any moment, you can let go of who you’ve been and decide to be someone new – to do something differently. It won’t always be easy, but it is always a choice you can make. You can either dwell and stay stuck, or let go and feel free. Give yourself space to fill with good feelings about the beautiful day in front of you – and the beautiful tomorrow you’re now creating.

#2 – Sharp or Dull, Serrated or Plain?
My father owned grocery stores and when he started in the business, he was both the produce man and the meat butcher for them. Having received professional butcher training, he taught his children how to identify the best cuts of meat, how to slice and bone meat, how to cook the different types and cuts of meat, and how to select, respect, and use knives skillfully. One of his bits of knife-wisdom is, “Keep your knives sharp, because you’re more likely to cut yourself on a dull knife than a sharp one.” This Hone Your Chops: the Chef’s Guide to Knives infograph is a nod to my Dad. Thanks Dad!

#3 – You’re Benched!
You wouldn’t mind being benched, if you could sit on one of these benches! Click on this link to see a photo series of amazingly creative benches for indoors and outdoors that are made from new and repurposed materials. Who said being benched was boring?

twist bench

Kenan Wang twist bench

#4 – Best Reads in 2013?
The Strongest Librarian Books are like chocolates, because you can’t tell by the cover what’s inside. Browse through The Huffington Post’s Best Books of 2013?: Our Picks For The Year’s Biggest Reads and see if a few don’t catch your fancy.

#5 – Beginning Again
“No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.”

Enjoy your first weekend in January!

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#1 – A New Year
A new year is unfolding – like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within.

#2 – The End and the Beginning
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
T.S. Eliot

#3 – Room By Room
We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives . . . not looking for flaws, but for potential.
Ellen Goodman

#4 – Look Inside
Carl jung quote

#5 – Resolve to Keep Happy
Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
Helen Keller

#6 – Be at Peace
Be at Peace not in pieces

#7 – How to Live
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.

We should count time by heart-throbs. He most loves
Who thinks most – feels the noblest – acts the best.
Philip James Baile

#8- Do You Have Any Idea?
lives you touchedFrom the TUT Adventures Club

#9 – A New Book
We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.
Edith Lovejoy Pierce

#10 – I Know Something Good About You

Wouldn’t this old world be better
If the folks we meet would say –
“I know something good about you!”
And treat us just that way?

Wouldn’t it be fine and dandy
If each handclasp, fond and true,
Carried with it this assurance –
“I know something good about you!’

Wouldn’t life be lots more happy
If the good that’s in us all
Were the only thing about us
That folks bothered to recall?

Wouldn’t life be lots more happy
If we praised the good we see?
For there’s such a lot of goodness
In the worst of you and me!

Wouldn’t it be nice to practice
That fine way of thinking, too?
You know something good about me;
I know something good about you.

Author unknown

 #11 – Change Your Programming

"change your programming" inspiration

#12 – Becoming
There is no such thing as a “finished” person; whatever your circumstances are, it is your challenge to keep asking yourself the tough question that will move you forward in your life. What I’ve discovered is that joy isn’t waiting on the other side of that process; joy is that process . . . The greatest joy lies not in simply being but in becoming.

May 2013 bring you abundant joy!

With much gratitude,


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