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Archive for January, 2014

Double JoyA thoughtful gift of a plant with two garden stakes multiplies my joy every morning. As someone who enjoys nature and who has an affection for birds, I clearly appreciate the plant and the whimsical hummingbird. But knowing that my personal mantra is “Spread Joy,” my friend also gave me a garden stake with the word “joy” on it. What she doesn’t know is that every morning, when the bright eastern sun shines on my backyard, my joy doubles!

#1 – Napkin Notes
Napkin Notes A man named Garth writes words of encouragement on napkins before placing them in his daughter Emma’s lunch box. As a dedicated dad, he has been giving her these napkin notes, since she was in the second grade. But now, after being diagnosed with a cancer that gives him only an 8% chance of living beyond 5 years, Garth is accelerating his note-writing. He plans to write an additional 826 napkin notes, so that Emma will continue to receive notes in her lunch box after he is gone until she graduates from high school. Read about Garth and Emma’s inspirational story and check out their Facebook page.

#2 – Mother, Art, and Climate Change
Zaria Forman: Art and Climate Change Rena Bass Forman, an artist and photographer, conceived an idea to retrace the 1869 Arctic trip of American painter William Bradford, but unfortunately she did not live long enough to realize her dream. Her daughter Zaria Forman, a Brooklyn-based artist, fulfilled a promise she made to her late mother by leading an expedition called Chasing the Light up the northwest coast of Greenland. This trip inspired many realistic pastel drawings of icebergs. In an interview posted on My Modern Met, Ms. Forman says, “My hope is that these drawings bring awareness, and invite viewers to share the urgency in a hopeful and meaningful way. Art can facilitate a deeper understanding of any crisis, helping us find meaning and optimism in shifting landscapes.” Ms. Forman also traveled to the Maldives, the lowest-lying country in the world, to continue her focus on climate change. Below are links to see more of her incredible artwork:

Exploring Climate Change Through Art: Giant Pastel Oceanscapes and Icebergs Drawn By Zaria Forman

Zaria Forman Website.

#3 – A Hum a Day Keeps Stress Away
"Flying" Hum Want to begin the day in peaceful calm or end your day completely relaxed? Or do mid-afternoons present the most stressful moments? In any case, all you need to do is hum. Check out Osmosis, a “Frequency-shaped Meditation Drone Generator. The site reads, “Humming enhances breath control and extends exhalation. It also creates deep vibrations inside your chest, helping you to relax, ease stress, and balance your mind and body.” Locate the steady hum behind the soothing tinkling of bells and hum along. Feel better?

#4 – Valentine’s Day Upcycled
Upcycled Gift Boxes Not wanting to rush the year along, but Valentine’s Day is only two weeks away! Instead of buying heart-related stuff at your local craft store, how about upcycling something you already have around your house? Start by making these lace-inspired gift containers, made with plastic containers that previously held powdered drink pouches.

#5 – Joy Follows
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
Guatama Buddha

Now Go and Spread Joy!

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Spicy Chicken in Lettuce Cups The Chinese year 4712 begins on Friday. As a nod to my Chinese heritage, I decided to make “San Choy Bao” or lettuce cups. Lettuce cups, also referred to as lettuce wraps, can be served as a hearty appetizer or as a light main dish. Pine nuts, added to the tasty stir-fry mixture and sprinkled on top, bring an interesting flavor twist and crunch to these lettuce cups. Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Spicy Chicken in Lettuce Cups
Based on a recipe in Chinatown, a cookbook by Ross Dobson

INGREDIENTS
1 lb 2 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine, divided use
4 small dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 green onions (scallions), white part chopped and green part thinly sliced
2 small red chilies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pine nuts, divided use
1/4 cup water chestnuts, roughly chopped
8 iceberg lettuce leaves, washed and chilled
Hoisin sauce, to taste
Sweet chili sauce, optional

DIRECTIONS
1. Put the chicken and 1 tablespoon of the rice wine into a food processor and process until the chicken is chopped. Refrigerate for a few hours, or until ready to use.

2. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 20-30 minutes. Squeeze out the excess liquid from the mushrooms, then remove and discard the stems and finely chop the caps. Reserve 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid.

3. Combine the sugar, stock, oyster sauce, remaining rice wine and the reserved mushroom soaking liquid in a bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

4. Heat a wok over high heat and add the oil, swirling the oil around to coat the wok. When the oil reaches smoking point, add the garlic, ginger, spring onion whites and chillies and cook for a few seconds.

5. Add the chicken and half the pine nuts and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is almost cooked, stirring constantly to break up the chicken.

6. Add the mushrooms and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 1 minute.

7. Add the sauce mixture, pouring it down the side of the wok, and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce has almost evaporated.

8. Serve in a bowl, sprinkled with the slivered green onions, the remaining pine nuts, and the lettuce on the side. Assemble these at the table, two per person.

Serves 4 as a starter

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. Chicken thighs are preferred over chicken breasts, because chicken breasts tend to be too dry.

2. I ran out of shaoxing rice wine, so I substituted dry sherry.

3. I followed the instructions and grated the ginger, but next time I will just finely mince it.

4. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet on medium-heat until they are a pale golden in color. This brings out the flavor of the nuts. Keep an eye on them while toasting, because they burn easily. I toasted more than called for, because I served it as a topping option, rather than as a garnish. If you don’t like pine nuts, you can substitute unsalted, roasted chopped cashews.

5. As mentioned above, I used the pine nuts as a topping. I also sliced extra green onions to use as a topping, too. Fresh cilantro leaves would also make another flavorful topping.

6. In my opinion, the meat mixture needed more flavor. That was easily solved by adding some hoisin sauce. It can either be added to the meat mixture before serving or you can serve hosin sauce on the side as a condiment. Sweet chili sauce can also be served as a condiment on the side.

ENJOY!

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Dogs:  Parts of a Black Lab The sum of all parts makes for an engaging whole. Buster, my grand-pup, tries to ignore me as I walk around him with my camera. I’m touching him but, worse than that, I’m in his face and I’m interrupting his nap. Like most other dogs, he prefers not to establish “eye contact” with my camera lens. And occasionally, he cocks his head at the weird sounds I make to get his attention. Holding his paw in one hand and trying to focus my camera with my other hand, I say to him, “This is what happens when your mommy and daddy leave you with me. You get to be Grandma’s model!”

#1 – Face Your Fears
Buster If something holds you back from attaining what you want, you need to read Stop Being Afraid by Jeff Goins. At the end of the article, a reader left this noteworthy comment: “Whenever I see the word fear, I think of an acronym for it: False Evidence Appearing Real.” I thought about this acronym and about the number of times I’ve allowed F.E.A.R. to brainwash me. I bet I’m not the only person on this planet whose been swayed by false evidence conjured up in his head. To be our whole and authentic selves, we need to let go of whatever fears stand in our way.

#2 – Frame It
Blank Frames Wallpaper Imagine a whole wall of blank picture frames to fill. I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind for most of us is, “Say what? Draw ON the wall?” Sure, the frames could be filled with original artwork, but consider all of the other possibilities. These frames can surround anything you want: photos, magazine covers, headlines, recipes, quotes, or any combination of things that represent you and your life. I’m going to put up this wallpaper by Graham & Brown somewhere in my home!

#3 – The Whole Pie
Joyce Maynard Pie-Making Lesson Joyce Maynard, the author of Labor Day, a book about an escaped convict who hides in the home of a single woman and her teenage son, explains in a recent interview the significance of the pie-making scene in her book. After the interview, she shares her pie-making skills in a video (see link below). Although the video presents step-by-step instructions on how to make a pie, it’s not your average Martha Stewart-type production or pie. Ms. Maynard’s relaxed approach and her wabi-sabi philosophy of pie-making take the fear out of making flaky crusts and tasty pies.

Joyce Maynard Teaches the Labor Day Stars How to Bake a Pie.

#4 – A Whole Lot of Driftwood
Driftwood Horse Sculptures by James Doran As you stroll down a beach, you spy something on the sand. It’s an interesting piece of driftwood. You pick it up and decide to take it home as a souvenir. That’s what most of us do with when we find a piece of driftwood. British sculptor James Doran-Webb takes collecting driftwood to a whole new level. Using driftwood found along the coastal shores and riverbeds of the Philippine archipelago, he creates realistic life-sized sculptures of animals. Click on the links below to view more of his incredible work.

Amusing Planet
James Doran Webb

#5 – Part of the Whole
Each person comes into this world with a specific destiny–he has something to fulfill, some message has to be delivered, some work has to be completed. You are not here accidentally–you are here meaningfully. There is a purpose behind you. The whole intends to do something through you.
Osho

Now Go and Spread Joy!

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Chips, Dips and Strips: Healthy Appetizers So what if your favorite football team failed in its attempt to reach the Super Bowl? Plenty of other reasons exist in life for you to throw a get-together with friends! Start the festivities out with mix and match homemade dips, chips, and strips. The exotic flavors of the Cajun Tortilla Chips and the Indian Egg-Roll Strips play nicely with the flavors of the Thai Shrimp Dip and the Hot Bean-and-Cheese Dip—so nicely, in fact, that you won’t even miss the fat in these tasty low-fat appetizers!

Recipes by Jim Fobel for Cooking Light Magazine

Thai Shrimp Dip
INGREDIENTS
1 pound medium shrimp, cooked and peeled
1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce or low-sodium soy sauce
1 (12.3-ounce) package reduced-fat firm tofu, drained
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons minced green onions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Cooked and peeled shrimp (optional garnish)
Cilantro sprig (optional garnish)

DIRECTIONS
1. Place the first 3 ingredients in a food processor, and process until minced.
2. Add lime juice, fish sauce, and tofu; pulse until blended.
3. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat; sauté ginger and garlic 2 minutes.
4. Add to shrimp mixture, and pulse until combined.
5. Add onions and chopped cilantro, and pulse 3 to 4 times.
6. Spoon into a bowl; cover and chill 1 hour.
7. Garnish dip with additional shrimp and cilantro sprig, if desired.

Yields: 3 cups

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. In this recipe, fish sauce is a more flavorful ingredient choice over low-sodium soy sauce. Fish sauce adds more depth of flavor. I would substitute soy sauce only if you absolutely can’t find/buy fish sauce in your region.

Hot Bean-And-Cheese Dip
INGREDIENTS
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained and divided
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (16-ounce) can fat-free refried beans
1 (4.5-ounce) can green chiles, drained
Cooking Spray
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Combine 1 cup tomatoes and the next 7 ingredients (1 cup tomatoes through chiles).
3. Spoon tomato mixture into a 1½-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray.
4. Top with cheese.
5. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted. Top with remaining tomatoes.

Yield: 4½ cups

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. The next time I make this I will add a little more hot pepper sauce for additional kick.
2. The combination of the melted cheese and the vegetable spray created a slight ring of oil around the edge of the dip after it was baked. I blotted this excess oil off with a paper towel before serving. Next time I will spray the cooking oil more sparingly or just lightly wipe a little oil with a paper towel on the inside of the dish.

Cajun Tortilla Chips
INGREDIENTS
Cajun Seasoning:
1½ teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Chips:
10 (7-inch) flour tortillas, cut into 8 wedges
Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 375° .
2. To prepare Cajun seasoning, combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl.
3. To prepare chips arrange the tortilla wedges on 2 baking sheets coated with cooking spray.
4. Coat wedges with cooking spray. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning over wedges.
5. Bake chips at 375° for 6 minutes or until crisp.
6. Note: Store remaining Cajun seasoning in an airtight container.

Yield: 80 chips

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I find it easiest to use a pizza cutter to cut the tortillas into wedges.
2. Since the recipe makes a fair amount of seasoning, I sprinkled it on the tortilla wedges a little more generously than the recipe specified.
3. Instead of spraying cooking oil on the baking sheets, I covered them with parchment paper.
4. My chips took more than double the amount of time to become crisp.

Indian Egg-Roll Strips
INGREDIENTS
Curry seasoning:
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Strips:
10 egg-roll wrappers, each cut lengthwise into 8 strips
Cooking spray

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat over 375°.
2. To prepare curry seasoning, combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl.
3. To prepare strips, arrange the egg-roll strips on 2 baking sheets coated with cooking spray.
4. Coat strips with cooking spray, and sprinkle 2 teaspoons curry seasoning over strips.
5. Bake strips at 375° for 8 minutes or until crisp.
6. Note: Store remaining curry seasoning in an airtight container.

Yield: 80 strips

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. Again, I lined the baking sheets with parchment paper instead of spraying them with cooking spray.
2. Unlike the Cajun Tortilla Chips, these egg-roll strips brown faster, so monitor them while they bake.
3. I felt my first batch of these were underseasoned, so the next batch I applied the curry seasoning more liberally.

ENJOY!

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Ice and Water image It freezes. It melts. It evaporates. Water exists in solid, liquid, and gaseous states and, given specific conditions, it transforms itself repeatedly throughout the course of time. It’s a wondrous thing. Humans also have the ability to transform themselves in many ways, and on an ongoing basis. If we choose wisely and try to better ourselves and the world, perhaps we, too, can become wondrous things.

#1 – A Better Life
Bird Bath Image Are you 100% satisfied with your life right now? Most likely not, because there’s always some aspect of our lives that can stand improvement. Here’s a list of 100 Ways To Live A Better Life. Sure, it’s a long list, but there’s probably at least one thing on this list that will make your life better.

#2 – Tilt-Shift
Tilt Shift Van Gogh Landscapes Using special camera lenses and techniques, photographers are able to keep their camera bodies parallel to their subject matter, while tilting their camera lenses at different angles to bring their subject matter into view with less distortion. Landscapers and architects employ tilt-shift technology when photographing their work, but as you can see in 16 Incredible Van Gogh Paintings Tilt Shifted, tilt-shifting can be used in creative photography as well.

#3 – Ways to Wear a Scarf
Scarves are indispensable fashion accessories; they transform ho-hum outfits into stylish ensembles. It goes without saying, that the the more scarves you have and the more ways you know how to tie scarves, the more fashionable and stylish you will be. In this short video, you’ll learn 25 ways to wear a scarf.

#4 – Is Your Future Green?
The Ultimate Guide to Going Green Please do your share and help planet Earth. Make 2014 the year you resolve to go more green. To help you, here is the Ultimate Guide to Going Green in 2014.

#5 – Choose Wisely
“My circumstances do not make me what I am, they reveal who I have chosen to be.”
Wayne Dyer

Now Go and Spread Joy!

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Hot and Sweet Vegetable and Tofu Soup After nearly two months of holiday gluttony, I longed for a soothing and nutritious soup. With its balance of spicy, sweet, and sour, this soup fit the bill. Simple to make and delicious to eat, this soup took the chill off of a cold winter day. Some recipes transcend their basic ingredients and this is one of them.

Hot and Sweet Vegetable and Tofu Soup
The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Thai Cooking

INGREDIENTS
Hot and Sweet Vetgetable and Tofu Soup Supplies
5 cups vegetable stock
1 to 2 tsp Thai red curry paste
2 kaffir lime leaves, torn
3 tbsp palm sugar or light muscovado (brown) sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 carrot, cut into thin batons
2 oz baby spinach leaves, any coarse stalks removed
8 oz block silken tofu, diced

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat the stock in a large pan, then add the red curry paste. Stir constantly over medium heat until the paste has dissolved.

2. Add the lime leaves, sugar and soy sauce and bring to a boil.

3. Add the lime juice and carrot to the pan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Place the spinach and tofu in four individual serving bowls and pour hot stock on top to serve.

Serves 4

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used only 1 tsp of the red curry paste. The soup had a mild curry flavor and a bit of heat which was just right for me. My family likes spicy food, so if I were making this for them, I would add more than the 1 tsp of curry paste.

2. According to the cookbook, palm sugar is:
Made from the sap of the coconut palm or the sugar palm tree; palm sugar varies in colour from golden to light brown. It has a distinctive flavor and is not so sweet as cane sugar. It is often sold as a solid cake. If this is the case, grate it before use.

3. Kaffir lime leaves are green, glossy, double leaves that have a fragrant citrus oil. They are aromatic and lend an amazing flavor to soup. There is no substitute for them. Purchase these leaves fresh at an Asian market or, perhaps, ask your local Thai restaurant if they will sell you a few.

4. Silken tofu has the delicate consistency of egg custard, so it must be handled with care. If handled roughly, it will break apart.

5. To make this soup heartier, you can add mushrooms (straw or quartered button mushrooms), prawns, and/or noodles. Peel and devein the prawns, leaving the tail segment intact. Add prawns to the soup about 5 minutes before serving and cook them for 3 minutes or until they are firm and pink. If serving with noodles, it is best to cook the noodles separately and add them just before serving or place them in a soup bowl with the spinach and tofu and pour the hot broth over them. By doing so, you are preventing the soup from becoming cloudy and thick.

ENJOY!

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Buster and Ruca With his Santa’s hat askew, Buster, a black Lab, looks warily over at Ruca, his playful Corgi cousin from New York. “Is she still there?” one could only imagine him thinking as he tries to avoid eye contact with her. Despite their size difference, Ruca herds Buster over to the sofa and makes sure he remains there. Watching the two interact with each other, I am reminded of how looks can be deceiving.

#1 – Not All Things Are What They Seem
25 Things That Are Not What They Seem While thinking about how looks can be deceiving, I came across this list of 25 Things That Are Not What They Seem. It’s an interesting read, especially for trivia buffs!

#2 – The Science of Happiness
Many people fall prey to the deception of what will make them happy. Why are some people happier than others? What do happy people possess that others don’t? Check out this infographic to learn about the science of happiness.

How to Be Happy

#3 – What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

He’s young, but he’s wise. When 13-year-old Logan LaPlante is asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he answers, “happy and healthy.” In this TEDx Talk, he discusses Hackschooling and how it differs from traditional schooling. Traditionally “school is geared toward making a better living, rather than a better life.” Watch his thought-provoking presentation and see if it doesn’t get you thinking about your own education or your children’s education.

#4 – Trash or Treasure?
Do It Yourself Craft Ideas Upcycling is the art of taking something no longer used and converting it into something useful. We deceive ourselves every day by trashing objects that can be transformed and given a new life. Make this the year you begin upcycling and for ideas, check out these Do It Yourself Craft Ideas.

#5 – Self-Deception
“Human potential is the same for all. Your feeling, ‘I am of no value,’ is wrong. Absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself. We all have the power of thought – so what are you lacking? If you have willpower, then you can change anything. It is usually said that you are your own master.”
Dalai Lama

Now Go and Spread Joy!

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