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Archive for May, 2015

May 29, 2015 Edition In a center that provides services for women and children in need, a small floral bouquet sits in a vase. Sunlight streams in from a window and illuminates a rose, making its outer petals glow. Incredibly, this beautiful example of nature transforms an old fire station, which houses the center, into a cozy and joyful place. Joy is everywhere, if you look for it. It’s in the little things in life.

#1 – Spread Joy
Finding joy makes for a life of never-ending gratitude. Don’t limit yourself to just looking for joy, however. How about spreading some? Here is a little booklet that lists 150 Ways to Spread Joy. Indeed, what goes around, comes around.Spreading Joy

#2 – Kitchen Help
Kitchen Infographics Imagine my joy when I found all of these cooking infographics on one site! Almost everything anyone needs to know about cooking and baking can be found on one of these 25 Must-See Diagrams That Will Make Cooking Super Easy.

#3 – Norway Calls
27 Reasons Why You Must Visit Norway
After looking at the photos in 27 Reasons Why You Must Visit Norway in 2015, I had to add another country to my bucket list. I’m positive there must be more than 27 reasons to visit Norway!

#4 – Starfish Story
Starfish Story This story speaks of the power of one. We each possess the power to enact positive change in the world:

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

Adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

#5 – Joy
“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.”
Karl Barth

Now go and spread joy!

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Spiced Grilled Sweet Potatoes One sweet potato contains more potassium than a banana. Why is potassium so important? An article in Women’s Health states, “Potassium is a crucial nutrient, playing key roles in muscle strength, nerve function and heart health. And if you don’t get enough—4,700 mg a day—it could lead to a deficiency, complete with fatigue, muscle cramps, heart palpitations and dizzy spells.” These grilled sweet potatoes with their smokey and spicy flavors make the perfect accompaniment to other grilled vegetables and grilled meats. This recipe is a trifecta: easy to prepare, delicious to eat, and good for your body.

Spiced Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Recipe from Whole Foods

INGREDIENTS
4 medium sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds), scrubbed well
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS
1. Cover potatoes with cold salted water in a large pot, then bring to a boil. Simmer until slightly resistant when pierced with a sharp small knife, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain well. When cool, slice potatoes lengthwise.

2. Mix together salt, spices and apple cider vinegar; add oil in a slow stream. Brush this mixture on sweet potatoes.

3. Grill potatoes on a lightly oiled grill rack over medium heat, until grill marks appear and potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes.

4. Serve potatoes warm.

Serves 8

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I usually slice the sweet potatoes lengthwise, but this time I sliced them crosswise to make smaller servings.

2. One of my favorite ways to serve these potatoes is to cut the slices into cubes and then toss them in a green salad.

Enjoy!

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May 22, 2015 EditionEven though she can’t walk yet, my granddaughter Charlotte loves to play fetch with me. You know the game – baby throws objects from the high chair and you fetch them. After bending over for the umpteenth time, I looked up to see Charlotte grinning at me with a bit of cracker stuck between her eyes. In that moment, as I watched her search her tray for the missing piece of cracker, I realized more than ever that I want to live to be a ripe old age. Then Charlotte and I can share as many silly moments together as possible.

#1 – If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again
Whether you’re raising young children now or have grown-up children, you might relate to the sentiment expressed in this poem by Diana Loomans: "If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again"

#2 – Child’s Play For Adults
33 Ways to Be Childlike Today Why should kids have all the fun? Read 33 Ways to Be Childlike Today and select a few things from the list to do. Reread one of your favorite childhood books, jump rope, be creative, sit cross-legged, or make a spontaneous playdate with friends. Sound like fun?

#3 – New Life For Toys
Upcycling Toys The author of 21 Ideas for Upcycling Kid’s Toys places the blame for massive toy accumulation on grandparents. Hardly a true statement, but toy accumulation can be a problem in many households. The article presents clever ways to transform toys into objects with new uses. If upcycling doesn’t appeal to you, check out Eco-Friendly Disposal of Kids’ Toys and Electronics for helpful suggestions.

#4 – Kids’ Play Around the Globe
30 Amazing Photos of Kids Playing Around the World The magic of child’s play is captured in the collection of 30 Amazing Photos of Kids Playing Around the Globe.

#5 – Connecting the Dots
“Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation.”
Lois Wyse

Now go and spread joy!

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Chunky Lola Cookies The lyrics from the Broadway song, “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets,” plays in my head while I make these cookies. In the musical Damn Yankees, Lola is a seductress hired by the devil. I don’t have a clue who the Chunky Lola of this famous recipe is, but she must be a seductress in her own right to have a devilishly delicious cookie named after her. With its dark chocolate chunks, sweet coconut, crunchy toasted pecans, and chewy oats, this cookie is so exceptional that you’ll say “the devil made me do it” as you reach for another one!

Chunky Lola Cookies
Recipe by Joanne Chang, owner and pastry chef at
Flour Bakery + Cafe

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (1-3/8 sticks/156 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (150 grams) packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups (175 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (70 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
9 ounces (255 grams) bittersweet chocolate (62 to 70 percent cacao), chopped into ½-inch pieces
1¼ cups (125 grams) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
1 cup (120 grams) sweetened shredded coconut

DIRECTIONS
1. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer or wooden spoon), cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. (This step will take about 10 minutes if using a handheld mixer or spoon.) Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle as necessary.

2. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle again to make sure the eggs are completely incorporated.

3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate, pecans, and coconut and toss to combine.

4. On low speed (or with wooden spoon), slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix just until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.

5. For the best results, scrape the dough into an airtight container and let rest in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 3 to 4 hours) before baking.

6. When ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350℉.

7. Drop the dough in ¼-cup balls onto parchment paper or Silpat lined baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.

8. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are cool enough to remove with a spatula. Then transfer them directly to the wire rack to cool completely, or enjoy them warm.

9. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. The unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Makes approximately 18 large cookies

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. As Joanne Chang recommends, I weighed the ingredients that had weight equivalents listed.

2. I used Plugra unsalted butter and Lindt 70% Cocoa Smooth Dark chocolate with superior results.

3. I appreciate the notes that the author includes in her cookbook. Most of us home bakers do not cream butter and sugar together long enough. Of that Chang says, It’s best to beat together the butter and sugar for longer than you might think: as long as 6 to 8 minutes on medium speed with a stand mixer in some cases. Watch for the transformation from a yellow, sandy mixture to an ivory, fluffy mixture—the sign that you have properly creamed them together. When you are creaming butter with brown sugar, you’ll see the mixture go from muddy looking to pale brown, and creamy.

4. Even though I refrigerated the dough overnight, the cookies still spread quite a bit. To prevent the cookies from touching as they bake, next time I will space them farther apart than specified or make the dough balls smaller.

5. This cookie recipe is a 10 in my mind. However, because it requires a minimum of 3 to 4 hours of chilling time, it is not a cookie you can make in the spur of the moment.

Enjoy!

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May 15, 2015 Edition Cursing myself for deciding to update my computer software on a day I normally post to my blog, I tried to relax and redirect my self-talk. While faced with an unfamiliar computer application that the update forced on me, I remembered the words on a street sign I photographed in Los Angeles last week. Immediately, I turned off the negative self-talk and told myself, “Everything will be fine. You’re a smart gal. You’ll figure it out.” Life can be stressful, frustrating, and challenging at times, but at the heart of it all is you. You are the main character in your play. You write the script. You control character development. It’s your happy ending or not. Do you love yourself enough to let your light shine and be the hero of your life story?

#1 – Love Yourself
Love Yourself To some people, self-love does not come easy. “How To Love Yourself in 17 Ways” provides introspective and empowering suggestions.

#2 – Tea and Thee
Tea and Thee “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” This quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, introduces Leo Babuta’s post Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart. The article is not so much about drinking tea as it is about recognizing the need to create sacred spaces in your heart for those things in your life that matter most.

#3 – Love That Traveling Dog
Maddie the Traveling DogA couple of things strike me as I look through the photos in Photographer Takes His Rescued Dog Maddie On Epic Adventures. First off, I admire the ability of some people to pick up and go. Secondly, I like the composition of Theron Humphries’s photos – especially the images of Maddie in front of captivating scenery. And finally, I realize how much I miss my dog and having the love of a good dog.

#4 – Before I Die . . .
A while back, I took a class on learning how to live a more authentic life. Towards the end of the class, each student was given a piece of paper and asked to write his obituary. The point of the powerful assignment was to shed light on what each of us wanted to be remembered for and to help us focus on what and who were important in our lives. The following TED Talk follows a similar premise. “Before I die . . .” is the unfinished statement that artist Candy Chang asks people to complete. In her interactive public installations, she provides space for people to write down their answers. How would you complete the statement?

#5 – Self-Love and Light
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”
Abraham Lincoln

“Loving yourself . . . does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.”
Margo Anand

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Now go and spread joy!

 

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Cannellini Beans with Wilted Spinach and Bacon “Just what the doctor ordered,” I said as I dished out a savory salad onto my plate. With white beans, spinach, and a few chopped dates thrown in for good measure, I easily fulfilled one of the four daily servings of potassium-rich food that my cardiologist recommends. Why take supplements when you can eat delicious food?

Cannellini Beans with Wilted Spinach and Bacon
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit: 12 Easy Ways to Cook a Can of Cannellini Beans

INGREDIENTS
Cannellini beans (canned), rinsed and drained
Onion, thinly sliced
Bacon slices, chopped and cooked
Garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes
Baby spinach leaves
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice and zest
Chopped dates

DIRECTIONS
1. Cook chopped bacon in a skillet until bacon is brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain.

2. Add sliced onion to fat in skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden.

3. Add minced garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.

4. Add cannellini beans and cook until heated through.

5. Put spinach leaves in a large bowl and using a slotted spoon to drain off the bacon fat, spoon the cannellini bean mixture into the spinach and toss. The spinach will begin to wilt from the heat of the beans.

6. Drizzle with some olive oil and fresh lemon juice, and toss to combine.

7. Add chopped dates and lemon zest, and toss again.

8. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9. Top with bacon.

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. To reduce sodium levels, I used cans of reduced-sodium cannellini beans.

2. I “doubled” the recipe: I used 2 cans of cannellini beans, 1 medium onion, 10 slices of bacon, 2 small garlic cloves, and about 8 ounces of baby spinach leaves. This quantity should yield six servings.

3. The next time I make this salad, I will add more crushed red pepper flakes to give it a little more kick.

4. I chopped about 5-6 pitted dates and added them to the salad. This was not part of the original recipe, but dates are high in potassium and offer a nice sweet counterbalance to the tart freshness of the lemon juice.

5. The lemon zest was not part of the original recipe either, but why waste this most fragrant part of a lemon?

6. To reduce the fat content and make this salad healthier, omit the bacon. Instead, sauté everything in olive oil.

Enjoy!

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May 8, 2015 Edition Despite lugging my suitcase through subway passageways and up and down stairs, traveling by train through Italy surpassed my expectations. Trains take you places sometimes where airplanes don’t go. If time permits, why not try taking the scenic route on your next trip and travel by train?

#1 – Weeklong Train Trips
Europe by Train Now that I’ve got you thinking about train trips, read Europe By Train: Five Great One-Week Rail Trip Routes and start planning a trip.

#2 – The Man in Seat 61
The Man in Seat 61: Help for Traveling by Train or Ferry If you need help planning a train or ferry trip, check out The Man in Seat Sixty-One, an informative site dedicated to worldwide train and ferry travel.

#3 – Pack Your Bags
Packing Tips From the ProsWhen traveling, the adage “less is more” becomes meaningful. Nobody wants to haul large pieces of luggage on to trains or try to fit them in tiny elevators. Real Simple’s Packing Tips From The Pros offers many helpful ideas on how to select your travel wardrobe and then how to pack it efficiently.

#4 – Upcycling Suitcases
Upcycling Suitcases What to do with old suitcases that can only hold memories and not clothing anymore? Upcycle them into something fabulous like these chest of drawers by JAMESPLUMB. Check out these other suitcase transformations.

#5 – The Upside of Traveling
“To travel is to take a journey into yourself.”
Danny Kaye

Now go and spread joy!

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