Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy where I am...

"The other problem with all this swinging through the vines of thought is that you are never where you are. You are always digging in the past or poking at the future, but rarely do you rest in this moment. It's something like the habit of a dear friend, Susan, who - whenever she sees a beautiful place - exclaims in near panic, "It's so beautiful here! I want to come back here someday!" and it takes all of my persuasive powers to try to convince her that she is already here. There's a reason they call God a presence - because He is right here, right now. In the present is the only place to be..."

-Eat Pray Love

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the acclaimed, Eat Pray Love, is an exceptional writer. As I read her book with a slightly clearer mind this summer, I am learning a lot from her craft. Especially, her keen insight and deep reflection on the world around her. It's what her book is all about. A memoir of her year-long inspiration ride to three countries: Italy, India, and Indonesia. After a draining divorce and deep depression, she sought to redefine herself by spending a year abroad. She's already convinced me that my bucket-list trip to Italy is a good choice, and I praise her courage and devotion to well-being. I'm about halfway through and will save my final review until then...

So tonight, for the Happiness Project, I'm focusing on the present. Small, simple indulgences that made my night a happy one. All too often, I get wrapped up in my thoughts and lose sight of what's really good in the present. Because, really, when you think about it, "what I should have done," and "what I want to do," are pretty irrelevant.

This Happiness Project is about food! Last night, I decided to slow down when it came to cooking dinner. Because I'm often too wrapped up in the past or the future, dinner is often hurried, stressed over, or neglected. I love to cook; however, realize that once this baby's here and I'm back to work, dinner is going to need to be simplified a bit. I won't always have the time to devote to the planning, preparing, chopping, boiling, steaming, sauteing, garnishing, and enjoying that goes into a great dinner. So last night, I was going to slow down, take my time, and enjoy one of my favorite meals...

47. A table set for two. Placemats, candles, and matching silverware.

48. My summer drink of choice. Club Soda and Olive Garden's Italian Soda Syrup. A bartender let me sample several flavors one night while we were waiting for a table. Since then, I've had fun experimenting with their different flavors and concoctions. My favorite? A little cherry and a little vanilla, mixed with club soda, and topped with half and half. It tastes like a cherry cream soda!

49. Tomato & Feta Crostini...grilled tomatoes, fresh oregano, feta cheese, olive oil, and salt and pepper, atop slices of grilled baguette. Easy and a perfect flavor for a summer appetizer.

50. Cooking my one of my favorite meals...Honey Mustard Chicken and Summer Style Green Beans (recipe follows). Everything was fresh, chopped to perfection, and cooked with precision. We ate slow and I made sure to savor every bite!

51. A clean kitchen afterwards! Tip of the day...try and do as much food prep and clean up as possible before makes the 'after' clean-up more bearable, especially with a food coma!

Honey Mustard Chicken

4 chicken breasts, flattened and seasoned with Lawry's
six slices of bacon, fried or baked beforehand (I did this the day before)
6 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced (baby bellas are the best!)
1 1/2 cups Colby-Mont. Jack cheese
1 tbsp. minced onion
1/2 cup mustard
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup mayo

1. Preheat ovento 350 degrees. On the stovetop, sautee mushrooms in butter and olive oil over medium heat. After tender and cooked through, drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, combine mustard, honey, corn syrup, mayo, and minced onion in a medium bowl. Cover and refridgerate until using.
3. Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place the chicken in the skillet and sautee until browned, about 3-5 minutes on both sides. Remove from skillet and place the breasts in a 9x13 baking dish.
4. Build your chicken! Spread half of the honey mustard over the cooked breasts, and layer with mushrooms, bacon, and cheese.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and chicken juices run clear. Garnish with the reserved honey mustard.

Summer Style Green Beans

1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into two inch pieces
1/4 cup butter
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
2 cups cherry tomato halves

1. Boil beans in salted water until soft but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
2. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in sugar, garlic, pepper, and basil. Add tomatoes, and cook stirring gently until soft. Stir in the green beans and heat through.

Enjoy the PRESENT!

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