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Eclecticisms: November 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

As if we needed reasons to smile (OK- maybe sometimes we do!), here are ones taken directly from this site.


1. Smiling Makes Us Attractive

We are drawn to people who smile. There is an attraction factor. We want to know a smiling person and figure out what is so good. Frowns, scowls and grimaces all push people away -- but a smile draws them in.
2. Smiling Changes Our Mood
Next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There's a good chance you mood will change for the better. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.

3. Smiling Is Contagious

When someone is smiling they lighten up the room, change the moods of others, and make things happier. A smiling person brings happiness with them. Smile lots and you will draw people to you.

4. Smiling Relieves Stress

Stress can really show up in our faces. Smiling helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed. When you are stressed, take time to put on a smile. The stress should be reduced and you'll be better able to take action.

5. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System

Smiling helps the immune system to work better. When you smile, immune function improves possibly because you are more relaxed. Prevent the flu and colds by smiling.

6. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure

When you smile, there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure. Give it a try if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Sit for a few minutes, take a reading. Then smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference?

7. Smiling Releases Endorphins, Natural Pain Killers and Serotonin

Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good. Smiling is a natural drug.

8. Smiling Lifts the Face and Makes You Look Younger

The muscles we use to smile lift the face, making a person appear younger. Don't go for a face lift, just try smiling your way through the day -- you'll look younger and feel better.

9. Smiling Makes You Seem Successful

Smiling people appear more confident, are more likely to be promoted, and more likely to be approached. Put on a smile at meetings and appointments and people will react to you differently.

10. Smiling Helps You Stay Positive

Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It's hard. When we smile our body is sending the rest of us a message that "Life is Good!" Stay away from depression, stress and worry by smiling.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

If you're like me, a lot of the stress in your life originates at work. Last week, I was checking out my cousin's shop Angelina and saw these fantastic posters by her registers. I commented on them and you know what? She told me they were FREE! Here's the link to them. Hang them at work to spread some positivity!

The site is a great source for positive affirmations and neat freebies. I highly recommend you check them out! 



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter cookies

Love peanut butter? Love chocolate? These cookies are similar to Reese's peanut butter cups but about 400 times better! It's been awhile since I've tried a new Martha Stewart recipe, and boy am I glad I found this one. My only complaint is that the recipe states you should bake the cookies until firm, so I left them in a few minutes longer which made them a little crunchy instead of soft. Lesson learned, next time I'll bake them less than the 15-16 minutes that I did this time. Still, they're delicious.

Fun Fact! Butter has a lower cooking temperature than shortening, but you can substitute one for the other, 1:1. Just keep in mind they will probably be done faster.

Give these a try with peanut butter chips instead, for a more peanut buttery flavor!


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 + 1/4 cups firmly packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

 Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 cookies sheets (you may need 3) with parchment paper.

Start by mixing the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.

Next, cream together the butter, shortening, sugar and 1 Cup of the brown sugar until light and fluffy, or 2-3 minutes. Scrapes sides of the bowl well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add vanilla.

Add flour mixture gradually and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in chocolate chips until just combined. Chill dough at least 1 hour. (I chilled it over night- a great way to prepare for cookies the next day for guests without all the mess the day of their visit!

*While making these, my bf asked a great question. Why refrigerate cookie dough? I assumed it had to do with the texture of the cookie when forming them (making it easier to work with), but after a bit of research, here's what I found.

-Allows dough to cook some before it starts to spread out too much, leaving the cookies stuck together and overcooked
-Allows the gluten to relax! More gluten= rubbery cookies
-Allows the dry ingredients to better absorb moisture

Here's an interesting post about chilling cookie dough.

Once the dough is chilled, drop 1 tablespoon of dough at a time onto baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2 inches apart. Make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie. Fill thumbprint with 2 teaspoons peanut butter mixture. (This is a great step for kids to help with!) Top with a second tablespoon of flattened dough. Carefully mold dough to cover the surprise.

Bake 12-13 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on the cookie sheets about 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Finally, enjoy the goodness.


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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tickled Tuesday

Today's assignment: Make a list of your favorite things.

Staying positive and happy isn't easy sometimes. Bills, family fights, sickness, work and the day to day rat race can really stress us out and make us forget that joy can really overpower those feelings. We just have to find it. Write down the things you love so you can look at your list when you're having trouble remembering. Trust me- it helps!

Somethings that make me happy are:

my family
my pets
the warm sun on my skin
lazy Sundays
the sound of waves
making art 
road trips
quality time with friends
meeting new friends 
trying new things
hula hooping

 What makes you happy?

If you don't get everything you want, think of the things you don't get that you don't want. 
-Oscar Wilde

I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains. 
 -Anne Frank

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. 
-Robert Brault


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Best Ever Mushroom Cream Sauce

When you aren't sure what to make for dinner, pasta is always a safe and easy option. I wanted to try a new sauce and since I love cream sauces and mushrooms, I started searching for a mushroom cream sauce online. After the first step, the recipe quickly became my own, as I made substitution, omissions and additions. The end result was honestly one of the best cream sauces I've ever tried (and I've tried a lot!). This sauce has a lot of fresh, complimentary flavors that don't over power your palate. If you're ready for a party in your mouth and don't mind eating a calorie packed dinner, this sauce is the way to go!

I served this over orecchiette pasta, though it would be great on any other type. I'm thinking of trying it with angel hair next time!


4 Tbs butter
4 cloves garlic
6 oz portabella mushrooms
6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
4 small/2 large chopped fresh tomatoes
2 Tbs fresh parsley
2 tsp tarragon
1 1/4 Cup heavy cream
1/4 leek, chopped
1-2 Tbs flour (if needed)
1/2 Cup grated parmesan-reggiano cheese

Melt the butter in a pan. Add garlic and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms and cook until they are browning and releasing juices- about 5-7 minutes.Salt and pepper if desired.

Add the cream and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes at a very low simmer, stirring frequently. After about 10 minutes, add the tomatoes and tarragon.


After the sauce has darkened, add the grated cheese. This should thicken the sauce but if you find it's still a bit runny, add flour very gradually, stirring well until completely combined. After each addition, cook for a minute or two, as the sauce will continue to thicken after you've added the flour and left it over the heat. Add the chopped leek and cook another 1 minute.

Serve over pasta with freshly grated cheese.

Enjoy! I got a lot of praise on this one, and it's definitely going to make more appearances on my table.

Happy eating!

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Delicious Glazed Apple Cookies

I still had have apples from when I went apple picking with my Mom, and since I don't want them all to go to waste, I decided to make some cookies this weekend. Cookies are a great choice when you want to bake but don't want get get into anything too involved. They are small enough to share with many people and transport easily, and they keep well too.

A Google search for "apple cookies" brought me to this recipe at Allrecipes which has never done me wrong. I knew between the great recipes on that site combined with the high review this one got that I was in luck. I also had all the ingredients- always a great sign! After 2 small substitutions and one omission (only because I forgot to add the milk... oops!), here's how it went.


1/4 cup shortening
1/4 Cup butter
1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups sifted whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup apples - peeled, cored and finely
1 cup raisins

1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 tablespoons milk (I used soy)

In a large bowl, mix together shortening, butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg and beat until thoroughly combined, scraping the sides of the bowl.

Mix remaining dry ingredients together and set aside. I made a face. That part is optional but highly encouraged.

Stir in half of the dry ingredients with the butter/sugar mixture. Mix well. Add apples and raisins and mix until combined. Finally, add remaining dry ingredients. Again, mix well.

Drop dough from a tablespoon onto a cookie sheet, about 1- 1 1/2" apart and bake at 400 degrees for 10-13 minutes.

While the cookies bake, make the glaze by combining all ingredients in a bowl and mixing well. Add the milk gradually, using only as much as is needed to create a glaze (drippy) consistency. Drizzle over warm cookies.

Happy baking!

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