Posts tagged ‘magic’

September 30, 2013

Delicious Kitchen Magic

cooking magic

The weather’s turning cooler, and there’s magic in the air! Or wait—maybe that’s dinner! When I was younger, I used to run with my dad around our neighborhood as my mom fixed supper. The times I remember most are the night runs we would do when the evenings were sharp, cold, and cloaked in darkness. And, as a teenager, I was starving right before dinner (and almost every other moment). So, when we would pass by one house in particular on our route, the most beguiling smells of dinner permeated the darkness, driving me almost insane with hunger. I was very dramatic back then! Supposedly, scents are some of the most potent conduits to our memories, and I believe this to be true. So true that I am instantly transported back to that cold winter night 20 years ago if I pick up the scent of dinner cooking as I meander around my own neighborhood.

Now You Can Do It Too!

Well, if you want to drive your neighbors crazy with the scents coming from your kitchen, I have the perfect solution for you. I stumbled upon this easy spaghetti recipe 10 years ago, and I’ve yet to meet a soul who doesn’t love this dish. And let me tell you, it’s most assuredly the recipe that people adore, not my cooking skills. J

Reasons to Love This Dish

  1. It’s amazingly delicious.
  2. It’s packed full of heart-healthy, cancer-fighting antioxidants and healthy fats.
  3. It’s really easy.
  4. It requires pantry staples you probably already have or can easily acquire.
  5. You’ll have leftovers for days (that is, if you are without children, like we are—otherwise, you may just have 1 meal)
  6. People will think you are a much more talented chef than you really are—just enjoy it!

Spaghetti Puttanesca

Pasta

Prepare 1 lb spaghetti, linguine, or angel hair noodles as directed on package. Amount of noodles per person varies. Feel free to use whole-wheat pasta, protein-rich pasta, or even spaghetti squash!

Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes—not drained (can be regular diced tomatoes, but I like the texture of petite diced)
  • 2 Tbsp black olives, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp capers (drained)
  • ½ tsp (or a nice dash) red pepper flakes
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • dried or fresh parsley, good dash for color (most of the time I omit this)
  • parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Serves 4, conservatively

Directions

Heat large skillet until hot, then add the olive oil to the skillet. When oil is hot (thins out like water and sizzles if you flick water at it), add minced garlic and watch it closely. This is the time your kitchen starts smelling heavenly! You want the garlic to get slightly golden-brown but not burned.

When the garlic is golden-brown, add the can of tomatoes (both tomatoes and juice) and turn heat down to medium or so. Make sure you watch your bare feet when you add tomatoes—oil tends to pop a lot until tomatoes have blended with the oil.

Then add the black olives, capers, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper, and stir to blend. Turn down the heat to low-medium, and allow the sauce to simmer for about 12-15 minutes—you’ll stir occasionally, and you’ll cook until most of the sauce liquid has been cooked away. Make sure sauce is not cooking at too high a heat or it will stick to the skillet. When sauce is done cooking, take off of the heat and add parsley, if desired. When I serve it, I put noodles in bowl, then a spatula or two of sauce, then some parmesan cheese over it. Yummy!!!

A Few Notes: For 4 people who love this recipe, I’d double the sauce recipe, because the sauce is pretty chunky and not runny. I also keep the noodles and sauce separated and put them together as I serve them, even as leftovers—but you can combine them if you like. As far as
noodles and sauce go, I like to prepare a bunch, so I have leftovers for a few days. And these are killer leftovers!

Enjoy and Happy Cooking!

Brooke

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August 26, 2013

The Fine Art of Getting Things Done

I get stuff done

Do you have trouble getting things done? I sure do! Some tasks I do just fine with, like scheduled appointments, work deadlines, and most daily minutiae. But that closet that needs to be cleaned out? Purging and reorganizing the files in my office? Cleaning out our dusty, spidery garage? Things that sound only slightly less fun than a root canal–those are the chores I put off. In fact, sometimes I put them off for so long that I become blind to their incessant, nagging existence (at least that’s what it seems like). But the psychological weight of clutter and Things To Do keeps my spirit weighed down and trapped, unable to truly enjoy the present because so much of my inner self is taken up with anxiety from these unfinished tasks.

So, when I find an opportunity to tackle these annoying stealers of joy, I usually have to get creative before I can get things done. Why I can’t just make a list and then power through it, I don’t know. I’m just wired differently. If you are list-challenged like me or if you want some new ideas on how to tackle the next big project, check out my favorite tricks:

1. What Hurts the Most? Relieve the Pressure

stress

When my to-do list is truly epic and things are so out of control that I become almost catatonic with it all, I stop and ask myself, What hurts the most? This is not physical pain I’m referring to, although if this type of pain is on the Crazy List, then of course it demands your attention. Out of the babble of chores, obligations, and distractions pulling at you, which pulls the hardest? Which must be done first out of them all? What is the most upsetting? Find THAT one, and ask yourself, What could I do about this task that would relieve the pressure? How could I breathe easier? What is one step I can take towards finishing this thing? Then do it immediately.

2. Change Your Scenery

This is one of my favorite ways to jumpstart creativity or just get some fresh air into a project that’s become stale. This trick is especially helpful if your task involves pondering, brainstorming, or other mental participation. You may not be able to get rid of your task, but you can try to put a different backdrop behind it. Years ago when I worked from home, I would often move to different locations around the house to help me slog through hundreds of pages that needed editing. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I would move outside or even to my favorite coffee shop, although this was always complicated by my need for a quiet stiller than the grave in order to work.

3. Bring a Little Magic

Mary Poppins was right!

Mary Poppins was right!

Do you remember this line from the Mary Poppins song: “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down . . .”? This maxim is a wonderful addition to your mental-health arsenal. I rely heavily on it when I have boring household chores to tend to. I find something that would add some joy and brightness to the often mundane tasks of washing dishes, sorting laundry, or even cleaning out the bathroom cabinets. You can do almost anything if you bring a little magic to it. Make a ceremony of time with your loved ones, just because. Combine your bummer activity with your favorite place (e.g., do your weekly budget at Starbucks).

iced coffee

My two secret weapons for coping with these dreary duties are 1) my favorite drink, usually involving caffeine, and 2) audio books. My favorite: Agatha Christie murder mysteries! Her books on tape (and CDs) have been my companions for many years, and I will cherish them forever. Even if your task is festive and fun (say, decorating for the holidays), adding some well-loved music and something to sip on makes everything cheerier.

4. Race the Clock

race the clock

When you find yourself in the midst of a chore and your motivation is grinding to a halt, race the clock! Kids love to race—against each other, against time, really anything. So can you. A little adrenaline goes a long way. Figure out a tight time limit, one that will put the squeeze on you. Then challenge yourself to finish XYZ before time’s up. It may sound childish, but hey, who cares? You’re the only one watching, and if it works, it works. Maybe you have a pile of laundry fresh from the dryer, and you are feeling lazy. If the TV is on, make a game of finishing your folding before the next commercial break. Whatever it is, find a slightly uncomfortable boundary of time to be done by, and GO!

These are just a few tricks that help me get through my to-do’s with minimal muss and fuss. Do you have some great ways you get your rear in gear? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Have a great (and perhaps productive) rest of the day!

Cheers, Brooke

May 13, 2013

Magic Around the Edges

Life is a fairytale

Morning, Friends. It’s Brooke, here. How many of you live an inspired life? Or maybe a life with magic around the edges? And do you choose to make your world something special, or do you simply honor the glimmers that you see? Of course, you don’t have to be all “writery” about it, although that’s my personal lens. Moving through your day with brightness means you are living with joy, anticipating the best of things and trailing a hopeful spirit in your wake. And people notice this! They can see the sparkle you leave as you brush alongside them.

sunset glitter

I’ve lived my whole life nestled on the edge of reality and unreality, devouring books and ideas, feeding the furnace that is my imagination. That’s the beauty of experiencing life through the written word—you can slip into someone else’s skin, carry on in another world, fall in love many times, have your heart broken hopefully fewer times, and find yourself again at the end of everything forever changed. One of my favorite analogies comes from Stephen King, when he says that he always carries a book with him because he never knows when he’ll need an escape hatch. And I totally get it! This kind of escape makes the tedium of life bearable.

Fantasy street signs

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this existed?

However, literary highways are not the only ways to travel. I often go about my business, appearing normal and on task while my mind wanders and skips along nearby. It’s always scanning the periphery, searching for interesting tidbits or trails of glitter that might lead to an epiphany of some sort. I like to think that there’s another world tucked behind the façade of the one we navigate every day, and every now and then, I catch a glimpse of “something else.” This kind of daydreaming, usually frowned upon by highly logical people and most bosses, helps me get through the dailyness of life reasonably well. I mean, I show up to my life–I pay my bills, go to meetings, teach classes, see clients, and try my best to be responsible and plan ahead. But if you catch me between these activities, you’ll often see me gazing into the middle distance, wondering “What if . . . ?” If you examine the course of human history, you’ll see that this very question has set fire to controversy, challenged deeply held perceptions, and repeatedly altered life as we know it. And thank goodness!

I passionately believe that life is meant to be lived, that we are not just marking time. That everyone deserves to have dignity, love, respect, and meaning in their lives, regardless of circumstance. Our reality and our joy is what we make it. And we are only bound by what we imagine is true. So, why not believe anything is possible? Why can’t you blow past any goal you set for yourself? Why let others decide for you what is true and valuable? My contrarian spirit has always balked at someone telling me why I should like this or do that—I want to figure this out on my own! But to stay on the right side of polite society, I listen graciously and smile, all the while running these suggestions through my internal works and listening for the resulting “ping” of yes or no. Over the years, however, I’ve tried to learn from others’ experiences, those wiser than myself. I pray often for guidance. And I gather clues incessantly, clues left like breadcrumbs by an invisible hand. Is this little piece important? Well, it tickles my soul and makes my heart skip a beat. Yes, I’ll keep it. Then the edges of my life shimmer once again, and I know I’ve chosen wisely.

May you have a magical and blessed week!

~Brooke

When in doubt