To Pursue Happiness

Today I hold sadness. There’s a certain funk that rolls around like a plague. I catch it, I heal it; I catch it, I heal it. No one controls my mood but me- no one controls my outlook & attitude, but me. Then someone tell me why I am feeling so out of control. Why can’t I tell myself, this is what’s right, right now. You’ll do what you want soon enough. You’ll be who you want to be. I can’t let the cube define me- but it is. It’s sucking the life out of me, and cheating my time. Though I think… 35 hours a week out of 168: It’s not even that bad. Let’s see I sleep 56 hours… work 35… You’d think the left over 77 would be enough for me. It’s not. So far it has been an absurd amount of time for me to settle with.

Get out, get out, get out. It’s running through my head like they’re the last words I’ll ever mutter. My heart beats faster thinking I’ve got 7 hours left in this chair- it’s nearly deafening. Thumping into my ear drums and wavering my palms. I already know I’m unhappy- point and match; do I accept it and learn to live with it, or change it and be unrealistic?

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Though mildly upset, I settle into my rain boots for a weekend of wool socks and puddle jumping. I could hardly open the blinds knowing what the world looked like on the other side. So much of that grey I long to forget. The trickle of droplets seems unusually agitating; I love this weather- what’s making it unbearable? Is it the mere fact that my mind distances itself so far from Monday morning I forget how to put energy into the present moment? That must be it. I’ll settle for a homemade recycling center.

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I promised Caramel Apple Tales.. here you have them.

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We chose to use Kraft Caramels, rather then making the caramel like my previous recipe listing had called for. Note: Trust the package to number of apple ratio given on packages =] Or be stuck with 7 extra bags!

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Gala, Honeycrisp & Granny Smith; All relatively tart & crisp!

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Cakepop sticks- I worried whether they would hold, worked like a charm.

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Roll in your caramel- it’s suggested to wait 30-45 seconds before rolling in toppings. If too runny and hot still the toppings may slide off… but then, who wouldn’t want a chocolate/caramel/walnut disc =]

If you’re going to do melt chocolate put your apple in the fridge before wrapping… in fact, put them all in the fridge before wrapping, it will cut down on stick-age!

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The Finished Product!

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To Come Tomorrow…. Gluten Free Basil/Oregano Personal Pizzas!

“I will accept and change the way I think, I will put less pressure on myself to fit a mold, I will see myself as an individual and have faith that all will mend with time. While accepting the year of the cubicle, I will seek opportunities to grow. I will decide steps to be taken next and plan on the pursuit of happiness.” 

Oct. 15, 2012

 

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To Live & Be, Gluten-Free!

Despite the fact that yesterday I finally was too busy at work to blog- the week has flown by. Which after thinking about this, it’s nice when I’m at work for the week to go quickly, but damn, it sure does make your months go by in a blink. I decided to cure my outrageous ‘loss of time’ anxiety with a little baking & life prep last night. Recently my other half and I (mostly him because I lack self -control around beer, bread & dessert) have taken on the gluten-free lifestyle. While challenging my baking skills in the kitchen, it’s forcing me to learn more about the science of baking. I’ve always wanted to be able to bake from scratch- now that I’ve over come the “boxed cake” epidemic, I want to challenge myself to baking from SUPER scratch. without a recipe- really get crazy in the kitchen.

If I can learn why you need binders, what makes it rise, the right ratios, bake times and temps- I think I can manage to bake something from super-scratch. I’m learning. But gluten-free recipes are very broken down- it’s not like using flour and yeast, which have additives that work off each other to create a “rising” dough. You must carefully choose the right amoutns of things to add- it really does effect the structure of your food. Last night I found a Gluten-Free Bagel Recipe. I’ll admit I was afraid to bake these many times over because alot of recipes have SO many ingredients- but most of these flours (almond, tapioca, corn ect) are already being used in pre-mixed gluten free All-Purpose baking mixes. I like Red Mill’s products. Here’s the recipe & the beauties I baked last night =]

Real Honest Gluten Free Bagels
*This recipe with yield 7 bagels

Bagel Ingredients
3 ¼ cups WW gluten free flour mix (You can use any gluten-free mix)
2 tablespoons yeast
1 ½ cups warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum

Cooking Items
1 gallon water
4 tablespoons sugar
Cornmeal
Tea Kettle of water
Vegetable oil for greasing a bowl
Kitchen towels
Cookie Sheet (I recommend aluminum)
Large stock pot
Slotted spoon

Dissolve the 3 tablespoons of sugar in the 1 ½ cups of warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the water and stir to combine. Allow this to sit for about 10 minutes to proof the yeast (the mixture should get foamy in appearance).

Lightly oil a mixing bowl with vegetable oil and set aside
Set the tea kettle on the stove to get it boiling

To the yeast mixture add the salt, xanathan gum and 1 ½ cups of the flour mix. Use your hand to mix the ingredients together. The mixture will be lumpy so do not fret. Continue to add the remaining flour a ½ cup at a time. When you have about a ½ cup remaining of the flour it is time to turn the dough mixture out onto a work surface. You will really need to knead the dough well to get all the flour to combine. The texture of the dough will be slightly sticky (remember this is not wheat we are dealing with). If you feel the dough is too dry keep kneading it and it should become tacky around the same time that your arms get tired. Form the dough into a nice neat ball and place into the lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel.

Place dough into the oven on the middle rack. DO NOT TURN THE OVEN ON. Place a baking pan on the lowest rack in the oven and fill it with the boiling water. Close the oven door and let the dough rise for about an hour. Adding the water into the oven really helps this dough rise. I have tired other methods but this seems to work best.

After 1 hour remove all items from the oven and preheat the oven to 400 F.

Turn the dough out onto your work surface and gently punch it down. Divide the dough into 7 equal sections and begin forming the bagels. I like to roll the dough into a ball using a good amount of pressure (for smoothing purposes) and then I gently flatten it and use my index finger to punch the whole in the middle. Let the bagels sit and rise again for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime set a large stock pot with the gallon of water on the stove and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils add the 4 tablespoons of sugar and bring the water down to a simmer. Sprinkle the cookie sheet with a thin layer of cornmeal.

After the bagels have sat for 15 minutes drop 3-4 bagels into the simmering water and allow them to cook for about 4 minutes. After 4 minutes turn them over in the water and let them cook for about 4 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon remove the bagels from the water and place on a kitchen towel. After all bagels have taken a dip in the water arrange them on the cookie sheet.

You can also put a topping on the bagels such as poppy or sesame seeds. To do this you will want to whisk together 3 tablespoons of water with 1 egg white. Before you put the bagels in the oven brush a thin layer of the egg wash on the top of the bagels and sprinkle them with your topping of choice.

Cook the bagels in the oven for 25 minutes and then turn them over and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Let them cool for about a half hour before you try and cut them. If you try cutting them when they are still hot you run the risk of turning them into a glob of dough.

ENJOY! http://theglutenfreecook.com/?p=3

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My other creation (though I’m sure I’m not the first!) Salad in a jar for easy travel. I hate taking my salad AND my dressing to work- thus we have the All in one Salad Jar! Dressing in the bottom, heaviest things go on the bottom, layer up (I did it backwards) but lettuce should be on top! Genius!

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Do you ever eat lunch at your desk because you’re ashamed to be eating poorly? I do, I do! Those days where I’ve got nothing left in my pantry, no lunch, hardly a snack and NO money… it’s one of those. I’m stuck going to… I don’t want to say it,  don’t want to say it =(… a fast food joint *Gulp* It’s like a haunted house, like an untraveled, horrid place for me. I can’t believe I’m about to do it. It’s in these moments that I understand where the obsession with fast food has come from for America. It’s THERE, it’s CONVIENANT, it’s CHEAP… America’s argument? There’s healthy options!… Healthy my ass! Eating a meal for lunch that’s 2/3 of what your daily calorie consumption should be. Unhealthy doesn’t even begin to describe how terrifying these foods are for your body. Yet here I am on a Thursday- driving down to the neighborhood FF joint, why? Because I came unprepared, it’s there and it’s cheap… I’ll have to dig further into the irony of this situation at a later time. I’m hungry, sigh.

To Harvest & Ponder

Oh sweet, sweet Autumn how you warm my soul. My Sunday filled with gardens, farms and multi-colored trees- mix that with wonderful company, and I was in heaven. We sat for a bit on the patio, though the road is near and the traffic is noisy we were able to enjoy the beauty that Autumn brings us. The setting sun was shining over our building into the golden leafed tress that have scattered their bearings all around out feet. It was quite peaceful as I brought my warm cider (perhaps with a bit a cinnamon whiskey!) to my lips and enjoyed the crisp air, the comforting smells and once again the colors that so amazingly brighten even the darkest of my days. Early in the day came, probably what will be one of our last harvests!

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Multi-Colored Baby Kale – a beauty in salad mix, it’s amazing what the change in temperature will do to your produce  and it’s not always bad!

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Our beautiful Harvest! Cabbage, sweet potato, leaks, chives, Striped Zebra/red paste/Heirloom Tomatoes, Green- Cigarette- and Bulgarian Carrot Peppers! Huzzah!

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Smile Leaks!

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Once we got this sucker cleaned up the color was amazing! Such deep, beautiful purples!

We’ve also removed quite a few pepper plants and brassicas, sad day- but there’s always a joy! In their place we’ll be planting garlic! Planting it now before the first serious frost/ground freeze will allow the garlic to become established. It’ll go dormant over the winter allowing them to grow even larger and be more plentiful in the Spring- earlier garlic always welcomed!

I capped off the weekend making some Halloween decorations and starting my new crocheting project- an ear warmer. I’ve always been so naive not wanting to count my loops. Well I guess that doesn’t deserve me the right to be irritated when my scarf turns in to a triangle! So counting it is, the color is a light multi-shade brown- very fuzzy. I’m feeling optimistic for my week, the weather is the driving force for my motivation, the crisp air pushing me to get through the office. The smells and colors keeping me on my toes to enjoy and pay attention to every day. Bring on the sweaters & socks!

To Make No Sense: Just Write.

(From a brain’s sidenote…) I have yet to encounter a literal oxymoron, one I watch with my own eyes. I watched a GFS Truck(Gordon Food Services aka… processed, unhealthy, chemically induced food services) pulling out of a Rehab center near my house. They also house elderly, sick and patients going through the final stages of dependency and physical rehab. How on earth can the justify receiving food from GFS?!  How are our bodies supposed to heal if they’re just being pumped full of more chemicals, more disease and absolutely  nothing that will provide nourishment, nutrients and strength. Through this pathetic display of “care,” I think I see an outlet. I will provide these centers with healthy food, with knowledge and provide the means to obtain a healthy food system. Keeping my eyes out for new ways to market, I think this could be a wonderful possibility. Though I’d have to confront them myself question what they’re feeding their “patients” and challenge them to make a change. Healthy foods are the first step to any body’s’ healing.  Besides food, besides physical health, and safe food mumbo-jumbo: How can I improve my mental health?

I’ve still got this desire to run, as fast as I possibly can, away from everything. Here I feel relationships fighting and scratching to come up on a clean, healthy surface. Here I feel my feet slipping out from underneath me as I try to stay positive in a workplace full of dullness and routine. Here I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel because I’m squinting to see in blackness. Here I want so badly to be free but I’m bound by what I can’t see past: anger, frustration, sadness, urgency, anxiety; I feel like a ball of wires so jumbled even the quickest Rubik’s Cube master would struggle to undo. How do I fix, work on, heal, look away, look up- from all this?

So a quick (I find worthless) search on “improving your mental health.” It returns to me this list of what “healthy” people feel like. And of course, what I do not feel like.

“People who are mentally and emotionally healthy have:

  • A sense of contentment. -Not quite.
  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun. –Does it count if I laugh, have fun and live without the whole zest part?
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity. -Eh, working on it?
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.This just worries me.
  • The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change.I suppose I’ve always been able to do this.
  • A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.Define “balance?”
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.Can I use the latter… eh, working on it?
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem.”Sure… none of that matters to me, I function with or without it, it does not define me.

I suppose at the end of the day, today, I feel like this: I am not happy fully content with the person I am right now…. So, where do I start?

Physical Health. I’ll start there. What if I challenge myself to walk just 2 miles a day, 2 miles- it’s nothing! I will start today, I’m making a vow, to my future-self. Physical health is the first important step of lifting your mood and improving your brain function. Create a to-do-list…

  • Put in my daily 2 miles
  • Groceries (grain, coffee, milk, eggs, butter, yeast, chocolate chips, flour, cream cheese, chips- healthy chips)
  • Make bagels (Favorite recipe below…)
  • Wednesday- Farmer’s Market! In dire need of produce. Walk to this, it’s just about 2 miles, round trip.

Bagel Recipe

 

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast

1 ½ tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups of warm water (you may need ± ¼ cup more, I know I did)
3 ½ cups (500g) of bread flour or high gluten flour(will need extra for kneading)
1 ½ teaspoons of salt

Optional Toppings:
Caraway seeds, coarse salt, minced fresh garlic, minced fresh onion, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds. (Everyone in my house prefers plain bagels, but I have no preference, so I just went with the plain, so no one could complain.)

Preparation:
1. In ½ cup of the warm water, pour in the sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let it sit for five minutes, and then stir the yeast and sugar mixture, until it all dissolves in the water.

2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast and sugar mixture.

3. Pour half of the remaining warm water into the well. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. Depending on where you live, you may need to add anywhere from a couple tablespoons to about ¼ cup of water. You want to result in a moist and firm dough after you have mixed it.

4. On a floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Try working in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough.

5. Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.

6. Carefully divide the dough into 8 pieces (I used a scale to be extra precise, but it’s not necessary). Shape each piece into a round. Now, take a dough ball, and press it gently against the countertop (or whatever work surface you’re using) moving your hand and the ball in a circular motion pulling the dough into itself while reducing the pressure on top of the dough slightly until a perfect dough ball forms (as pictured below). Repeat with 7 other dough rounds

7. Coat a finger in flour, and gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Repeat the same step with the remaining dough.

8. After shaping the dough rounds and placing them on the cookie sheet, cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425ºF / 220ºC / Gas Mark 7.

9. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to lower the bagels into the water. Boil as many as you are comfortable with boiling. Once the bagels are in, it shouldn’t take too long for them to float to the top (a couple seconds). Let them sit there for 1 minute, and them flip them over to boil for another minute. Extend the boiling times to 2 minutes each, if you’d prefer a chewier bagel (results will give you a more New York Style bagel with this option)

10. If you want to top your bagels with stuff, do so as you take them out of the water, you may use the “optional toppings” (listed above) to top the bagels and if you’re risky like me, make a combination of the toppings to top the bagels with, but before hand, you will need to use an egg wash to get the toppings to stick before putting the bagels into the oven.

11. Once all the bagels have boiled (and have been topped with your choice of toppings), transfer them to a lightly oiled baking sheet.

12. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

13. Cool on a wire rack

Best Bagel Recipe I’ve found as of yet, here’s her blog too: http://www.sophisticatedgourmet.com/2009/10/new-york-style-bagel-recipe/

I want to make a vow to my future-self to CALM DOWN. I’ve got to breath and for Pete’s sake, STOP ANALYZING and causing unnecessary anxiety. Analyzing does nothing, I’m not a shrink, therapist or anything few and far between, I am myself and I’m not going to fix my problems by picking them apart like roadkill. TAKE WALKS not only to clear my head but to get my brain moving as well. BAKE MORE it’s good for me and it’s something I really enjoy. Turn off the damn TV: TV’s don’t want you to have a healthy relationship with anyone. Turn it off and listen to music instead. Last I need to promise myself that I’ll focus on just One Day at a Time: I sound anxious and eager when I try to take on yesterday, today, tomorrow and the upcoming weekend.

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes,

but when you look back everything is different.”

– C.S. Lewis