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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Jenny’s Rules for Happy Baking

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(Thanks to Kitchen Sink Recipes for the recipe and the inspiration!)


Apple Upside-Down Biscuit Cake

  1. Always have a recipe, but don’t follow it exactly – creativity is your friend!
  2. 1 c. buttermilk = 1 tbs. white vinegar + fill cup with milk (even soy!)
  3. Note your substitutions, because when people love it, they want to know your recipe magic
  4. Measure out ingredients so that things aren’t burning while you sift flour mid-recipe
  5. Share with friends – even the internet kind :)

(Can you guess what I did this morning?)

Apple Upside-Down Biscuit Cake

For topping:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 lb Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin wedges

For biscuit cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour*
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Accompaniment: crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)**

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Make topping:
Heat butter in an ovenproof 10-inch*** heavy skillet (preferably well-seasoned cast-iron) over moderate heat until foam subsides. Stir in brown sugar and remove from heat. Spread mixture evenly in skillet and arrange apples, overlapping, in 1 layer.

Make cake:
Blend flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and add buttermilk, stirring just until mixture is moistened.

Drop batter on top of apples and gently spread, leaving a 1-inch border around edge of skillet. (Cake needs room to expand.)

Bake cake in middle of oven until golden brown and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake in skillet on a rack 3 minutes, then invert onto a platter. Replace any apples that stick to skillet on cake.


Bird, Meet French Fry

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Courtesy of Dazeychic on Etsy

Think Yourself Lucky

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I am an exceptionally lucky person. People tell me all the time that I lead a charmed life, and I admit, I’ve had my fair share of lucky breaks. But I just read this fascinating article about luck being less about some mystical power more about my skills of observation, a love of novelty, and an open mind.

You can read the full article online: Be Lucky, It’s an Easy Skill to Learn.

Some of the best excerpts:

“[The researcher] gave both (self-labeled) lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell him how many photographs were inside. The second page of the newspaper contained the message: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than 2in high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.”

“Personality tests revealed that unlucky people are generally much more tense than lucky people, and research has shown that anxiety disrupts people’s ability to notice the unexpected.”

And so it is with luck – unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for.

“My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles:

  1. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities;
  2. Make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition;
  3. Create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations;
  4. Adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.”

“I asked a group of lucky and unlucky volunteers to spend a month carrying out exercises designed to help them think and behave like a lucky person. These exercises helped them spot chance opportunities, listen to their intuition, expect to be lucky, and be more resilient to bad luck.[…] The results were dramatic: 80 per cent of people were now happier, more satisfied with their lives and, perhaps most important of all, luckier. While lucky people became luckier, the unlucky had become lucky.”

IT CAN BE TAUGHT! I love the thought that a few simple changes can alter the way you see your life and, ultimately, perhaps alter the course of your life altogether! On to luckier days, everyone…

Loving the Holes

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As I’ve said many times before, I’m a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, with her brilliant attempt to explore every bit of happiness advice she encountered in a year and document the process. Her resulting Resolutions, and her tools to help readers quantify theirs, has become a full-on movement, with facebook fans and Happiness Project Groups across the world. (PS – Her book is out! My copy is on the way) .

That said, sometimes an old idea that stood in your way for a long time falls away on it’s own – dies a natural death, perhaps? – without a resolution, sometimes before you can even name it.

I realized today that a good bit of what I used to think of as “perfectionism” has fallen away. Not in a lazy way, because it’s easier not to, but because sometimes things don’t really get good until they get a little broken in.

My wonderful boyfriend was the one who really taught me this one. Many of his softest, favorite t-shirts have a little paint from one of his projects, or the tiny holes that are the telltale sign of many, many washings. All would have made it to my Goodwill bin by now, in the past. But now I don’t just tolerate, but almost embrace the little signs that something has been well loved.

I used to give away all manner of things with tiny imperfections – replacing them with things still new and unblemished, spending energy protecting them (always, eventually, failing) and starting over. And it’s not the economy that has me rethinking this process – it’s deeper, more about something that still has it’s value, still does it’s job, even with little blemishes. Kind of like me. Kind of like the people I love. I think there’s something really honest about learning to love things for what they really are, instead of what you wish they were.