Happiness Is … & Cucumber Bites with Goat Cheese, Tapenade & Tomatoes

The other morning, I ended a phone call with a grumpy comment that I was stuck inside waiting for the UPS man. I added that I was feeling pretty cranky about the whole thing. In reply, the person on the other end of the line told me that I didn’t sound the least bit cranky. Let’s chalk that one up to a sunny disposition.

I decided years ago, decades actually, that life is better for happy people. I confess, after a happy-go-lucky, cheerful childhood, I grew into a somewhat moody teenager. It was all part and parcel of trying to figure out the world and how I fit in. About the time I turned eighteen, I realized that it would probably be a while before everything made sense. It dawned on me that, in the meantime, my life would probably improve if I dropped the glum façade.

So, for the most part, I did just that. I practiced cheerful optimism. Over time, I actually became a cheerful optimist. That’s not to say, that I’m never down in the dumps, sad, mad or fed up. I go through funks just like everyone else. However, I refuse to spend too much time wallowing in the doldrums. At a certain point, I realize it’s time to cheer up, smile and be happy.

It’s not always all that easy to cheer up. Sometimes, you have to work at it. However, on many occasions it takes nothing more than opening your eyes and your heart to the simple delights that surround you. Think about it. Above and beyond a warm puppy, there’s a whole pile of things to fill you with joy. For instance, happiness is …

  • Hearing the call of the loons in the early morning.
  • A weekend with no looming deadlines.
  • Watching a baby sleep.
  • Cooking and sharing a meal with friends.
  • Chatting with your sister.
  • Starting a challenging assignment.
  • Finishing a challenging assignment.
  • A new pair of shoes.
  • Helping someone.
  • Finding a dollar in your back pocket.
  • Exploring a favorite spot with a new friend.
  • Nonchalantly complimenting someone and then seeing their face light up.
  • A good hair day.
  • Losing yourself in a good book.
  • Hanging out with people you love.
  • Your favorite song coming on the radio just as you pull out of the driveway.
  • Dancing.
  • Singing, even if off-key, at the top of your lungs.
  • A big, loud, enthusiastic laugh.
  • A sunny day with a light breeze off the lake and sand in my toes.

… and a whole lot more.

Happy day and bon appétit!

Cucumber Bites with Goat Cheese, Tapenade & Tomatoes
Summertime is the perfect time for easy appetizers. As long as you have a jar of tapenade in your refrigerator, this one comes together in minutes. Enjoy!

Makes about 30 canapes

  • 1-1 1/2 European or 3-4 Persian cucumbers
  • About 8 ounces soft goat cheese at room temperature
  • About 3/4 cup homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought tapenade
  • 8-16 cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarters or 1/2-1 tomato cut in small dice

Peel the cucumber and slice 1/4-1/2-inch thick.

Whisk the goat cheese with a fork until smooth. Spread each cucumber slice with 1-2 teaspoons goat cheese, top with a small dollop of tapenade and garnish with a cherry tomato half or quarter or diced tomato.

Homemade Tapenade

  • 8-12 ounces dry pack, oil cured black Greek olives or a mix of oil cured and Kalamata olives, pitted
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
  • Dash hot pepper sauce or pinch hot pepper flakes

Throw everything into a small food processor. Process until the mixture becomes a nice paste. If necessary, add a little more olive oil. Cover and let sit for up to 4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator before using to combine the flavors.

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What makes you happy? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

On Being Happy & Old Fashioned Pot Roast

Have you made your New Year’s resolutions? Have you vowed to exercise more and eat less? Watch less television and read more? Give up smoking or (say it’s not so) chocolate? Learn Italian or how to knit? Get organized, clean your closets and throw out all the old junk? Get out of debt? Work your butt off and do what it takes for that next promotion? Spend more time with family and friends?

How about keeping your New Year’s resolutions simple? Christmas_Presents_02Simple is good, right? Stick to just one resolution, live a happy life. Does that sound selfish or self-indulgent? It shouldn’t. Remember the old saying, “if mama ain’t happy; ain’t nobody happy.” Well, it applies to papa, the kids and everyone out there. Unhappy people have a horrible habit of dragging the rest of us down with them. Likewise happiness is catching. Your smile, your joy can lift everyone around you. Think of happiness as the highest common denominator.

When the temperature is hovering around -3 and you’re facing a mountain of bills from Christmas, happiness may sound easier said than done. Here are three presents to get you started:

Stay in the present. How many times have you thought or heard someone say something like, “I’ll be happy when…” It could be a promotion, getting married or buying a luxurious sports car. Or maybe you’re stuck in the past, remembering your glory days on the high school football team or how great life was when the kids were small.

Whatever it is; stop dwelling or pining or both. By all means, enjoy your memories. Just don’t live in the past. Work and plan for the future but embrace and make the most of life today. Love your friends and family. Love what you do. Not everything is or ever will be perfect. Focus on the good things in life. Make changes where you can. Fix what you can. And let go of or find a new perspective on the bothersome stuff that you can’t change or control.

Be present. We are ever so proud of our ability to multitask. We don’t just fix dinner. Along with stirring and chopping, we supervise homework, pay the bills, answer emails and attend a meeting via conference call. During the call we make a couple of absolutely brilliant comments.

But dinner is overcooked; the permission slip for the field trip ends up in the envelope for the Visa payment and vice versa. Those emails and brilliant comments? Better not to go there. And finally, the family? Well, they’d really like to know what you look like without the phone glued to your ear. Whether it’s your child, significant other, friend, colleague, boss or customer, relationships are important. If the conversation is worth having, be it by email, telephone or face-to-face, it deserves your focused attention.

Give presents. Maybe it will surprise you, or maybe not, but giving brings more happiness than receiving. Gifts needn’t be expensive or saved for special occasions. They just need to come from the heart. A kind word, your undivided attention or a quart of chicken soup for a sick friend will bring a bit of happiness to both you and the recipient. And don’t forget volunteering and donations to organizations that are important you. Meaningful charitable gifts are much more than a tax deduction; they’ll brighten your day and the days to come.

Happy 2013 and bon appétit!

Old Fashioned Pot Roast
When the cold winds blow there is nothing like the smell of a pot roast in the oven. Bring friends and family around the table for old fashioned food and good conversation. Enjoy!
Serves 8Pot_Roast_02

Olive oil
About 3 pounds chuck roast
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon paprika
4 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 cups dry red wine
3-4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cognac (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy casserole over medium-high. Generously season the beef on all sides with salt and pepper and brown each side for about 3 minutes. Remove the beef from the pot and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, carrots and celery, sprinkle with herbs and paprika, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more.

Put the beef back into the casserole. Add the wine, chicken broth, cognac and bay leaf. The vegetables and liquid should come about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pot roast. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat. When it’s bubbling, cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook at 350 degrees, turning the roast 2 or 3 times, for 1 hour.

Sauté the mushrooms in a little olive oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Add the mushrooms to the pot roast.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl. A few spoonfuls at time, add about 1 cup of hot braising liquid to the sour cream, stirring after each addition. Add the sour cream to the pot and gently stir to combine. Return the casserole to the oven and continue cooking, covered, until beef is very tender about 1 hour more. Add more wine and/or broth if the pot roast gets too dry.

Remove the meat from the casserole, cut across the grain in thick slices and serve with a generous spoonful of vegetables and sauce.

This dish can be made 2 or 3 days ahead. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove and then transfer to a 350 degree oven and cook until the meat is warmed through.

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One Year Ago – Pasta from the Pantry
Two Year Ago – Tartiflette – An Alpine Casserole with Cheese & Potatoes
Three Years Ago – Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach
Four Years Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook as well as a day in the life photoblog! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2013