No language can express the power, and beauty, and heroism, and majesty of a mother’s love. It shrinks not where man cowers, and grows stronger where man faints, and over wastes of worldly fortunes sends the radiance of its quenchless fidelity like a star.
On April 5th, of 2012 I wrote in my Happiness Journal, "I believe that there are five essential components for joy", and then I made the following list.
1. Gratitude - journal it, feel it, express it. Thank God, humbly and often.
2. Simplification - complexity is opposed to the creation of joy. It is a distraction (and a subtraction).
3. Mindfulness - joy occurs infused only within the present moment. We must be in now moments mentally and emotionally to experience joy...not agonizing over the past or worrying, plotting, planning, and racing mentally into the future.
4. The Recognition of "Enough" - hold within ourselves a real recognition that we are enough and have enough. The pursuit of "more" (stuff, money, you name it) smothers the emergence of joy.
5. Cease Self-comparisons with Others. Comparison breeds discontent. You are unique, one of a kind (no comparisons needed here)!
Letting go of having to control everything (and everyone) lessens stress and increases our happiness quotient.
Here's an affirmation that will help to let go of the need to control every aspect of everything!
After doing what needs to be reasonably done, but allowing space for serendipity to enter in, light a candle, contemplate the affirmation, then get up and go about your day repeating the affirmation as often as it comes to mind...
"Every situation has an grand design within it. All we ever need do is allow things to unfold gently, peacefully, having faith that the Universe is a friendly, consciousness-filled space."
Tender strips of chicken breast in a rich, velvety morel gravy is comfort food with foraged-foods elegance. Paprika or minced parsley garnish is a nice finish.
*A few simple substitutions listed at the bottom of this post make a savory, company-worthy Vegetarian/Vegan redux!
It's almost time, here, to begin foraging for morels! What fun. What flavor.
However, this dish is made with morels gathered last season, chopped, and dried; stored in the pantry until needed. It takes about 30 minutes to soften the dried morel pieces in hot water.
Soaked and drained - last year's dried morels are chopped and ready to add to a rich, savory gravy. Three tablespoons of dried morels have more than doubled in size when soaked in hot water. Keep the soaking water to add to the gravy for more morel goodness!
Reserve the morel soaking water to add more luscious morel flavor to your gravy!
Yes, strips of chicken breast sauteed until nearly cooked through, then simmered and finished in a rich morel-flavored gravy, served over creamy mashed potatoes with green beans almondine? Or, buttery Brussels sprouts, or...perhaps, glazed carrots?
Recipe: Strips of Chicken Breast in Morel Gravy (serves 4)
In the morning of serving day...
Slice two to three large, skinless, boneless chicken breasts into three strips each, lengthwise, and place into a large covered casserole dish, or large rectangular Tupper or large Ziploc bag.
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried, crushed thyme (2 tsp fresh, minced thyme is best if available from the garden)
Sea salt and black pepper
Lay the breast strips flat in large casserole dish or storage Tupper, or Ziploc bag.
Spread on the minced garlic, a sprinkle each of salt and pepper and crushed thyme. Drizzle the breast strips lightly with olive oil. Cover or close, and place in the fridge to marinate. Stir mid-afternoon to expose the strips to more of the marinade.
2 TBS olive oil or coconut oil
Marinated Breast Strips
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until a small drop of water dropped into the pan jumps and sizzles. Add the chicken strips and cook on all sides - two to three minutes each side - until golden and lightly crisped on the edges. Remove to a heat-proof plate and keep warm in the oven. Reserve the skillet, un-rinsed, to make the sauce. Let skillet cool to warm.
1/4-tsp sea salt
1/8-tsp ground black pepper
1/4-tsp dried mustard
1/3 cup + 1 TBS all-purpose flour
Mix the salt, pepper, mustard, and flour together in a small bowl and set aside.
1/3-cup butter + 2 TBS
1/4-cup minced fresh shallot
3-cups of milk (I use 2% lowfat)
3 TBS chopped, dried morels, reconstituted in 1/4-cup hot water (for about 30 minutes), drained, and soaking water reserved.
Melt the 1/3 + cup of butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the minced shallots and saute until limp and translucent scraping pan so chicken bits loosen and mix with the shallots. Add the re-hydrated, drained morels and saute a minute longer.
A buttery saute of shallots, chickeny bits, and reconstituted morels.
Next, add the flour mixture to the shallot-morel saute, and stir in until the flour is completely incorporated into the melted butter mixture. Continue to cook the floury roue a few more minutes until it begins to brown.
Remove the skillet from heat and whisk in the 3-cups milk until no flour lumps remain. Return to heat and bring to a good simmer, stirring until gravy thickens.
Add the morel soaking liquid, stirring in completely. Add the chicken strips, simmer 10 more minutes. Sprinkle on optional garnishes of chopped, fresh parsley or paprika.
Serve over mashed potatoes, white or brown rice, add a salad or veggie side.
Ahhhh...savory, and comforting food - a perfect Sunday dinner!
Note: Vegetarian/Vegan Redux:
Not an after thought, I make this veggie version for myself and veggie/vegan guests. You'll need plain or flax-infused tempeh (a whole bean soy cake). Slice the tempeh 1/4-inch thick factoring in four to five slices per serving.
Marinate as above for chicken with minced garlic, thyme, dash salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.
Marinate all day in the fridge. Lightly brown the tempeh slices in olive or coconut oil. Set aside and keep warm while the gravy is made. Olive oil or vegan butter may be used to make the gravy.
Simply substitute the cow's milk with soy, coconut, or cashew milk (very nice!) and use the cooking techniques described above, although tempeh cooking time may be shortened by five minutes when adding back to the gravy to simmer.
Cornstarch or arrowroot powder may be substituted for wheat flour, if desired, by simply substituting one tablespoon of cornstarch or arrowroot for each two tablespoon 2 of flour.
NOTE: Drying morels is easy to do. No need for a dehydrator either. To dry morels for long-term storage you'll need freshly gathered morels. Soak them to cover in one pint of salted water (two to three tablespoons of salt) for two hours.
After soaking run a gentle stream of water through the hollow stems until it runs out through the wrinkly caps flushing out any debris or tiny insects. Drain the morels on a clean towel. Then slice them in half, and chop them into lentil-sized pieces. Dry them on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet for about a week until hard. Store in a clean, lidded jar or Ziploc baggie.
The chopped morels may be dried faster on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in the oven on the lowest or "warm" setting with the oven door cracked open slightly. You may use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar. Check the morels every hour or two until they are hardened and thoroughly dry. Store as above.
Who isn't looking for happiness, more happiness, ultimate happiness?
What are the elements of happiness?
Where do we find happiness?
For the next little while let's explore, and try to answer, these questions and more. I'll share what I've found out about happiness, but as I'm no expert, we'll also examine what "happiness experts" have to say as well.
It's springtime and life surges anew. It's a season of hope and thus begins our quest for a greater level of happiness. To that end I'll be offering food for thought and some mental outlooks we can embrace that will increase our happiness quotient.
The picture at the head of this post offers a clue. It might lift your spirits just to spend a few minutes looking at the picture. What do we see?
Flawless blue sky, puffy white clouds, a sunshiny day, multi-colored cosmos blossoms nodding on an imagined breeze. Nature robed in beauty.
Nature is one key. Spending time in nature takes us out of our selves - our heads - for a time and we gain perspective. Nature is a great equalizer. After a walk in the park, around the garden, or a well-deserved sit down on a bench we begin to unwind and attune to the energies of nature.
Birdsong, leaves twinkling, the soft touch of a breeze against the cheek. These things begin to soothe and open our minds and hearts.