Sunday, January 23, 2011

I finally get it!...15 years after Oprah did.

About 15 years ago, when I was working at an art gallery, I met this older woman buying a 60th anniversary present for her husband.  I asked her about what kept her marriage going after all these years and she responded with, "Don't take it personally."

"Don't take what personally?"

"Don't take anything personally."  And then she smiled.  Content with her answer.

Truthfully, I had no idea what she was taking about but I figured since she was super-old and she looked super-happy, she must know what she's talking about.  I proceeded to spread her gospel whenever the occasion seemed appropriate.  Including a page on Oprah's website asking for the best marital advice you ever got.  I submitted the above story and forgot all about it.

About 6 months later, I started getting all these phone calls congratulating me on my piece in Oprah's O Magazine.  Holy crap!!!!!!  There is a real possibility that Oprah Winfrey knows I exist!!!!

Oprah (ok so I know it was probably some editor, or even more likely, an unpaid intern assigned to this minor fluff piece but I like to think Oprah read it personally and loved it and that's the story I'm sticking with) must have really liked my advice because not only was it part of the article, it was the lead anecdote!   Pretty cool, especially since I had no idea what the old lady was talking about.

Until today.

Over the past month, I have been really trying hard to live my life in the ways that make me happiest (see my posting on resolutions).  I have been loving it and got a better understanding of why I have been feeling so much happier lately after hearing the author of The Happiness Project , Gretchen Rubin, speak last Monday.  She was amazing.  Not only did I feel great that I was already doing a lot of the things she suggested, I also found out how important it is to make yourself happy.  And how easy it is.  Rubin found that things like making your bed and putting the top back on the peanut butter can dramatically change your mood.  But I regress...that is not what this posting is about.  So to sum it up, read her book.  Not all at once.  Just a bit at a time.  And do what she suggests.  And you will be happier.  I promise.  

Miss Paddy getting her book signed by Gretchen Rubin.  
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

Ok.  So what does all this have to do with Oprah and my marriage advice?  Well, I finally get it!  If I am the master of my happiness, then you are the master of your happiness and my husband is in charge of his own happiness and that woman behind me in line at Chapters who called me a whore is in charge of her own happiness.  If she's miserable, I can't take it personally.  It's not my fault.  It has nothing to do with me.  And if you hate my blog today because its so cold out and you were trapped inside all day with your kids and your dog and slipped on a wet floor on Friday and now you are lying in bed with a sore back (oh wait...that's me...oops!) I won't take it personally and be sad that you hate my blog.  

And when my husband says that my chicken cacciatore is gross because he hates all things stew and stew related (hmmm....just looked at the word stew and may understand why he hates it so much) after I spend the afternoon (ok really it was just an hour) cooking, I did not take it personally.  He doesn't hate me.  He hates my chicken cacciatore.  

 For the record, I thought the chicken was amazing.  Try it and tell me what you think.  If you think it stinks, I won't take it personally.

Cayla's Chicken Cacciatore

Ok.  This is one of the first recipes I have done in a while that is actually pretty specific in the steps you take.
So pay attention:

You need:
4 skin-on chicken leg quarters
2 tsp minced garlic
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery (reserve the leaves from the top of the celery, if possible)
1 cup button or cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
1/4 cup red wine (or chicken stock...but go for the red wine.  It makes the sauce taste richer and the alcohol cooks off so no worries of getting the kiddies drunk)
1 zucchini sliced into 1/2 cm coins
1 28oz can of chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 bay leaves
s & p

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a wide, deep frying pan.  Season the chicken and add to the pan& brown (about 4 min on each side)  

Remove chicken and put on a plate for later  Its ok if it's not completely cooked yet because you are going to put it back later.  

Turn up the heat slightly and add the zucchini.  Almost as soon as they are all in the pan, flip them over.  When they are brown on each side,  remove them, putting them on their own little plate.  The idea is to sear and slightly caramelize the outside while the inside stays firm.  There is nothing worse than mushy zucchini that falls apart with a snot-like consistency.  

Turn down the heat to medium low and add the garlic, onions, carrots, and celery along with a little more s & p.  Stir around until beginning to soften (3-4 min) and then add in the mushrooms.  About 3 min after that when its all getting nice and soft, pour in the wine and stir it all around, scraping the bottom of the pan while you're at it to get all the yummy bits left behind by the chicken and veggies.  This is called deglazing the pan.

Then add in the tomatoes and bay leaves.  Then add a bit more s & p.  Taste to make sure you think its ok.  Then add the chicken back in.  Then cover and let simmer over low for about 1/2 an hour.  Or until your mashed potatoes/pasta/rice or whatever else you are going to serve this over is ready.  Personally, I like mashed potatoes.

A couple minutes before serving, add the zucchini back in along with the chopped basil and reserved and chopped celery leaves (I know it sounds weird but I think they add a fresh and clean taste to the sauce...like parsley).  

To plate:  Put a mound of potatoes (or whatever) in the middle of a plate.  Put one piece of chicken on top of that.  Then spoon a whole whack of sauce and veggies on top of that.

Enjoy!  And then tell my husband that he is wrong and it is delicious.  But that he shouldn't take it personally. 
P.S. I have not really run for almost 3 weeks.  But I have been doing yoga and walking at very high inclines on the treadmill and taking my dog for wallks even when it is cold out.  And I am happy.

So all you runners out there who are bundling up with your special winter running gear, I think you are nuts!  But don't take it personally...

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