As counterintuitive as this may seem, Summer 2017 has been wonderful, my happiest since Alzheimer’s knocked at our door thirteen years ago. That’s in spite of, maybe even more so because our country and world is in, let’s admit it, chaos. It’s darn hard these days to stay aboard that happy train. Even Joy the Baker, my effervescent blogging pal from NOLA, took up the how-to-do-happy-better theme this week.
“We all need a little spark of a reminder sometimes,” she wrote. “ A little confetti in the air. A little whipped cream on top. A little something-something.”
We can’t expect our end game to always be handsprings and high fives but, Loyal Readers, don’t we deserve the best Life we can muster? Now as you know, I love lists. My days evolve around my to-do list. So you might expect I have an on-going “Tweaks” list which I pull out when myself needs tweaking. If yourself needs a tweak or two, I’m willing to share. If you’re doing mighty fine (and, lucky you), just skip down to the recipes for my to-die-for Peach Upside-Down Cake topped with homemade Buttermilk Ice Cream.
My Golden Happy Tweaks
For more of my adult years than I care to admit, I believed it possible to be joyful only when the stars lined up perfectly in my life and my family’s world. I always truly believed if one tried hard enough…well, you get it. I know, I know, what universe did I live in? When we stumbled into something that couldn’t be fixed and could only end with a bad result, I hit a wall. (Memo to the World: Walls are bad.)
More than a decade ago there weren’t many tools, books or avenues to help caregivers be caregivers. I stumbled my way up the learning curve but often didn’t do it well. Throughout those early years I just survived. Then a psychologist suggested that ‘pain was inevitable, but suffering, always optional’ so I traded suffering and sadness for laughter and a smile. Since I was slowly losing my side kick and best friend, I also became my own best friend. I still am. A Golden Tweak: Greet each day with a smile, laugh out loud and treat yourself as wonderfully as you do your spouse, partner or best friend.
Now I’m not asking you to deny or normalize the challenges we face personally and publicly but recognize your limits. That doesn’t mean I don’t stay engaged and honor my values and beliefs. I gravitate towards positive and optimistic people, hanging with friends who are energized by their passions, ideas and activities. I walk the walk, quietly doing my best, but I no longer talk the talk. Stress and hurt are not my pals. A Golden Tweak: Avoid what drags you down. Learn to say no. Don’t be a martyr.
If you’ve committed to greeting the day with a smile, why not get a head start by going to bed happy. Turn off your electronics by 8:30-9pm. Have an engaging book or two nearby or watch a fun series. Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon Prime was my summer headliner. Or, just talk, have a conversation, or call a friend. A Golden Tweak: Get good sleep. No, 4-5 hours is not enough.
And, of course, stay physically active and eat well. If a slice of Peach Upside-Down Cake topped with homemade Buttermilk Ice Cream doesn’t lighten your load then you aren’t half-trying. That’s what Cook the Book Friday is dishing up this week. Here are the recipes and my tips.
COOK the BOOK FRIDAYS
GLACE AU LAIT, HUILE D’OLIVE ET FLEUR DE SEL by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
No egg yolks. No tempering. The corn syrup (or, honey) makes it smooth and creamy for days.
Makes about 1 quart
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup (substitute honey, if you wish)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
Fruity, extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
1. In a small saucepan, warm the cream over low heat with the sugar and corn syrup, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Chill the mixture in a bowl thoroughly, at least 8 hours or overnight.
2. Stir the buttermilk into the chilled sweetened cream. Freeze according to your manufacturer’s ice cream maker instructions. Once churned (about 30-50 minutes), transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container a few hours, overnight, or until firm enough to scoop.
3. Just before serving, scoop the ice cream into bowls, using a chilled ice cream scoop. Drizzle each serving with olive oil and sprinkle with a flurry of sea salt or use a topping of your choice. Since I was topping my cake with this ice cream I didn’t put anything on it.
PEACH UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE by Laura of Tutti Dolci
(This recipe appealed to me because I love cooking with my 10” cast-iron skillet. If you don’t have cast iron, use any ovenproof container.)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 medium peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour (If in altitude, use high-altitude flour.)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt, at room temperature
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Grease a seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet. Combine butter and brown sugar in skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter has melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Top with peaches and set the skillet aside.
3. For the cake, whisk together sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
4. Whisk together egg, buttermilk, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla in a small bowl; add to flour mixture and stir just until combined.
5. Dollop batter evenly over peach layer and smooth with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes, until cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached.
6. Remove from oven and let the cake rest for 5 minutes in the skillet, until any juices have stopped bubbling. Use a thin spatula to loosen cake from skillet and carefully invert onto a cake stand or serving plate.
7. Let cool to slightly warm before serving.