Rachael Ray Every Day Staff

Your Happiest Year Yet!

We live for the moments that put smiles on our faces: the soul-gratifying bite of a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie, the joy of accomplishing a big goal, the warmth of a sunbeam on our skin. Experiences like these produce not only emotional but also physical reactions: They spur the release of chemicals, like serotonin or endorphins, that make us feel happy, even euphoric. Of course not all your days can be filled with unicorns and rainbows, but turning a frown, you know, the other direction is actually pretty easy. Try these bliss-making moves, all backed by science, and check back next week for more—We’re sharing a new set of tips every Monday in January. Your happy place is closer than you think!

 

Eat More Chocolate

The countless reports of dark chocolate’s health benefits have been food for the soul for a lot of us. And here’s one more: The American Chemical Society’s Journal of Proteome Research reported that when people who suffered from stress were given small amounts of dark chocolate daily, their levels of the stress hormone cortisol were lower after two weeks. Ain’t life sweet?

Get the recipe: Ruth Reichl’s Hot Fudge to Soothe Your Soul

 

Become a Morning Person

It doesn’t matter what side of the bed you wake up on, it’s when you wake up that matters. Turns out, early birds have a sunnier disposition than night owls, according to research from the University of Toronto, because they’re more in sync with daylight hours (humans are diurnal, as compared with nocturnal). So if you’re not the sort to leap out of bed, adjust your internal clock by moving up your bedtime incrementally, by about 15 minutes every few nights. And shut down electronics two to three hours before you hit the hay. Your internal clock will adjust and, before you know it, you’ll wake up all smiles.

 

Break up with Your DVR

You may think you enjoy your nightly TV fix more if you start watching a show late so you can fast- forward through the ads. But commercial breaks actually enhance your enjoyment. “We are wired to chase and desire,” says Emma Seppälä, Ph.D., author of the upcoming book The Happiness Track. “If you keep delaying, you increase your longing to see the rest of the show.” That season finale just got a lot more riveting!

 

Extend Those Arms

A big ol’ bear hug is a surefire way to get that warm, fuzzy feeling (or give it to someone else), and research shows that an affectionate squeeze also bestows a host
of other positive effects. A hug, just like holding hands or having sex, spurs the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone.” And Swedish researchers have suggested that after an embrace, “thoughts of the hugging may put the individual in a more positive mood.” What’s more, a simple clinch has physiological benefits—for instance, lowered blood pressure and an increase in endorphins, which strengthens the immune system. And who wouldn’t be happy about that?

 

Say Yes to Cheese

If melty grilled cheese sandwiches and nachos dripping with queso have taught us anything, it’s that cheese is serious comfort food. Even science says so! Emerging research has shown that during digestion, the protein casein in cow’s milk (the milk used in cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano and other favorites) may produce casomorphins, which can have a slight opiate-like effect on some cheese-eaters—in other words, the lucky ones.

Bar Basics: Know Your Bubbles!

Champagne, cava and prosecco all sparkle, but they’re not the same. Get to know them a little better with this handy cheat sheet.

 

Champagne

Hometown

The Champagne region in northern France

Best traits

Can be toasty and dry (i.e. not sweet); available in a range of colors, from light golden to pink

Perfect date

A special occasion. Champagne uses high-quality grapes and takes longer to age, so it’s often the most expensive of the three. Save it for the times when you really want to celebrate.

 

Cava

Hometown

The Catalonia region in northeast Spain

Best traits

Earthier, fruitier and often less expensive than Champagne

Perfect date

A weekend party with friends. The crowd-pleasing flavor and budget-friendly price makes this sparkling wine great for a group. And who says you have to start the party with bubbles? Spaniards sometimes serve cava after a meal.

 

Prosecco

Hometown

The Veneto region in northeast Italy

Best traits

Light, crisp and apple-y; usually the sweetest and least expensive of the three sparklers

Perfect date

A leisurely Sunday brunch. You can sip prosecco on its own, and it also makes a great cocktail mixer. Thanks to its super-affordable price and low alcohol, bottomless mimosas can be had by all!

 

No matter which bubbly you choose, you can whip up a killer cocktail for your New Years Eve party. Here are some of our faves:

Cranberry-Cava Sparklers

 
 

Double Orange Spritz

 
 

Pomegranate Lava Lamp

Gingerbread House Do’s and Don’ts

Make your gingerbread house look anything but cookie-cutter—even if you’re working from a store-bought kit—with tips from beth “Ginger Betty” Veneto, owner of Ginger Betty’s Bakery in Quincy, MA., and multiyear winner at the Boston Christmas Festival’s famed Gingerbread House Competition. Read on for her delicious do’s and definite don’ts.

 

 

DO

 

Make a mischievous Rudolph by coating a marshmallow in melted chocolate, adding pretzels for antlers, red candy for a nose and paper-doll sunglasses for an—ahem—clever disguise. Place him so he’s peeping out from behind a tree, thanks to a lollipop stick or skewer.

 

Transform ice cream cones into trees (coat with green frosting, then decorate with candy ornaments or sprinkles).

 

 

Build a fence out of pretzels. You can go the straight-up rod route, as we did here, or stand a series of traditional looped pretzels upside down. Use frosting as mortar.

 

Pile and scatter shredded coconut for sweet snowdrifts.

 

Gussy up your gingerbread men (or toy figures) with fun accessories. Licorice or any other candy that comes in strips makes for a cute muffler.

 

Place Peppermint Pattie candies or cookies as “pavers” to form a pathway to your house.

 

DON’T

 

Build on a rainy day or store your house in the fridge. Under these conditions, moisture can seep in a make the walls wilt.

 

Start decorating the house too soon. The frosting that holds the structural elements together should be 100 percent dry first. Every house is different, but give yours at least eight hours to set.

 

Now that you know how to build the gingerbread house of your dreams, find out how you can win $2,000 from Trulia!

Even Better Butter

Brown butter may sound cheffy, but the deliciously nutty, super-simple sauce is easy to make: If you’ve got a pan and some butter, you’re 90 percent there! Make a big batch and store it in the fridge so it’s ready whenever you need a hit of extra-rich flavor. Then drizzle it over roasted vegetables or fish, toss it with pasta, or stir it into pancake batter. Ready to give it a shot? Here’s how!

 

Brown Butter and Brussels Sprouts Fettuccine

 

1. Cut the butter into half-inch-thick slices and melt over medium.

2. Leave the melted butter alone until it starts to bubble and foam, about 2 minutes.

3. Stir the butter until light-golden specks appear. (Those are the milk solids separating out from the fat and starting to toast.) As soon as the specks turn dark tan and the liquid is golden, remove the pan from the heat. Use immediately or pour into a glass jar and refrigerate.

Pizza Dough Do’s and Don’ts

Store-bought dough makes pizza night as easy as pie, but creating a great crust takes a little TLC. Here’s how to make restaurant-quality pizza at home every time.

 

 

Do

Let the dough sit at room temp for 20 minutes so it can soften and roll more easily.

Roll it out with a rolling pin, working from the center to outside of the crust the edges. Or make a free-form pie by stretching the dough into shape.

Before you bake the pizza, brush the outside of the crust (the part that won’t get toppings) lightly with olive oil for a darker, crispy edge.

 

Don’t

Resist rolling out the dough if it starts to spring back. Let it rest a few minutes and soften up so it stretches easily.

Don’t place the dough directly on the baking sheet. Instead, line the sheet with parchment or dust it with flour.

Be careful not to pile on too many ingredients or else you’ll end up with a soggy crust.

 

 

Now get to it! Click here for some of our most popular pizza recipes of all time.

DIY Chile Powder

Make your own chile powder for unbeatable, super-fresh flavor, using the chiles of your choice to get a heat level that’s right for you. Start with dried mild ancho chiles, medium chipotles, red-hot chiles de arbol–or a combination–then follow these three easy steps. Stir the powder into stews or salsas, rub it on meat before cooking or use it as a base for hcili (add ground cumin, garlic, cayenne and salt).

 

Elmo’s Famous Chili, from our September 2015 issue

 

1. Chop

Halve your dried chiles lengthwise, then remove the stems, ribs and seeds. Chop the chiles into small pieces

 

2. Toast

In a dry skillet, toast the chiles over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes per side.

 

3. Grind

Blend in a spice grinder to a powder. Store in a jar in a cool, dark place for up to six months.

A Look Inside Siena Farms

For our September issue, we had three chefs across the country take us behind the scenes at their farms. For the full story, pick up an issue today!

Most of the beautiful produce chef Ana Sortun cooks at her vegetable-centric Boston-area restaurants Oleana, Sofra and Sarma comes from 75-acre Siena Farms, which is across the street from her home in Sudbury, MA. Sortun’s husband, Chris Kurth, grew up on the farm and now runs it. It’s named after the couple’s 10-year-old daughter.

 

 

FIELD NOTES

“Chris was working at a teaching farm, a place called the Farm School in Athol, MA, and he was looking for some restaurant accounts to work with—he was trying to sell us some spinach. Basically it was one of those love-at-first-sight things: I took the spinach and that was that.”

 

WHY IT’S WORTH IT

“Harvesting ingredients at
their moment has been huge. You know when the potatoes are just dug, they are much different than when they’ve been stored for a month. There are lessons I’ve learned by being around things growing, like the parts of the vegetable that aren’t super sexy—the stalks of Brussels sprouts or the leaves of broccoli—are actually really delicious. It’s pretty spectacular.“

 

MAKE THE DISH: Cheesy Squash Pupusas

A Look Inside Summerland Farm

For our September issue, we had three chefs across the country take us behind the scenes at their farms. For the full story, pick up an issue today!

In 1992, chef Anne Quatrano and her husband, chef Clifford Harrison, left the hustle of New York City’s restaurant kitchens for the small town of Cartersville, GA, where they started farming on a 60-acre property that’s been in Quatrano’s family for 175 years. It supplies all five of their Atlanta food businesses—including the James Beard Award–nominated Bacchanalia and gourmet shop-café Star Provisions—with produce and eggs.

 

 

FIELD NOTES

“In the beginning, Clifford would come in to the restaurant after he’d taken care of the farm and then cook all night. Back then we had cows and goats that we milked and chickens we had for eggs, so there was a lot to do.”

 

WHY IT’S WORTH IT

“At times about 90 percent of our menus come from the farm, and we really celebrate that with our diners: ’Oh, this just came in!’ or ‘These are the first tomatoes of the season!’ It used to not seem as important to our guests as it was to us. But I think now it is.”

 

MAKE THE DISH: Spiced Carrots Two-Ways

 

 

A Look Inside La Provence Farm

For our September issue, we had three chefs across the country take us behind the scenes at their farms. For the full story, pick up an issue today!

In the salad days of his career, New Orleans chef John Besh worked at La Provence, a French- Mediterranean restaurant in Lacombe, LA, a town 26 miles northeast of New Orleans. Twelve years later, he came back and bought the restaurant, transforming three acres in its backyard into a small farm with veggies, herbs, chickens and fuzzy Mangalitsa pigs, a heritage breed known for its rich marbled meat.

 

 

FIELD NOTES

“I purchased the business from one of my mentors, who had been influential in introducing me to the idea of local eating. He passed away just after I bought it, and I wanted to honor him by building this farm on the property. So before I cooked one dish, we started on the farm.”

 

WHY IT’S WORTH IT

“The figs that we grow, the Creole tomatoes—at one point we had about 20 varieties of tomatoes!— the special little lettuces that only grow a few weeks out of the year, these are the fun things—things that we originally had to ship in from around the country.”

 

MAKE THE DISH: Open-Face Salmon Sandwiches with Radishes & Cucumbers

 

Six Ways to Upgrade Chocolate Chip Cookies

Start with your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough (homemade or store-bought), then fun it up with these tasty mix-ins. Bake. Eat. Repeat!

Hot Stuff

Mix in cinnamon candies (such as Red Hots), ground cinnamon and a pinch of ground cayenne

 

Moroccan Spice

Mix in chopped dried apricots, chopped pistachios and a pinch of ground cardamom

 

Trail Mix

Mix in chopped roasted salted peanuts, dried cranberries and oatmeal

 

Movie Night

Mix in chocolate-covered raisins and peanut butter candies (such as Reese’s Pieces)

 

Big on Figs

Mix in chopped dried figs, sesame seeds (any color) and orange zest

 

Tropical Fruit

Mix in chopped dried pineapple, coconut flakes and chopped macadamia nuts

 

Are you following us on Instagram? We’re featuring a cookie a day all month long! Join in on the fun by tagging your cookie pics with #RRMagFan. We may even regram you!