A "Nice" New Year
Last year, I made a resolution to make better choices when it came to my eating habits. How did I do? Well, I was extremely conscious of the foods I ate and made a real effort to stop and reflect on what I felt like after I chose foods that I knew would affect me in a negative way. I'm not talking about weight gain; I'm talking about an overall feeling of well-being. For me, I noticed when I ate chocolate, peanuts, peanut butter, white bread or anything with sugar, or drank alcohol, I felt plain lousy. Most of the time, I stayed away from those foods, but I did give in on many occasions because I like peanut butter and chocolate. I also enjoy a great sandwich and a nice glass of wine, and warm cookies right out of the oven with a cold glass of milk makes me feel warm and toasty! I just suffered the consequences of my body aching and a bad headache afterward.
As for weight, I maintained my weight this year and didn't lose a pound, even though I wanted to lose 20. However, I didn't beat myself up over it every single day like I used to. This year, I managed to make friends with my weak side and not beat myself up over it. It felt good.
Now, here I am trying to figure out what New Year's resolution I can commit to that I haven't already tried at least a dozen times over my lifetime. Thanks to an encounter I had with a woman a few weeks ago at the open market, I walked away knowing for sure what my New Year's resolution would be...
My New Year's resolution for 2011 is to be nice. That's it. Be nice.
It's not that I'm not a nice person—I am—but we all have an evil twin, and sometimes she's not so nice. I've noticed that when I'm nice, no matter how negative the situation is (even if how someone is speaking to me gets my blood boiling), "being nice" defuses the situation, keeps the evil twin in check and turns it right around. It works, and I'm surprised at how well!
So what happened at the open market? I was enjoying my beautiful morning down by the ocean where there is the most incredible open market. It's very famous here in Southern California, and it's full of people who come out to enjoy the open ocean air and buy fresh organic fruits, vegetables and flowers. The routine is always the same: I find parking, take out my cart and start at the very end to work my way through the crowds to see what is available, then I stop at my favorite vendor to pick up my fresh, just-harvested-that-morning organic greens and herbs. It's always a bit difficult to establish your footing since there are so many people vying for a place to get the attention of the vendors. That never bothers me—I totally enjoy the whole experience.
This particular morning, however, there were more people than usual, and they were pushing and shoving—which was highly unusual—and grabbing things, making it impossible for me to get what I wanted. I finally managed to get my pile secure in one place and wait for the vendor to ring me up. A woman walked up next to me, gave me a tiny shove to remove me from my perch and started to put my pile that I waited so long for in her bag. I simply removed the next pile of my stuff from her hand, didn't say a word and placed it back on my waiting pile. Well, you would have though I killed her sister! She laid into me big-time, and my first instinct was to be in her face too. But I decided to try a different approach. I said to her that I was so sorry for taking the things out of her hand and it was rude of me to do so. She didn't even know what to do with that—she had nowhere to go with her anger so she had to calm down. It was funny because I know she wanted to stay angry, but the situation was defused by me simply being nice. It was a great feeling because I left there feeling good about myself instead of carrying away anger that probably would have stayed with me for the remainder of the morning as I played back in my head all of the things I should have said to her.
Who wants to carry around all that negativity? I've tried that tactic several times during the Christmas season shopping mess as well. The frustrations are always the same: You can't find parking, the lines at the cash registers are long, people are strung out and stressed. When someone starts to get their knickers in a twist, being nice brings out the nice in them. I found that most everyone is nice, but we are all flawed. If we make the effort in how we conduct our actions and reactions, it makes all the difference in the world—especially to you.
Treat yourself to a nice and easy New Year's Eve: 10 pizza party ideas
You can either make your own pizza dough or buy it already made at your market. I go to my local pizza parlor and ask them for fresh pizza dough. One roll of pizza dough can typically be cut and shaped into four small balls to make four 9- to 10-inch pizzas, so make or order your dough accordingly. (I usually count two pizzas per person.)
Make sure to preheat your oven to 500 degrees and use a pizza stone if you can—sprinkle it with cornmeal before you place the pizza (complete with toppings) in the oven to avoid the dough from sticking. The pizzas usually take 12 to 15 minutes at that temperature to bake. Keep an eye out so you don't burn the crust.
For added flavor to the crust, I roll in fresh herbs such as chopped basil, oregano, rosemary or thyme. After I roll it out, I pour olive oil over the top, add kosher salt and cracked pepper, bake it and eat it warm right out of the oven with a squeeze of lemon juice. So good!
Go to town on the toppings! Here are some suggestions, and you can eyeball how much you want or don't want on your individual pizza.
- Top raw dough with buffalo mozzarella cheese, fresh sliced heirloom tomatoes, freshly chopped basil and oregano and a drizzle of olive oil, kosher salt and cracked pepper. Throw on anchovies, if you like!
- Top raw dough with three cheeses: feta cheese, shaved Parmesan cheese and goat cheese. When the pizza is done baking, top with thinly sliced prosciutto, fresh basil and thyme leaves.
- Top raw dough with sausages, roasted red pepper, Fontina cheese, tomato sauce, sautéed onions, red pepper flakes and fresh basil.
- Bake pizza dough, then top with a fresh handful of wild or baby arugula, Parmesan cheese curls and pomegranate seeds. Add thinly sliced steak, grilled chicken or barbecue chicken. Drizzle on extra-virgin olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of kosher salt.
- Make a cooled, baked pizza crust with crème fraîche, smoked salmon, fresh dill and chives.
- Create a hamburger pizza! Start with cooked pizza dough topped with cooked ground beef (1 cup) and plenty of extra-sharp cheddar cheese. Bake only until the cheese has melted (1 to 2 minutes), then top with lettuce, tomato, ketchup and pickles. I also put jalapeños on mine.
- Create a taco pizza: Start with baked pizza dough and top with seasoned ground beef, Monterey Jack cheese, jalapeños, cilantro, scallions and sour cream, along with your favorite spicy guacamole.
- Bake pizza dough, then add burrata cheese, prosciutto and cut-up cold melon topped with fresh mint leaves, basil and olive oil.
- Create a Greek pizza: Start with baked pizza dough topped with Romaine lettuce, cucumbers, thinly sliced red onion, feta cheese, Greek olives, fresh oregano, mint, sliced red bell peppers, olive oil and red wine vinegar.
- Make a meatball pizza: Start with raw dough and your favorite meatball recipe, covered with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan and Romano cheese, red pepper flakes and fresh basil.
Use your imagination as far as toppings are concerned and put things on the table in any order, then watch people go to town. No topping is too crazy! It's fun to watch what everyone comes up with.
Everything can be made and chopped in advance and placed in plastic bags in the refrigerator the day of your party to save space and time. Even the pizza dough can be made the day before and kept wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator overnight.
I don't like to use too many bowls because of the cleanup afterward, so when it comes time to make the pizzas, I take two huge platters and take out the toppings and arrange them on that. Cold champagne goes perfectly with our pizzas, but I also like beer!
Happy New Year!
My new show, Cristina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love, debuts on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network January 3 at 3:30 p.m. Watch a sneak peek.