shrimp and fava beans

July 23, 2016
by Lacy
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Shrimp and Fava Beans A Four-Course Meal in 30 Minutes or Less: {Secrets of Easy Elegance}

fava beans

I’m striving for more peace and elegance in my life. And there are days when I have the time to craft an incredible meal that takes hours to prepare, when I’ve carefully selected each ingredient by hand with purpose, when I revel in the chopping and stirring as a meditative practice, when I sit down to a beautifully laid table and enjoy the meal slowly and peacefully with my family.

And then there are days when I am at my computer for 8 hours, when the mercury is well above 90 and my swamp cooler just isn’t cutting it, when my daughter proclaims she is “BORED!” at 10am, when it’s already after 6pm and I have to get people fed…

And those kinds of days are much less conducive to elegance and peace.

I suspect (do correct me if I’m wrong) that a lot of you may resonate more with the second scenario than the first.

And that’s OK. Life isn’t supposed to be perfect, and neither are we, as I keep telling my five-year-old. But there are things we can do that can make a little elegance, a little more peace possible.

That’s what I’ve been exploring lately in my own life. I don’t want to call them “hacks” because “hack” is not a very elegant word. I think maybe they’re secrets instead… Secrets that those people who seem to have effortlessly elegant lives know that the rest of us don’t know.

I’m going to be posting these secrets as I discover or uncover them, and today is the secret of the four-course meal — in half an hour. Continue Reading →

June 25, 2016
by Lacy
2 Comments

My Chic Habits

What does it mean to live well?  Stylishly?  Chic?

I assume the answer is different for everyone, but I have a few opinions for myself, and recently, I’ve been trying to cultivate them a bit more.

First, I participated in a free online “challenge” that was all about living your best life.  The challenges included things like buying yourself flowers, wearing red lipstick, and dressing up for yourself. I found it invigorating, and one day at the library with my daughter, I went looking for more.

That’s where discovered Jennifer Scott and her lovely “Madame Chic” books — there are three, and I’m almost done reading the second, while the third sits ready on my nightstand, in from interlibrary loan!

The combination has been almost transformational. I’ve started adapting new, chic habits that make me feel like I’m living well.  And it’s been several weeks now, nearly a month, so I’m fairly certain they’re sticking!

Some Chic Habits:

  • Doing household chores on a regular routine. (This seems silly, but it’s something that’s eluded me my entire adult life — until now! Perhaps I just needed the right inspiration.)
  • Drinking a glass of water with lemon before bed and one when I wake up in the morning.
  • Having an actual skin-care routine.
  • Multiple-course dinners.  Even when the first course is edamame, salad or fruit, it counts.
  • Drinking my bubbly water with a pretty paper straw.  It makes me feel fancy.
  • Flowers on the table. This week, they are cut from our yard and arranged in a mason jar — and maybe all the more beautiful because of it.
  • Reading more.
  • Morning pages. I am trying very hard to get in the habit of writing three pages of STUFF every morning to get it out of my head. I then transfer anything important (like to dos) to my bullet journal.
  • Setting the table for every meal. Including breakfast!
  • Picking up the clutter.  Our house isn’t too bad, but we all have our hot spots. I’ve been making a point of clearing them every day. It’s so much more serene!
  • Dressing well every day. This is also more fun right now because I started a subscription to Le Tote. I don’t think I’ll keep it up forever, but it’s fun to fight the wardrobe blahs without going overboard.

And, as I have discovered, nothing makes you feel chic faster than red lipstick…

June 6, 2016
by Lacy
1 Comment

Sunday Supper

I neglected to take pictures of the food.

That should give you some indication of how much of a success our first Summer Sunday Supper was — for a food blogger (even a part-time one like myself) to forget to take pictures of the food, she must be pretty well distracted.

And I was.  By laughter, by friends, by stories and sharing, by chair jousting and magic carrots in the back yard, by the weed dragon lighting the fire for sticky s’mores.

I absolutely love living in Colorado. I feel like I’ve truly built a home and put down roots here. But I do sometimes wish it were a little closer to Texas, a little closer to family and friends I dearly love. They say it takes a village, and I feel it in my soul sometimes, that longing for community that even my introverted self cannot deny.

But then I remembered that I’m a grown up. I may not be able to fly my mom and my sister and her family out to Colorado at a moment’s notice for a casual family barbecue in the back yard, but I can create my own community. And so, with the help of an article I’ve long since misplaced that talked about the joys of having an open-door friends-over supper night once a week, I decided to do that for myself.

And so I put up a Facebook “event,” and clicked down the list of friends that live here locally, inviting each one.  I ended up inviting 15 families — and had a mild panic attack afterward thinking about what would happen if they all came.

But of course, they didn’t. And that is perfectly alright. The method to my madness was that even if 12 families couldn’t come, maybe three could — and did.  And maybe three or four different families could come next week, or the week after that.

I got a roast at Costco and made one of the simplest recipes I know. Of course, I had to fancy it up a little by trying my hand at homemade hamburger buns, but even those weren’t that difficult. I literally served pulled pork with store-bought barbecue sauce, buns, and potato chips. I filled a sink with ice and stuck whatever beverages we had in the fridge in it — including half a bottle of two-buck Chuck pino grigio — next to a large pitcher of iced tea.

Friends brought “dirt cake” complete with gummy worms, muy verde salsa, green salad and mixed berries.  And it was perfect.

PERFECT.

One of my friends reminded me in passing of when we did our The Desire Map together, and one of my core desired feelings was elegance. Let me just tell you: this dinner party was far from elegant in the most traditional sense. Mismatched paper napkins. Kids picnicking on a ratty old Pepto Bismol-pink blanket in the back yard. Sprinkles of rain that deterred no one. Mosquitos. And a weed dragon.

Yet it was amazing.  And exactly what I wanted.

Sunday supper

I looked over at one point to see my daughter sitting on that wretched pink blanket with kids ranging in age from 3 to 7, all eating and chatting and having a wonderful time and my heart just swelled up. And I looked back at all the grown-ups, arrayed around our tiny two-person bistro table (now seating at least eight) on my deteriorating wooden deck and felt incredibly happy.

I’m so glad I didn’t wait for perfect. Or elegant. I’m glad I didn’t wait until we replace the deck with a nice patio, or until I could plan a fancy meal, or until everyone I wanted to have there was available to come.

We just did it. And it was perfect.

And we’re doing it again next Sunday.

There are only 10 Sundays between now and when school starts up again in August.  But I hope to spend every one of them as happily as I spent last night. Making memories.

May 30, 2016
by Lacy
1 Comment

Grilled Spring Salad with New Potatoes

radishesMy mom makes a great traditional potato salad.  (The secret is using pickle brine in the sauce!) But I’m always on the lookout for exciting new variations.

My dear friend Butter puts purslane in hers, which is crispy and tasty (and an abundant volunteer in my garden later in the summer).  Emily shared a watercress and yogurt version when she was on her quest to eat the number 1 super food.

And now, I’m adding a new variation to the list.

I first tried this veggie-laden version last year when it popped up as one of the gorgeous, clickable photos on Smitten Kitchen, and I wasn’t disappointed.  I loved the bright mustard vinaigrette and crisp-tender vegetables.

But this year, I was inspired to do something new to it: grill it.  The fine people at Sprouts Farmers Market invited me to participate in their Grilling Month by adding an idea for a recipe to the conversation, and as soon as I had this one, I knew it would be a winner.

If only the weather would cooperate… Continue Reading →

April 7, 2016
by Lacy
3 Comments

Doing Disney

In less than a week, we’re taking my almost-five-year-old to Disney World, and I’m having very mixed feelings about it.

First, let me say this was totally my idea.  One hundred percent.  About a year ago, I thought how cool it would be to take her to Disney for her fifth birthday — right at that sweet spot where she knows most of the princess stories, would recognize the characters, but would still find everything absolutely magical.  My in-laws have a winter home in Florida, and I thought it would be a great way to visit them and do something special.

The plans have been in the works for almost that long. We researched hotels and packages, compared rates, booked flights, etc. It’s all ready to go.

I have never been to Disney World.  I visited Disney Land for the first time at the age of 22, after the most disappointing day of my life, when I felt like all my hopes and dreams were going to hell in a handbasket. My husband-then-boyfriend and I were in California to look at apartments and for me to do the last round of interviews for a prestigious internship in Hollywood with the Director’s Guild of America, and that night, as we drove down Highway 1 watching the sunset, I got the call that I had been cut and would not get the internship.

My world came crashing down. I had no plan B. And when we woke up the next morning, my sweet boyfriend, (unsure what to do with the crying blubbering mess I had become) announced, “We’re going to Disney Land!”

So my impressions of Disney are a bit skewed. But the one thing I do remember with a happy heart were the expressions on all the tiny faces around me. For them, it absolutely was the happiest place on Earth.

And I want to give that to my daughter.

But I’m also feeling very ambivalent about the whole thing.

Last night, I spent several hours on the computer finalizing our Fast Pass reservations and our dining reservations, I felt this overall feeling of stress and disappointment.

Let me just say: I didn’t realize that when they say reservations open for fast passes and dining 180 days in advance, they really mean, you need to get on this website and make them 180 days in advance. It must be like the rush to get concert tickets for the hottest show in town.

I started making reservations more than a month ago — about 45 days before our trip, so don’t think I’m some sort of devil-may-care lazabout — and everything was gone.  Fast Passes to meet Anna and Elsa?  Hahahahaha.  Nope.  Reservations for Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Palace dining with the princesses?  FUGETTABOUTIT.

It seemed like every time I read about a neat or interesting restaurant or event, it was already booked.

Beyond that, every time I discovered some cool gem of a thing to do, a memory to make, I was bowled over by the prices. My sister told me about a salon where they will do D up like a princess!  Starting at $60. Oh, and the appointments are all booked up.  Boat trip to see the fireworks from the lagoon?  More than $300 for a family of 3.  The Hoot-n-Holler (or whatever it’s called) dinner show?  Booked that for $60 per person. Even the tour of the greenhouses and fisheries at Epcot costs extra.

In fact, it struck me last night as I was finalizing reservations, planning itineraries, etc., that planning this vacation felt nearly as complicated as planning my wedding!

And then it struck me that it’s also going to end up costing almost as much as my wedding.

After I shut down the computer, I tossed and turned in bed for a while, wrecked with a weird sort of middle-class, first-world-problems guilt.

What am I doing to my child, giving her this lavish vacation as a birthday present?
My sister and I never got to go to Disney as children, and we turned out fine. More than fine.
How do I feel about promoting and propogating “princess” culture that I feel pretty dang conflicted about anyway?
Wouldn’t this money be put to better use? Hell, wouldn’t it be better to put these thousands of dollars into her college fund and throw her a princess party here at home?

All moot, because the reservations are made, the tickets are booked, the plane leaves in T-minus six days. This morning I’m looking up lemon eucalyptus oil bug sprays to ward off Zika and making packing lists in my notebook.

We will go.  We will have an amazing time. My sweet baby will not know that mama screwed up and couldn’t get Fast Passes to meet Elsa or reservations to dine with Cinderella.  We’ll eat junk food and stay up late to watch the fireworks and parade (for which we also did not get Fast Passes) and I’ll take way too many pictures, and when we get home, I’ll put them all in a book for her and hopefully she’ll remember her fifth birthday.

When she got to go to the happiest place on Earth.

carrot_tabbouli_2

April 5, 2016
by Lacy
1 Comment

Carrot Top Tabbouli (Grain-Free)

I’m in a hustle season right now.

Several years ago, when I had a tiny baby and was lamenting the fact that some days my biggest accomplishment was getting us both clean and dressed, a mom a bit further along in the journy reassured me that this was just one season of life, and that it would pass in its own time.

While not the immediate fix answer I was hoping for, it was still comforting. The same way that I could not will the Earth to spin faster and turn spring into summer or winter into spring, that season of my life would continue and pass at its own pace.

I find this is true of owning a business, too. Some months I glide along at the perfect pace. Everything is organized and I am productive. I have set healthy boundaries and feel good about the amount of time I spend working versus playing versus caring for my family.

And then there are months like this one.

It’s a little ironic that in order to take a vacation, I have to work double time in the weeks leading up to it.  I’m trying to launch a podcast, so I’m attempting to record six months worth of interviews in about two weeks. I’m working on selling my signature program, which requires extra emails and phone calls to prospective students. I’m also reaping the rewards of steady marketing, talking to prospective clients and onboarding new clients — all while trying to keep up with my regular workload.

In short, I’m hustlin’.

Two weeks ago, my dear husband, noticing said hustle (he gets points just for that, I think) offered to go to the grocery store for me. This is practically novel, because I am almost always the one who does the shopping. (I kind of like it, so it’s no hardship.)

So, I passed him my list and off he went to Whole Foods with our daughter in tow.

He did great. He was especially proud of himself that he remembered to get ham for our Easter brunch even though I had not remembered to put it on the list (see: hustle).

He also brought home two gorgeous bunches of carrots, tops still attached because they were on sale.

There’s a myth that carrot tops are poisonous.  I suspect it started because they look an awful lot like poison hemlock (which is, as the name suggests, poisonous). But they’re not poisonous, and in fact are quite tasty.

carrot_tabbouli_1

Which I discovered when I made this recipe: it’s a grain-free, carrot-full take on tabbouli, and it’s delicious. I served it alongside some leftover braised lamb, and it made a quick, tasty dinner (see: hustle).

I’m big on veggies.  Especially in season.

And reducing waste.

And trying new things.

And eating fewer refined carbs.

This recipe satisfies all of those requirements.  Plus it’s awfully tasty.

Carrot Top Tabbouli (Grain-Free)

Carrot Top Tabbouli (Grain-Free)

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large carrots – well scrubbed & roughly chopped
  • 4 cups of carrot tops – well soaked to clean, very rough chopped, discard thick stems
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh mint, very rough chopped – amount to taste
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped – or use scallion
  • 1-2 cups medium tomatoes, diced (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
  • Chick peas – 1 can rinsed
  • Dressing (whisk together all ingredients)
  • juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Garlic Clove – finely minced (optional)

Instructions

  1. Roughly chop carrots, carrot tops, onion, and remove mint leaves from stems.
  2. Process carrots in food processor until they have the texture of a large bulgur grain. Set aside.
  3. Finely chop carrot tops, onion, and mint in food processor. (Do not liquify!) Add to the carrots.
  4. Add diced tomatoes, and other optional ingredients if so desired.
  5. Add dressing and toss to combine well.
  6. Chill and marinate in the refrigerator before serving for best taste (but it tastes great right away, too!).
http://laughinglemonpie.com/carrot-top-tabbouli-grain-free/

Promotional consideration for this post provided by Whole Foods Markets.

March 14, 2016
by Lacy
0 comments

From Classic to Modern: A Denver Date Night

old fashioned at Rewind Lounge

A zillion years ago, I wrote a post here entitled 70 At Home Date Nights Ideas On the Cheap.

It is, to date, my most popular post on this blog.  By a LOT.

It is also slightly ridiculous.

This is not to say that we’ve never done some of these — we have.  But at home date night with a 5-yr-old tends to look like, “What’s on TV tonight?”  “Nothin.”  “Wanna binge watch something on the laptop in bed?”  “YES. Let me put on my jammies.”  (At 7:30pm.)

What can I say? We are old, and we are tired, and we really like watching bad TV on the laptop in our jammies.

It is a little hilarious to me that I was more ambitious about date night when I had a 2 yr old than a 5 yr old.

BUT we do try to actually go out — without the kiddo — at least once a month.

And in February, I noticed that they were going to be playing The Maltese Falcon on the big screen for its 75th anniversary.  And I knew what we were going to do.

(You like how I consult my husband about what he wants to do? Yeah, me too.)

It only sealed the deal when we were invited to check out the new Rewind lounge at 1515 Restaurant in Denver.

We took in the matinée downtown at the Pavilions theater on the 16th Street Mall. How do you describe seeing Bogey on the big screen? It was amazing. I’d forgotten how funny bits of it are, and how clever the dialogue. It stands the test of time well, with a mystery just as intriguing and engaging now as it was then.

After the movie, we wandered down the 16th Street Mall, something we rarely do, and ended up at the opposite end at the Tattered Cover bookstore, where I promptly bought a copy of The Maltese Falcon — the original novel by Dashiell Hammett.

At the appointed hour, we wandered back up a few blocks to Market and 15th and took in the lovely new Rewind lounge on the first floor of Restaurant 1515.

The lounge combines the old and the new, the classic and the modern.  It’s a brand-new, green-certified, modern space on the first floor, right below the more traditional fine-dining atmosphere of the restaurant above.

The menu is mostly classic French cuisine with some exciting small plates and molecular gastronomy thrown in for fun. They also have an award-winning wine list — with plenty of bottles around $20 (all the way up to hundreds of dollars), and an innovative bar manager who likes to play with molecular techniques.

A perfect mix of classic and modern.

I chatted with the chef as he warmed chunks of fresh mozzarella in slowly simmering water, then placed them over a CO2 canister and blew them up with garlic-scented air to create a pillowy, ethereal centerpiece for a caprese salad sprinkled with balsamic vinegar “caviar.”

Next to him, another chef deftly seared Japanese wagyu beef on hot stones for delicate, perfectly cooked bites of heaven.

wagyu beef at 1515 Restaurant

 

We sampled classic escargot and Dover sole en papillote and  sipped cheerfully unusual cocktails, including a raspberry “lemonade” with shattered raspberry garnish, and an orange basil “old fashioned” that was decidedly not.

drinks at Rewind Lounge

Maybe the best part of the Rewind Lounge is that it’s an easy way to have an elegant meal. Here’s what I mean:

While the Lounge has its own, very accessible, menu of tasty small plates and Asian-inspired bites, you can also order from the full 1515 menu.

And you can get a table there at the last minute, without a reservation.

Which is just about the perfect recipe for a date night for me at this stage of the game.

1515 Restaurant

Rewind Lounge