This easy paella recipe is from the book, 400 Calorie Fixby Liz Vaccariello (I believe it is out of print, but you can find used copies at that link.) Since it is a diet book, it uses a small amount turkey kielbasa for flavor. If you’re not concerned about calories, you can sub regular kielbasa or sausage, or just use more of the turkey kielbasa.
The most important ingredients are the saffron, of course, and the clam juice, which is a shortcut for seafood stock. It really gives the dish a nice, authentic briney flavor.
Paella is one of those dishes that lends itself to endless variations, so feel free to switch up the meats or seafood, add different vegetables, or go full vegetarian by subbing more peppers and chickpeas for the meats (some smoked paprika would also help boost the flavor lost without the sausage).
From the book, "400 Calorie Fix" by Liz Vaccariello.
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 oz turkey kielbasa or sausage, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp saffron threads, lightly crushed
3/4 cup rice
1 bottle clam juice
1/2 cup water
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup frozen peas
16 Manzanilla olives
3/4 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 lb sea scallops
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and kielbasa. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saffron and cook, stirring often, 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook for 1 minute.
Pour in the clam juice and 1/4 cup of the water. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, olives, and remaining water. Cover and return to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes longer, or until the rice is nearly tender. Stir in the shrimp, scallops, and peas. Cover and cook 6-8 minutes longer, or until the rice is tender and the seafood is cooked through.
Remember when I said I had used up the “last” of the asparagus. Haha! Just kidding. D and I picked more last Sunday — some nearly as tall as she is! — and I served it for lunch with some wild oyster mushrooms (courtesy Butter’s dad!) and fried eggs. I also dusted them all in some truffle zest which was a very good idea.
Yes, some of those asparagus are nearly as tall as her!
Believe it or not, earlier this week we were toasting marshmallows in the back yard…
And then it SNOWED. Ah, Colorado, you minx.
On Saturday, we headed to our first visit to the Boulder Farmer’s Market of the year.
After perusing, we walked to Boxcar Coffee, where we enjoyed a little breakfast and then got a “cheesemonger’s choice” plate from Cured that we brought home for lunch.
With a loaf of their incredible crown bread and some rancho gordo bean salad, we had a wonderful picnicky lunch.
After the farmer’s market, I was inspired to cook and use up some of the produce wasting away at home. I whipped up some pickled radishes from Eugenia Bone’s book, The Kitchen Ecosystem.
I made banana walnut muffins to take advantage of some blackened bananas in the produce bowl.
And I caramelized a couple of onions with a fennel bulb that was going spare. We shall see how I put them all to use later this week.
I say that because while I have a great mom and am blessed to be a mom, there are those who don’t have great associations with this day. I know many women whose relationship with their mothers is tenuous at best. Many women who have lost their mothers and grieve them especially on this day. And far too many women who are mothers, but whose children are gone.
Also because I agree with many that it’s one of those odd Hallmark holidays that puts a lot of pressure on us to celebrate and, in this age of Instagram and Facebook, to compare our celebrations with one another. Who can post the most moving tribute of her mom with the most adorable childhood photos? Who gets the best flowers from her partner or adorable breakfast in bed from her kids?
Kelly Diels says, “The Perfect Woman is a form of violence against women” — that we perpetrate against one another. And I think the “perfect mother” is included in that.
Because none of us is perfect. That woman you notice in the pickup line, who is always early, always put together, slim and pretty, wearing cute clothes, her hair done, her makeup on, adroitly wrangling her twin toddlers who look like they might have stepped out of a J.Crew ad while they wait for her perfectly adorable older child, as she makes polite and pleasant chit-chat with the other moms…
She is not perfect. None of us is. We see the face she is showing to the world, which is the sort of face we’ve been told to show to the world. Not the messy hair, sweaty yoga pants, kids playroom disaster area parts of our lives. But lord help you if you don’t conform to that ideal, if you don’t make an effort, if you don’t try to be more perfect…
I have had women tell me that’s how they see me, and it makes me deeply, deeply uncomfortable. Whenever someone asks me how I do what I do, how I have it all together, where I buy my clothes because I “always look so pretty and stylish,” — I don’t know if it’s my inner critics rearing their ugly heads, or simply that I’m becoming more aware of how these things play themselves out in our culture, but I get very uncomfortable and kind of want to laugh in their faces. If they only knew…
Because I don’t have it all together. I have good days and bad days like anyone else. I have made choices and prioritized things that maybe other people don’t or haven’t had the opportunity to do but that certainly doesn’t mean I’ve got it all figured out. And some days all I can see is my faults.
I even struggle with this blog sometimes, because the images I share, the stories I tell are the highlights reel. You see the days when my plates look pretty as a picture, but you don’t see the days I serve up boxed mac and cheese to my kiddo, or the nights when my husband comes home and I give him a hug and say, “YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN I’M NOT COOKING!” Those happen too; they’re just not Instagram-worthy.
But it’s a catch-22, isn’t it? Because if I didn’t have pretty pictures and tell interesting stories, who would listen? Who would watch and read? No one. (Which is OK. I write this blog for myself these days, not for anyone else.)
And I have to laugh, because if my teenage self could hear those compliments, could see me now, she would fall out of her chair in shock. I was a very late bloomer. There are girls who seem to have it all together in high school; they already embody that ideal woman status by being pretty and popular and put together and on top of it all. I was not one of them. It seems maybe it took me until my 30s to “bloom” if that’s the standard we’re going to go by.
Yet I choose to hope there is more to me than this. More to me than nice clothes and a basic understanding of how to apply makeup and do my hair. I hope that I will continue to bloom, that maybe my best is still yet to come.
In a course I’m taking, I did an exercise last week in which we were asked to listen to a guided meditation, which took us to meet our future selves, 20 years in the future. I saw a beautiful house, surrounded by trees yet filled with light, and 50-something-me answered the door with silver hair and a smile on her face. And the meditation asked us to ask our future selves, “What’s the one thing I need to know to get from where I am to where you are?”
Her answer, clear as day, ringing in my head was simply, “Everything changes.”
Pretty posies via Bouqs from my mom for mother’s day. I’m a real fan of their quality flowers and no-frills delivery service (who needs another ugly vase??).
D and I also participated in the Wright Cause Walk for the Wright Cause Benevolence Fund. Several years ago, two students and a teacher at D’s school were stricken with leukemia, and two lost their battles. Now, the Wright Cause Benevolence Fund (named in honor of the teacher) provides financial assistance to families, students, and staff affected by cancer at D’s school.
It was a little bit emotional for me, seeing the families who had lost loved ones and the bone marrow donor signup table, but I’m very glad we did it. Together.
And after, we had truly excellent burgers from the Pile High Burgers food truck that came to support the event — and which I completely neglected to photograph. They were that good! The burgers were smashed and crispy perfection, with very flavorful meat on soft brioche buns with tons of fun toppings. We tried the BLTA — bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado and mayo with a burger — and the blue cheese burger with tons of blue, grilled onions, and bacon. Great fries and onion rings, too. It’s not often you pay food truck prices and feel like it was a good value, but we did! Highly recommended.
We tried Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ at their new location in Denver. We tried them in Estes Park last fall when we spent a weekend up there at the YMCA of the Rockies, and are glad to have an outpost closer to home. Good brisket and decent ribs. Really good fried pickles — that I totally ordered by accident. The waitress came to take our drink orders and asked if we’d like any pickles, and I assumed she meant like pickles and onions that you sometimes get at BBQ places (at least in Texas you do). Turns out I had ordered fried pickles. No one complained.
We also had some damn good queso at Torchy’s Tacos at their new-ish location in Westminster. Between this and the fact that we’re getting a Chuy’s in Westminster, I feel like I finally have real Tex-Mex in Colorado!
We also hit Scrumptious in Arvada last night — because sometimes you need ice cream for dinner. D enjoyed the honey ice cream in a cone, while I tried chocolate pistachio and amaretto, and B had “darkness” (dark chocolate with brownies) and chocolate cookies and cream. Weird that it’s the only real ice cream joint close to us (frozen yogurt places abound) but we’re not complaining. Parking at the new RTD lot just down the hill makes visiting Old Town Arvada much more pleasant and less frustrating on a Saturday night, too, FYI.
And this Sunday morning, B made the trek out to Northglenn for these incredible cinnamon rolls from Cinna Box. First a food truck, now a physical location and coffee shop, these are some of the best dang cinnamon rolls you’ll ever have. Use the 4.5-inch paring knife in the bottom left of the photo to understand that these are rolls the size of your HEAD. He came home with a pecan sticky bun, cinnamon roll with Italian butter cream, salted caramel sticky roll, and cinnamon roll with Italian butter cream and cherries. We cut them all in quarters and sampled. All delicious!
Before the big snow and hail storms, my friend Butter and I both gathered slightly obscene amounts of wild asparagus (not gonna lie: my 1 pound to her 8 was the ratio) and she gave me some of hers so that it would be eaten. To use up the last of it, I whipped up Smitten Kitchen’s spring panzanella for lunch one day using leftover hamburger buns for the croutons and it was very tasty. I reduced the olive oil to just two tablespoons for the croutons (none for the dressing) and didn’t miss it a bit. I also used frozen leeks from Trader Joe’s that I just happened to have on hand — sooooo much easier than slicing and washing a bunch of fresh leeks! Worth keeping in the freezer if you like leeks.
Also, a tip/trick: We walked to the library, and D always likes to play in their play area after we select our books, so I usually grab a couple of magazines and peruse. Keeps us both happy. But what do you do when you come across something awesome in a new magazine that you can’t check out? Rather than digging around for a quarter for the copy machine, I snap a pic with my Evernote app — it has a special setting for documents which makes them easier to read. It gets saved to the cloud and then I can read and make the recipe later from my computer or iPad. Nifty. Intrigued by these ratatouille-stuffed shells from the latest issue of Cooking Light. Maybe they’ll make an appearance on next week’s menu.
I’ve been thinking a lot about clutter and white space lately (physical, mental, and time-based) and what’s really necessary in our lives.
Sometimes it feels like a fight against mainstream culture not to buy into consumerism, ultra-connectedness, keeping up with the Joneses. I remember as a teenager, working at Crate & Barrel, brides registering for their wedding would always ask me how many place settings they ought to register for, and I would try to guide them by asking thoughtful questions like, “Do you have a large family? Do you like to entertain a lot?” But that’s not really what they wanted to hear. They wanted the Emily Post / Martha Stewart-approved answer. Eight or twelve?
Is there a happy medium? a way to live your own way, make your own choices without rejecting the world?
I don’t really want to live off the grid, or never shop for fun, or give up TV, or delete my Facebook — but I don’t want to be ruled by those things either. I don’t want to have so much stuff that I can’t park my car in my garage, or have to buy more “storage” furniture to store stuff or have to pay to rent a storage space to keep it all. Baring unusual circumstances, I don’t think there’s really any reason for that either.
The boundary tends to be fluid for me. One week I feel like a badass minimalist, the next I feel like I’m drowning in clutter.
And maybe that’s OK.
I had a yoga teacher tell me once that in a balance pose, you can’t be still; you’re constantly moving, adjusting, falling in and out of balance. I think it’s the same thing with life. Whatever you choose to pursue, it’s rarely a thing that you achieve and then stop.
As summer approaches, I’m getting ready to embark on some serious home projects. We are switching my daughter’s room and the guest room so she has more space for a full size bed, and since we will be moving furniture anyway, we’re also going to take the opportunity to have the carpets replaced. It’s a perfect opportunity to do some serious decluttering of closets and shelves that we tend to forget about. And while I’m looking forward to it, it also feels a little overwhelming.
As all the most worthwhile projects often do, I guess.
I’m also looking forward to the different, slower rhythm of summer. While it’s nice to have the structure of the school year, the mornings are early, and I long for a little more ease and flexibility. White space. I’m definitely ready to move into this next season, and I’m deliberately planning it for white space and ease. A few camps and activities for D to attend, a few trips, but also lots of time for play, lazy afternoons, and trips to the pool and the library.
I had the honor and privilege of being a featured caller on The Splendid Table radio show this week, telling the story of the infamous Laughing Lemon Pie!
Had a great time attending the soft opening of The Chocolate Lab in Denver, a new small-batch, artisan chocolate shop and restaurant near the Tattered Cover on Colfax.
Drunken onion (yes, ONION!) truffles with Vidalia onions and goat cheese!
Pulled pork with chocolate bourbon barbecue sauce and broccoli slaw. YUM!
Clockwise from top: warm tomato salad with champagne white chocolate foam, crispy Brussels sprouts with cocoa nibs, mixed greens with raspberry vinaigrette and chocolate covered pecans, and roasted cauliflower in a cocoa sauce.
Champagne and cool wallpaper!
Last weekend I spent the night at the Westin Westminster — and finished the first draft of my novel! Of course, I also had to eat. 😉
Writing snacks = VERY IMPORTANT.
Room service! All those snacks meant I wasn’t feeling a full meal, but I did order the guacamole trio and a sangria from Kachina downstairs!
Sunday morning I celebrated with bottomless mimosas at brunch at Kachina and my favorite red chile chicken enchiladas.
My house is kind of a wreck right now. But we had fun wrecking it.
Yesterday we hosted a fairy garden party for my daughter’s sixth birthday. She told me she wanted a fairy party, but also wanted to invite some boys — who I didn’t think would be thrilled with lots of pink and glitter. So together, we came up with the idea of planting fairy gardens as the party’s main event.
I spent plenty of time looking at Pinterest for “woodland fairy party” ideas and came up with a combination of my own.
We had an afternoon party, between lunch and dinner, so I just provided snacky foods. We had “twigs” (pretzel sticks) and berries, Babybel cheeses made to look like ladybugs, ants on a log, and crudité.
Because we invited her entire class, plus some friends from outside school (never inviting that many kids again! haha!) we had a LOT of mouths to feed, so I made two kinds of cake: a buche de noel rolled cake, and a batch of vegan chocolate cupcakes from our favorite chocolate cake recipe.
I’m pretty pleased with the way the cake turned out! I decorated it with chocolate shavings, Chocorooms candies, edible violets, spinach leaves, and fennel fronds.
The log cake was the centerpiece of the table, but we also had a desserts table where I displayed the cupcakes, and some fun candies.
I decorated half of the cupcakes like amanita (red and white) mushrooms by using mini white chocolate chips for the spots. The other half I iced with green and put the flower-shaped candies on top.
You can see we also found butterfly gummies (from Williams Sonoma — an Easter special) and strawberry Chocorooms.
I had so much fun decorating both tables with florists’ moss, pinecones, acorns, seashells, glass beads, crystals, etc. A lot of what we used were things my daughter already had around to play with.
I made the “terrarium” cake stand by inverting a trifle dish! I put one of my daughter’s fairy dolls and some moss and other items on a bunched up brown cloth napkin to make the little diorama, and then put the cake platter on top.
In the other room, we set up a craft table. Each guest got to decorate a tiny birdhouse (unfinished from Michael’s) with markers. Then they went outside to plant their garden.
I found the metal containers at the dollar store (!) and we bought six-packs of plants like pansies to let each kid have two small plants.
Back inside, the kids added tiny birds, butterflies, seashells, glass beads (all found at the dollar store), acorns, tiny mushrooms, and other inexpensive goodies I found at various craft stores.
The gardens were a big hit with the girls and boys! Other than eating cake, the gardens were our only big activity. The rest of the time, the kids had fun running off the sugar high in our back yard.
I sent everyone home with a mini Chinese takeout-style box (also found at the dollar store) filled with the various candies of their choice and their gardens.
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 →
We’ve been intentionally trying new places this summer, trying to get out of our rut.
Friday nights are sometimes tough for family date night. The hubs might not get home until 6, and by then you have to wait for a table (if you weren’t smart enough to make a reservation — me, always), and technically the kiddo is supposed to start getting ready for bed around 7pm… (Sometimes we fudge that because it’s summer and the weekend, and because I’m the mommy and I say so.)
So, instead, we’ve been doing brunch on Saturdays. It’s loads of fun, usually not very crowded at the places we’ve been going, and eating our big meal in the middle of the day means I don’t have to really come up with anything for dinner. Win/win/win!
Here’s what we’ve been noshing:
brunch at Under the Sun — They won us over instantly with complimentary ricotta fritters and Nutella syrup (yes, you read that right). B had the Cap’n Crunch-crusted French toast (waaaay too sweet for me, but he liked it), I had the yummy salmon Benedict, and Dev enjoyed a biscuit and bacon. Dollar-fifty mimosas also won me over, big time. Try the grapefruit.
brunch at The Ghost BBQ and Spirits — LOVED their pulled pork. Breakfast tacos were yummy, and the cinnamon roll was a nice surprise.
brunch at Steuben’s (Arvada) — Fun diner atmosphere (I loved the decor) and fun diner foods. Dev was a fan of the milk flight (vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate). B got the green chile fries with a fried egg on top, which was sinfully delicious, and I enjoyed the green chile cheeseburger. We definitely want to go back to try the dinner menu — and particularly the desserts!
I am up hours before the rest of my family wakes. I feed the dog, get the newspaper, make the coffee. I sit for a blissful hour or more, sipping hot black coffee and reading the front page section of The New York Times cover to cover.
I get up because I decide I’m hungry and go to the pantry. The bread is moldy; we eat so little of it lately, I chide myself for not keeping it in the refrigerator. Half a loaf gone to microbes.
I waver for a moment, considering what to do now that my craving for buttered toast has been thwarted. But only a moment. I grab my grandmother’s copy of the Betty Crocker cookbook from the 1950s and flip to the bread section.
In the time it takes for the oven to come to temperature, I’ve made biscuits from scratch, cutting in the butter, kneading for 30 seconds, rolling and cutting and placing them on the “cooky” sheet as prescribed by Ms. Crocker. Into the oven they go.
I’m on the eve of another planned foray into health. I used to be embarrassed by my multiple attempts at losing weight or starting an exercise program, embarrassed by the subsequent “failures.” I’ve since given up the embarrassment, choosing to feel proud, instead, of my continued dedication to treating my body better.
I’ve planned this particular journey for several weeks now. I know, by now, that jumping head first into a new “program” only works for a few days or weeks. (Sometimes less.) I know the types of things I do and do not tolerate well. (ie: Leek soup diets = monumental fail.) And I’m dedicated to no longer going to extremes; instead, I want to keep the pendulum as close to center as possible.
Revisiting Michael Pollan’s Food Rules recently, I was struck by his statement that nutrition as a science is today where surgery was in the 16th century, “which is to say very interesting and promising, but do you really want to get on the table yet?”
We are conditioned to listen to the reports on television and the web that praise coffee, chocolate, or red wine one day and revile it the next. We read books by earnest, scholarly doctors and scientists, each of whom has a different opinion about the ideal diet that will make us healthy.
I thought that a sort of survey of the latest books would yield a set of protocols I could say with authority that everyone agreed on. I was wrong. The only agreements I really found were that fruits and vegetables are good, and processed carbohydrates are bad. Milk, meat, wheat, sugar, and other staple foods are all variously sanctified or vilified depending on who you ask. Even the idea of strict veganism is suspect, with many doctors claiming that it doesn’t provide the balance of nutrients a human needs.
So what is a person to do? How am I to navigate this muddy water while living in an era in which, for the first time in history, humans have become so good at providing calories for themselves that we are now preoccupied with denying ourselves those same calories.
I’ve decided to create my own protocol, based on what I know to be true — both through science and personal experimentation.
I’m cutting out fried foods, processed carbohydrates and added sugars 90 percent of the time. I’m striving to take 10,000 steps per day, and standing up more while I work. I’m adding strength training to my days, mostly simple bodyweight exercises I can do anywhere.
I want to do this not to fit into a particular item of clothing, but to feel healthier. I want to respect my body more than I have in the past. I want to live life right now, not waiting for some mythical future time that none of us is guaranteed. I want to be a positive role model for the little human girl I’m raising.
Earlier this year, in my business, I achieved a goal of nearly tripling the size of my email list in just under six months. When I started out, it felt nearly impossible. But when I sat down to write about it for my blog and subscribers later, I coined a hashtag that summed up what was required for me to achieve it: #dothedamnwork
It was shorthand for doing the small, unsexy things I knew I should be doing. And I’m going to apply it to my health as well. None of what I plan to do is particularly new or earth-shattering. There’s no name for this “diet” that will unite me with a community online — or get me a big book deal should I be successful.
But as I laid out my Sunday morning table today with the finest biscuits I have personally ever made (tall, flaky, perfectly browned), honey and jam, butter and cream, fruit and cheese, I felt a wave of overwhelming happiness. I realized that I don’t want the kind of diet or lifestyle that would deny me that pleasure; not now or ever. I believe I can make those kinds of indulgences part of health and a big part of happiness.
And that’s the sort of life I want more than anything.
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.
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.
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…