Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wild and Precious Life

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Today I added eleven things to my already overflowing 'To Do' list and I was struck by one of my favorite Mary Oliver quotes, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?". 



I want to remember that each of these 'to do's', in the end, is how I spend my time and thus how I spend my life. Are they worth a piece of my life? Are your 'to do's' worth a piece of yours?

Here's a link to the full poem

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Holiday Self Care

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The holidays are upon us, which are an amazing time filled with lights, and cheer, and family & friends, and perfect gifts to celebrate the one's you love, and stress, and obligation, and stress. And did we mention stress? 

Hectic lives are made even more hectic with the crush of commitments to make the perfect holiday. 14 teacher gifts, 8 neighbor gifts, 20 co-worker gifts, cookies to bake, evenings filled with battling it out with fellow merry-makers for the perfect present, rushing from work to holiday gatherings, all while still trying to find some time to revel in the reason for the season and share with those who are less fortunate (hopefully). Well, it's enough to make anyone crack. Remember in this season of giving, that's you "can't pour from an empty cup" and it's essential to give to yourself with self care. 

If you don't make time to take care of you, you may look up and discover you missed the moments of wonder in the holidays. Staggering into January, exhausted, you still have three months of winter to look forward to, putting away all those festive decorations, and a mountainous credit card bill. The time to find balance is now!

So, without further ado, here's our list of six essential self care practices to get you through the holidays:

1) Just Say No

You don't need to have a grand reason or conflicting arrangements already made to justify saying no to a holiday obligation. If you say yes to everything asked of you during the holiday you may be busy from dawn to midnight every day of December, which leaves no time to enjoy the season. It may be saying no to a party invite, a new project, the opportunity to hand knit socks for the homeless, or, equally important, no to your own impossible expectations. Sure, it might be nice to work with the kiddos to hand craft teacher gifts, but $1 boxes of mini-chocolates will get the job done and free up an evening that might otherwise end in tears. 

2) Meditate

"I'm busy enough; I don't have time to meditate," you might think. But seriously, mindfulness mediation has been proven to decrease stress and increase happiness. Left to it's own devices brains are constantly dwelling in the past or racing toward the future. Activities are conducted thinking about what we need to do next. Practicing mindfulness meditation helps you hone the skill of acknowledging your thoughts and releasing them, which can help you exist in the moment so you can relish those moments with loved one's instead of skipping over their smiles as you race to the next thing. 

3) Structure a morning routine

Now is as good a time as any to create a morning routine that fills your cup. Starting your day off right provides the foundation for a good day. What does your ideal morning look like? Is it getting up early for a morning run? Rolling out of bed and onto a yoga mat? A few quiet minutes with your partner enjoying a cup of coffee? Meditation? Setting an intention for the day? Journaling? Praying? What is the thing that you need to put you in the right mindset for the day? Once you've determined that, figure out how to build in the time you need in the morning to give yourself that strong start for a good day.

4) Plan fun for the new year

The flip side of the holiday coin is how everything fizzles out in January. Exhausted and spent out, the holidays end and there's nothing to look forward to but the credit card bill. As a way to reduce your obligation load and give yourself something to look forward to, shift some of your holiday plans into the new year. Maybe you host your appetizer party in January. Or a cook-off for most creative use for leftovers. Maybe you send New Year letters, instead of Christmas cards. Maybe you create a new tradition such as, closet clean out party (I am a huge fan of organizing, so this would be fun for me, some of you might have gotten chills reading those words, find what works for you), gratitude letters for why you appreciate the person who gave you a gift instead of standard thank you cards, crafting parties where you reinvent leftover items from the holidays, etc.  

5) Practice moderation

The holidays are rife with cookies, candies, potlucks, parties, festive cocktails, etc. Saying no altogether can lead to feelings of resentment and depression and then a boomerang of overeating. Conversely, throwing caution to the wind and eating whatever you want at every turn can lead to some serious regret and self-loathing when you climb on the scale in January. Instead, practice moderation. Find a balance. When you go to a party, scan the offerings and choose one indulgence or bite sized portions of several. Enjoy a taste of the season, but stick with one cookie instead of ten or a few bites of pie instead of a full serving. A loved lived life is about balance. 

6) Get some exercise



It may seem counter intuitive and you may be thinking that you don't have the energy for exercise with all your other obligations, but getting some regular exercise will keep your energy levels up and fight off those extra calories ubiquitous around the holidays. Hopefully there's a type of exercise that brings your some joy, such as a walk around the block with a loved one after a meal, or at the very least things you don't hate. If going to the gym would be Dante's third ring for you, then don't do that, but maybe you enjoy listening to an audio book on the elliptical at home or jamming out to music at a dance class. Find what works for you and make time for it. You deserve it. 

Hopefully these few quick and easy routines will help you have a loved lived holiday this festive season! If you have tips that work for you, please share them below!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Slow Cooker Gluhwein

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Are your ready for the taste of the Christmas Market or Christkindlmarkt

If you've ever been to a German Christmas market, you've probably had the opportunity to try some German mulled wine otherwise known as Glühwein. You can buy this at places like World Market (at least if you don't live in Utah) or you could make your own, which is IMO, much better. Here's a quick and easy recipe.

I like to start with a wine that already has some natural sweetness. Many people advocate a dry wine, but if you go too dry it can be a bit antiseptic, plus you're adding sugar to it anyway, so let's not kid ourselves here. What you do want, though, is something flavorful. Now, I'm not talking about a sweet red wine, though if you are one who drinks a lot of soda you might want to consider this, but I'm talking about something that hints at sweetness while still carrying a robust  red wine flavor. My favorite options are Zinfandel or the new Bota Box Nighthawk wine.

Slow Cooker Glühwein


Slow Cooker Glühwein or Mulled Wine Recipe from
www.alovedlivedlife.com


Ingredients

1 bottle red wine (Zinfandel, ideally)
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
5 whole allspice
1 orange, sliced



Directions

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker on low for an hour or so and then switch to warm for many, many (6 or so) hours allowing the spices to really saturate the wine. The key is that you don't want to wine to simmer or boil; you're not trying to cook the alcohol out, just infuse the flavors. The great thing about making it in a slow cooker is you can serve out of it during the evening, if you're practicing your hygge and entertaining in the cold winter nights.  If you don't want to make this in the slow cooker: Place all the ingredients in a sturdy sided, nonreactive saucepan and bring to just below a simmer. Heat together stirring occasionally for 45 minutes or so. Note: I placed the allspice in a tea ball and embedded the cloves in the oranges, but you can do it however works for you. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Smoked Turkey Paella

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     Looking for something, well, AWESOME to do with your turkey leftovers? Paella, that most quintessential Spanish dish. If you've never had paella, it's a rice dish seasoned with saffron, onion, tomatoes, and just about anything else you want to add. It is a hearty meal best shared with family and friends, (can you say hygge) and, in our case, we decided to use leftover turkey in lieu of chicken. 

     We also decided that paprika-laden Spanish chorizo (not to be mistaken with Mexican chorizo) would be absolutely amazing with the smokiness of the turkey and, of course, there had to be shrimp! It's a great one pan dish and although we are total kitchen gadget junkies (yes, we own a paella pan) I used a heavy skillet for this iteration and I cooked it on the stove top instead of the the turkey fryer burner we use during the summer months. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes of prep time and 30 to 45 minutes cooking time, so it really can be dinner in an hour and it will blow your family and friends away! 

Spanish Chorizo!
     There are a few specialty ingredients you'll need to make a proper paella. The aforementioned Spanish chorizo being one. Do not confuse this with Mexican chorizo, the Spanish version is a salami-like sausage seasoned with paprika and can be cut into cubes or thin slices. Boar's Head makes a Spanish style chorizo which we use since there isn't a Spanish market anywhere near us. Boar's Head is quite good and I've been very happy with it . A friend mentioned there's a great online Spanish market called La Tienda where you can get chorizo, if there isn't any available near you. 
     The second specialty ingredient you'll need is saffron. This incredible spice is the stamen of the crocus satimus, yes- the flower! It provides a delicious flavor as well as a bright yellow color to any dish it is added to and a little goes a long way! Saffron is hand harvested, so I'll admit, it's spendy, but a bottle of saffron will last a long time and as it's dried, it won't go bad.
Saffron Threads


The final specialty ingredient, and arguably the star of the show, is the short grained Spanish paella rice which cooks quickly and absorbs a lot of liquid. When the dish is complete, the rice is dry and the grains have structure, and it isn't creamy like arborio rice used in risotto. I've never tried using a short grained rice other then paella rice in any paella dish I've made, so I don't know how, any other short grain rice might work as a substitution. This is paella after all, and the rice is key to the overall dish, so just order a bag online or find it locally and do it right- trust me, you won't be disappointed!

Yep, the bag says it all!




Smoked Turkey Paella- serves at least 8!

Ingredients

4 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 tsp Saffron threads
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 Medium Onions, diced
1 Bell Peppers, chopped
15 oz. can Diced Tomatoes
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
2-3 Garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Paella rice
1/2-3/4 lb leftover turkey
1 lb. Spanish Chorizo, chopped (request a thick cut from the deli counter, 1/4"-1/2")
1 lb. Shrimp, shelled and deveined


Directions

In a sauce pan, bring the chicken stock and saffron to a slow simmer, keep hot. Meanwhile, using a heavy bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat and when hot, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and saute another 2-3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, smoked paprika, and minced garlic to the pan and bring to a simmer. Reduce to medium heat.

Add the two cups of paella rice and stir to coat the grains. Once they are coated, add the stock and stir to fully combine. After that- let it sit, resist the urge to stir it! One of the most flavorful aspects of paella is the socarrat, a crusty caramelized crust that forms on the bottom of the pan as the paella cooks. After about 10 minutes add your diced chorizo, shrimp and turkey. You can work the meats into the rice a little, but take care not to disturb the socarrat. After all the stock has been absorbed, approximately another 10-15 minutes, remove from heat and cover with foil. Allow the paella to sit for 8-10 minutes before serving.

Bring the whole pan to the table and serve straight from it being sure to scrape up some of the delicious socarrat from the bottom to go with each serving! Bon Appetit and be sure to let us know what you think of this recipe!