My Paella Travels creates magical evenings for celebrations which will bring the signature dish of Spain to you for a casual backyard gathering that you and your guests will rave about!
My Paella Travelsbrings the heart and soul of Spain to any celebration. Paella, the most popular and well known dish of Spain, is a vibrant rice dish often cooked outdoors.
An authentic Paella Party is a great reason to celebrate with family and friends which will be centered around a large paella brimming with vibrantly tinted Bomba rice and locally sourced vegetables with succulent meats, seafoods and mouthwatering aromas of spices. My paellas are made with authentic Spanish ingredients and prepared with traditional Spanish techniques just the way they make them in Spain.
Set up is easy. I bring it all. You and your guests will enjoy the experience of watching the preparation and cooking of the paella before your eyes.
With every event, the best part of the experience is watching everyone enjoy themselves which is evident with smiles and laughter. I provide the main course, wine selections and tapas (if requested). My paellas will feed a large crowd and allows the guests to enjoy their guests while I do the cooking!
Part of what I do to help create the optimum experience is help with wine selections to pair with the paella and tapas event. For years, I have been studying wine and obtaining several certifications with the WSET and the Court of Master Sommeliers which focus on wine knowledge and pairings. Some of my favorite wines to pair are white, red and sparkling Spanish and Portuguese wines but it just begins there. Spanish foods pair very well with many wines and I would love to show how!
It takes about 45 minutes to create the paella from scratch. Guests have a chance to savor tapas and enjoy the wine selections while gathering around the paella pan. Your friends will have fun learning about the history of paella, what makes an authentic paella implementing authentic techniques and quality ingredients.
Momma Nik’s Cheesecake has paired up with My Paella Travels to create the best dessert experience ever. Momma Nik’s Cheesecakes are locally and creatively made offering a variety of flavors and sizes.
Momma Nik’s are especially great for birthday celebrations!
This is my journey of weight loss and fitness balanced with my unending passion for wine, food, friends and finally learning how to do this in my (late) 50’s.
I will never diet again.
Since September 2014, I have lost 46 lb ( 3 pants sizes and 1/2 shoe size) and—-found me. I am loving the journey. I’ll let you know when I’ve hit my personal goal. But, right now it’s more about the journey and what I am learning along the way. The reward will be the goal, which is just the beginning of my story.
Tell me NO or “You Can’t Do That” and THAT is an invitation to a challenge I WILL win. I’m just wired that way.
I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee. Several years ago, a friend of mine here in the culinary world told me to “Give it up.” Girl!, she said ” you are fighting a losing battle if you are entering the culinary world and trying lose weight.” I bought into that…..for about a minute.
I lost my identity-The Perfect Storm
Within the past 10 years, the perfect storm hit. It knocked me down but didn’t take me out.
Yes, it had been a struggle. After years of running 10 k’s and half-marathons, many road biking events and regular workouts, I ended up with a severely damaged achilles tendon which required reconstructive surgery. I tried to run again and ended up with full-blown OA in both knees from all of the years of running. This really hit HARD. No more running? Really? That IS who I am. I was one of the fastest runners in my home town for many years and it followed me through my life and really loved long distance road biking too. And, for a time, I gave up.
I am a passionate lover of life. I love waking up in the early morning with a mug of coffee looking forward to what the day holds for me. One thing that really gets makes me happy is cooking for friends and sharing a great bottle of wine. I enjoy my life. Entering the culinary and wine world has been the best thing ever. Sharing an amazing bottle of wine and a great plate of food is one of the sexiest and most satisfying things I can share with someone that I care about. The act of drinking wine and cooking a delicious meal is a sensual experience. All of your senses are heightened with layers of aromas and flavors from the food and wine, how they complement each other, how it makes you feel and how it feels and tastes in your mouth and on your tongue.
Fitness is the other passion in my life that I have fully embraced with genuine enthusiasm. I look forward to my workouts with “my village.”
Hanging out, meeting, interviewing and cooking with a local chef is one of coolest things I have ever done. I wish I had come to terms with this struggle BEFORE I had these photos taken. Because, the real me, the authentic me was covered up by years of frustration and a restlessness that I couldn’t define at that point.
Shelf of Shame
My book shelf was loaded with all of the books I accumulated over time with other people’s journeys. You know the ones. Stacks of books diet books, self-help books just glaring and staring at me, insinuating that I must be a failure.
I finally realized I’m not a failure; these books just reflect someone else’s journey, not mine.
Although there are gems of wisdom in all of the books, I realized that in order to be successful on my journey, I must develop my own tailor-made plan and not try to imitate someone else’s experience.
Those books are long gone. I now have a book shelf full of books about travel, wine education, many beautiful cookbooks, cocktails and beer, just the way it should be for any lover of wine and food.
I am now writing my own path to success personally, spiritually and physically; healing myself from inside out.
Wine & Food and Pharmacy
Working, entertaining and teaching about Food and Wine is a part of my life and I have finally learned to balance.
My career is 32 years of pharmacy of which I still practice. I grew up in Louisiana and earned my pharmacy degree in my home town of Monroe, Louisiana. The influences of growing up in Louisiana and my Sicilian-Cajun background prepared and taught me about local and global culinary cuisine and wine which inspired me to naturally want to learn more about wine.
Life’s way too short not to enjoy a sexy bottle of wine. In fact, I am sipping on a gorgeous, voluptuous glass of 2013 Honig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc and enjoying every lush drop!
I am NOT on a diet– and never again will I be, never EVER again!
I Finally Got IT!
Some of my friends have asked me for recipes of the meals I have posted, so I thought I would share them with you, too.
I follow my rules, now. I changed my lifestyle, my habits and my improved shape reflects that change.
#1. I eat clean most of the time-avoiding processed and refined foods and basing my life style meals on whole foods.
#2. Low Carb not NO Carb, Only the best carbs for me.
Bad Carbs: Sugars
Refined “white” grains
Good Carbs: whole grains of all kinds
#3. Lots of good quality protein such as fish, seafood, chicken, beef (yes, beef)
#4. Lots and lots of vegetables cooked all kinds of ways
#5. Treat not cheat. Embrace and enjoy wine and food. Let it nourish you and be a good part of your life.Cheating is no longer in my life style vocabulary. I drink wine, cocktails, even pizza, and my famous garlic bread-but not everyday. Clean eating takes daily precedence and I am not perfect.
#6. Eat Breakfast
This new life style change is not about weighing, measuring or deprivation. I have learned to include everything I love. One thing that I do is eat breakfast! Not just brunch on the weekends but a very nutritious meal with eggs and/or oatmeal and veggies, every morning.
I keep all types of vegetables and cheese in the fridge at all times. Roasted and grilled veggies are great in salads and main courses. I love caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, roasted broccoli and roasted cauliflower, baby tomatoes, pre-sliced zucchini and squash.
Leftovers really make a great morning breakfast, too.
#7. Avocados, Avocados, AVOCADOS! Love ’em! I eat one just about everyday!
***NOTE: I am one of those cooks who doesn’t really follow a recipe. I have a base and then add to it.
Personal Pan Frittata (Open-faced omelet)
2 eggs, beaten and poured into a medium sized non-stick skillet with olive oil or spray. When it’s almost done, I throw carmelized onions, roasted mushrooms, feta, ricotta, mozzarella or cheddar on top. Slide onto a plate and top with sautéed baby tomatoes, zucchini,onions, roasted red peppers, chopped ham and even seasoned taco meat for the night before. A splash of Sriracha and your favorite seasonings is a great way to start the day!
Ricotta-Oatmeal Pancakes topped with Bananas, Toasted Walnuts and a dash of real Maple Syrup is sooo delicious and filling, you will forget about those other pancakes!
The pancake base: To a blender, add 1 egg, 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese), 1/4 cup dry old fashioned oats, a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Cook in a small non-stick, flipping halfway through. Slide on to a plate and top with yummy things!
Roasted salmon is one of my go-to meals. On my recent trip to Austin, Texas, I went to one of my favorite restaurants Z-Tejas on 6th St. Crispy Salmon over Roasted Tomatillo sauce with a side of steamed broccoli or calabacitas. Cook the salmon in a hot pan with olive oil. Do not move it or turn it until is gets crispy and caramelized. For the tomatillo sauce, through tomatillos, onions, jalapeños and garlic and olive oil on a roasting pan and roast until soft and browned. Place all ingredients in a blender with lime juice, cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper. Serve warm. OR, you can just get a jar of Tomatillo Salsa and the grocery and use that!
Spicy Watermelon and Feta Salad with Arugula, Quick Pickled Purple Onions and Jalapeños
Toss juicy watermelon and feta chunks with arugula, pickled onions and jalapeños (always in my fridge) Toss with blend of Lime juice, honey, s/p.
I found this recipe on line and it quickly became a staple. All you need is chickpea flour, water, olive, salt and pepper, and a baking sheet. You HAVE to try this one!
Fitness—It takes a Village
(I wanted to) Gain more muscle and definition while losing body fat which in turn, revs up the metabolism.
Cat and Armah, the fitness and personal trainers at Prairie Life Fitness have been my guiding light from the beginning…………….. There’s just something about my village.
About three times a week (or more) I participate in the X-Factor Classled by Cat Hanna and TRX with Armah, the awesome trainer. Their inspirational words, professionalism and overall awesomeness is with me daily, even while they are kicking my butt into shape. This small group fitness class is special. Each person inspires and pushes the other to do their very best. My “village” is, for sure, one of the biggest reasons for my successes during my journey.
Left: Personal Trainer and X-Factor Instructor Cat Hanna and my workout buddy Mike. We train hard BUT there is a lot of laughing and “cutting up” in this class, too!
Right: Armah Mitchum-the awesome Personal Trainer with his inspirational life and mantra that I have incorporated in my life.
Armah is a family man and fitness enthusiast. As a professional, he trains, coaches and speaks to individuals as well as groups regarding an active lifestyle. He believes that performance readiness is important for all ages regardless of limitations or aspirations.
Thank you all!
This is a sample of my weekly workouts: X-Factor Classes, one hour on the rower, and TRX with Armah.
Living life is about the journey.
Make everyday count, between the beginning and the end.
Take care of yourself.
Find the authentic you and embrace your passions.
Just one more thing….
To Layla, you are everything to me. Thank you for giving me a reason to be the best person I can possibly be.
Thank you to Lee, my forever friend, my kindred spirit, my inspiration. Your presence though out my life has taught me the real meaning of friendship, clarity and how to cherish every second. I am a better person for you being in my life.
And…..to guitar man, thank you for reminding me that 1982 was a very good year…..
A few clouds and early morning rain did not deter ticket holders from venturing down to Nashville’s Riverfront Park to sip, savor and enjoy culinary delights and wine from one of newest and intimate wine festivals in Nashville! And, for the second year, My Paella ruled! My Southern-inspired local Paella is a fusion between authentic Spanish, local Nashville and southern cuisine.
With the Cumberland River and Titans Stadium as the back drop, a crowd of hungry festival goers gathered around the paella for The Art of Cooking Paella Demo. My gumbo and jambalaya paddle came in handy for stirring the paella!
A paella from Spain incorporates the bounty of fresh local ingredients such as spices, herbs, meat, seafood and vegetables in season from their land. My paella honors the art of traditional paella cooking with a southern infusion and local culinary artisan Nashville products.
Some of the local ingredients that filled the paella to the brim were Porter Road Butcher’s smokey chorizo and lamb kielbasa, smoked Spanish hard Chorizo from Carnivore, a local butcher shop in Franklin. Savory aromas filled the air with combination of Spanish saffron, sweet smoked Paprika and a variety of herbs and spices from Savory Spice Shop in Franklin, TN.
The South loves their black-eyed peas and what better way to honor the South than with crispy and creamy textured fried black-eyed peas with a touch of cajun spice which honors my Louisiana culinary heritage. Most of the seafood is from the south in my paella! Whole Foods provides Florida, Georgia and Texas Gulf Shrimp and clams from North Carolina as well as other seafood from Southern waters when available.
My famous (secret) signature Spanish rub recipe was developed for My Paella Travels Smoked Beer Can Chicken with local artisan beer- Jackaloupe’s Thunder Anne– completed the paella dish with a Nashville flair!
After the caramelized rice crust (the socarrat ) was formed, the paella was ready for the line of hungry foodies!
Everyone enjoyed serving themselves their dish of paella! After all, paella is the most celebrated of Spain and it’s perfect for serving a crowd from one pan!
A swarm of happy hungry people surrounded my Southern-Inspired Paella as I was trying to get it down to the VIP tent. Well, it didn’t make it!
A couple of my wine friends in the business enjoyed the paella too!
Austin chicks rule! This Austin chick was eating the crispy socarrat right from the pan and was the biggest compliment yet!
Get ready for more! Stay hungry and thirsty for more! There will be more to come!