Outdoor Cooking!

One of the things I love about the summer is cooking and eating outside and of my favorite dishes to cook is paella.

I live in southern Spain in the mountains and my Spanish neighbors have been trying to teach me how to make perfect paella for years. Paella is a traditional Spanish rice dish named after the flat pan it is usually cooked in, the paellera, and is usually cooked outside over charcoal. It was traditionally made using any vegetables available and any animals that could be caught in the campo—often rabbits, snails, frogs…

The recipe I use is based on Valencian paella. Valencia is a province in the east of the country as opposed to Andalucía where I live in the south, but this is the easiest and most consistent recipe I have come across.

1111Okay so here it is. This recipe serves four—or two people, three dogs, a cat and a hungry pig.

100ml olive oil

Small jar of chick peas

Meat of your choice (eg  2 chicken breasts, cut into 4 pieces and 2 rabbit legs, jointed)

125g green beans (or any green vegetable you have)

I large tomato

I liter of chicken stock

I liter of white wine (I buy this in cartons for cooking)

Pinch of saffron dissolved in boiling water

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

Sprig of rosemary

350g Spanish paella or bomba rice.

Heat the oil and fry the meat in batches until golden brown, then reduce the heat to low and add the green beans, fry for five minutes, then add the chopped tomato and fry for 3 more minutes.

Stir in the paprika, add the stock, wine and chick peas. Return to the boil and add the rosemary and saffron. Simmer for 30 minutes. Sprinkle on the rice, boil for 5 minutes, then lower heat and simmer for fifteen until the rice is cooked and the liquid evaporated. Season to taste.

We love seafood and often add any we have around—calamari, prawns, mussels— toward the end of cooking. And it improves if you cover and leave to stand for ten minutes or so at the end of cooking.

Serve it with a big jug of Spanish sangria!225px-ValencianPaella

And there it is. Really easy and a great dish to do if you have people over as it just about cooks on its own once it’s up and running (just don’t drink too much sangria until it’s done or you can forget to add the rice…)

Do you have a favorite recipe you love cooking outdoors in the summer?

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

Guest Post — Emily Mims

Welcome, Emily Mims, to Heart-Shaped Glasses. We’re so glad you could join us! Thanks for sharing your Texas roots with us. <3


Setting my Books in a Place I Love

            Okay, so this is not exactly a new concept.  Every writer from James Michener to Nora Roberts has used his or her favorite place to tell their stories.  An author is more likely to weave a compelling tale if she already feels a deep emotional connection to the surroundings where she places her characters, and in the hands of a skilled author these settings become more than a backdrop-they actually become part of the story, adding richness and authenticity that all the armchair research in the world cannot duplicate.  So when I imagined the love story between Caroline Stern and Jack Briscoe, two seemingly mismatched people brought together by their love for a child, I turned to my favorite place in the world, a small lakeshore community in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, as the place to tell their tale.

Pic by Debra Lineberger

Pic by Debra Lineberger

My first visit to ‘The Lake’, as it is referred to in the Mims family, was over forty years ago, when my young fiancé took me to the little lake house his parents had built a few years previously.  Although at that time the house was just a one-room cinder block cabin, it was surrounded by towering Bastrop pines and smaller trees laden with peaches and plums and pecans.  The cabin was in a tiny village built on a peninsula and there was water everywhere.  I fell in love with the swimming beach across the street and the huge reservoir beyond and whooped with delight as Charles and I, collecting mussel shells for my Master’s Degree Thesis, skimmed across the water in a tiny Boston Whaler.  As the years passed the trees and the cabin grew, another Mims family house was built a block over and my children grew up swimming on the beach and fishing off the boat dock and going on boat rides with their beloved Grandpa Jim.  We took many long, winding boat rides to the upper shores of the lake and watched the deer on the shore and the eagles nesting on the rocky cliffs, and were even known to throw an anchor and go swimming under a fifty foot waterfall.  Sometimes the adults would escape and go antiquing in the surrounding small towns or enjoy a tasting at a local vineyard.  Then the older generation left us and suddenly we were the caretakers of this marvelous, magical legacy.  Now we were the ones attending the homeowner’s meetings and arguing with the tax assessor and going to fund raisers for a neighbor in need.  We got to know the wonderful people who shared this delightful community with us.  ‘The Lake’ became more than just a weekend retreat.  It became a community to us, and we became part of it.

So when it came time to create the lakeshore community of ‘Heaven’s Point’ I had a lot to work with.  The picturesque Hill Country needed little or no embellishment-its ruggedly beautiful terrain is most certainly real-nor did the charming small towns sprinkled throughout.  Jack Briscoe’s small cattle ranch is certainly typical of the area, as is his need to work a day job and his constant struggle to hold on to his family legacy.  The offer made to Caroline by the town of Verde is also typical, and often the only way a small town can lure a full-time physician.  The real Heaven’s Point is pretty much as I described it, although I did rearrange a few houses for the sake of stories to come.  (In ‘Daughter of Valor’, due out in early 2015, Jimmy Adamcik can see Holly Riley’s house and dock from his place.  The houses I used as models are in fact a block apart.)  I did pretty things up a little-the house that is the model for Caroline’s cabin to this day is still cinderblock, not the stucco described in the book, and at least for now I have not dealt with the severe drought devastating Texas or its effect on the Highland Lake System.  And the warm, wonderful people of the Heaven’s Point?  The characters are fictitious, but the warmth, friendliness and caring are very, very real.

Will we be seeing more of Heaven’s Point in future stories?  Absolutely!  I am telling Rory Keller and Lisa Simmons’ story in the Boroughs Christmas Anthology this fall and the book-length sequels, ‘Daughter of Valor’ and ‘The Soap Maker’, are on the schedule for 2015.  And after that?  I am hoping to star two more of my favorite places-San Antonio, Texas and the Appalachians of Eastern Tennessee-in more stories set in the places I love.

About the Book:
Solomon's Choice_cover

ON CHRISTMAS DAY… the life of Dr. Caroline Stern changed forever. Her husband was murdered, her baby son kidnapped. When she found the boy again, he was with his biological father – a man Caroline never intended to meet.

There seems no obvious tie between Jack Briscoe and the violence of sixteen months prior, but Caroline just wants her son back – something Jack seems unwilling to grant. He wants the boy, too, and when a wily old country judge demands the two of them work out a shared custody arrangement, Caroline finds herself in Texas Hill Country for longer than expected.

Then she learns Jack wants her, too. And she might want him.

In the beautiful town of Verde, on the shores of Lake Templeton, she begins to rebuild her life. But the dark clouds of the past have not vanished completely, and one last storm of deceit remains. A choice must be made, and only the deepest love will see them through.

About the Author

Emily_W_Mims_2012Author of twenty romance novels, Emily Mims combined her writing career with a career in public education until leaving the classroom to write full time.  The mother of two sons and grandmother of three, she and her husband Charles live in central Texas but frequently visit grandchildren in eastern Tennessee and Hawaii.  She plays the piano, organ, dulcimer, and ukulele and belongs to two performing bands.  She says, “I love to write romances because I believe in them.  Romance happened to me and it can happen to any woman-if she’ll just let it.”



Find her online

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

My Life as an Introvert


Hi my name is Julie, and I’m an introvert. I recently had to take a personality quiz at work, and it was no surprise that I scored a perfect score in the introvert column. If you read the list of traits for an introvert, I check every box.

You find small-talk difficult. Check.

Too much noise or stimulation leaves you distracted. Check.

Crowds drain your energy while solitude energizes you. Check. Check.

I love this article in the Huffington Post because most of it rings true for me.

It’s a misconception that being introverted is the same as being shy. I don’t necessarily think of myself as a shy person (although, some introverts are shy). I don’t mind giving speeches in front of large groups of people, but the word “networking” sends a bolt of terror through me.

I think I’m even more aware of my introversion now that I’m raising a mini-me. After school my six-year-old wants to play alone in his room and decompress for about an hour before he’s ready to tell me about his day. Christian Romance Novel

I’ve learned there are some benefits of being an introvert. It has helped me spend long hours at my computer writing novels. It has provided me with a few very close relationships instead of a larger pool of acquaintances. And it has given my husband (a definite extrovert) and me a special bond. He gets me out of the house and helps me make new friends, and I ground him and help him to slow down and enjoy rest.

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, I think you just have to learn out how to embrace it and use it to your advantage. So tell me – are you an introvert, an extrovert, or a combination of the two?

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

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