Posted in Top Chef

Chicken and Seafood Paella. Recipe Review & saffron substitute!

Paella. A gift from God. Seriously, it’s just so damn mouth-watering! I’ve always wanted to try making this dish but was too chicken! Then I found this super easy recipe by Joanna Cismaru. You can check it out here on her site.

I made it twice in the last week and got great reviews! There are things I want to improve before I can say that I’ve “perfected” the dish.

Here is a picture of the paella from the first time I made where I used saffron. I was so worried that there was so much liquid left! I honestly thought it was a fail. But once I mixed everything up, IT WAS PERFECT!


As amazing as it was to have saffron, it was a bit too expensive for my taste. $17.99 FOR 1/8 OF AN TSP!! The second time I made it, I decided to look for a saffron substitute. It worked out great! I will include a recipe at the end of the post. They were out of clams at the store (major bummer!) so I decided to substitute with octopus instead. I honestly thought it was squid but hey, it worked out! Next time, I think I’ll use squid rings instead and see how that turns out.

Again, there was so much liquid! I think next time, I will try to do a better job of mixing the rice before I arrange the seafood.


And finally, here is the awesome recipe from the Jo Cooks and my notes in parenthesis. Good luck & I hope you enjoy making this yummy dish as much as I did!


chicken and seafood paella
Prep time: 10 mins
(For us noobs, prep time will be about 30 mins.)
Cook time: 50 mins
Total time: 1 hour
(Because I am a clutz, I usually give myself 2 hours.)
Chicken and Seafood Paella – a classic Spanish rice dish made with Arborio rice, packed with chicken, sausage, mussels, clams and shrimp and loaded with flavor.
Author: Joanna Cismaru
Serves: 8
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless cut into 1 inch pieces
    • (I used 6 chicken thighs cuz I eat a lot.)
  • 2 chorizo sausages, cut into 1 inch pieces (I used Italian sausages)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
    • (I LOVE garlic so I used almost double this amount.)
  • 1½ cups arborio rice*
    • (I used the whole damn bag.)
  • 1 can (14 oz or 398 mL) diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    • (Low sodium chicken broth worked great!)
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce such as Tabasco or Sriracha
    • (If your guests can’t handle the spice, have hot sauce on the side instead.)
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp saffron
    • (SAFFRON SUBSTITUTE: 1/4 tsp turmeric + 1/2 tsp paprika)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined but keep tails on
  • 1 lb clams, scrubbed and soaked
  • 1 lb mussels, scrubbed and soaked
    • (Mussels w/ shell = 1 lbs. frozen mussels no shell  = 2lbs)
    • (I honestly think you can use any seafood you want.)
  • fresh parsley for garnish
    • (Might be because I’m Vietnamese but swapping this out for cilantro next time!)
  • 1 lemon cut into lemon wedges
    • (I highly recommend squeezing lemon juice over the top before serving. It gives the dish a nice balance to a heavy dish.)
  1. In a large paella pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. (I don’t know what medium heat is. My knob was in the 7-8 range.)Add the chicken and sausage, season with salt and pepper, then cook for about 5 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink.
  2. Move the chicken and sausage to one side of the pan, then add the onion to the other half, season with a bit of salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes until the onion becomes translucent and soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the arborio and fire roasted tomatoes to the pan and stir well. Let the rice cook in the sauce from the tomatoes for about 5 minutes, you will notice it will start to brown on the bottom, which is what you’re looking for. Add the broth, hot sauce, smoked paprika, saffron and season with salt and pepper if needed. Stir everything together and cover with a large lid. Cook for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. The rice will not be cooked through at this time.
  4. Turn down the heat (I messed up and went down to 2. Shrimp took too long to cook and my rice was softer than I wanted. I really should have had the heat at 6) and stir the rice around a bit, you will notice the crust on the bottom of the pan, that’s what you’re looking for. Arrange the shrimp, mussels and clams over the rice, cover with a lid again and cook for another 10 minutes or until the mussels and clams open up.
  5. Turn off the heat and garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.
  6. (Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the rice before serving. Or, have lemon wedges fror your guests to do it themselves.)

*Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice.

I used vegetable broth here, that’s why the color of the broth is so rich and dark, if you use chicken broth it will be a lot lighter in color.

If you don’t have a paella pan, a large skillet will work just as well.

nutrition information
Serving size: ⅛ of recipe Calories: 437 Fat: 13.0g Saturated fat: 3.6g Unsaturated fat: 0.0g Trans fat: 0.0g Carbohydrates: 47.8g Sugar: 6.2g Sodium: 1224mg Fiber: 2.5g Protein: 30.7gCholesterol: 125mg


This recipie is @Gibbs The Pug approved!


Posted in DIY Party, Weddings

The Ultimate Cocktail Hour Playlist


Just because it’s cocktail hour, it doesn’t mean the music has to be boring! Below is a list to keep your guests going! Remember, they have to make it to the dinner you spent countless nights stressing over. Spotify playlist link at the end!

(Warning: Playlist contains a ridiculous amount of Glee covers)

In no particular order:

1. Christina Aguilera – What a Girl Wants
2. Sara Bareilles – I Choose You
3. Train – Hey Soul Sister
4. Usher – Without You
5. Demi Lovato or Glee – Give Your Heart a Break
6. Katy Perry or Glee – Teenage Dream
7. Taylor Swift – Mine
8. Bruno Mars – Treasure
9. Bruno Mars or Glee- Just the Way You Are
10. Bruno Mars – Marry You
11. Boyce Avenue – Happy
12. Stevie Wonder – Isn’t She Lovely
13. Justin Timberlake or Boyce Avenue – Not a Bad Thing
14. John Mayer – Your Body is a Wonderland
15. Hannah Trigwell – Counting Stars
16. Glee – We Found Love
17. Selena Gomez – Love You Like a Love Song
18. Michael Jackson – PYT
19. Kelly Clarkson or Glee – My Life Would Suck Without You
20. Mario – Let Me Love You
21. Mariah Carey – Honey
22. Beyonce – Love on Top
23. John Legend – (Tonight) Best You Ever Had
24. Al Green or Maroon 5 – Let’s Stay Together
25. Jagged Edge – Let’s Get Married
26. Becky G – Shower
27. Kat Dahlia – Crazy
28. Bob Marley – Is This Love
29. Robin Thick – Lost Without You
30. Colbie Callie – I do
31. Plain White T’s – Rhythm of Love
32. Jason Mraz & Colbie Callie – Lucky
33. Maroon 5 – Sunday Morning
34. Incubus – Are You In?
35. Michelle Branch – Game of Love
36. Tatyana – Daydream
37. Chris Brown – Forever
38. Chris Brown – Hearts All Over the World
39. Post Modern Jukebox – Drunk in Love
40. Capital Cities – Safe & Sound
41. Hellogoodbye – Here in My Arms
42. American Authors – Best Day of My Life
43. Paramore – Ain’t It Fun
44. Taylor Swift – How You Get the Girl
45. Tori Kelly ft. Ed Sheeran – I Was Made for Loving You
46. Tori Kelly – Nobody Love
47. Glee – Unchained Melody
48. Glee – Crazy/U Drive Me Crazy
49. Glee – Halo/Walking On Sunshine
50. Jordin Sparks ft. Chris Brown – No Air
51. Glee – Somebody to Love
52. Neon Trees – Animal
53. Paramore or Glee – The Only Exception
54. Lean on Me
55. Rihanna – Umbrella
56. Michael Jackson – P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
57. One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful
58. Marvin Gaye ft. Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
59. Savage Garden – I Knew I Loved You
60. Savage Garden – Truly Madly Deeply
61. Janet Jackson – Escapade
62. Justin Timberlake – Mirrors
63. Train – Marry Me
64. Al Green – Love and Happiness
65. Ciara – Promise
66. 98 Degrees – I Do (Cherish You)
67. 98 Degrees – I Will Cherish You
68. The Wedding Singers – Stand by Me
69. Justin Timberlake ft. Beyonce – Until the End of Time
70. Pharrell or Boyce Avenue – Happy
71. Mariah Carey ft. O.D.B. – Fantasy
72. Jessie J – Domino
73. Arctic Monkeys – Baby I’m Yours
74. Dear Future Husband – Meghan Trainor
75. Mandy Moore – Candy
76. Mandy Moore – Crush
77. Backstreet Boys – As Long As You Love Me
78. Backstreet Boys – All I Have to Give
79. Backstreet Boys – I’ll Never Break Your Heart
80. Backstreet Boys – I’ll Be the One
81. Destiny’s Child – Cater to You
82. Destiny’s Child – Brown Eyes
83. Christina Aguilera – Come On Over
84. Ed Sheeran or Tori Kelly – Thinking Out Loud
85. Britney Spears – U Drive Me Crazy
86. Aaliyah – Rock the Boat
87. Janet Jackson – Doesn’t Really Matter
88. Janet Jackson – All For You
89. Jennifer Lopez – I’m Into You
90. Jennifer Lopez – Get Right
91. Ingrid Michaelson – The Way I Am
92. Colbie Caillat- Bubbly
93. Hilary Duff – Sparks
94. Hilary Duff – My Kind
95. Walk the Moon – Shut Up and Dance
96. Amerie – 1 Thing
97. The Pussycat Dolls – Stickwitu
98. Gwen Stefani – The Sweet Escape
99. Ja Rule ft. Ashanti – Mesmerize
100. Ja Rule ft. Ashanti – Always On Time
101. K-Ci & JoJo – All My Life
102. Spice Girls – Wannabe
103. Withers/Washington – Just the Two of Us
104. Mya – Fallen
105. 98 Degrees – Because of You
106. Ashanti – Happy
107. Ingrid Michaelson – The Way I Am
108. Hilary Duff – Sparks
109. Walk the Moon – Shut Up and Dance
110. Adam Sandler – Grow Old With You
111. Alessia Cara – Can’t Feel My Face (cover)
112. The Vamps – Can We Dance?
113. The Vamps ft. Demi Lovato – Somebody to You
114. Lifehouse – You & Me
115. Sam Smith – Latch (acoustic cover)
116. Elisa – Rock Your Soul
117. Christina Perri – Thousand Years
118. Nora Jones – Come Away With Me
119. Michael Buble – Everything
120. John Legend – All of Me
121. Elvis Presley – Can’t Help Falling In Love
122. Frank Sinatra – The Way You Look Tonight
123. Jason Mraz – I’m Yours
124. Stevie Wonder – My Cherie Amour: Stevie Wonder
125. The Beatles – Here Comes The Sun
126. Cold Play – Viva La Vida
127. The Police – Every Breath You Take
128. Jason Chen & Megan Lee – I Really Like You

Check out my Ultimate Cocktail Hour Playlist on Spotify!

Posted in Top Chef

recipe review: mini lasagna bites

Since moving out on my own, I’ve trying to learn how to cook. It’s not always successful but sometimes, things just fall together. That’s what happened today:

I was inspired by a recipe from Can You Stay for Dinner. However, I was discouraged by all the ingredients the recipe called for. I had the majority of the ingredients so I just decided to wing it.

Ingredients: 1/2 lbs ground turkey, 1/2 can of garlic basil diced tomatoes, 1 tomato, 1 package of wonton wrappers (40 ct), and 1 package of shredded mozzarella cheese

Seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic powder, trader joe’s everyday seasoning


1. In a large skillet, add ground turkey, trader joe’s everyday seasoning, pepper, salt & garlic powder over medium heat.

2. Once the ground turkey is cooked, add 1 diced tomato and 1/2 a can of diced tomatoes (I used the garlic basil kind). Then add garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and some more of that trader joe’s everyday seasoning. NOMS.

3. Let meat simmer. Once the ground turkey is done cooking, set aside. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

4. In a muffin pan, spray a coat of olive oil. Line each cup with 2 wonton wrappings. I took two wrappers at a time and rotated the top wrapper so that the corners don’t overlap. Before adding the meat, add a layer of mozzarella cheese (not pictured).

5. Spoon 1 tb into each wrapper. Then top each cup with another wonton wrapper, meat, and shredded mozzarella.


6. Place muffin tray in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is completely melted.

Enjoy! Next time I make this, I would try it with ricotta cheese, marinate the meat a little better, and buy the 100 count of wonton wrappers! have any tips? Add them to the comment section below!

Posted in Cleaning & Organization, Home Improvement

DIY Febreeze – Cheap & Quick!


Living in one of the most expensive cities in the country has trained me to be as thrifty as possible! I love having friends over and am constantly looking for ways to make my place as cozy as possible. I came across this on Pinterest and decided to give it a try. Here is my experience with making my own febreeze!


-mixing bowl & spoon
-measuring cup
-1 part fabric softener
-2 parts warm water
-1 tbs of baking soda


1. Start with warm water. I boiled my water until it was just about to boil. I let it sit for about 2-3 mins before adding it to the bowl.


2. Add fabric softner. I mixed as I poured the softner in with the warm water.


3. Mix in baking soda. Here I added WAY too much baking soda! Learn from my mistake and add less!


4. It will start fizzing! Don’t worry! Mix concoction until the fizzing stops.

5. Once liquid cools down, add to a spray bottle of your choice. An important thing to remember is to choose a spray with a fine mist. This ensures your furniture and clothes won’t get soaked.

I tested my homemade febreeze on my couch and I love it! If you’re sensitive to strong smells, add another 1/2 cup of warm water. It was the perfect balance once the product was finished.

And there you have it! Homemade febreeze at a fraction of the cost!

Posted in DIY Party

My Fave FREE Christmas Photo Booth Printables!

After posting my top 16 sites for FREE photo booth props,  I knew I had to post my top sites for Christmas photo booth props!

1. Talk Crafty To Me

2. Expressions Vinyl

3. Indulgy

4. Melinda DioRio

5. The Little Style File

6. Elegance & Enchantment

7. Party Delights

8. Holly Craig

9. Oh Happy Day

10. Simple Simon and Co.

I will continue to add more as I find them. Have any free Christmas printables you want to share? Any tips or advice? Share your comments below!

Posted in DIY Party

My Fave Free Photo Booth Printables!

The holiday season is upon us! Get ready to a wave of holiday parties in the upcoming weeks! The best parties have amazing food, delicious booze, and of course, fun activities! One of my favorite party activities is the photo booth. Below are my favorite sites who offer free photo booth prop printouts.

DIY Photo Booth Props

1. Print out photo booth props according to instructions.

2. Cut out each prop individually.


4. Cut out and attach to sticks. I like to use meat skewers & white duct tape.

5. Enjoy!

Free PhotoBooth Prop Printouts 

1. Creative Juice

2. Pure Sweet Joy

3. Kensie Kate

4. Kensie Kate

5. Accent the Party

6. Capturing Joy

7. Gum Road

8. Botanical Paperworks

9. CraftZee

10. Maiko Nagao

11.  Make a Wedding Blog

12. Fox Hollow Cottage

13. When Pooch Comes to Shove

14. HGTV – Design Happens

15. Craftivity

16. Capturing Joy

17. Snapfish

I will continue to add more as I find them! Check back frequently for new additions! Do you have tips on making props last or trick you’d like to share? Share your comment below!

Posted in life blurbs

New Beginnings

It’s funny how your life can change in a span of a week. Heck, it can change in a blink of an eye. It’s only been six days into the month and already, life has picked up speed; and frankly, it’s been a whirlwind.

I started a new job today on the 1st of the month. Symbolic? New month, new job, new beginnings? (I guess that will reveal itself in due time ;] ) In the days leading up to the job, I almost didn’t want to believe it. I had a gnawing fear that they would call me and tell me they made a terrible mistake or that they changed my mind. It just blew my mind that they chose me. The anticipation and unwillingness to accept reality stayed with me until the moment I literally sat down at my new desk. The company is this cool start up in the Mission that we shall call MS. It has a great culture and spoils its employees. When I told BNT about this place, he said that it’s a “lifer”. I think I’ll like it here 🙂 A year ago, I had no idea how I’d penetrate into the 7×7 radius known as SF but somehow it all worked out. As cliche as it sounds, I think a Marilyn Monroe quote is perfect for this moment: “sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together”.

After the end of a short work week, I enjoyed another slew life-changing celebrations: a couple of housewarmings and a proposal!!! This weekend really opened my eyes to how much my friends and I have grown and all the adventures that lie ahead. Maybe it’s summer or maybe it’s because of the new job but I am bursting with bubbly excitement of new beginnings and the unknown.

Until next time friends!

XOXO, Lisa