"A mind once stretched by a new idea can never regain its original dimensions." ~Oliver Wendall Holmes

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Number 31: Try cross country skiing

On Thursday, I tried cross country skiing for the first time ever. It was a perfect day for outdoor activity, although the snow was a little more crusty than I think would be preferable for skiing. My friends, Chris and Erin, took me out and lent me a pair of skis. They were patient with teaching me the ropes and watching me fall down.
The sun was shining brightly in the clear, crisp sky. It was about 20 degrees, which is a nice temp for a spring day here in Alaska. Because the sun is up now until about 9pm, we have many hours after work to go out and enjoy the day. It the picture above you can see the evening jet in the distance coming in for a landing over Bethel.
Then some more friends lent me skis and took me out for a night ski. It was a really great time. The original plan was for moonlit skiing under the super full moon that was happening this month, but the sky was overcast so we skied by headlamp instead. There were 7 people and two dogs along for the ride. I only fell down once this time, but earned myself some pretty intense blisters from the boots that I borrowed. I'm still debating whether I like cross country skiing enough to invest in the equipment. It's definitely a nice way to get out and get in some exercise. Number 31 on the birthday list is done.

Numbers 1,8,9,12,14,15,18,21,23,25,27, and 29 are all in progress as we speak.

Number 5: Update my photo albums

Since 1999, I have kept a photo album for every year. It used to be really easy back in the days of film. I would get a roll of film developed in 4X6 glossy and slide the pictures in order into a photo album. This way my photos were always accessible and organized. Since I've gotten a digital camera, this task has gotten more difficult. Now I have to sort through all my photos, upload them to a photo printing site (I use Snapfish), then have them printed and shipped. The last time that I had taken the time to have any of my photos printed was the summer of 2009.

I've been working on sorting the photos and uploading for a couple of months, but really wanted to wait until I could finish 2010 before I placed the order. The shipping costs are the about a third of the cost so I figure I might as well just ship as many at once as possible. I ended up printing about 900 photos for about $85, plus shipping which was another $35 or so. I had the second half of 2009 to finish and all of 2010. I also printed many extra photos to share with other people, put in frames, or add to Avery's school memories book. As of now, the photo albums are caught up, but of course they're still 2011 to get around to.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Number 16: Cook Paella from Scratch

paella |päˈāyä; pəˈelə|


a Spanish dish of rice, saffron, chicken, seafood, etc., cooked and served in a large shallow pan.

Each region of Spain has their own unique version of paella. When I lived in Spain during the summer of 2002, I lived in the Valencia region and paella was one of my favorite foods. It is cooked in a huge pan and meant to feed many people. So when I decided to try my hand at cooking paella, I knew I wanted to try to find a recipe similar to the paella that I knew and loved from the Valencia region of Spain. Paella requires some very specific ingredients, so I made a list and went shopping while I was in Anchorage over spring break. Since the clams were live, I had to cook the paella the very next day to prevent them from dying. So I spend a Sunday cooking up paella and halibut tacos, then invited some friends over to enjoy the feast. The paella turned out great and tasted just like I remember it. I just cooked it in the oven, but other than that, I pretty much followed the recipe. The most difficult thing to buy for making the dish was actually the paella pan itself. Now that I have it, I can cook it up whenever I want as long as I can get my hands on the ingredients. Here's the recipe and here's to crossing number 16 of the new birthday list...

Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella is probably the most famous and popular Spanish dish around the world. It originates in Valencia, a region on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, between Barcelona and Murcia that is known for its rice dishes. There are as many versions of paella as there are cooks in Spain!

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 60 minutes

Total Time: 105 minutes


· 1 yellow onion, diced

· 2 medium tomatoes, diced

· 1 whole chicken or 8 chicken drumsticks

· 1 1/2 lbs pork loin (fat trimmed), cut into ¾ inch pieces

· 1/2 lb calamar (squid) cleaned and sliced into rings

· Medium grain or "pearl" rice *

· 4-6 cups chicken broth

· 1 large pinch Saffron

· 1 1/2 lbs raw mussels in shell (frozen or fresh)

· 1 lb small clams (frozen or fresh)

· 1 1/2 lbs raw shrimp, medium or large - shell on

· 1 red pepper seeded and sliced

· 1 10 oz. pkg frozen peas

· Olive Oil, Salt to Taste


* The exact quantity of rice will depend on the size of the pan, so have at least 1 lb of rice on hand.

If you prefer to use a step-by-step recipe with photos, Seafood Paella Step-by-Step Recipe.

This seafood paella recipe makes approximately 12 servings.

Before you start preparing paella, it's best to check you have all ingredients and gather the equipment that you'll need.

· 17 inch (144cm) paella pan

· Round charcoal BBQ

· Medium sauce pan

· Sharp knife for chopping meat and vegetables

· Meat cleaver (if you use a whole chicken)

· Aluminum Foil or Large Tea Towel to Cover Paella

Cut the Chicken and Pork into Serving-Size Pieces - You'll need one whole chicken, cut into serving-size pieces or 8 chicken drumsticks. If you use a whole chicken, use a meat cleaver to cut the chicken into pieces small enough to easily mix while sautéing.

With a sharp knife, cut the pork into 3/4" pieces.

Clean the squid and remove the tentacles. Make sure to remove the innards and the "spine" and discard. Then, cut the squid into rings.

Tip: Try to buy fresh squid whenever possible. If fresh squid is not available, look for packages of squid in the frozen food section. The squid should NOT have batter or coating on them, since that type is used for frying.

Slice red pepper and chop onions and tomatoes, set aside.

Now that you have the ingredients cleaned and chopped, it's time to start the BBQ and begin cooking. When the coals on the BBQ are covered in white ash, cooking can begin.

Assemble all the ingredients on a table near the BBQ, so that you can stay in the area and monitor the cooking.

Place the paella pan on the grate and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom and allow the pan to heat up. When hot enough, sauté the onions and tomatoes in the olive oil. Add olive oil as needed to prevent sticking. Once the onions are translucent, add the chicken and cook, stirring constantly – about 15 minutes. Add pork and squid and cook, stirring often.

Add the rice, sprinkling in the form of a large cross on the pan. (Have approximately 1 lb of rice on hand for this.) Stir for 2-3 minutes to thoroughly coat the rice with oil and mix with the other ingredients.

Add saffron threads to the chicken broth and stir. Slowly pour broth into pan until pan contents are covered. Spread ingredients evenly over bottom of pan.

Arrange mussels around outside edge of pan, pointing up. Place clams and shrimp in pan, distributing them evenly around the pan. Add slices of pepper on top.

Allow to simmer, cooking rice. Add more broth if necessary. (If fire becomes too hot, raise the pan up, away from the heat.) When rice is almost cooked, sprinkle peas over the pan.

When rice is cooked, remove from heat and cover with aluminum foil or large tea towel, allowing paella to “rest” for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Slice lemons into wedges and serve.

[blockquote shade=grur]Guide's Response to User Reviews
The exact quantity of rice depends on the pan and number of people you are serving, so it is best to be prepared and have at least 1 lb of rice on hand.

Lisa & Tony Sierra, Your Guides to Spanish Food