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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Paella with guest Sue Burke

I'm turning my spatula over to Sue Burke for today's recipe - Paella!

Authentic Spanish paella

Since I live in Spain and like to cook, sometimes I get asked 1) if I make paella and 2) what "authentic" paella is. The answers: 1) yes, fairly often,  and 2) tasty.

Paella started out as a humble dish a thousand years ago. People in Valencia made it for their mid-day meal as they were out laboring in the fields. They put a wide, shallow metal pan over an open wood fire to cook their rice, adding whatever vegetables, meat, or other ingredients they had.

The name of the cooking pan comes from the Latin word "patella," the platter on which Romans offered sacrifices to the gods. A pan 40 centimeters/16 inches wide is best for 4 or 5 servings, 50 centimeters/20 inches wide for 6 to 8 servings.

Over time, the recipes became more formal. Extravagant seafood paellas impress tourists and are great for festive dinners. Any Spanish cook knows three or four recipes and can improvise a lot more: paella is more a technique than a recipe, as elaborate or simple as you want. You can include fish, lobster, shrimp, clams, squid, pork, beef, chicken livers, chicken, rabbit, beans, tomatoes, sausages, peas, chard, artichokes, red or green pepper, celery, artichokes, mushrooms — or whatever else seems tasty to you. Vegan, veggie, carnivore, locavore, or omnivore.

To demonstrate the cooking technique, here's the recipe for Valencian paella to serve 6 or 8. If you don't have a paella pan, you can substitute a wok or large frying pan. The recipe calls for garrafó beans, a small white kidney bean, and tavella beans, which are large flat tender white beans, found in Valencia. You may have to find local substitutes. Also, the local Valencian green bean is the wide, flat variety, but round ones, which are common in the US but rare in Spain, would work fine.

Medium grain rice is best. Good rice is the secret of paella — although there is a variation that uses noodles, but now we're getting too complex for one blog post.

You can also vary this paella recipe to suit your tastes. Every cook has secrets. I definitely leave out the snails and usually only use chicken, although rabbits are readily for sale here in Spain. I add garlic, cumin, and a bay leaf, leave out the green pepper but add a lot more green beans, and use a tomato or onion only if I have them around. Cooks on a budget sometimes substitute yellow food coloring for the saffron, although the saffron adds a subtle, delicious aroma. Chicken broth is a good idea.

You can also cook paella over on grill at a picnic, and a fire is ideal if you're using a wide pan. And very authentic.

1-3/4 lbs. chicken, in pieces
1 lb. rabbit, in pieces
12 snails
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 lb. green beans, cut up
1/3 cup small dry white beans
1/4 cup large flat dry white beans
1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
5 cups of water or broth
salt to taste
pinch of saffron
2-1/2 cups rice

Precook the white beans separately. Fry the chicken and rabbit in the olive oil in the paella pan. When browned, add the onion and green pepper, and cook briefly. Add the tomato, snails, green beans, and cook another 10 minutes. Add the precooked beans and water and cook another 10 minutes. Add the rice, salt, and saffron. Stir well, but do not stir again. (Really, don't.) Cook uncovered over high heat for 10 minute, then lower the heat, do not cover, and cook for about 10 minutes more until almost all of the water has been absorbed and the rice has almost finished cooking. Remove from heat and cover with a lid, aluminum foil, or towel, and let rest about 10 minutes before serving.

This is a forgiving recipe. If you use too little water, you can add more, or if you used too much, you can cook it a little longer so it evaporates. But do not stir the paella. Ideally, the rice has developed a bit of a browned crust on the sides and bottom. If you decide to make a more elaborate paella, you can artfully place shrimp, clams in their shell, strips of red pepper, etc., on top of the rice after you add it to the water, and they will rise up and look lovely at the end.

Arroz SOS, a popular Spanish brand of rice, has a slightly varied Valencian paella recipe on its website, along with a video of it being made a handsome chef — in Spanish, of course:

— Sue Burke

Mmm, my mouth is watering. I'm going to have to round up the ingredients to make this. I'm also sticking a copy in my husband's Dutch Oven recipe book. And handsome Spanish chefs? I don't speak a word of Spanish but I love listening to him talk. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

FUDGE!!! And my poor deck...

Yes, I did it. I finally made fudge that tasted like fudge and acted like fudge. No, I wasn't attempting to make frosting, which is the only other time I have ever made fudge. My secret was this:

Yep. A kit. It included EVERYTHING except the two tablespoons of butter and the spoon to stir it with and the pan to melt stuff in. Sorry to get you all excited for a recipe, but this is the best I've got.

Meanwhile, my husband tore down our deck.

See the rot? That's why it had to go.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Fritatta

This is one of those recipes you use when you have lots of bits of things in the refrigerator and don't have much time. Feel free to adapt it whichever way you want to use whatever you have handy. The flavor is mild enough that it's easy to dress up or spice up or switch around.

Classic Fritatta

2 t. oil
4 c. cooked spaghetti
1/4 c. chopped onions
6 eggs
1 t. Italian herb seasoning
1 t. salt
1/4 t. ground black pepper
dash of tabasco sauce

Heat oven to 400°. Use a heavy cast iron frying pan or other heavy frying pan that is oven safe. Don't melt the handle in the oven, because it will go into the oven.

Beat eggs in a mixing bowl until foamy, about 2 minutes. Add herbs, salt, pepper, and tabasco. Mix in. Set aside.

Heat oil in frying pan. Cook onion until soft. Spread noodles across bottom of pan. Reduce heat to med-low. Pour egg mixture over the top. Cook without stirring until eggs are set around the sides. They'll still be raw on top and in the middle. Put the pan into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, just until eggs are done. Cut in wedges to serve. Makes 3-4 servings.

Instead of spaghetti, use - 4 c. any cooked noodles, 3 c. cooked rice, 4 c. frozen hash brown potatoes (thaw first), leftover baked potatoes chopped into bite size pieces

Vegetable additions:
1/4 c. chopped bell pepper
1/2 c. chopped leftover cooked broccoli or cauliflower
1/2 c. canned green beans
1/2 c. cooked carrots or shredded raw carrots
2/3 c. chopped zucchini or summer squash

Meat additions:
1 c. chopped cooked chicken
1/2 c. pepperoni or salami
1 c. chopped ham

Go Mexican with 1/2 c. salsa mixed into the eggs. Serve with more salsa on top.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Author Interview - Teresa Fendley

Please welcome Teresa Fendley to the Far Edge of Normal. T.W. Fendley writes historical fantasy and science fiction with a Mesoamerican twist for adults and young adults. Her debut historical fantasy novel, ZERO TIME, was voted Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Novel in the 2011 P&E Readers Poll. Her short stories took second place in the 2011 Writers' Digest Horror Competition and won the 9th NASFiC 2007 contest. Teresa belongs to the St. Louis Writer's Guild, the Missouri Writers' Guild, SCBWI and Broad Universe.

How can we find you?
My author’s website:
My blog:

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up? I write stories that don’t fit into neat categories, which makes marketing…ahem…“interesting.” But that’s just how my brain works. As far as favorites, my first published story is pretty special to me. “Solar Lullaby” is a sci-fi tale about solar flares -- a timely topic these days. And naturally, I’m quite fond of my debut historical fantasy novel, ZERO TIME. Currently, I’m writing the sequel, WHITE HERON, which tells the master shaman’s story. I’m also looking for an agent/publisher for my contemporary YA fantasy set in Peru called THE LABYRINTH OF TIME.
What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
I love to read, so whenever I get some quiet time, I curl up with a good book. My husband and I also like movies. We generally stay away from murder and mayhem, except for the likes of Sherlock Holmes. We also enjoy Castle, mainly because of Nathan Fillion (loved him in Firefly!), and I could watch Big Bang every night (and often do).
I also have a passion for remote viewing, defined as “the gathering of information, operating within a pre-specified protocol, from distant targets using intuition rather than the intellect or the usual five senses.” I host a blog on Associative Remote Viewing at We have a lot of “precognitive” fun while trying to expand our consciousness!
What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?
Generally I don’t play music, but when I do, it’s usually something New Agey with Andean flutes or native drums. Or I play Hemi-Sync CDs engineered to improve concentration.
"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet? Sadly, our only pets these days are tropical fish—not very cuddly. But I do keep company with giraffes….

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
I really enjoy Broad Universe. It’s a great group of women who are serious about writing and who have fun, too. They’re helping me learn how to do podcasts, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I also recommend Goodreads, Library Thing and Authors’ Den, which are communities of writers and readers. Locally, I’m active in the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, and met some of my critique partners there. I met another one at the local sci-fi convention a few years ago. That’s my key bit of advice—find some people you trust to read your work. Good critique partners are worth their weight in chocolate!
What writers inspired you to become an author?
My list is a long one and it seems like I always leave someone off that I want to go back and add. The authors who come to mind right now are Jules Verne, Michael Crichton, Diana Gabaldon, Jonathan Carroll, Tim Powers, Stephen King, Anne McCaffrey, Mary Stewart, Mary Renault, Jean Auel and Isaac Asimov.
Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?
Writer’s Digest will promote my short story, “Origin of the Species,” in its May/June issue! It took second place in their 2011 Horror Competition.

Congratulations! Good luck with the book tour and your launch. Thanks for stopping by.

The ZERO TIME 2012 Virtual Book Tour Party is here!

To celebrate, T.W. Fendley is giving away a Maya-Aztec astrology report, a Mayan Winds CD, ZERO TIME tote bag and fun buttons. Check out the prizes and other posts on the Party Page.

3 ways to enter  (multiple entries are great!)

1) Leave a comment here or on any of the other PARTY POSTS listed on the Party Page.

2) Tweet about the Virtual Party or any of the PARTY POSTS (with tag #ZEROTIME2012)
Example: Join the Virtual Party for historical #fantasy novel ZERO TIME by @twfendley for a chance to win prizes! #ZEROTIME2012

3) Facebook (tag @T.W. Fendley) about the Virtual Party. (NOTE: tag must have periods to work)
Example: Join the Virtual Party for historical fantasy novel ZERO TIME by @T.W. Fendley for a chance to win prizes!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Chicken Enchilada Casserole

This is a variation on the casserole I published last week. This one uses green enchilada sauce and white beans. It's usually milder than the beef version. I also like to add sour cream and use monterey jack cheese to make it creamier.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

4 c. cooked chicken, shredded or chopped into bite-size pieces
2 12 oz. cans green enchilada sauce
1 16 oz. can white beans or small red beans (drain and rinse before using)
1 16 oz. can sweet corn
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
1 c. sour cream, low-fat or regular not non-fat
4 c. shredded monterey jack cheese
12 10" flour tortillas

Mix chicken, beans, corn, chilies, sour cream, 2 c. cheese, and 1/2 can of enchilada sauce. Pour the other half of first can of enchilada sauce into a 9x13 baking dish. Put about 3/4 c. chicken mixture in a tortilla. Roll up and place into the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with the other 11 tortillas. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, pour over the second can of enchilada sauce. Bake at 350° for 30-45 minutes until it's all bubbly and delicious.

Serve with a green salad on the side. This one is good with guacamole and olives on top.

I don't recommend trying to make this one non-dairy or trying to freeze it. The sour cream doesn't handle freezing well and it might look a bit strange. I also don't recommend this one for the crockpot.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How I Brainstorm Story Ideas

"Where do you get your ideas?"

Everywhere. Seriously. I can come up with more ideas in an hour than I could write in a year. Most of them aren't worth writing, but the gems I find can really sparkle.

If you've never tried brainstorming, here are some tips:
1. Don't be afraid of being silly. Let your inner child out to play.
2. NO CENSORING. Absolutely none. This is not the stage to judge if the idea has merit or not. This is the stage to let every single idea, no matter how absurd, it's ten seconds of fame.
3. Brainstorming is easier with three or four other people, at least for me. Some people do better all alone where no one can see the weirdness that simmers in their brain. Since I celebrate mine, I like having people to spark my ideas and spur my inner nerd to new heights of bizarre-ness.
4. Write everything down. Don't say, I'll make notes later of the good ones. No, write it all down.
5. Set a time limit. Force yourself to go for the full time, don't give up too soon. If you're like me, you need a time limit so you don't get too carried away.
6. Lose your inhibitions.
7. Prepare some idea sparks, if you need them. An assortment of household items, pictures from magazines, random words on scraps of paper - Put them in a hat, bag, or bowl, and draw them out as you need to. The only rule is that each item has to spark at least one story idea before you move on.

Brainstorming is a great way to get your creativity flowing. Get a nice long list of ideas. Then, when you're ready to write something new, short story or novel, you've got a great start to spark the story to life. I've written stories triggered by the idea of dust bunnies battling a vacuum cleaner, the four horsemen of the apocalypse fighting rabid tumbleweeds, food describing the journey through your digestive tract, and all sorts of other things.

These ideas aren't going to be fully fleshed out, ready to write into a scintillating gem that will bring readers flocking to your brilliance. They still need some work. Take those seeds, though, and feed them a good dose of plot structure and character development, and you will never have a shortage of stories begging to be told.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Enchilada Casserole

This is an old standby. Easy, fast, cheap, and the varieties are endless. Make it a casserole in the oven, do it in the crockpot. Spice it up or keep it mild. Load it with cheese or keep it light. Either way, it's tasty, nutritious, and filling.

Enchilada Casserole

1 lb ground beef
1/2 c. diced onion
2 12 oz. cans red enchilada sauce
1 16 oz. can sweet corn
1 16 oz. can kidney or black beans, drained and rinsed
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
4 c. grated cheese, cheddar or cheddar jack or whatever you want to use
12 - 15 corn tortillas

Brown beef and onion in a frying pan until beef is cooked and onion is soft. Set aside.

Spray a 9x13 casserole dish. Pour 1/2 c. enchilada sauce in the bottom and spread it around. If you skimp here, the tortillas will stick to the pan. Layer 3 - 4 tortillas in the bottom, ripping them into pieces as needed to make them fit. Sprinkle 1/2 of the beef mixture over the tortillas. Spread half the can of corn and half the beans on top. Add green chilies if you want. Sprinkle with 1 c. of cheese. Pour the rest of the first can of enchilada sauce over the top. Layer another 3 - 4 tortillas over, enough to cover the filling. Repeat layering with the rest of the beef, corn, beans, green chilies, and 1 c. cheese. Pour half of the second can of enchilada sauce over the filling. Cover with the remaining tortillas. Spread the rest of the cheese over the tortillas on top. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the top. Bake at 350° for 30-45 minutes, until bubbly gooey yumminess is achieved.

Makes one 9x13 pan or two 8" pans of enchilada casserole and serves 6-8 people.

Serve with sliced green onions, more cheese, sour cream, guacamole, olives, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and salsa, if desired. Or make those into a green salad to serve on the side for a complete meal.


Low-fat, non-dairy - leave out the cheese and use lean ground beef or ground turkey.

Spicy - Use a spicier enchilada sauce or add some chopped jalapenos to the mix. Or substitute 2 c. of hot salsa for one can of enchilada sauce.

Vegetarian - Instead of ground beef, use a mixture of beans, corn, diced zucchini, cooked diced carrots, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, or whatever other vegetables you think will taste good.

Slow-cooker - layer everything in a crockpot, you'll end up with five or six layers instead of two or three. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours. Add cheese on top at the very end.

Skillet - Use a really big skillet or dutch oven. Cook hamburger and onion in the skillet. Tear tortillas in bite-size pieces. Stir sauce into meat. Add everything else except cheese, stir to mix. Cover and cook over med-low heat until everything is hot through. Sprinkle cheese on top just before serving.

Salad style - Cook beef and onions as directed, add sauce, corns, beans, and chilies. Stir and cook until hot through. Fry or warm tortillas in separate pan. Serve by placing a tortilla on a plate, add one scoop of meat mixture, sprinkle with cheese, add shredded lettuce, green onions, sliced olives, sour cream, guacamole, etc as desired.

This is a great make-ahead and freeze-until-needed recipe. Just assemble the casseroles in heavy foil pans, cover tightly with heavy-duty foil, and freeze for up to three months. To cook, pull out of the freezer, pop in a 350° oven for 60-75 minutes until hot through, remove cover and bake an additional 10 minutes to crisp the top.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Author Interview - Sue Burke

Please welcome Sue Burke to the Far Edge of Normal. In her own words: I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and lived briefly in Austin, Texas, y'all, before moving to Madrid, Spain, in December 1999. Much of my work has been in journalism as a reporter and editor, covering everything from dog shows to politics to crime. I began writing fiction 20 years ago and have published short stories in various magazines and anthologies, as well as poetry and non-fiction.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links.

The website for my most recent book:
Facebook page for the book:
Facebook for me:
My professional writing website:

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?

Science fiction is my favorite, and I like it because I think it's the most difficult genre to pull off well. On top of everything else that you have to do to make a story work, you have to understand science and use it in a way that creates the story – if you took out the science element, the story wouldn't exist.

I also write and enjoy fantasy, horror, and mainstream, and I write poetry, non-fiction, and translations.

My most recent project is Amadis of Gaul Book I. It's a translation of a medieval Spanish novel of chivalry that became the Renaissance's first best-seller and left a deep mark on history and literature – the original source of sword and sorcery. In spite of that, there was no good translation of it into English. So I began translating it chapter by chapter as a blog, and now I've collected and published the posts for Book I, available through Amazon as a paperback and Kindle.

The novel is divided into four books, and Book I is the oldest. It tells the story of Amadis's birth and his early years proving himself as the greatest knight who ever lived, fighting evil knights and sorcerers and protecting all people in need. His deeds are interwoven with those of his friends and his brother, who is both a fine knight and a comic character. When Amadis rescues a damsel in distress, she thanks him eloquently, but when his brother rescues a damsel, she thanks him in bed.

I also have an article in the February 2012 issue of Broadsheet, the magazine of Broad Universe, about contemporary Spanish fantasy writers and their challenges:

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?

I love to write, so writing is relaxing. I also love to read, travel, and hike. In my day job, I teach English to Spanish teenagers, which is not relaxing but which has taught me a lot about Spanish teens and about English grammar that native speakers know but are not aware of, like the difference in meaning between "going to" and "will."

As for TV, there's Dr. Who – always Dr. Who. When my husband and I first started going out and we learned we both liked that show, we knew that our relationship might stand the test of time and space. I'm also hooked on a Spanish series, Toledo, cruce de destinos (Toledo, crossed destinies). It's set in the city of Toledo in the late 1200s when it was a center of Christian, Moorish, and Jewish translation, and it held the court of King Alfonso X. The series tries to be historically accurate and at time it succeeds, and it is filmed in a perfectly preserved medieval town near Toledo, which is now a modern city, so it has an authentic look.

And I like to cook. Drop in sometime for a paella or fabada (Asturian bean soup).

Want to have a recipe guest spot? I love new recipes and soups are always a hit.

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?

The clock gets my creative juices going. I teach in the late afternoon and evening, so in the morning, after breakfast, I sit down to write. I've been writing professionally for forty years, so the work habit is now deeply ingrained.

But I don't write to music. I think that multi-tasking means doing two (or more) things badly rather than one thing well. In my case, it would mean ignoring the music as persistent noise – or letting the writing get interrupted again and again when I stop to listen.

However, on occasions I do listen to music or even sound effect recordings: when they're what the character I'm writing about would be hearing. That is, it would be the character's favorite music, which might not be mine. For the science fiction novel Transplants, which EDGE will publish later this year, I played a CD of sounds from the Guatemala jungle to help me write as nervously as the explorers of another planet confronted with an ecology both amazing and deadly.

"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?

Alas, my husband is allergic to cats, so while I had them when I was single, we can't have them. (Or dogs.)

However, I do have a lot of houseplants. They're not as cute, but plants play a big role in Transplants. In fact, that novel was inspired when one house plant attacked another one. I did some research, and I found out that plants are horrible and sneaky. I now keep a close eye on my indoor domestic horticultural companions.

Scary to think that plants might be vindictive. When I consider how many houseplants have died at my hands...
What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?

Organizations exist aplenty to learn to write: courses, workshops, websites, associations and in-person or internet critique groups. They're all good, though some may be more to your taste than others. If the first one isn't quite right, the next one might be. But do connect with other writers. If you write in a vacuum as empty as deep space, no one can hear you scream.

Above all, keep trying new things to improve: new genres, new styles, new ideas. Poetry, for example. It can teach you to pay close attention to every word and the relationships between words, both in meaning and in rhythm and sound, so even if you write bad poetry, your prose will improve.

Good thought about poetry. Mine is abyssimally horrid, so it gives me hope for my writing. What writers inspired you to become an author?

I wanted to become a writer before I learned to read, so Dr. Seuss, as read to me by Mom, played a big role. While young, I read widely – Nancy Drew, Isaac Asimov, Willa Cather, Aristophanes – and I still do. I remember the amazement I felt reading William Faulkner and seeing how far he could stretch the language to tell a story; or the silly fantasies of James Thurber and understanding that with a little twist he could make daily life hilarious; or the emotional and intellectual adventure of Paol Anderson and enjoying how taking possibilities seriously creates new realities.

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?

I'm planning to come to WorldCon in Chicago this summer.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Sue. It's been a pleasure to meet you.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thursday Recipe - James' Candied Carrots

I went to a convention the other week, leaving my husband to do all the house stuff. He posted this recipe on Facebook. The comments are hilarious. Read it here. He tries to be adventurous in the kitchen, most of the time with edible results. I'm not minding this in the least. He makes wonderful rolls.

Here's his carrot recipe, verbatim:

"Genny says I need to post my recipe for bake carrots, (they are as good as mom's ) chop a bunch (6-10) of carrots into six sided die sizes, put in casserole dish with 2 tbl of margarine and a hand full of brown sugar (1/4 cup) cook at 350 for about 30-40 min until carrots are tender. serve"

Here's the recipe rewritten into standard recipe format:

4 c. diced carrots
2 T. butter or margarine
1/4 c. brown sugar

Place the carrots in a 1 qt. casserole dish. Cut butter into small bits and dab over the top. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and keep baking 10-15 minutes longer until carrots are tender.