Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thursday in the Parks

Day 6

Meadow, originally uploaded by zuctronic.

On Thursday a bunch of family members got up early and went to the coast to do some sightseeing. Others went wine tasting in Napa County. I decided to borrow my mom's Passat and drive to some of the parks around Clear Lake to do some hiking and get away from getting away for a day.

My first stop was Anderson Marsh State Historic Park. This was a great park, but pretty flat terrain. There was a huge meadow filled with giant thistle-like plants. After walking through the meadow, I came to a boardwalk that went over the marsh. There was a lot of duckweed growing on the surface of the water and I saw a few birds. After the boardwalk, I walked through a live-oak forest teeming with blackberries! I ate a few, very sweet. Then back through the meadow to the ridge on the other side. There were large piles of rocks and a great view back over the meadow. Most of these trees look like live oaks, but there are also some valley oaks. Finally, I walked back to the car and moved along to the next park.

We visited Clear Lake State Park earlier in the week, but I didn't really get to see the park. We spent a few hours at the beach, but didn't hike around at all. Well I'm glad I returned because the views here were some of the best I'd seen. First I went to the visitor's center, which was closed. Then I got a map and went to the first hiking trail. This trail took me up the side of a mountain for a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding walnut groves and vinyards. After this, the trail went back into the forest and wound back down through granite outcrops to the valley floor. I saw several mule deer, one was just feet away while I was photographing a lizard. There were also lizards everywhere, scattering away whenever I took a step.

By the end of all that hiking, I was pretty exhausted. I had developed a few new blisters on my feet, but I wanted to cook something for the meal that my family was doing. Michael and Katie were already making linguini with clam sauce and Robbie and Nicky were making garlic bread. My mom was making the Barton salad. I was going to make some jambalaya. I've got a recipe that's pretty simple and easy to make for large groups. I've made it for the Doctor Who group and it made its debut for the Bartons in Asheville where it was a hit. This time, I made one batch spicy and the other mild.

Dinner was a huge success, everybody loved the jambalaya and the linguini was not too shabby as well. Lucas even told me the jambalaya was his favorite! I promised Meryl that I'd send her the recipe, so here it is:

Easy Jambalaya

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
8 ounces Andouille sausage (don't skimp, this is where the flavor comes from!)
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 cups uncooked white rice
4 cups chicken stock
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce


Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Saute chicken and sausage until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Season with cayenne, onion powder (for extra oniony flavor!), salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, or until veggies wilt. Add rice, then stir in chicken stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and hot pepper sauce.


Clear Lake at Night

Last Sunset, originally uploaded by zuctronic.

I just wasn't in the mood for ice cream, it tends to make my stomach bubble, especially with certain foods. Jambalaya is one of those foods. I sat back at the resort, out on the peninsula. I watched the sun set behind the mountain once again. I could never tire of this spectacular view! It's these quiet, solitary moments that hold my life together. The sound of the waves, the birds, the weather, everything is exactly how it should be... and I wouldn't have it any other way.

- Andy

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