Sunday, May 25, 2014

Arizona (Part II)

After a few days in Sedona, we drove via scenic roads to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. The majestic beauty was awe-inspiring. I’ve been in the mountains where you start by looking up and can climb towards the tops of the mountains, but it’s very different to start at the top and gaze downwards past centuries of erosion.
We didn’t stay right at the canyon, but would like to do so during a future trip. We learned about the history of the canyon, and watched the sunset turn the sky and the rocks glorious colors.
As our vacation drew to a close, we returned to Phoenix and cement-laden civilization. I’ll never forget the pine-scented air in northern Arizona. Mr. Spice spotted a scrapbooking store and pulled into the parking lot without a word! I think he just wanted to check his e-mail while I was in the store, but it netted some fun papers and stickers. Since that trip, I’ve begun traveling with a small cardboard tube for the possible purchase of scrapbooking papers!
Who knew a pizza restaurant in Phoenix would have a phenomenal organ? We laughed and sang along to tunes of all varieties, from movie themes to classics! A fun ending to a wonderful trip.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Arizona, Part I (Sedona area)

Upon starting a new job, I calculated the accrual time for vacation, and booked airline tickets for the day after I had 40 hours saved up! We flew to Phoenix, Arizona and hopped into the rental car, goggling at the temperature gauge, which showed over 100 degrees in the afternoon heat. Of course, that number comes as no surprise to locals, but what a pleasant change it was from chilly New England!
We drove to Sedona, enjoying a slice of pie along the way at Rock Springs Café. The cooler air smelled so fresh along the road north, and the amazing rock formations captured our attention as the sun began to set. We walked and hiked for a couple of days before heading up to the Grand Canyon (stay tuned for the next post).
We enjoyed the arts and handicrafts scene, both in Sedona and in the Jerome/Prescott areas. We’d also recommend the Montezuma National Monument at Camp Verde, along with Fort Verde State Park.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Stockholm, Part II

We received conflicting advice about a day trip to Uppsala. Some folks said sure, take a look around, see some countryside. Others felt it to be just another university town with no significant features of interest. Of course, the tourist guidebooks raved about what a fantastic destination it is! We decided to go for it, and agreed that it was well worth the train ride. We enjoy cathedrals, and this one is spectacular.
Lunch at the café next to the Cathedral in Uppsala was excellent- I had to stop myself from photographing every meal we had in Sweden! We also enjoyed a harbor tour in Stockholm, with scenic views, such as this one of “Skansen” Park.
A side alley gives a sense of the hills and architecture of Stockholm. We had cocoa and cake in a basement bakery, and were amazed at the number of souvenirs packed into tiny shops in old town. We’d recommend Stockholm and environs, and look forward to seeing more of the country on a future trip.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Healthier Lemon Pound Cake & Lemon Trifle

Happy Lemon Days! I’m open to votes to stop with the lemon recipes, already! Just let me know… one recipe I will not repost but will heartily endorse is David Lebovitz’s lemon bars. DO NOT do what I did, and reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe- it’s just perfect as is, and easy, too.

I did revise a lemon pound cake recipe from Facebook, credited to a hotel restaurant in 1920. Gee whiz, do you think I swapped out the shortening? Yes! Here’s what to do: preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat 1 ½ cups butter (3 sticks, softened),  and 2 ½ cups sugar (I used 1 cup white sugar, ½ cup maple sugar, and ¾ cup honey) for 2 minutes. Add 5 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. In a separate bowl, combine 1 ½ cups white flour, 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Alternate adding the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture with the liquid ingredients listed next: 1 cup skim milk, 6 tablespoons lemon juice*, and zest from 1 lemon**. Bake in a greased bundt pan for 55 minutes (or 2 loaf pans). 

* if you do not use whole wheat flour, keep this recipe as is (it originally had only white flour). If you DO use whole wheat flour, you don’t need to add more liquid to the recipe if you use honey like I did. If you choose to not use honey, you will need to add a few extra teaspoons of lemon juice so the dough isn’t too dry. Add 1 teaspoon at a time until the dough is moist.
**I suggest using more lemon zest to help bring out the flavor when using whole wheat flour. The pound cake tastes nice as is, but not super lemony, so it’s your call.

If you’d like to make a trifle with egg-yolk filled custard, please look elsewhere- there are plenty of recipes out there. Here is a healthier version that tastes great! Prepare 2 boxes of lemon pudding with skim milk according to the package directions (I used instant sugar free fat free pudding). Thaw 1 container of frozen whipped topping, or beat a pint of whipping cream with 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3 tablespoons sugar. Rinse and pat dry an assortment of fresh berries of your choice: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc. In the summer, I would use fresh peaches. If using fresh fruit is not possible, drain frozen fruit well so the dark color of the fruit juice doesn’t bleed though the layers---unless you wouldn’t mind that look.
Cut the pound cake into squares that would fit on a dessert spoon. Place a layer (1-2 inches) of pound cake into a trifle dish or large glass bowl. Quantities will vary based on the size of your bowl, so  the number of cups of cubes will vary- just eyeball the depth and aim for two layers of each ingredient. Over the cake, layer half of the lemon pudding, then half the fruit, then half the whipped topping. Another layer of cake, pudding, fruit, and whipped topping. Decorate with berries or garnish of your choice. Enjoy!