Tag Archives: Travel

Second Attempt: Portuguese Sweet Bread

21 Jan

I know I am not alone when I proclaim my love for King Arthur Flour.  Non-bakers may wonder why one flour could be so much better than another and I have no real explanation but can firmly say, “It Just is!”  A visit to King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Shop was a must for me during our quick vacation to Vermont.

The Baker’s Store is located in Norwich, Vermont which is not to far from the Montshire Museum.  If you get there early enough you may even get to try some of their freshly baked breads and goodies but we were moving slowly and we weren’t so lucky.  They did have mini creme filled cupcakes for us to sample though—and they were delicious!

Not to fear, we still got to peruse the aisles for all kinds of flours, baking mixes (including tons of gluten free varieties) and all kinds of exciting baker type stuff.  I splurged and bought myself two whole vanilla beans (among other things) that I can’t wait to use.

One thing I did not buy while I was there (I was worried about exceeding the weight allowance with our luggage) was this book or this book.  Although I was very tempted  and still really want to add them to my growing cookbook collection. (Since January is the month of not spending money-I’ll be heading off to the library to find it.)

Luckily, I was able to find a King Arthur flour recipe online for Portuguese Sweet Bread.  This recipe was a lot different than the one passed on to me from my aunt but it made a really nice loaf of bread–with perfect sweetness.  My mom thought it should have been a bit fluffier and that maybe I had not allowed the yeast to work for long enough.  I’m not sure.

It has been so long since I tried the family recipe—maybe I need to give it one more shot.

Here is the recipe, lovingly borrowed from the King Arthur Flour website:

The  Sponge
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons or packets active dry yeast
1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

The Dough
1 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter*
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel OR 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil (optional)
7 1/2 to 8 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
wash made of 1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

The Sponge:

Pour the water into a large bowl and dissolve in it the sugar and yeast. Stir in the flour and set aside until the mixture is bubbly and expanded.

The Dough: Scald the milk. Remove from the heat and add the butter, sugar, salt and optional lemon peel. ( I did not add the lemon peel as there was none on hand-but I am sure it would be a nice addition.)

Stir to dissolve and then let the mixture cool to lukewarm.

Beat the eggs and yolk together . Add them and the milk mixture to the proofing sponge. Stir in 6 to 7 cups of flour, one cup at a time, until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Lightly oil the same bowl and set aside.

Knead the dough, adding only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the board. When the dough is smooth and soft, place it in the oiled bowl. Turn to lightly oil the entire surface of the dough. Cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap (to keep the dough from sticking to it) and a clean towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch the dough down and divide into two equal pieces. You can decide to shape the dough into a round loaf or a regular rectangular loaf–which is what I did.  What ever your choice, shape it and place in two greased pans.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap (again greased) and cover with a clean towel. Let the loaves rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 375°F for at least 15 minutes. Brush the loaves with the egg white and water mixture.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom with a finger. When the bread is done, remove it from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

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Vermont=Cheese: A Visit to Cobb Hill

17 Jan

Quick side note:  For those of you who read my last post about the release of my new and improved blog format—I have run into some (many) technical difficulties.  I have been trying to resolve them and it is driving me crazy and I need to take a break from it.  In the meantime, I will continue to post here and will let you know when the new site is ready for the big time.

For me anyway.  I look forward to our annual trip to Vermont so that I can eat cheese.

A lot of cheese.

Sure, I can get Vermont cheese at my local grocery store. But, I can’t buy cheese from Cobb Hill.  And it may be the best cheese ever.

Cobb Hill was started by Donella Meadows in Hartland Vermont and is described as a “live-work experiment.”   The people of Cobb Hill aim to “live in a co-housing community comprised of people learning to live lightly on the earth while forming a connection to a community, the land, and a working farm.”  It is exactly what you think of when you think of a sustainable community.  And, for those of us on the outside who have a strong desire reduce our impact on the planet–it is a very cool place to visit and support.

Just like you would expect on a working farm, they  have chickens, sheep, llamas, and of course, cows. And, they encourage people to stop by and see the animals.

They have cute baby cows.

They have sweet mama cows.

The little babies will even lick your hands.

The llamas will look at you.

Their little store is open to purchase milk, cheese, eggs, some fresh vegetables, and locally raised meats. And, their famous RAW MILK CHEESE.  I know you can find their cheese at the local stores in and around Vermont and New Hampshire-but it is so much more special to go right to the source to get it.

They were milking when we were there and it was really interesting for the kids to see where their milk comes from.  It is amazing to me that many kids have no idea.

If you are in the Southeastern Vermont area and in the mood for cheese—stop by Cobb Hill after a great lunch at Stella’s! You will be glad that you did.

Stella’s Restaurant, Hartland, VT

31 Dec

Vermont is old country roads, small towns, and interesting little shops and restaurants.

Stella’s in Hartland, VT is one the quaint little cafe’s we went to today.

Just for a quick lunch after the “biggest snowball fight in the world!”

We felt bad that we barged into the little cafe at 1:45 (they close at 2:30) with four hungry kids and four hungry adults.  The place is tiny and we took it over.

The owner was very accomadating and didn’t seem to mind our little party getting out of control.

Once the food arrived, there was silence.

The Stella burger was deemed, “The best burger ever!” by The Bean.

The special of the day was a fancy tuna melt with spinach and Vermont cheese.  It got rave reviews!

My falafel was good–not amazing–but I was very glad that it was on the menu.  It was just what I was hungry for.

The kids meals were good-sized and actually looked tasty and were eagerly scarfed down.

But, the pie, oh my!  Their chocolate cream pie was touted as “World Famous” and I knew we had to try it.  And, it was rich and creamy and delicious.  So good.

If you ever find yourself in Vermont, I highly recommend Stella’s.  Oh, and not only are they very accommodating they try to get everything from local sources.  Vermont beef, cheese and eggs, and even local ice creams and sorbets.

Here is how you can find it:  159 US Rt 5 Hartland, VT 05048

Phone number:  (802) 436-3525

Montshire Museum, Norwich, Vermont

30 Dec

We are in Vermont–celebrating New Year’s with my in-laws.  Beautiful, snowy, quiet, and laid back Vermont.  So low-tech that I feel kind of guilty working on my blog here.  This is the kind of place you ask your neighbor for advice—not the internet.

But, we are doing so many neat things that I want to share all of our adventures.

Our first mission was the Montshire Museum —a children’s science museum in Norwich, Vermont–just across from the Connecticut river.  Everytime we are here, we visit the Montshire and the kids always love it.

This particular time was especially fun.  We had never told Grandpa and Grandma that we were coming.  Only my sister in law knew and she was able to keep it a surprise.  The plan was to surprise them all at the Montshire Museum.  This would be a real surprise as we live in Florida and we insisted we couldn’t make it this year.

We watched from the second floor windows as they were getting out of the car.  We watched from the second floor overlook as they walked in and paid.  We sent the kids downstairs to just say “Hi!” to their grandpa. The plan was to play it cool and act casual.

First the kids ran into their cousins.  One of them looked at Rosie and The Bean and said  to their dad, “That looks like the Bean and Rosie!”–their dad responded without even looking at them, “Well, it isn’t.”

I think Rosie and The Bean were a little confused about what to do next.  They just stood there.  And waited for someone to recognize them.

Grandpa walked right past them with no sign of recognition.  And they were a little afraid to approach him.

Finally, Grandpa looked long and hard at Rosie thinking, “That sure does look like my grand daughter.”  Once, he looked left and saw the Bean, he fell to his knees and started repeating, “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.”

It was a great moment.  Luckily, my sister in law got great video of everyone’s surprised faces.

______________________________________________________________________________________

So, the Montshire is a great place to pull off a huge family surprise, or just good place to get let kids run around and learn about science.  We have only gone in the winter but there are a bunch of neat trails that start from the grounds that would be really fun to explore in the summer.

There are all kinds of puzzles, and other hands on activities to keep young (and old) ones occupied.  The exhibits change regularly and while we were there we saw an exhibit on how toys work.  It was a great introduction to electric currents and pulleys.

One of the great things about the Montshire  is it is fairly small so, a couple of hours is the perfect amount of time to see everything.  It has never been too crowded when we have been there so we feel comfortable letting the kids roam more freely than we would at larger children’s museums.

The website for the Montshire is:  http://www.montshire.org/

By the way, my favorite exhibit at the Montshire are the leafcutter ants….I could spend hours just looking for the queen ant and watching them break leaves into bite sized pieces and carry them back to their fungus gardens.

Guest Blogging in Kissimmee

10 Dec

We will be on our way to Kissimmee this weekend–exploring all alot of the holiday activities in and around Kissimmee.  I will be posting here to Forty Cakes and to the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau blog at i.seekissimme.com.  Their posts may be delayed a couple of days–but check them out.

Our plans include:

Candlelight Processional at Epcot

ICE! and SNOW! at Gaylord Palms Resort

Arabian Nights Dinner show

Osbourne Family Lights at Hollywood Studios

and lots more…….

We have so much exploring to do and we are all so excited to get in the holiday spirit.   Be sure to check it out.

New York City: Recap

11 Nov

As I suspected might happen, we were having way too much fun to keep posting each and everyday from NYC.

Enjoy these photos of the kids in the city…….we had a great time and I think NYC is the perfect place for kids to go when they are young.  It is so diverse, exciting and a fabulous walking city.  We walked miles and miles each day and the kids never complained–there was always so much to see.

We were the most colorful family in the city!

The theme of our trip was hot chocolate, cupcakes and pizza.  Everyday, we had at least one of these things–usually all three.

Doesn't everyone let their children explore Times Square alone?

Hot Chocolate, cupcakes, pizza and WALKING.  We did a lot of walking (and I did a lot of running….)  The kids also really wanted to stay ahead of us—I think the energy of the city was as exciting to them as it was to us.

After seeing West Side Story, the kids were fascinated with performing on Broadway someday…..and seeing their name in lights.

 

Waiting for their 15 seconds of fame (and panhandling at the same time).
The kids on a Times Square billboard.

Times Square with Tiffany (my sister).

Stay tuned for a report from the marathon, reviews of the hotel, reviews of Crumbs, delicious Indian Food, a New york tour book and more……..(oh yeah, I do have a recipe or two to post soon).  Busy busy!

Nature Coast, Florida

14 Aug

This past weekend, we took a long overdue weekend trip away from our house.  I have a problem with travel—I can never have enough of it.  I need it.  I crave it….I don’t know what I would do without it.  With two kids, two dogs, work and school schedules-not to mention, finances, I have to count our weekend getaways as travel.   And a weekend getaway accomplishes exactly what I need from travel—quality time with my family, new and interesting experiences, and a separation from our daily distractions.

Aaron’s parents were in town from Vermont and we decided to take them up the Florida Nature Coast–a place none of us had ever been.  We knew we wanted to see manatees, mermaids, and spend some time in freshwater and figured that would be the best place to do so.

We started by driving up US 19 to the little town of Weeki Wachee, for our first stop at the beautiful Weeki Wachee springs….probably the only place on Earth that exists to honor the mermaid.  Founded in 1946, Weeki Wachee Springs was a tourist destination for the movie stars is kind of like going back in time.  Though modernized with its small spring fed waterpark, most of the park has a retro feel to it.

Everywhere you look, there were mermaid statues and sculptures.  The main attraction though is the live mermaid show, where mermaids perform for an audience in a sunken theater in the spring.  The spring itself is supposed to be the deepest in the country (world?) and releases over 100 million gallons of water per day from the underground aquifer.  The water was crystal clear and so beautiful.  The mermaids, as you may have guessed are not real mermaids at all—but rather, young women in tails, who have learned to breath through these hoses as they dance and sing–UNDERWATER!  It was really quite odd to see them, underwater—singing, eating, drinking–all while holding their breath.  They would perform little song and dance numbers and then disappear behind a curtain of bubbles.  It may sound kind of cheesy–and it is–but it is also kind of cool and very unique.  If you are in Florida, I highly recommend it.

After Weeki Wachee, we continued up HWY 19 to the town of Crystal River and checked into a Best Western located on Kings’s Bay.  This is where I got a little bit confused.  You see, the plan was to rent our boat the next morning and take it up the Crystal River to look for manatees and crystal clear water.  I had been told that manatees congregate in the crystal clear waters of the spring fed Crystal River.  Everyone I talked to said, “There is no Crystal River, you gotta go out into the bay.”

“The Bay??”  I would ask, seriously confused.   “I thought that the manatees were going to be in freshwater–not salt water.”

“The bay is freshwater”, they would reply, “Have fun and make sure to get under the bridge before the tide comes in.”

Okaaaay.  Whatever.  Maybe in Northwestern Florida they have different terminology.

We rented our boat and we went out into the “bay” and up a little canal, which was lined with fancy houses.  I had thought we would be in a rural area but was totally wrong.  We got to the entrance to the 3 sisters springs and there were tons of other boaters, kayaks, swimmers in the water.  After some gentle coaxing and then some passionate coaxing to get the kids in the water—we started our 100 yard swim to the 3 sisters springs.

In the picture below, you can catch a glimpse of the springs……although you are NOT allowed to go across this grassy field—you must swim around.

Let me  tell you a little bit more about this.  We had to jump off the boat and into the canal that was lined with other motorboats and lots of people.  The water did not look inviting at all.  It was deep and dark.  It smelled of gasoline from the boats motoring by and it was cold.  72 degrees year-round.  Needless to say, it was a little bit difficult to get the kids off the boat.

Actually, it was very difficult to get S off the boat—N was the first one in.  That girl has no fear.  S took about ten minutes with his toes dangling from the ladder-until I got frustrated and pulled him in.  The screaming and yelling that ensued after that was horrifying.  It was not one of my finer parenting moments.  And, if you dear reader, happened to be out there that day–I am sorry that you had to witness that.  You may be glad to know that he perked up very soon after that–as soon as we entered the springs.

And how could you not, the springs were so beautiful.  Crystal clear water.  Perfect.  Deep, cool, tree-lined.  I was a little hesitant as we had to swim through this small canal maybe 2 feet across and I kept thinking of things like crayfish, leeches and snakes.  You know, creepy freshwater things.

But after about ten feet through the tiny canal, it just opened up into a huge blue pool.  At one point, the water must have been close to 40 feet deep and the visibility was so good that you could see all the way to the bottom. Trees had fallen into the water and they made such pretty underwater sculptures.  It was really something to see.  Aaron saw some fish and some crabs and other than that we didn’t see anymore wildlife.  There were about four other springs that we had planned to explore but the sky was beginning to darken and we thought it was better that we head back to port.  Good thing too…..as soon as we got back, a huge thunderstorm erupted.   Perfect time for lunch!

The Crystal River area is not known for their excellent cuisine and although we didn’t have super high expectations we did want to have some good fish.  We tried.  The first night we drove 9.5 miles down this beautiful road, into the middle of nowhere.  As we turned a corner, there was a completely filled parking lot.  A good sign, right?

We had arrived at “Peck’s Old Port House” for a dinner of fresh crabs (they farm them there) and other seafood.  I don’t want to spend much time reviewing the place but I should say, that Jennie (my mother-in-law) went for their fresh soft shell crab and was not disappointed.  The rest of us were.  My grouper was fine—just completely uninspired.  And, the french fries were cold and awful.  Aaron and I tried the clam chowder and it was excellent.  Thick and chunky–just how we like it.  We all liked the hushpuppies.  For dessert, we had to try their Key Lime Pie —and would never recommend it.  It tasted like Cool-Whip mixed with a bit of lime flavoring.  Ugh.  In summary, the drive to Peck’s is nice and if you go and just get the clam chowder you will be happy.

Oyster’s was our lunch destination after our boat trip.  We were happy and hungry when we pulled into their parking lot.  The place seems kind of dive-y……  It is right on the main highway, and was a big room filled with mis-matched tables and chairs.  I thought it looked full of potential.  And, all of the various awards on the walls made me feel like we had made a good choice.

Our server was very nice and she brought lots of stuff out to distract the kids.  The meals, were once again, nothing special.   My in-laws really liked their gumbo but my clam chowder was runny and thin.  We ordered a side of hushpuppies so that I could do a comparison between the hushpuppies at Peck’s—but they never came.  The kids did have great french fries with their meal.  And, to top it off, we shared a slice of Key Lime Pie—-and it was good.  100 times better than the Key Lime Pie of the previous evening……..but still not the best ever.  I did love that Oyster’s was owned by a local family and there were pictures of the chef’s kids all over the walls…..very cozy and homey.

After lunch, we had some time and decided to check out Homossassa Springs State Wildlife Preserve.  It was right up the road and since I love state parks, I wanted to check it out.  This park is more like a zoo…for injured and rehabilitated Florida animals.  The weather was very stormy that day and the radar showed more and more storms popping up—at the entrance, they told us that some of the animals wouldn’t be coming out and that the boat ride had been canceled because of lightning.  We decided to go anyway–cause we are ADVENTUROUS like that.

The place is set up kind of Disney-like.  The visitor’s center is right off the main highway–but once you get in, they take you via boat or tram to the actual park.  The boat ride would have been neat—but the tram ride was nice too.  We went down a little road with beautiful foliage.  Once in the park, we headed straight to the manatee and floating underwater viewing platform.  This platform was built over another natural spring (Homossassa Springs) and was another crystal clear pool….I wanted to jump in so badly.  The pool was filled with fish—mullet, sheepshead, snook.  But, the stars of the show were the manatees.  They would swim by, so close, spinning and spinning……slowly eating, just begging us to jump in and play with them…(don’t worry,  I know that they are a protected marine mammal and touching, harassing, playing with them is illegal.)  The manatees there had been struck by boats or had flippers wrapped in trash and were held in captivity because of their injuries.

The weather seemed to be on our side.  And luckily, it kept the crowds down.  There was no one there—-and it seemed like the kind of place that was used to some serious crowds.  We got to see a famous Hippo, who used to be in the movies.  He almost pooped on me as I was taking this picture:

The park ranger came running up, yelling, “Move back!  Get out of the way!  You’ll be sorry!”  I thought he had to be talking to someone else….I would never be so stupid to stand next to a pooping hippo.

Um. Yeah.

There were foxes, hungry wolves, amazing birds, a Florida bobcat, the requisite alligators, and even a bear–but I was focused on the manatees.  (The Florida panther and the bear were in hiding….)  There was a nice boardwalk that we walked around to see all of the animals and the weather was cooperating.  The clouds kept it cool but it wasn’t raining and the rumbling thunder we kept hearing seemed far enough away. And like I mentioned, there was no one there.  (The gift shops were immense—and you can tell that it gets crazy there.)

I recommend the place if 1) you like animals, 2) you have kids and 3) especially, if it is a stormy day and you know no one would be there.  I think that if it had been crowded, we would have hated it.

We ended our weekend get-away with burgers from Five Guys.  The in-laws had never heard of the place—(What do they eat in Vermont?) and we had promised to take them there.  They were impressed with the french fries for sure……