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Month: May, 2013

Colorado Summer Vacations: Trip Planning Ideas, Things To Do & More

Longer, warmer days in Colorado inspire bursts of energy to get out and enjoy every moment of beautiful daylight — whether on a Rocky Mountain trail, the banks of a shimmering lake or a relaxing rooftop patio. Get started planning your next Colorado spring and summer vacations and find things to do by reading the articles below.

Hikers_Retouched2

8 Ways To Love Spring & Summer In Colorado

The forecast for summer in Colorado calls for big blue skies in the day and cool evenings at any altitude. Claim your share of our mild weather by getting outside and exploring every corner of Colorado, where there’s no end of summer things to do.

Hiking

Whether your goal is “Summit or Bust” up the side of a fourteener or more of a lazy creekside amble, Colorado has hundreds of miles of trails that are just your speed. They’re easy to access, and the catalog of available experiences is incredibly diverse — wildflower meadows, cliffs and canyons, swaying grasslands, rushing waterfalls and so many more.

Camping/Backpacking

There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to totally unplug on a camping trip, but Colorado will make sure you have all the inspiration to do so. With campsites in 41 state parks, more than 22 million acres of national forests and hundreds of private campgrounds, it’s easy to find a tranquil spot to get back to basics.

Mountain Biking/Cycling

In Colorado, bicycle riding is not just a way to get around before you get your drivers license: it’s a way of life. From the state that invented mountain biking and has dozens of endurance and high-altitude races, there’s an abundance of bike trails. There are also hundreds of miles of paved, flat trails for the more casual pedaler.

Boating

Colorado may be landlocked, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t shorelines. On thousands of acres of boat-worthy water, boaters travel through mountain basins and deep-water oases on the plains. Tow a water skier or just feel the wind on your face as you glide across Colorado’s lakes and reservoirs.

Golf

If you hear someone bragging about how far he hit the ball on a recent golf vacation, you might ask where he was when he experienced this feat. Chances are, it was in Colorado. At high altitude, where the air is thin and dry, everyone’s ball flies farther and straighter.

Horseback Riding

Dramatic scenic backdrops, endless trails and a history of horseback riding make Colorado a perfect destination for equestrian immersion. Each region offers a different landscape for horseback riding, pack trips, dude ranches and any level of horsemanship.

Kayaking & Whitewater Rafting

The headwaters of four major rivers begin in Colorado — the Colorado, Platte, Arkansas and Rio Grande — and every spring, whitewater lovers flock here with their kayaks strapped to the roofs of their cars and whitewater rafting reservations. Colorado’s abundance of outfitters, mellow rivers and challenging rapids make it the ideal place to put your paddle in the water.

Caving

One of the best ways to cool off from all these summer activities is to head underground, where two of the nation’s most popular natural caves can be found: Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs and Glenwood Caverns in Glenwood Springs.

http://www.colorado.com/spring-summer

Liberty Bell facts

PA liberty bell

 

Summer is nearly upon us. We have plans for trips to see relatives and visit historical sites. If you are fortunate enough to be heading east and you are anywhere within radar range of Philadelphia, PA, you may wish to see this great American symbol of freedom.

The Liberty Bell is one of the things most of us associate with Pennsylvania. Did you know the first one was actually forged in England? Rather ironic, eh? That first bell, commissioned in 1751 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges, the state’s original constitution, had a crack in it when it arrived, so it was melted down in America and recast. (Of course, the second bell also developed a crack.) The bell, originally known as the State house bell, bears these words from Leviticus 25:10— Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. And on July 8, 1776, the bell did, indeed, proclaim liberty, as it rang from the tower of Independence Hall to summon all citizens to come hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Later on, abolitionists adopted the bell as their symbol, and they’re credited with renaming it the Liberty Bell. Following the Civil War, the bell was taken on a tour around the country as a symbol of unity, and a replica of the bell later toured to promote women’s suffrage. The replica’s clapper was chained to its side during that time, keeping it silent until women won the right to vote. When the nineteenth amendment was ratified, the replica bell was brought to Independence Hall, and rung in celebration.

Yes, you can make this at home. I did.

chipizza

I have been craving real Deep Dish Pizza for 28 years since I moved from Chicago to Colorado. If you want one that tastes like the real thing, you cannot find it in this gorgeous state we live in. You must make it yourself. Follow this recipe. You will love it.

Chicago Deep Dish

The secret to the dough is a process known as laminating the dough, which is similar to how you make croissants (although not nearly as involved or time-consuming). You basically roll out the dough, slather it with lots of butter, and then roll it and fold it in such a way that the butter ends up in thin layers within the dough, which creates a wonderfully flaky texture – one of the key components to a great deep-dish pizza.

As illustrated below, the dough is rolled out into a rectangle, smeared with butter, and then rolled up into a tight cylinder. You then flatten the cylinder slightly so you end up with a long rectangle.

Once you have your long rectangle patted out nicely, you’ll cut it in half (hello knife that still had some basil stuck to it!) and then proceed to fold each half into thirds, like a business letter. Then pinch together all of the seams to seal them up and form two balls. Those go into the refrigerator for a short while, and then you’ll be ready to assemble your pizza. The stint in the refrigerator chills the butter, which is essential for the texture. When cold butter hits a warm oven, it creates pockets of steam, which is how you end up with tons of flaky layers.

Once you’re done chilling the dough, you’ll roll it out into a 13-inch circle and fit it into your oil-coated pan. Next comes the cheese (mozzarella is a must!), throw on any toppings (we love pepperoni) or none at all, and then finish off with your sauce and a healthy dose of Parmesan cheese.

Bake it up, and before you know it, you’ll have crazy delicious pizza waiting for you!

This recipe makes two pizzas, so I decided to make one according to the recipe, and to tweak the second one. The reason? I am not a huge sauce fan and prefer my pizzas with a large cheese to sauce ratio, so I wasn’t sure that I would really like an entire layer of sauce on the very top of my pizza. So, for the second one, I made the pizza exactly the same except that I switched up the order of the toppings on the dough. Instead of cheese, toppings, sauce I did a traditional pizza of sauce, cheese, toppings. In the back of my mind I kind of figured that I would prefer it this way, but boy was I wrong!

Not that it was bad, of course. It’s hard to make a bad pizza, especially homemade. However, the original deep-dish provided a far tastier pizza, and my Chief Culinary Consultant agreed. I was honestly really surprised! However, I shook my head at myself for questioning a Cook’s Illustrated method in the first place – they are usually always spot-on, and this was no exception. I will definitely go all-in with the traditional deep-dish method from now on!

The experimental pizza, however, did provide a really nice gooey, cheesy picture Yum!

I’m thrilled to have an awesome deep-dish pizza recipe to bake up when the urge hits now. I’d love to try a version with sausage and maybe mushrooms, and a vegetarian one as well. Do you have favorite toppings for deep-dish pizza?

Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 to 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Ingredients:

For the Dough:
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
1¼ cups water, room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon + 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

For the Sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup grated onion
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

For the Toppings:
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
(Pepperoni)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Make the Dough: Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Add water and melted butter and mix on low speed, using a dough hook, until fully combined, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping sides and bottom of bowl occasionally. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is glossy and smooth and pulls away from sides of bowl, 4 to 5 minutes. (You can easily make this by hand, mixing in the water and butter with a spatula and then kneading by hand.)

2. Coat a large bowl with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Using greased spatula, transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat the dough in oil; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes.

3. Make the Sauce: While dough rises, heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add onion, oregano, and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and sugar, increase heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to about 2½ cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.

4. Laminate the Dough: Turn the dough out onto dry work surface and roll into a 15×12-inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula, spread the softened butter over the surface of the dough, leaving a ½-inch border along the edges. Starting at the short end, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. With seam side down, flatten the cylinder into an 18×4-inch rectangle. Cut rectangle in half crosswise. Working with one half, fold into thirds like a business letter; pinch seams together to form ball. Repeat with remaining half. Return balls to oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in refrigerator until nearly doubled in volume, 40 to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower position and preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

5. Bake the Pizzas: Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil each. Transfer 1 dough ball to dry work surface and roll out into a 13-inch circle. Transfer dough to the pan by rolling the dough loosely around a rolling pin and unrolling into pan. Lightly press dough into pan, working into corners and 1 inch up sides. If dough resists stretching, let it relax for 5 minutes before trying again. Repeat with remaining dough ball.

6. For each pizza, sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella evenly over surface of dough. (If you’re using any meat or veggie toppings, add them now, on top of the cheese.) Spread 1¼ cups tomato sauce over the cheese (or toppings) and sprinkle 2 tablespoons Parmesan over sauce. Bake until crust is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.