Denver and Pumpkin

I have officially been in Denver now for two weeks and one day.  I’m loving living in a town with the mountains so close and have been enjoying them on the two weekends I’ve been here.  Looking at the leaves changing from a mountain top is pretty extraordinary.  As a welcome to Denver post I decided to tie it in with a welcome to fall post.  I love, repeat, love cooking anything with pumpkin in it.  This weekend I made a pumpkin swirl bread.  It’s a play on Pepperridge Farm’s Pumpkin Spice bread. You can find this bread on the shelves for a limited time, but in case you can’t…try making it.  This bread was such a hit at the breakfast table.  The best part about it is that its not too sweet; it has just the right amount.  Kick off the fall season with this bread—maybe even at a tailgate!

Swirled Pumpkin Bread

The only thing I changed in this recipe was using golden raisins versus regular one. And I only did this to keep the colors fally.

Don’t have a rolling pin? No problem!

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Salzburg: Best Music

The hills are alive with the sound of music in Salzburg.  Sorry I couldn’t help myself from having that as the lead in this post.  But for real they are—if you go on the Sound of Music tour while you are there that is.  We arrived into Salzburg to a cloudy rainy day, but it was the only day we had any issues with weather and it cleared up by mid-afternoon.  We checked in to our hostel and waited to be picked up for the tour.  We found a food truck next to our hostel and decided that would be lunch.  I had the curry sausage and it was probably the best sausage I had the whole trip.  It was covered in a ketchupy-curry sauce that was incredible.  If you are going to Salzburg let me know and I’ll tell you where this truck was.

The tour started and we went around the city and saw places like the back of the house from the movie. Which due to complications with laws and so on, they only used the patio and lake to film and the house itself was never shown. We saw the pavilion that “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” was sang in; and another little interesting fact was that it was only built for the film.  We saw the path that Marie sang down on her way to the house and the trees the kids played in after singing “Do-Re-Mi.”  We then left the heart of Salzburg and headed for the hills. In case you were wondering, they did play the Sound of Music soundtrack during parts of the tour.

The real abbey where Maria von Trapp studied to be a nun.

Some of us didn’t enjoy the tour as much as others.

We stopped in Mondsee, which was an adorable tiny town that housed the Mondsee Cathedral that was used to film the wedding scene from the movie. Another great thing about this stop were the strudels.  Known for strudels, the oldest strudel recipe in Austria dates back to 1696.  We had apple and cheese strudels, some with a cream sauce and some with ice cream.  Obviously the cheese strudel was my favorite with the cream sauce.  Nice doughy crust on the outside with a warm filming soaked with sauce.

After the tour we explored the Mirabell Gardens, that has the Pegasus fountain, the “Do-Re-Mi” steps and other locations for that song.  The weather was finally clearing up and it was absolutely breath taking views of the garden with the Fortress Hohensalzburg in the background.  We explored the old town, saw Mozart’s statue and his birth home.

We had without a doubt the weirdest dinner experience that almost had us eating at Japanese/pizza serving restaurant.  We got lured in by the all-you-can-eat sign—we’re so American.  Don’t worry we ended eating a delicious Italian meal from a restaurant across the street.

The most hilarious fact we learned on the Sound of Music tour was about the end of the movie. When the family is climbing over the mountains in the last scene to flee Austria and the German Nazi’s, they are marching over Untersberg which borders Austria and Germany, so if you haven’t figured it out yet, they would’ve have been hiking directly into Germany. A little Hollywood trick. The real story is that they hopped on a Train down to Italy, no hiking involved.

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Birthday Cake

Even though I am eagerly awaiting  the cool brisk days of fall, I am trying to soak up the last sunny summer days of the year.  My little sister’s birthday falls on one of those last summer days and she requested her favorite cake for her birthday— a Dairy Queen cake, which is perfect for sunny days because it is an ice cream cake.  Instead of running out to buy one, I thought I should make it instead.  I started googling and putting together different recipes I found online to come up with what I thought was the exact recipe for those amazing DQ cakes.  To my surprise it was.   This cake was simple, had very few ingredients and pretty darn close to being the exact same as DQ.

My suggestion is to make this, this weekend for the family or friends and enjoy the last ice cream days.


Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake Recipe

2 cake pans (9 or 8 inch ones will work)

1 quart vanilla ice cream

1 quart chocolate ice cream

1 packaged oreos (16 oz)

1 jar fudge topping (11 3/4 ounces)

Chocolate sauce- enough for 1/4 cup

1 pint heavy whipping cream

2 tbs sugar

2 tsp vanilla


Allow the ice cream to melt enough so you can pour it into the two cake pans.  Line the cake pans with plastic wrap before pouring ice cream into the pans so you can get the ice cream back out easily once frozen.  Freeze the ice cream in the cake pans till they are once again frozen.  Remove the filling from the oreo’s and discard it.  Put all the oreo cookies in a bowl and smash till small bits. I used a potato smasher.  Mix in chocolate sauce to the cookie crumbles till it forms a ball.  Don’t put too much sauce in to the point where it is liquidy.  You want it to be a dough like substance.  Pull out the ice cream and on the vanilla side spread the cookie mix onto it, then on the chocolate side pour the fudge onto it.  Refreeze for 1 hour, at least.  Place your whipping bowl and mixer in the freezer for 30 minutes before whipping.  Pour the pint of cream into the chilled bowl and add 2 tbs sugar and 2 tsp vanilla into the bowl and mix still stiff peaks.  Pull out the two cakes and remove from pan by pulling on the plastic wrap.  Place the chocolate cake on a plate fudge side up and then put the vanilla cake on top cookie side down, so the fudge and cookie mix are touching.  Frost and refreeze for at least 30 mins.  Now enjoy!

(That is supposed to be a polar bear, incase there was any confusion with my artwork)

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Vienna- Best Architecture on Every Corner

Vienna is the capital of Austria and the “city of music” which is the city where the waltz originated.  We waltzed our way into that city without a real plan, which was sort of a trend with us on this trip.  We first headed over to see a building made by my friends Phil and Claire’s Great-great-grandfather (they think) which was a building that had an amazing gold leaf dome.

We then realized we had checked off the only thing on our list and didn’t know what else to see, so we did what I love to do—hopped on a hour long bus tour.  It took us all around the city and we got to hear a lot of great history.  We also learned on this tour about Viennese’s coffee shops and how important coffee shops are to their culture.  Rumor has it that the Polish army brought some “strange bags of beans” over with them after they invaded Turkey and one of the officers was given the beans and started the first coffee shop and the rest is history.

After our tour we enjoyed delicious street hotdogs and pretzels—so good.

We then toured some on foot and of course ate gelato.    I had been to Vienna before when I was in 7th grade so it was fun remembering things or finding familiar buildings and statues.  This is also the city where the famous Lipizzaner Stallions are from.  When I was here before I watched them perform in the palace.  These horses basically do horse ballet; it is incredible.  The horses stable is in the Schönbrunn Palace.  The thing that the group decided on that was the most amazing part about Vienna was that on every corner  the architecture is beautiful.  The buildings are just spectacular and similar looking wherever you end up.

We stayed in a hotel in Vienna, thanks to Phil’s Marriot points.  We went back to the  hotel took naps and got ready and went to an amazing dinner at Zwolf Apostelkeller.  The dining room was a basement brick dining room and went pretty deep under ground. We shared a meat platter, cheese platter, schznitzel platter and sides of potatoes, saurkrawt and dumplings.  I got to try a first here too.  On the meat platter they had blood sausage.  Blood sausage is basically what is sounds like and I’m not going to go into detail about it because it may gross some people out.  If you want to know in depth about it, just google it.  It had a very weird spread like consistancy and the taste was very similar to liver.  Not bad though.

We walked the streets and ended up getting beer at a bubble tea stand; odd but fun.  We also found another Pub like the one in Prague with the beer taps at the tables.  We hit the hay a little bit earlier than usual and got up early to take the train to Salzburg.

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Bratislava- Best “No Expectations” City

We added Bratislava to our trip just because it was on the way to Vienna from Budapest; thinking, “why not stay a night.” The more we talked to other people and thought about EuroTrip’s portrayal of the city we start to get a little nervous that we were spending too much time in Bratislava.  We thought about skipping it but we had already bought our “Botel” room.  So we went.

First let me say that EuroTrip’s depiction of the city is completely false.  Bratislava is a cute, tiny, historic city.  One of the best things about it was that we had very low expectations for it so there was no pressure.  In the other cities we visited we knew there were certain landmarks that we had to see so we were constantly running around and in Bratislava we were able to just relax and enjoy the city.  We ended up on a pub/gelato tour.  We would walk a little stop for a drink, then walk some more and stop for gelato, then repeat.  Don’t miss the “Men at Work” statue.  The man popping his head out of the street hole is named Cumil aka The Watcher.  While he doesn’t represent a history for Bratislava he has quickly become a famous attraction. We stayed in a botel like I mentioned before which is what it sounds like a hotel that is a boat.

Blending in with the locals.

We also had such an amazing meal.  We asked a local for a suggestion for a good meal and she suggested that we dine a brewery called Bratislavsky Mestiansky Pivovar.  We literally feasted (yes, Phil, literally).  We started with home-made cracklings in fat and a cheese dish that was beer cheese, spring onion, beer foam, mustard and garlic and when brought to the table you mix it all together. The we had beloved home-made tripe soup and of course  creamy garlic soup in a “bosniak” bowl (bread bowl). Then for dinner I had a young pork knuckle with saurkraut and potato dumplings.  Others had steak and duck.  We were beyond full and it was fabulous!

We chilled for a few hours at a pub to digest the food before heading out into the night life of Bratislava.  We went to the only night club in Bratislava and it was also possibly the smallest night club in the world, think living room size.  It was hilarious but also really fun!

Next stop, Vienna for some waltzing!

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Budapest- Best View

After a seven hour bus drive, we were more than ready to explore Budapest. We headed straight to our hostel  to meet up with the rest of our group and get the night started!  We stayed at Bazar Hostel , which is on the Pest side, in Budapest and actually enjoyed the hostel.  It was in a location that was great for walking to the sights, bars and restaurants and it was clean and comfortable.  Add it to you list of must’s for Budapest.

Another two places to add to your must do list are Szimpla (above) and Instant.  They are the two bars that we went to in Budapest and they were awesome.  Szimpla was a funky bar that had an indoor and a huge outdoor area.  Good music, cheap drinks and fun people.  Instant was a little more interesting.  It could be called a club, pub or bar depending on what room you found yourself in. It without a doubt was the strangest decorated bar I have ever been too; but I won’t give it all away and will save some for you to discover.  These were suggested to our group and we 100 percent would suggest them to anyone visiting, we had a blast at these places.

Now that I have the night life out of the way I can talk about what was the “best” of Budapest.  Simple answer, the views.  The way the cities, Buda and Pest are split by the Danube river creates the most magnificent views.  You see the castle, the Hungarian tiles and you can’t miss the Parliament building.  We went on the hop on hop off bus tour and I think that was a great way to see the city and learn all the history.  Plus you got a free boat tour with it so that was a good bonus.  The city sites really speak for themselves, the pictures prove it.

Besides amazing views, Budapest is also known for their thermal baths because of the natural hot springs.  We went to one in city park and thing that amazed us the most was the “watch technology” they had.  Instead of having a key for your locker you would wear a “watch” (it wasn’t an actual one but it looked like it).  You would put the face up to the locker and it was your key, sounds weird but it was amazing!

Now, we of course were hungry in Hungary, I’ve been waiting to use that line.  In Budapest we had one of the best, if not the best dinners of the whole trip (it’s still in debate).  We ate at a traditional Hugarian restaurant and had cream of garlic soup with cheese bread and a hugarian appetizar plate with meats  for the appetizer. This was the best garlic soup we had period!  We then had goulash with dill and cottage cheese potato dumplings and a side of sztrapacska, which was like a noodle dumpling with a creamy blue cheese flavored sauce.  The food was delicio, wine was flowing and it was just an amazing meal.

We also got to taste the street food of Budapest. We had langos, which is Hungarian fried bread and sometimes called Hungarian pizza.  The crust tasted like an elephant ear, that was topped with sour cream, red onions, cheese and ham.  It was to die for.  I love anything with sour cream so I knew I was going to love this.  It was hot from the bread and cool with the sour cream and onions– so tasty.

We were sad to leave Budapest but had to keep going on our journey.  Next stop Bratislava.

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