Thursday, February 26, 2009

Making Strawberry Pizza

Strawberries drizzled in almonds and sugar ... could there be anything more perfect? This is a snapshot of my strawberry pizza, a recipe from Arthur at the Adora Inn. His partner, John, told me a very beautiful romanticized version of the history of this recipe and how the crust was Arthur's Italian Grandmother's homemade recipe and how she would make this for him as a snack when he came home from school. The story formed images in my mind of flour dusted aprons blowing in the wind with a round faced, broad smiling older Italian woman in a red checkered dress standing in a Tuscan field greeting her grandson as he ran down the hill into her open arms ... (Did you hear a record scratch?) ... Arthur burst my bubble when he told me it actually was just a recipe from a dear friend of his that simply whipped this up in an instant for a dinner party when she realized she forgot to pick up a pastry. Still a beautiful story ... just not the Worther's-Candy-Commercial-Style-Story I had dreamed up.

Anyhow, this pizza is delicious for breakfast or dessert. The crust is light and flaky and includes an ingredient I've never thought of using in making crust ... ricotta cheese. Not to sweet ... not too heavy ... a slice of this pastry is the perfect compliment to a cup of coffee or tea.

Here are the key players ...

A bowl of fresh picked strawberries, a stick of unsalted sweet cream butter, 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 3/4 cup of ricotta, a bowl of sugar for sprinkling ... and I added a bowl of sliced almonds for some added texture.

Add together all your ingredients to make the crust ... flour, butter, ricotta ... and for me ... a little pinch of sugar. Blending this in a food processor or a deep bowl with a pastry blade works best. Arthur recommends not kneading it too much with your fingers as it makes the doe a little tough and less flaky.

After making your doe, roll it out and place it on a pizza pan and then pinch together the edge of the crust. I actually have a round pizza stone that I use for baking.

It helps to add flour to your hands to prevent the doe from sticking to your fingers ...

Next, slice your strawberries to layer onto your crust. Cutting them lengthwise makes for a prettier, almost heart shape.

Drizzle with sugar, almonds, and any other toppings you like. I made a mental note that adding some chocolate would be absolutely divine. If you are making this pastry just for yourself to enjoy ... feel free to lick your fingers at this point.

After 20 minutes in an oven set at 425 degrees ... you have a slightly sweet and delightful strawberry pizza. Enjoy!

Do you have any other fabulous strawberry recipes? Let us know!


Florida Strawberry Season

Winter is usually associated with heavy foods, root vegetables and fragrant spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. But this chilly season also brings with it an unexpected fruit for harvest ... strawberries! Red, ripe, plump, anti-oxidant rich, diet-friendly sweet berries.

Everywhere I go I see signs of strawberry season all over Florida from road side produce stands to the Florida Strawberry Festival. Mount Dora even has a U-pick grove only 2 miles from downtown at Oak Haven Farms. And that's where we went this week and picked enough strawberries to feed a small army! Now I just have to conjure up enough recipes to use all these sweet little berries.

Now, if anyone ever invites you to go strawberry picking and tells you to bring a ladder ... just wink and smile. Strawberries grow on low-lying bushes so you'll more likely benefit from a small stool, knee pad, or appointment with your chiropractor and masseuse in the morning.

There is something I just adore about being outdoors on a farm .... breathing in the fresh air, seeing how food is grown, the contrast of the green plants and the blue sky. The Italians call it Agri-Tourismo. For us I guess its agri-entertainment. Like living the adventure of Discovery Channel show of "Best Jobs" or "How It's Made."

There is nothing like baking something including some fresh fruit picked with your own bare hands! I'll have to get started with the Adora Inn's Strawberry Pizza ... but if you have any other delicious strawberry recipes please comment!


Polynesian Pancakes

Springtime scents and flavors are calling. After bundling up in layers and lounging around the house in fuzzy socks ... a sweet taste of things that remind me of warmer weather will do the trick to shake any winter blues. Zesty citrus, tangy pineapple, and creamy coconut are sure to warm up any weekend morning.

While this recipe may not be conducive to a bikini belly diet ... it will certainly bring your mind right to the beach!

This is Jim's newest creation at the Mount Dora Historic Inn, and I can't wait to try making this in my own kitchen this weekend. I'll be sure to post some pictures of my luau breakfast experiment.


1 1/2 Cup Self Rising Flour (or your favorite pancake mix)
1 Tbsp Toasted Orange Zest (available in the spice section at your local grocery store)
8 oz Can Crushed Pineapple Juice
2 Ripe Bananas ... Mashed
8 oz Can of Coconut Cream
2 Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Orange Juice
1/4 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Raw Sugar


1) Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

2) Next, mix all wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.

3) Slowly stirring, combine wet and dry ingredients together. If batter is too thin, add a little more flour.

4) Make pancakes like usual!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gentle Giants

Part of being an Innkeeper is experiencing the adventures in your own backyard. So many people think of Florida as all sun and sand, but there are many rare and unique things to do in the Winter ... such as kayaking with the Manatees. Recently we took a 45 minute drive out to Homosassa Springs to get up close to this endangered species. Meet these gentle giants in the video below ...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wish Upon A Hero

Everyone has a wish. Anyone can be a hero.

That's the slogan for Wish Upon A Hero, a site dedicated to helping people by perpetuating kindness. This is the ultimate do-a-good-deed-and-pay it-forward website. Basically, if you have a need or a dream ... make a wish. If you have the ability ... be a hero.

A hero in need of a hero ...

Recently, a soldier's wish was to renew his wedding vows to his wife before being deployed again to Iraq. Being a sailor, only a Captain would do! So Therese, with Wish Upon a Hero, discovered Captain Barry and The Captains' Inn located in Mount Dora. Immediately upon hearing the story, Innkeepers Tamara and Barry happily agreed to grant their wish.

Captain Barry performed the touching ceremony for Kelly & Darrell at sunset by the lighthouse on Lake Dora.

"We were proud to make her wish come true. We wish Darrell a safe and speedy return to the USA." -- Captain Barry

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Poetry In Motion

There is always something fun and unique going on in this town. From cultural to just plain fun and entertaining, our social calendars are filled to the brim with options and the biggest decision one usually has to make on a weekend is how to be in two places at once as to not miss a thing.

Recently, one of our coffee houses, One Flight Up, hosted an event called Flights of Fantasy where 9 entertainers charmed, humored and inspired through their and prose and poetry with the theme of life and love in honor of Valentines Day this month. Here are some comments from other Innkeepers ...

"It was a lot of fun, something out of the ordinary for Mount Dora, that's for sure. Some were really funny and some really odd. One writer, Michael Suib, lived in Key West for years and I guess he's moved here now... he was a riot. He recently has published a book and has written many times for the Miami Herald. A total of nine poets read their Poems & Prose to a silent attentive audience while we all sat and sipped wine, tea & coffee drinks. Codi put out a nice buffet of sweets and it was a really nice experience." -- John, The Adora Inn

"It was fabulous, and quite unexpected. There were two published writers who read both prose and poetry. It reminded me of the coffee houses my mom would take me to in Berkley California when I was growing up ... although a little brighter and the topics more upbeat and fun.
" --Jim, Mount Dora Historic Inn

The Captain's Inn

Get a glimpse inside the Captain's Inn ...

Friday, February 20, 2009

They've Got The Beat!

The Mount Dora Music Festival is currently filling the town with rhythm and harmony this weekend. With venues both large and small, indoor and outdoor, featuring jazz, blues, folk, rock, classical and more ... there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Music is one of those powerful mediums that instantly moves the heart and touches the soul. I know whenever I need a pick-me-up, energy boost or just some inspiration all I have to do is plug in my ipod for an instant fix. It reminds me of a quote by Alphonse de Lamartine, "Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends."

But music can be much more than just a solitary art. It also has a way of bringing people together and no one would understand that better than Nancy and Gary, Innkeepers at the Coconut Cottage Inn. They both have been involved in the planning of this festival for many years and throughout this weekend you will most likely find them both hanging around the Community Building or Donnelly Park tapping their toes to the beat.

If you get the opportunity, bring your blankets, chairs and picnic baskets downtown to catch a free concert in the park or make a night of it with dinner and a show downtown. Be sure to wave hello to Nancy and Gary!


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Innkeeper to Island Keeper

So, I already thought I HAD the best job in the world acting, writing and blogging my adventures in Central Florida and what it's like to be an innkeeper. But as it turns out, I could have the best job in the world on the OTHER side of the world in Queensland Australia.

Click here to see my VIDEO and let me know what you think!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

All aboard!

Inspired by my activities logged on the blog, Jim and Ana with the Mount Dora Historic Inn were inspired to act as a tourist in their own backyard and jump aboard the Mount Dora Trolley for a tour. Jim and Ana have loved living in Mount Dora since they moved here from Miami ... I think this experience deepened their appreciation for the town.

Here is a guest blog by Jim Tuttle ...

My wife and I own a Bed and Breakfast in Mount Dora; and, are afforded many opportunities to meet fun and fabulous people all the time. Even while walking around town with our dogs, Brie and Niko, we are often engaged in conversations by visitors and neighbors, and many times our chats will last the better part of an hour. We love living in Mount Dora and we especially love that we took the plunge.

We traded in our stressful corporate days for the hassle-free and enriched lifestyle that we have, now. In fact by mid-day, we generally are enjoying a picnic in one of the many parks, shopping (my wife's favorite), taking part in one of the many outdoor activities, or dining at a street side café.

Just the other day, we took the Historic Trolley ride with two of our guests around town, and though, we have lived here for a little over two years now, we learned so much about our very "Norman Rockwell-esque"

The tour was so very informative about Mount Dora's unique history and extremely entertaining. In addition to all the fun we had with our hosts Byron, and Doris the Narrator, we also enjoyed the canopied streets (thanks to our many mature oak trees) and awe-inspiring architecture of the town. The architecture in Mount Dora is as diverse as its residents.

Our homes in Mount Dora are so far removed from the cookie-cutter type homes we were accustomed to in Miami, that we were instantly captured by the extremely distinctive architecture you find in this historic town.

After our fabulous trolley ride, we decided to take in one of the local restaurants and enjoy the sunset. Here is my wife enjoying a glass of champagne while we sat at Pisces Rising and watch the sun sink into the horizon. Just another day in paradise!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Sweetest Thing

One large pizza, $11. Two coffees and a dessert, $6. Movie in the Park, free. Listening to a little boy sing, "Proud To Be An American" ... priceless.

My college buddy and good friend, Betsey, came up to Mount Dora to visit and experience a small town Friday night. We watched a little bit of the movie Happy Feet playing on the hill in Donnelly Park with families and couples all snuggled up on their blankets and camp chairs. Our rumbling tummies steered us over to PizzAmore to split a Vesuvio layered with spinach, feta, garlic and EVOO. After chatting it up with the locals at the pizza place we walked another block to have some coffee and dessert up on the balcony of One Flight Up. There we discussed politics, the current state of the economy, what we're hopeful for in 2009.

And then something delightfully spontaneous and touching happened. A little boy walked into the room and said he'd like to sing us all a song and then in a small innocent voice sang Lee Greenwood's Proud To Be An American. Coming from such a young soul, I thought it was very touching.

My friend Betsey popped outside to get a picture of the future American Idol contestant. (Yeah, yeah, that's me peaking through the window.)

It always seems the moments that are unplanned are the sweetest.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Art, Wine, and TGIF ...

Omigosh! Is it really FRIDAY? Is it me, or does it seem after a big event, time seems to snap right by. All sorts of build up and anticipation and then ... bam ... not only is it over, but it's a week old! Such is my life right now. Last weekend was our BIG art festival weekend hosted by the Mount Dora Center for the Arts. After turning over all the rooms for a full house, every cottage taken, we couldn't wait to go take a walk downtown and explore all the exhibitors. With over 250 artists from around the world, there was a lot to see. It was sensory overload. Art. Inspiration. Food. Wine. Music. Everything good in the World all concentrated in nine city blocks.

One of our guests was an exhibiting artist, Teresa, creator of Minds Eye Journals. Her hand crafted leather journals are truly one-of-a-kind and perfect for artistic sketches or journaling an adventure. I'm looking forward to taking a water colors class to learn to create something worthy of her craftsmanship.

After the Mount Dora Art Festival, the week seems to have zoomed by while catching up on things and preparing for our next big crowd gatherer, The Mount Dora Music Festival, coming up next weekend.

As one of our friends in the community always says...

Peace, Prosperity, and Party Party Party,



Dog-on Hungry

Tonight was girls night out ... including my very furry baby girl pictured to the left. I love how our little town, Mount Dora, is so pet-friendly.

My neighbor and I walked downtown to dinner and brought along my shiba inu, Allie. We strolled through the park, past the dog-treat bakery (where she got a good sniff at the front door) and landed ourselves outside on the deck at Pisces Rising overlooking Lake Dora. While we enjoyed the ambiance and entrees, Allie relaxed at our feet while sipping from her own doggie bowl and inhaling some treats brought to her by our server. I swear she doesn't even take time to taste her treats ... the moment it hits her lips, it's gone. Like a magic disappearing act. Ah well, such is a dog's life. They savor their naps, just not their food.

Do you have a favorite dog-friendly business or travel destination? If so, let us know! Allie and I just might have to come visit.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Some More Smores Please!

Last night we decided to take advantage of the cooler weather and light up the fire pit in our courtyard. Nothing like some graham crackers, marshmallows and dark chocolate all melted together to take the edge off of the chill in the air. Oh, and of course a hot steaming mug of hot chocolate.

We invited our neighbors over to join us and our guests in the finger licking goodness of roasted marshmallows and telling stories by the fire under the stars. It was much like camping, only better. You can't beat having the feel of the outdoors with the convenience of being able to walk a few steps to get indoors to snuggle into some flannel sheets and brush your teeth in a real bathroom without a woodsy spider staring you down.
Aaah ... the convenience of being able to have backyard smores.

A perfect evening kick-off to our downtown Mount Dora Art Festival.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ghostly Gardens

What ever happened to global warming? I think this is the COLDEST winter I can remember here in Central Florida ... and from what I see on the news everyone in the rest of the country is experiencing the same. It even sounds weird to say "cold winter" and "Florida" in the same sentence. At least we're not dealing with power outages, snow and ice. Our preparation for record lows includes pulling out our scarves and sweaters and covering up all our plants in the yard to the point where it looks like we have lawn ghosts and have rewound back to Halloween.

It's a bummer. Usually our winters are mild enough to get some pre-spring gardening done. Our landscaping sure could use some love ... but it may just have to wait until after Valentines Day.

Until then, my little white sheet ghost garden will have to do.