Friday, March 6, 2009

Happy Hour at Buffalo Thunder Resort

After a long day in which our tour group traveled a handful of different directions, we met at the new *Buffalo Thunder Resort on Pojoaqua Pueblo land outside of Santa Fe for our farewell happy hour and dinner. We arrived on a covered adobe porch where servers offered sangria, wine, and mixed drinks, giant shrimp and bruschetta. Despite the fact that it was late October, early evening began with almost balmy temperatures.

As our now-familiar crowd arrived at staggered intervals, storm clouds thickened and the sky darkened. Only a hint of sunset pierced the gray expanse. The dull roar of thunder accompanied sheets of rain that traveled across the distant sky.

Suddenly, a wave of wind blew across the porch fiercely, carrying the first chilly raindrops of evening. We retrived toppled wine glasses and fallen plates, held down skirt hems, and tried to steady our tables until staff members shooed us inside. A huge wind gust banged the outside door against the inside wall as everyone streamed into the lobby, followed quickly by the rolling bar. Safe inside, we watched, mesmerized, as the storm rolled along before us.

It somehow seemed fitting, given the name of the resort, and a memorable end note to our fabulous week-long adventure.

*Buffalo Thunder Resort is a cooperative venture with Hilton Hotels

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lisa's Gingersnaps

Since a family member recently learned he must watch his sugar, fat, and salt intakes, I'm re-thinking what I bake and what is in it. Because gingersnaps were on his list of 'okay' cookies, I decided to make my first batch with a cookbook recipe as a base. But the original recipe (Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook) asked for shortening, which I don't use, so I substituted 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 butter.

As always, I opted for whole wheat pastry flour rather than regular white flour. I then reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup and substituted ground oatmeal for 1/2 cup of flour - hence the little white flecks in the photo. Finally, I skipped one step altogether; I didn't roll my balls of dough in granulated sugar before baking because it was another easy way to reduce the sugar content.

What I ended up with were perfectly round, slightly soft cookies that tasted as great as they looked, with enough to enjoy now and still stash a few in the freezer. See if you agree:

Lisa's Gingersnaps

Makes approximately 48 cookies

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup oatmeal, ground fine

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/8 cup butter + 3/8 cup olive oil

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ginger (VOE - we'll add an extra 1/2 teaspoon next time)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Melt butter over low stovetop heat or in microwave. Combine oatmeal and flour. In a large mixing bowl, combine about half of the flour/oatmeal mixture, brown sugar, butter, olive oil, molasses, egg, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Mix together thoroughly and then stir in remaining flour.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets (VOE - the dough will be quite wet as you do this). Bake in a 375-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes until edges are set. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute then transfer cookies to a wire rack or foil and let cool completely. Store with a piece of bread in air-tight container; this will enhance their softness.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Falling Water at the Westin Crown Center

The sound of rushing water grows louder as you round the bend on your way from Crown Center Shops to the lobby of the Westin Crown Center hotel, in Kansas City, Mo. Within moments the landscape matches the sound, as you find a breathtaking view of the hotel's legendary waterfall within a five-story atrium.

One of the city's most-photographed spots, this indoor waterfall and lush, terraced gardens have delighted visitors and residents since the early '70s, after the 729-room hotel opened. A large hill of natural limestone extends inside the building, providing the perfect backdrop for 60-foot-tall tumbling sheets of water; only underwater lights belie the fact that this was actually a man-made wonder. For a brief moment, city noise and activity melt away in the sight and sound of nature under glass.

But head for the lower level lobby and there's a rather surreal feeling as you step from the escalator onto multi-colored carpet, only yards away from the Westin Crown Center's signature site. As you walk towards the front desk the sound of rushing water gradually fades, conversation rises, and you return to the everyday hustle-bustle - until your next visit.