Late Spring, Early Summer: The Perfect Time for an English Trifle

“A dessert typically consisting of plain or sponge cake often soaked with wine or spirits (as brandy or rum) and topped with layers of preserves, custard, and cream.” – Merriam-Webster dictionary

English trifle recipeI can still remember the first English Trifle I tasted years ago. Its soft airy whipped cream, comforting creamy pudding, fresh sweet berries and crumbly texture made for one memorable, heavenly dessert.

Having scoured my cookbooks (this was pre-internet) for an English Trifle recipe, but failing to find one that reflected the culinary vision I had in my baker’s mind, I set out to create my own.

I had just read Frances Mayes’ 1996 memoir Under the Tuscan Sun, in which she shared a Lemon Cake recipe that I had made, served with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Deliciously moist and fresh, I decided to make my first trifle with her lemon cake in place of the more typical ladyfingers and sponge cake that one finds in traditional English Trifle recipes.

After all, there truly is nothing better than using homemade vanilla pudding or even tapioca, fresh whipped cream and a trio of berries – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

Refreshing and light, the English Trifle makes the perfect summer dessert for cookouts, barbecues and family get-togethers. It’s also a fun patriotic dessert for the Fourth of July with the layering of the red berries, the white whipped cream/pudding/cake, and the blueberries.

We hope you enjoy!

English Trifle Recipe

Lemon Cake (taken from Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, 1996)

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp.
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, room temp.
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Instructions:
Cream together 1 cup of sweet butter and 2 cups of sugar. Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. The mixture should be light. Mix together 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and incorporate this with the butter mixture alternately with 1 cup buttermilk, (In Italy, I use one cup of cream since buttermilk is not available.) Begin and end with the flour mixture. Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and the grated zest of the lemon. Bake in a nonstick tube pan at 200 degree for 50 minutes. The cake can be glazed with 1/4 cup of soft butter into which 1 & 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice have been beaten. Decorate with tiny curls of lemon rind.

Vanilla Pudding (taken from The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, 1931)

Hint: Be patient with the pudding, it takes a lot of time and constant stirring to keep it smooth and creamy and to keep it from burning.

Ingredients:
2/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
3 cups whole milk
3-4 large egg yolks
2-3 tbsp. butter
1 & 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Instructions:
In medium heavy saucepan mix together thoroughly the sugar, cornstarch, and salt and gradually stir in, making sure to dissolve the cornstarch, 3 cups of whole milk and then whisk in the egg yolks, and then the butter. It is important to stir constantly to keep lumps from forming and to keep from burning the pudding. Cook, on medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture just comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low; stirring briskly, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool for several minutes and then place plastic wrap on top to keep the top from forming a film. Let the pudding cool thoroughly before using.

Easy English Trifle recipe

To assemble the trifle:

Ingredients:
The cake and pudding
1-2 cups sliced strawberries*1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
Several cups of fresh whipped cream
Raspberry jam
Round trifle dish

Instructions for the trifle:
To begin, cut cake into 2-3 inch squares and spread raspberry jam on one side. Arrange neatly on the bottom of the trifle dish and then begin the layering first with pudding, then berries and then the whipped cream. Continue layering to the top finishing with the whipped cream. Decorate the whipped cream with either cake crumbs or berries. Refrigerate for at least 6-24 hours (I found that it tasted best after refrigerating overnight.)

*You can combine all of the berries together in a bowl for the layering or you can layer the berries separately for a more orderly and patriotic looking finish.

The “Sunshine of the Lowcountry”

“I was born and raised on a Carolina sea island and I carried the sunshine of the low-country, inked in dark gold, on my back and shoulders.” –Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides  

Pat Conroy quotes
South Carolina Lowcountry, May 2016

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” –Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides

“Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck circuit?” – Pat Conroy, My Losing Season

A Memorial Day Salute to Our Fearless Protectors

In honor of Memorial Day, we salute all of those who courageously gave their lives to protect our great nation and the values it espouses by highlighting the military’s steadfastness, discipline, order, bravery, humility, integrity and respect, reflected in the below excerpts, creed and poems. Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day quotes

Virtue & The Soldier’s Soul (taken from Endowed by Their Creator: A Collection of Historic Military Prayers 1774-Present, 2012)

“Virtue is the ‘animating spirit’ of the American military and is the ‘keynote’ of a Commander’s sworn duty of exemplary behavior, supervision and correction.”

“Successful armies consist of uniformly disciplined, patriotic, well-trained, obedient soldiers, whose high morale demonstrates a special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of their military officers and civilian military leaders.”

“…General George C. Marshall, author of ‘The Marshall Plan’ to rebuild Europe after World War II, taught that morale comes from ‘the religious fervor of the soul.’ It is the essential element of achieving military objectives, and is ignored at great peril, when soldiers hold only guns and orders, with no strength of virtue.”

Said Marshall:

“…I look upon the spiritual life of the soldier as even more important than his physical equipment…the soldier’s heart, the soldier’s spirit, the soldier’s soul are everything. Unless the soldier’s soul sustains him, he cannot be relied on and will fail himself and his command and his country in the end.”

“In 1828, Noah Webster defined ‘soul’ as; ‘The spiritual, rational and immortal substance in man…which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government.’ The soul’s training for self-government yields a commensurate level of good order and military discipline. American military services are especially constituted to train effective and disciplined forces, to lead and defend the country ‘in time of national peril,’ and must therefore be keen to the soul and the true source of American virtue, honor and patriotism.”

prayer for courage

United States Navy SEAL Ethos

Below is the stand that every U.S. Navy SEAL learns:

“In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed.

Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life.

I am that man.

My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.

My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.

I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men.

Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.

We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.

I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.

We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.

We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.

Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.

military quotes

Three military prayers below:

The Prayer of a Midshipman
from Vice-Admiral Harry W. Hill (1890-1971) Superintendent, United States Naval Academy

“Almighty Father, whose way is in the sea, whose paths are in the great waters, whose command is over all and whose love never fails: Let me be aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and in deed, and helping me so to live that I can stand unashamed and unafraid before my shipmates, my loved ones, and Thee. Protect those in whose love I live. Give me the will to do the work of a man and to accept my share of responsibilities with a strong heart and a cheerful mind. Make me faithful to my duties and mindful of the traditions of the Service of which I am a part. If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should is the mark, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of truth and keep before me the life of Him by Whose example and help I trust to obtain the answer to my prayer, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

West Point Cadet Prayer

“O God, our father, Thou Searcher of men’s hearts, help us to draw near to Thee in sincerity and truth…

Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking, and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretense ever to diminish. Encourage us in our endeavor to live about the common level of life.

Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.

Guard us against flippancy and irreverence in the sacred things of life. Grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance, and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer.

Help us, to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished an unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country. All of which we ask in the name of the Great Friend and Master of All. Amen.”

Prayer by Lieutenant General G.S. Patton, Jr. United States Army Commanding General, Seventh Army (WWII)

In response to a request alongside President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower to contribute a prayer to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Prayer Book, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1944, General Patton composed the below prayer for courage:

“God of our Fathers, who by land and sea has ever led us on to victory, please continue Your inspiring guidance in this the greatest of our conflicts.

military prayersStrengthen my soul so that the weakening instinct of self-preservation, which besets all of us in battle, shall not blind me to my duty to my own manhood to the glory of my calling, and to my responsibility to my fellow soldiers.

Grant to our armed forces the disciplined valor and mutual confidence which insures success in war. Let me not mourn for the men who have died fighting, but rather let me be glad that such heroes have lived.

If it be my lot to die, let me do so with courage and honor in a manner which will bring the greatest harm to the energy, and please, O Lord, protect and guide those I shall leave behind. Give us the victory, Lord. Amen.”

Setting Sail Into New Realms

adventure quotes

beautiful ocean sunrise
Photo courtesy of Madeline Huemme

From the East to West Coast and the North to South, set sail this summer – on ocean or lake – to bask in the sun’s golden hues and wander the waters of new realms.

See the “Best Boating Destinations for Summer“, courtesy of Travel Channel :

1. Marina del Ray, California

2. Newport, Rhode Island

3. Key West, Florida

4. Lake Havasu, Arizona

5. Fort Lauderdale, Florida

6. Seattle, Washington

top sailing destinations

See also the “Top 10 Sailing and Yachting Vacations in North America“, courtesy of iExplore :

1. Florida Keys

2. New England: Newport, RI; Boston, MA; Coast of Maine

3. California: San Francisco, San Diego

4. Outer Banks, North Carolina

5. Hawaii

top sailing destinations U.S.

Springing With Flowers

Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes

beautiful spring flowers

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”
– William Wordsworth

spring quotes

“Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

spring flower quotes

“A flower’s appeal is in its contradictions – so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect.”
– Adabella Radici

flower quotes

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
– Claude Monet

spring poems

‘Originals’: A Surprising Truth about Entrepreneurs

“Originality is not a fixed trait. It is a free choice.” – Adam Grant

When people think of entrepreneurs, they tend to see them as the ultimate risk-takers: people who unabashedly take a chance on something they believe in. People who enjoy going out on a limb, taking leaps into the unknown and thrive on uncertainty.

Originals book reviewBut, it isn’t necessarily so. In fact, entrepreneurs are more risk-averse – and much more calculated – than you think. The proof is in Adam Grant’s latest book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

Utilizing data and studies from across industries, Grant shows how entrepreneurs are fueled less by risk and more by the opportunity to try something new, pursue a passion and see things in a new light.

This doesn’t mean that risk isn’t involved, Grant explains, only that it is offset with careful considerations, experimentation and back up plans.

“To become original, you have to try something new, which means accepting some measure of risk,” Grant writes. “But the most successful originals are not the daredevils who leap before they look. They are the ones who reluctantly tiptoe to the edge of a cliff, calculate the rate of descent, triple-check their parachutes, and set up a safety net at the bottom just in case.”

A great example of this comes from the online eyeglass maker Warby Parker, the founders of whom approached Grant in 2009 about becoming an early investor. But, because they weren’t working at their startup full time (they were students), Grant assumed they weren’t committed and declined the offer.

“They weren’t serious about becoming successful entrepreneurs,” writes Grant.” They didn’t have enough skin in the game. In my mind, they were destined to fail because they played it safe instead of betting the farm.”

He continues: “But in fact, this is exactly why they succeeded.” (As of April 2015, Warby Parker was valued at $1.2 billion and was named the world’s #1 most innovative company by Fast Company in 2015).

Just one example of many, Originals is well worth the read for anyone looking to leave a mark on the world – because as Grant encourages us all to see: anyone can.

Enjoy a few thought-provoking quotes from Adam Grant below:

1. “Originality is taking the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.”

2. “The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists…[t]he starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place.”

3. “If you’re risk averse and have some doubts about the feasibility of your ideas, it’s likely that your business will be built to last. If you’re a freewheeling gambler, your startup is far more fragile.”

4. “When we become curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins: Rules and systems were created by people. And that awareness gives us the courage to contemplate how we can change them.”

5. “The greatest presidents were those who challenged the status quo and brought about sweeping changes that improved the lot of the country. But these behaviors were completely unrelated to whether they cared deeply about public approval and social harmony.”

6. “The drive to succeed and the accompanying fear of failure have held back some of the greatest creators and change agents in history…[i]f a handful of people hadn’t been cajoled into taking original action, America might not exist, the civil rights movement could still be a dream, the Sistine Chapel might be bare, we might still believe the sun revolves around the earth, and the personal computer might never have been popularized.”

7. “In every domain, from business and politics to science and art, the people who move the world forward with original ideas are rarely paragons of conviction and commitment. As they question traditions and challenge the status quo, they may appear bold and self-assured on the surface. But when you peel back the layers, the truth is that they, too, grapple with fear, ambivalence, and self-doubt. We view them as self-starters, but their efforts are often fueled and sometimes forced by others. And as much as they seem to crave risk, they really prefer to avoid it.”

8. “Ultimately, the people who choose to champion originality are the ones who propel us forward…their inner experiences are not any different from our own. They feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they take action anyway. They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try.”

Please note: this post also appears on Treehouse Technology Group’s blog.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“The ordinarily decent impulses the ordinary man learned at his mother’s knee are our last line of defense against the wickedness of overweening power at home and abroad.”  – John Dos Passos (novelist, 1896-1970)

Mother's day quotesThe importance of mothers is beautifully captured in the below excerpt from the book What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Tina Santi Flaherty (2004):

“The memory of our mother never leaves us – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  That Jackie Kennedy Onassis was an exceptionally good mother even her harshest detractors readily acknowledge. Motherhood was what mattered most to Jackie. She believed that absolutely nothing came before the welfare of her children. Indeed, she referred to her efforts in raising Caroline and John Jr. as the best thing she’d ever done, saying she wanted to be remembered for that achievement more than for any other. She once remarked, ‘If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.’”