Hiking with the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon

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Over a week ago my husband and I packed up a rental car and headed west on a adventurous road trip! One of my favorite places on our whirlwind loop was Bryce Canyon National Park. The deep colors of red and orange rocks in beautiful formations, many called hoodoos, contrasted with the dark green of the pine trees and the blue sky made for an absolutely stunning drive and hike!

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We hiked through a portion of it called Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden trail. I highly recommend it, but bring plenty of water especially if you’re hiking in the middle of the day.


Horseshoe Bend

Away on a road trip through the western part of the U.S.! Taking in all of the beautiful scenery. Horseshoe Bend is in the northeast of Arizona and is absolutely breathtaking!

It takes only 10-15 minutes to walk to from the parking lot and is $10 for parking a car.

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Olive Oil Brioche Hamburger Buns

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We love making burgers in the summertime and one of our favorite buns to use are Aldi’s brioche buns. However, I know that store bought bread has extra ingredients added to them that aren’t the healthiest plus I enjoy making yeast breads, so I finally decided to make my own.

Brioche is a rich and buttery bread from France. I know I’m being very non-traditional in making an olive oil brioche! My husband said Julia Child would be displeased. 😀 However my reasoning for using olive oil is that it’s generally healthier and it’s just so much easier combining oil into a yeast bread over butter.

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water

3 tablepsoons milk

2 teaspoons yeast

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons sugar

1 egg, beaten

3 – 4 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

In a large bowl whisk together the warm water, milk, yeast, olive oil, and sugar. Let sit for a few minutes. Then add the egg and combine.

Measure out 2 cups of flour and mix the salt into that. Add to the liquid ingredients and combine. Mix in the rest of the flour until it forms a soft, slightly sticky dough. Knead for 5-8 minutes to activate the gluten and create a soft elastic dough.

Cover and rise for 1 hour. Punch dough down and then take out of bowl and divide into 8 pieces. Flatten each piece out slightly and then bring all ends together forming a nice even ball shape. Place preferably on a parchment covered baking sheet (ironically for my blog name, I’m all out!) and cover. Preheat oven to 400 degrees while the buns rise for a half hour.

Before placing in oven put a pan with sides on the bottom rack of the oven with about a half cup of water to create steam while the buns bake on the rack above. Place rested buns in oven for 15- 20 minutes.

Brush with butter on top and let cool.

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Fresh Caprese Salad

One of my favorite countries is by far Italy. Not only is it gorgeous and the people enthusiastic, but its fresh and vibrant food is delectable! One of my favorites is Caprese Salad. It’s very simple containing tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and some olive oil and salt and pepper. The colors showcase the Italian flag. This salad is commonly an antipasto (starter) for meals or can be enjoyed any time of the day!

Caprese at Bar II Mollo in Varenna LC, Italy We love this place! Free wifi and beautiful views of the lake.
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Since traveling overseas is limited right now, bringing these amazing flavors into your own kitchen is the next best thing!

Ingredients:

Fresh mozzerella

A couple fresh tomoatoes

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic vinegar (optional and not traditional)

Directions:

Slice the mozzarella and tomatoes. On plate layer everything in a wide circle making a pattern of green, white, and red and repeating. Drizzle plate with olive oil and salt and pepper.

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Mulberry Pie Recipe

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We discovered a mulberry tree near our house along the creek. They are sweet little berries that grow on a tree almost resembling the look of a small blackberry. They’re rich in vitamins and antioxidants and have many health benefits to them.

We easily picked three cups of berries and stained our hands. 😄

Ingredients:

3 cups mulberries

3/4 cup sugar (or 1 cup if you would like it on the sweeter side)

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup flour

Slight squeeze of lemon

1 tablespoon butter

Prepared double crust

Directions:

In a bowl, combine the washed and dried mulberries with sugar, salt, flour, and vanilla. Mix until combined trying not to break up the berries too much.

Place into prepared crust and squeeze just a bit of lemon juice on the top. Add bits of butter evenly over the top.

Now it’s time for the top crust. You can easily use a simple crust or make a lattice. Reference pictures below for lattice crust.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until filling is bubbly and crust is golden.

Cool and refrigerate until well chilled.

Basically create a hashtag, making sure each piece alternates going over and under the others. Keep adding out from there.

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And the finished product. Enjoy!

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My Grandma’s Plum Pie

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My grandma W. was a hard working, strong, and stubborn German woman. My love of baking was inspired from her. Not that I made much with her but I grew up around amazing smelling homemade food while I played with cousins, building castles in the sand box or playing ping pong or pool in the basement. I feel like I learned how to make pies and pie crust by osmosis just because she and my sisters were always making them.

She was so stubborn I thought she would be around much longer than ninety-five years old. But during the quarantine she quickly and quietly left us. So in honor of all my meaningful memories with her, I went through the stack of letters she wrote to me growing up. I found several handwritten recipes and out of all of them I felt the Plum Pie recipe is the best to share. It reminded me of the plum trees in her backyard this time of year.

I hope you enjoy! Honestly, I was so impressed with the color of the filling! Plums are in season from end of May (her birthday) through October!

Ingredients:

9 plums

Boiling water

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon almond extract (I used vanilla)

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 tablespoons tapioca or cornstarch

Double pie crust

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place plums in a container and pour over the boiling water adding the baking soda. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Drain well and remove pits leaving skin on, slice into pan. Add just a few tablespoons of water to the plums and cook bringing to a boil. Cook 20 minutes or until skins are soft.

Add the almond or vanilla extract and sugar and tapioca. It’s best to mix the tapioca or cornstarch with a little bit of water before adding to the hot plums.

Pour into prepared crust and then top with a lattice crust or just plain crust. Bake in 350 degree fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes. Crust will be golden brown. Let cool and it’s best after chilling in the refrigerator overnight. Enjoy!

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Homemade Flour Tortillas

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I grew up making tortillas. I’ve always been fascinated with making the basics at home like tortillas, graham crackers, mayonnaise etc. I just love feeling like I can make those things in a pinch instead of running to the store, not to mention they all taste so much better made at home!

They’re fantastic for any kind of sandwich roll-up, breakfast burrito etc!

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon oil

3/4 cup hot water

Directions:

In a medium size bowl mix together dry ingredients. Add the oil using fingers or a fork, make sure to combine until the oil is absorbed and mixed into the dry ingredients.

Add hot water and stir until it is in a soft cohesive ball.

Cover in bowl and let rest for 20 minutes. This helps the gluten to relax so it’s easier to roll out.

Once it’s rested, divide into 5 pieces.

Set a large saucepan on high heat. Make sure to NOT add any oil, this needs to be a dry pan. If you have an electric griddle I would highly recommend that over a saucepan on the stove.

Flour your surface and roll each piece of dough out until it’s about 7 inches across. Place on hot pan for just a few seconds until bubbles form and then flip with tongs. Cooking each side for less than a minute. Repeat.

Enjoy!

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Raspberry Cheesecake Chocolate Cake (GF)

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Need the perfect cake for Father’s Day? With swirls of raspberry cheesecake in chocolate cake and then a very delicious raspberry cheesecake frosting slathered on top, this recipe will not disappoint.

June happens to include my dad’s birthday and of course Father’s Day, plus my new brother-in-law’s birthday. My dad loves this chocolate cake called Crazy Cake and my brother-in-law loves raspberries and cheesecake. So this cake was created. It only lasted a day, it’s that good! I made it with gluten-free flour this time for a family member but would be just as yummy and easy with regular flour. Making the cake the day before and chilling overnight is recommended but not essential.

Enjoy, and as always feel free to leave a comment below!

Chocolate Cake:

3 cups Cup4cup gluten-free flour or regular flour

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

3/4 cup oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups water

Cheesecake Swirl:

1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup raspberry jam

Directions:

Grease a 9″ x 13″ pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl whisk the dry ingredients of the chocolate cake. Add all of the liquid ingredients on top and whisk in until combined. And just like that your chocolate cake is ready, set aside.

In a food processor place all of the cheesecake ingredients together and combine together, scraping down sides as needed to make sure all of the cream cheese is incorporated. Set aside.

Pour half of the chocolate batter into the prepared pan. Next, place scattered spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture over the chocolate cake.

Repeat with pouring the rest of the chocolate batter and then spoonfuls of the remaining cheesecake mixture.

Take a table knife and use it to swirl everything in the pan until it’s a pretty marbled look. Don’t over swirl.

Place in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. Making sure to not over bake, but that a toothpick inserted into the cake mixture comes out clean (do not test the cheesecake part.)

Remove from oven and let cool. You can make a day in advance and refrigerate overnight.

Raspberry Cheesecake Frosting:

1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

Directions:

In a bowl with a hand held beater, cream the cream cheese, butter and raspberry jam together. Add the powdered sugar a cup a time and then add vanilla and milk. This frosting comes together so fast and is so yummy!

Pour over cake once it’s completely cool and frost!

Refrigerate leftovers if you have any!

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Finnish Cardamom Braid (Pulla)

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My mother-in-law gave me these cardamom pods from Chennai, India (Madras), along with a recipe for spicy chai tea. I still want to make that tea, but I decided I would use the cardamom for the yummy streusel braids from my childhood (traditionally called Pulla.) I remember my sister making this for the holidays

Cardamom is in the ginger family, although it doesn’t taste like ginger, it is very pungent and almost spicy.

I highly recommend getting cardamom still in the pod so you will have the freshest flavor. Just smash the pod and pry them open taking the seeds out. I used my coffee grinder to pulverize the seeds. 

Once the seeds are ready it’s time to make the bread! 

I know making yeast bread can be intimidating, but once you make friends with yeast it feels so rewarding. 

Seeing all of those bubbles on the surface for it’s 15 minute rest means the yeast is happy. 

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The streusel is simple and made with maple sugar, butter, and flour. My sister brought this jar of maple sugar with her from Vermont on her vacation there this summer. I would highly recommend doubling or even tripling the streusel for this recipe. It’s just so good!

After the bread has been kneaded, risen, and punched, it’s time to divide, roll and braid. 🙂 Definitely my favorite part!

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They are seriously so good smelling when they come out of the oven. Spread with butter and enjoy! Recipe is below. And as always, comment and let me know if you have any questions or comments! 

Finnish Cardamom Braids (Pulla)

Makes 3 braids

Dough:

2 cups milk

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup maple syrup

4 large eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon yeast

Flour

Streusel Topping:

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons maple sugar

Glaze:

1 egg

1 teaspoon water

Directions:

In a 2-quart pan, heat milk just until bubbles form around side of pan. Remove from heat. Stir in butter. Set aside to melt butter.

Beat maple syrup, eggs, cardamom, and salt in mixer. Add milk and butter mixture, mix well, add yeast. Add 2-4 cups flour, mix well, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

Add flour until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Kneed for 10 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place, away from drafts, until doubled in size-about 60 to 70 minutes.

For topping, in a small bowl, with fork or fingers, combine butter, flour, and sugar until crumbly.

Grease 3 baking sheets. Punch down dough. Shape into 9 equal-size balls. Roll each ball into a rope, 14 to 15 inches long. Braid 3 ropes together to form a loaf; place on greased sheet. Repeat to make 2 more loaves. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size 30-45 minutes.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle topping down the center of braids. Bake loaves 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze in cup, beat water and egg until blended; brush over loaves. Bake 5 minutes longer. Brush again and bake loaves until the internal temperature is 195 – 200 degrees. Cool on wire racks.

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Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

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Buttercream frosting is a classic. Normally I stay away from them since they are generally a little over sweet for most people’s liking and the baker side of me finds them a bit boring. 😉 However, chocolate buttercream is a little different, the bitter cocoa counteracts the powdered sugar sweetness. For other creamy white frosting alternatives see my Four Minute Frosting recipe.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2-3 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

Small pinch of salt if using unsalted butter.

Cream the softened butter for a few minutes.

Gradually add powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Beat until creamy and fluffy.

Add vanilla and beat until it is combined.

And there you have it! Simple, delicious, and perfect for Father’s Day and birthdays!

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