Nothing Bundt Apples and Cider

Do you know the bundt cake scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding? It’s the one where Maria Portokalos receives a cake from Ian’s mom. She has no idea what it is. Finally, she says, “It’s a cake! I know! Thank you! Thank you very, very much…There’s a hole in this cake.” Maria had the hardest time understanding why there was a hole in the cake and she put a plant in the center. It cracks me up every single time!

How did the bundt cake come to be? I did a little searching and found a fascinating article on Food 52 about the history of our beloved bundt cake, specifically, the bundt pan. I’m going to summarize the article but it’s definitely worth a read!

In the 1950’s, H. David Dalquist of Minneapolis, created and trademarked the word Bundt which is actually a variation of the German word bund, which translates to “association.” Dave hoped Bundts would inspire the gathering together of people. I don’t know about you, but if there’s bundt cake, I’m happy to gather!

Dave and his wife Dotty founded Nordic Ware in 1946. They made Scandinavian inspired bakeware. They were approached by a Jewish women’s group who were in need of a traditional old world cake pan. They needed one with a hole in the middle. Dave and Dotty agreed to make them but the pans didn’t sell right away. It wasn’t until the 60’s that a local Texas woman made a “Tunnel of Fudge Cake,” which required a bundt pan and featured a filling of Pillsbury frosting, as her entry for the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. She was awarded 2nd Place prize, and many bakers wanted the recipe. They also needed bundt cake pans!

Today I’m making an Apple Cider Bundt Cake with Brown-Butter Apple Cider Glaze. Not only is it apple season but it’s also my oldest daughter, Hannah’s, birthday! I won’t see her but I still feel the need to make a cake to celebrate her amazing soul! You definitely don’t need an excuse or reason to make this cake so just go for it. I promise this is unlike any cake you’ve probably had. It’s delicious!

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This cake recipe is inspired by several recipes. I wanted something that included apple cider because we have tons of it in the fridge, fresh apples, spices and a rich glaze. Something a little more warm and special than the standard powdered sugar and milk drizzle. I combined various ideas and decided to go with a bundt pan. That’s what got me wondering about the history of bundt cakes.

Simple, seasonal ingredients. Local flour, eggs, apples and cider. Yes!

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Prep the bundt pan. Hannah’s turning 24 so that’s my love note inside. 🙂 Generously butter the pan, a dusting of flour, then a note!

Combine dry ingredients, shred the apples and place the sugars, eggs, oil, applesauce, apple cider and vanilla in a mixing bowl.

Mix the wet ingredients, add the dry and gently fold in the apples. Inhale. It smells divine!

Pour that beautiful batter into your prepared bundt pan and into the oven she goes!

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Bake the cake for about 1 hour or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let it cool for about 10-12 minutes then invert the pan onto a cake plate or serving dish. Let her cool.

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While the cake cools, there are dishes to be done. Why do I love baking? Ha! I’m just keeping it real! At least my Halloween mugs are there to cheer me on!

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Ready to dirty up more dishes? Time to make the glaze. Sift powdered sugar and add either vanilla bean seeds or the vanilla bean paste. Brown the butter and add to the sugar then whisk in half and half and apple cider. Brown-butter has a nutty, rich flavor. It can burn easily so be careful on this step.

Here’s what not to do! Don’t try to put the glaze on while the cake is even the least bit warm! Oops! I’ll try to be more patient!

Once the cake is really cool, add the glaze and that’s it! I picked up some gorgeous flowers at the farmers’ market this morning and added them to the photo session. We just did a Facetime with Hannah and now I’m going to dig into this cake! It’s a really easy cake to make and perfect for a fall birthday. It would be delicious with warm apple cider (with or without bourbon), ice cream and mostly shared with family and friends.

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You could also tap into your inner Maria Portokalos and stick a plant in the center to really fancy it up!

From the heart,
Shannon

Apple Cider Bundt Cake with Brown-Butter Glaze

Ingredients:
Cake:
1 TBSP unsalted butter and some flour for preparing the pan
4 medium apples – peeled, cored, & shredded
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar, divided
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used local whole wheat pastry flour)
1 TBSP baking powder
1 TBSP cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
4 large eggs
1/2 cup apple cider
2 tsp. vanilla

Brown-Butter Glaze:
2 to 3 TBSP half and half
2 to 3 TBSP apple cider
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
vanilla bean seeds scraped from a vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
4 oz. unsalted butter
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions:
Cake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. Get butter and flour in every single crevice.

Stir the shredded apple with lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the white sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining 1 cup white sugar, brown sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, apple cider, and vanilla. Mix to combine. Then add the flour mixture and combine once again. Gently fold in the apples until they are evenly distributed. Pour into prepared Bundt pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto your serving platter. Let it cool completely.

Brown-Butter Glaze:.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds or paste.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the butter until golden brown. It should smell delicious and toasty. Do not let it burn. Heat it for 5-8 minutes. Strain the browned butter to remove the darker pieces. Pour browned butter into the powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Add 2 tablespoons of the half and half, add a little apple cider then add the vanilla. Stir vigorously until smooth. You want the glaze to be thick, but easily pourable. If it seems too thick, add the remaining tablespoon of half and half. Pour the glaze over the cake. Let it set then slice and serve!

Nordic Ware Bundt article from Food 52

Pie Crust + Apple Pie with Caramel Sauce and Ice Cream

Bring on the fall pies! Pie baking season is in full swing and I’m ecstatic! I adore every kind of pie; I don’t have a favorite. It’s fun to make pie all year long and use what’s in season or put together something you’re craving.

I’ve been counting down the seconds to share my trusty pie crust recipe with you. While I’m at it, I’m also going to share my apple pie recipe. Apples are coming in strong and I eat my weight in them this time of year. Honeycrisp apples. No words needed! I usually use a 2-3 varieties of apples in my pie. I love the different textures and flavors.

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I’ve been making this crust for several years. There are many pie crust recipes out there and lots of opinions about shortening, butter, knead, no knead. Trust me, pie crust doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful. This recipe is easy and reliable! I love that it’s not super sweet and it’s there to simply enhance all the delicious filling.

Flour, butter, sugar, kosher salt and apple cider vinegar are all the ingredients you need!

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Pie crust tip #1: COLD! The butter should be cold. I cube and refrigerate a portion and freeze the rest. While I’m measuring, cutting and separating butter, I prep enough for 4-5 batches of crust. The butter is what gives the crust all that flaky goodness. The water should be ice water. Cold is your friend here.

When I made this batch, I used whole wheat pastry flour from Mud Run Farm. Pastry flour has less protein than all purpose flour. Pie crust doesn’t need all the strength from protein/gluten that’s in AP flour. It’s light and soft and makes amazing crust! You can certainly use unbleached all purpose flour but I highly recommend pastry flour. I put everything in the food processor except the frozen butter and water.

Pulse a few times until the mixture resembles the texture of sand then add the frozen butter and apple cider vinegar/ice water and pulse just until the mixture holds together. It will not look like dough at this point. You should still see pieces of butter. That’s your flaky crust insurance!

Dump it all out on the counter and work the dough until it gets smooth. You should still see pieces of butter. Split the dough into two portions, form into discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Depending on when you need it, refrigerate or freeze. If you freeze it, let it thaw in the fridge  a few hours or overnight before you’re ready to make your pie.

Pie crust tip #2: MORE IS BETTER! When I have the food processor and all the ingredients out, I go ahead and make 4 to 5 batches of crust and stick them in the freezer so I have them available whenever the pie making urge hits (which for me is quite often). It’s so worth it since you have to clean up the mess anyway. I don’t clean the food processor in between, I just keep cranking out the crust!

Like I said, I’ve had great luck with this crust for many years. I got apples at Countryside Farmers’ Market on Saturday and couldn’t wait to make my first fall apple pie of the year! I find it therapeutic to make a pie. It’s a process and it requires extra time but the end result is so worth it. Also, pie just feels special and comforting. You gotta really love someone to make them a pie! Okay, that may be a little too far but pie does feel loving to me and that’s a nice way to spend a fall afternoon!

I’ve experimented with many apple pie recipes. This is my standard and it includes zest and juice from an orange and lemon and warm spices: cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. I think fruit pies taste best when kept simple.

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Carrie enjoys making pie with me so after history homework, we got busy prepping the beautiful apples. Nice, thin slices and the addition of sugar, citrus and spices make for a beautifully balanced filling. You can peel or not peel your apples. She got to choose so the peels came off.

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Once the apples are loving their life in the sugary goodness, start prepping the crust. First, the pie dish.

Pie crust tip #3: DISH! Lightly butter and flour a pie dish. It gives the bottom of the crust a chance to brown evenly because it keeps all that butter that was worked into the dough a chance to stay in the dough.

Next, take one of the prepared pie dough discs and place it on a floured surface and gently roll it out. Place it in the bottom of the prepared pie dish. Gently coax the crust to settle into the dish using your hand.

Pie crust tip #4: CRUST DUST! Equal parts of flour and sugar sprinkled on the bottom of the crust. It creates a nice layer to ensure a non-soggy crust! Also, it’s a perfect spot to share your love note! I keep a jar of crust dust handy at all times.

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Pour the apples into the prepared crust, dot with butter, roll out the top crust and place on top of the apples.

Next, we tuck in the apples! That’s what I’ve always said to Carrie and now that’s her favorite part! Fold the top crust under the bottom to seal it and then crimp the edge.

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Brush the top with milk or cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. If you don’t have that sitting around, granulated sugar works too! Cut a few slits so the steam can escape, place on a baking sheet to catch any drips and pop that beauty into a hot oven.

While you wait, don’t ignore any apples that didn’t make it into the pie…

I bake at a high temp first to set the crust. I lower the temp for the last part of the baking time and cover with foil if it starts to get too brown. Once your pie is finished baking, let cool on a rack for several hours.

I made caramel the same day I made crust. Because why not!? Here’s the recipe for that. Just go ahead and make some. It really sets this whole thing off! Plus, you can use the caramel for so many other fall baked goods.

I never have apple pie without ice cream. I picked up some Mitchell’s Vanilla Bean and Saturday night dessert was all set! Who wouldn’t feel loved with this plate sitting in front of them?

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It was so delicious! Carrie and I just kept cleaning up the edge of the pie that was in the pie dish. Those bites don’t count, right? If you really want to welcome in the fall flavors, make an apple pie with fresh, local apples. Go the extra mile and make the crust and caramel. Enjoy the process and feel all the love!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Pie Crust
Ingredients:
Butter: Diced into 1/2” cubes: 9 TBSP in the fridge; 5 TBSP in the freezer
Pastry Flour: 2 1/4 cups
Kosher Salt: 2 1/4 tsp
Sugar: 1/2 TBSP
Apple Cider Vinegar: 1 TBSP with 1/2 cup cold water

Instructions:
Place 9 TBSP cold butter and all dry ingredients in food processor and pulse until it resembles the texture of sand.
Add in the frozen butter cubes and start with 5 TBSP of the apple cider water and pulse until it holds together.
Dump it out and work the dough on the counter until it holds together and is smooth.
Divide in half and form into discs and wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate (preferably overnight). You can also freeze at this point.
Remove dough from fridge to soften a little. Place disc on floured surface and roll out.
Butter and flour pie pan. Once bottom crust is in prepared pan, sprinkle bottom with Crust Dust (equal parts of flour and sugar).

Apple Pie
Ingredients:
6-7 cups apples peeled, quartered, and cored. Local are best; use a variety of baking apples.
1 lemon, zested
1 orange, zested
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pie crust for bottom and top
Milk or cream and turbinado sugar for top crust

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine sliced apples in a bowl with the zests, juices, 1/2 cup sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
Roll out half the pie dough and drape it over a 9- or 10-inch pie pan to extend about 1/2-inch over the rim.
Fill the pie with the apple mixture.
Top with the second crust and tuck in the apples! Gently tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the 2 together with your fingers or a fork. Brush the entire top crust with a little milk or cream, sprinkle with sugar, and cut slits.
Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 30-35 minutes to set the crust. Lower temp to 375 and bake for 20-25 minutes longer. Check the pie often through the window to make sure it isn’t getting too brown.  If it is, cover with foil and bake until it’s bubbling.
Serve with a drizzle of caramel sauce and ice cream.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

It’s Friday! Whoopie! I don’t have much of a story about whoopie pies. I don’t really even like saying “whoopie”. I’m not sure why. Anyway, several years ago, I made Sweet Potato Whoopie Pies for Thanksgiving from a recipe I found on one of the baking blogs I follow, Sprinkle Bakes. I wanted something different and they were delicious! Carrie never forgot about them. She’s asked me to make them many times since then. I haven’t made them. She begged me this morning on the way to school (as she was holding a container of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for her advisory group meeting/teacher’s birthday).

I was given some local whole wheat pastry flour from my friends at Mud Run Farm at the farmers’ market last Saturday. They asked if I’d try it and see how I like it and I said, “YES!” Whole wheat pastry flour is one of my favorites to bake with. I knew I’d make pie crust (recipe coming soon) but also wanted to make another baked good using their tender flour.

Carrie, it’s your lucky day! I decided to use the flour and make whoopie pies! Keeping it fall, I chose to make a pumpkin variety. They’re pretty easy and make for a fun little dessert, treat or a sidekick to your morning coffee. I’ll get right to the details because I’m very last minute on this post but, trust me, you’ll want to try these.

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Simple ingredients and not much prep. The picture below doesn’t include the filling ingredients. You’ll need cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and maple syrup for the filling.

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Whisk the dry ingredients, mix the wet, then combine everything.

I used a small scoop to get the batter on a parchment lined cookie sheet. This is so easy. Once scooped, bake and let cool on a cooling rack.

Whip up the filling while the cakes are cooling. I put the filling in a piping bag to make things a little easier but you can just spoon it on the cakes. Place filling on the bottom of a cake and top with another. You’ve just made a whoopie pie! Yay!

I made a pan and topped them with mini chocolate chips. I don’t love that they look so dark but I know Carrie will love them with chocolate.

I think it would be fun to decorate the edge of the filling with chocolate chips or dried cranberries or maple candied pecans. I could really have some fun with these but I don’t have time for all of that today.

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Aren’t they fun? They’re simple but there’s just something about the cakes with all the spices and pumpkin, combined with the maple cream cheese that just feels so right for fall. Simple but a lot going on, if you know what I’m saying.

I’m racing to pick Carrie up from school. I owe her a big thank you for begging me to make these. I should really take her advice more often!

From the heart,
Shannon

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Ingredients
Cakes
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour in my batch)
2 1/2 TBSP pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup coconut oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
2 local eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Filling
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
4 oz. unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 TBSP local maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. In a mixing bowl, mix the granulated sugar, the dark brown sugar, and the oil together. Add the pumpkin puree and combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix until completely combined.
5. Use a small cookie scoop or a large spoon to drop a rounded, heaping tablespoon of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Keep them about 1 inch apart.
6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The cookies should be firm when touched. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.
7. To make the filling, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar a little at a time, then add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth.
8. To assemble the whoopie pies: Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down. Pipe or spoon the filling (about a tablespoon) onto that half. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spread to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. This is when you could add something the the outside edge of the filling if you wish! Place them on a wax paper covered tray or plate and stick in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée

Hello! I’m still plugging away at all things pumpkin and truly loving it! Today is a new one for me. Have you had crème brûlée? Have you made crème brûlée? Honestly, it never appealed to me until this past June when my niece (also named June) made it for my nephew’s high school graduation get together. She’s 13 and a marvelous baker!

After the tacos were eaten and grad gifts opened, we took turns sugaring and torching her sweet little crème brûlées. We enjoyed cracking the tops and what waited underneath that burnt sugar was absolutely divine! The custard was silky, sweet and full of vanilla flavor. I was in love and vowed to make crème brûlée someday.

Guess what? Someday came! With pumpkin baking mode hitting me hard, I decided it’s the perfect time to experiment with this simple yet decadent dessert and give it a fall twist. Vanilla crème brûlée + pumpkin + pumpkin spice + bourbon. Who’s with me?

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I looked up several recipes and they’re all pretty much the same: cream, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. I added pumpkin, pumpkin spice and bourbon to up the fall flavor.

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These little cups of heaven are really easy! While the cream is heating, whisk yolks, sugar, vanilla and spices. Slowly add the warm cream to the yolk mixture (if you pour too quickly, you’ll have scrambled eggs). Lastly, fold in the pumpkin and bourbon. That’s it!

Pour the mixture into ramekins and place in a baking dish. Put them in the oven then add boiling water until it’s about halfway up the sides of the ramekins and bake for 25-35 minutes. I only have 3 small ramekins so I used a combination of small and large.  The small look much better but they all tasted the same.

After they finish baking, transfer to a cooling rack for 30 minutes then put them in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours. Once chilled, sprinkle sugar on top and torch them. Have fun! If you don’t have a torch, just stick them under your oven broiler.

Crack those babies and enjoy all the creamy delight under that hardened sugar. They’re so luscious and have all the flavors of fall without being overly sweet. I polished one off in a matter of seconds and knew I had to step away from the brûlée so I’d have some left for photos. I can’t tell you how much I love pumpkin and pumpkin spice things. The flavors and textures of this dessert make me very, very, very happy!

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You can whip these up in no time! The longest wait time is when they’re chillin’ in the fridge. They’d be perfect for a fall party or shower, Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, any fall weekday or family weekend dessert. Heck, take them to a football tailgate (any Browns fans out there?)!

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These little dishes of yum definitely enhanced our evening of shorts, t-shirts and backyard track ball. Don’t wait for a special occasion. Make your own occasions feel special! Pumpkin Crème Brûlée won’t let you down!

From the heart,
Shannon

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
Ingredients
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup pumpkin purée
3 tsp. bourbon
4 TBSP sugar for torching

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla bean paste in a medium bowl.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium low until it just simmers. Slowly whisk the milk into the yolk mixture. Fold in the pumpkin and bourbon.
  4. Place six 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins in a roasting pan.
  5. Divide the pumpkin mixture evenly among the ramekins. Place the pan in the oven and fill with just enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the centers are just set but still jiggle a bit. Could take 25-35 minutes.
  6. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let cool to room temperature, 30 minutes. Refrigerate until cooled completely, at least 4-6 hours.
  7. To serve, sprinkle each ramekin with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Brulee with a kitchen torch until the sugar is melted and golden brown. (You can also place the ramekins under a broiler until the sugar is golden brown, about 2 minutes.)

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Birthday Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding

Yesterday was Casey’s birthday.  I usually try to make him one of his favorites when we celebrate.  He loves bread pudding! I’ve never made it for him and this is the year! Since I’m trying to do pumpkin recipes during September, I decided to put a pumpkin spin on traditional bread pudding. That turned out to be a real good idea!

Bread pudding comes in many forms but it’s basically cream, eggs, vanilla and bread baked all together. What’s not to love?

Casey likes more of a custard type bread pudding. As I reviewed recipes, I concluded that to get a more custard like texture, the cream should be cooked and the entire thing should be baked in a water bath.

I wish I could tell you I took the simple route but I really wanted to make this incredible for him. Therefore, I made a few components that all came together to make one spectacular explosion of flavor!

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This thing is layer after layer of flavor! Let’s get into making it!

First off is a Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise. Huh? I didn’t know much about that but it’s rich and full of half-and-half, vanilla beans, egg yolks and sugar. Simmer the half-and-half and vanilla bean and seeds then slowly whisk into the eggs and sugar mixture. Strain it and cool in an ice bath. Look at all the pretty vanilla bean flecks. It should be smooth and beautiful! Pop it in the fridge until it’s time to dish up your dessert.

Spicy Caramel Bourbon Sauce is not difficult to make, but it definitely requires your attention because there’s boiling sugar involved. The flavor of this sauce is not for people who fear flavor. I’m one of those people who love flavor and concluded this sauce belongs in everything. I added it to my coffee. I kept thinking about it hours after I finished making it. It’s unique and so, so good! I’ve never used star anise in anything before. It packs a little punch! Oh, and there’s bourbon.

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You just have to watch that sugar and catch it right when it’s at the amber color stage and quickly whisk in the warm cream a little at a time. This sauce can be made ahead of time, just stick it in a jar in the fridge. Well, I mean, after you put some in your coffee. Warm it up later to pour on top of the bread pudding.

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Now it’s time to get going on the main dish. You may already have your pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree made if you caught my last couple posts. You get to use them in this recipe! Cream, milk, eggs, sugar, spices, pumpkin, vanilla, bourbon and BREAD!

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I’m using challah bread. You can certainly use pumpkin bread but I’m sticking with challah since Casey isn’t as crazy about everything pumpkin as I am. Challah holds up well and soaks in all the custard. A nice french bread would also work well.

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Make the custard, cube the bread, pour the custard over the bread and bake.

Take a deep breath. Lots of steps and lots of dishes to be done. Grab ya a swig of bourbon. Chase it with some of the challah bread dunked in the caramel sauce. Do the dishes and wait for the smell of the bread pudding to find its way into your kitchen.

Carrie had a field hockey game after school so I made this and left to go to her game. When we got home, I heated up the sauce, Carrie made whipped cream, I got all spun up making sure each one was assembled correctly, we sung, blew out candles and dug in!

Start with the layer of Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise, add the warm bread/custard, drizzle with the warm Spicy Caramel Bourbon Sauce and top with fresh whipped cream. AMAZING!

We all loved it! Casey approved and we were practically licking our bowls. I was pouring sauce on pieces of bread from the pan and shoving them in my mouth. You know, the stuff you eat right out of the pan doesn’t count, right? 🙂 The only change I’d make is to use less bread or make more of the custard. Ummmmm. More custard! I’ll do that next time. There will be a next time on this one!

This is one of those desserts that takes time if you want to make all the sauce components (which, I highly recommend). If not, just make the bread pudding part and top it with ice cream or whipped cream and call it a day. You can experiment with different spices, breads and flavors.

Happy birthday, Casey! Thanks for always supporting and trying my baking ideas! I loe you (I know there’s no v…it’s our thing).

Birthday 2019

From the heart,
Shannon

Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons bourbon

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
  3. Whisk together the yolks, sugar, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture until combined, remove the vanilla pod, and whisk in the bourbon. Strain the custard into a clean bowl.
  4. Scatter the bread cubes in a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking glass baking dish.
  5. Pour the custard over the bread, pressing down on the bread to totally submerge it in the custard. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the custard.
  6. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan and pour hot tap water into the roasting pan until it comes half way up the sides of the glass dish. Bake until the sides are slightly puffed and the center jiggles slightly, about 1 hour.
  7. Remove from the oven and water bath and cool on a baking rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup pure cane sugar

  1. Bring the half-and-half and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
  2. Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until at the pale ribbon stage.
  3. Slowly whisk in the hot half-and-half, return the mixture to the pot, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon.
  4. Strain into a bowl and set over an ice bath. Stir until chilled.
  5. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Spicy Caramel Bourbon Sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup apple juice
1 star anise
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 to 2 TBSP Kentucky bourbon

  1. Combine the cream, apple juice, star anise, ginger, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a clean, small saucepan and place back over low heat while you make the caramel.
  2. Combine the sugar, water and, vinegar in a medium saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring, until it’s a deep amber color, about 8 minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm cream mixture a little at a time, and continue whisking until smooth. Add the bourbon and cook for 30 seconds longer. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm. The sauce can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat over low heat before serving.
Recipe modified from foodnetwork.com and my own brain.

Pumpkin Purée + Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Last Saturday, I picked up pie pumpkins at Countryside Farmers’ Market. I got some from Martha’s Farm and Log Cabin Organic Farm. Pie pumpkins are smaller and sweeter than carving pumpkins.

When I’m at the market and meet the people who’ve planted, nurtured, harvested and given life to their crops and the earth, I feel compelled to bring that food into my home and savor it. I want to give vegetables and fruits even more life and enjoy all they have to offer in taste and nutrition. It’s important to me and a real blessing to have access to wonderful food. I also believe food should be fresh, simple and easy to prepare.

Homemade pumpkin purée is super easy to make and it tastes better than the stuff you find in stores. You just need a little time, an oven and a food processor or blender to whip up your own puree. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used my share of canned pumpkin. It’s convenient and most of the organic ones I’ve tried are just fine. We eat a lot of pumpkin goodies in my house and most days there’s no time to make my own. However, sometimes, I’m reminded to slow down, enjoy the harvest and cherish the process of making my own ingredients.

This color alone should be motivation enough for you to make your own pumpkin purée! I use pumpkin in a variety of things: breads, pancakes, waffles, beagle food, lattes, pasta, risotto, cookies, pies, cakes, puddings…you name it and I’ll find a way to incorporate pumpkin!

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It all starts with the pie pumpkins.

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Simply cut the tops off and split them right down the middle.  A nice, sharp knife makes this pretty easy.

Scoop out the seeds and keep them.  We’ll talk about roasting those later!

Daisy Mae smelled pumpkin and came to scope out the situation in the kitchen! Be patient, girl!

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Once all the pumpkins are clean, place them flesh side down on a cookie sheet and add a little water then bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until a fork pierces through easily.

Once they’re nice and tender, take them out of the oven and let them cool.  Scoop out the meat of the pumpkin and place in a food processor or blender.

Process or blend until smooth. Transfer to jars or containers of your choice. It freezes well!  If you freeze it, just thaw in the fridge when you need it. If you plan to use some right away, it will be just fine in the fridge for about a week.

Homemade pumpkin purée is silky and flavorful. Pumpkin is a great source of potassium and beta-carotene and contains some minerals including calcium and magnesium, as well as vitamins E, C and some B vitamins.

Using ingredients I pick up at the farmers’ market gives me a sense of place in the local food cycle. There’s something special about knowing where it all came from and interacting with the people who worked incredibly hard to produce something so delicious and nutritious. It’s pretty amazing that I get all those good feelings from making pumpkin purée from local pumpkins, huh? I’m such a food geek!

I hope you make this and enjoy the process! Find a market or farm, choose your pumpkins and spend the afternoon getting to know your food and truly appreciate it. See it, feel it, smell it then taste it! I have so many plans for my pumpkin purée and I can’t wait to share them with you! Also, Daisy loves it!

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Don’t forget the seeds, they’re one of the best parts! There’s no easy way to clean them.  Just try to pull out most of the stringy orange pieces and soak the seeds in warm water and keep rinsing/soaking a few times to get them clean. The strings will keep sinking to the bottom. Once they’re all clean, lay them out to dry.

I experimented with three flavors for my seeds:
Sweet: raw wildflower honey + brown sugar + pumpkin pie spice + vanilla
Brighton Wool and Honey’s Raw Wildflower Honey is YUMMY! Don’t get me started on their laundry detergent, bee pollen and soap.  Yeah, they’re just fantastic all the way around!

Spicy: olive oil + spicy blossom honey infused with Carolina Reaper + hubby’s Ghost Pepper salt
This honey from Fuego Spice Co is pretty amazing!

Spicy/Sweet: olive oil + chili powder + brown sugar

I divided the seeds into bowls and used 1 cup of seeds per flavor with 1 TBSP of the oil or honey then added in the sugar and spices. I let them soak for at least an hour then spread on parchment and baked at 375 for 10-15 minutes. Store them in glass containers to keep them crisp. Get creative! You can literally do any kind of spice combination!

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That’s all the pumpkin I’ve got for now! Let me know if you make the purée and what you plan to use it for! Go the extra mile and make the seeds for snacking or, better yet, take a jar to your local farmer!

From the heart,
Shannon

Pumpkin Purée
Ingredients
4-6 pound pie pumpkins
Instructions
1. Cut the tops off the pumpkins
2. Cut the pumpkins in half
3. Scoop out the insides and save the guts
4. Place the pumpkins flesh side down on a baking sheet and add about 1/4 inch of water
5. Bake at 350 for 60-90 minutes, checking periodically after 60 minutes; when a fork pierces through easily, they are finished
6. Let the pumpkins cool and then scoop the meat out into a food processor or blender
7. Process the pumpkin until smooth and transfer to jars or containers
8. Store in the freezer and defrost when needed or keep in the fridge for up to one week

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Pumpkin Spice Rolls

Hi! I feel fall in the air. Even though the temps here in NE Ohio are quite warm, the air feels different. I’ve been studying all sorts of fall recipes and feeling downright giddy about one of my favorite baking seasons. Please give me all the pumpkin baked goods in the world! My Pinterest boards and baking notebook are overflowing with all the things I want to make! What better way to spend September than by sharing all things pumpkin?

Pumpkin Spice Rolls topped my fall baking list. I really hope you make these! They’re worth every single second you’ll spend planning, baking and eating them. I made this version a few years ago to sell at one of the farmers’ markets. My original cinnamon rolls always sold out. It was fall, I was feeling pumpkin-y and these marvelous rolls were discovered. My regular customers enjoyed them and I liked that they looked like fall. The pumpkin taste is subtle and gives the dough the most beautiful color and texture. Swapping out the cinnamon filling for a pumpkin pie spice filling is a scrumptious change.  If you’re like me and start making pumpkin recipes before stores sell pumpkin pie spice, here’s my recipe to make your own.

When you make these rolls and take that first bite, your life will be changed and you’ll probably never want a regular cinnamon roll again! Never say never. However, these are super special.

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This is a yeast dough recipe. Don’t be scared, it’s so simple to put together. Start with good (mostly local) ingredients. Get the sugar, milk and yeast mingling then add the rest of the ingredients and let the dough hook on your mixer do the work.  You can also knead by hand.

The big difference in this recipe is the addition of pumpkin and spices.  They really transform the texture and flavor of the dough. Once the dough comes together, place it in a bowl and put in a warm place to rise.  Step one is complete!

While the dough is rising, mix up the filling. Brown sugar and lots of pumpkin pie spice. Line a pan with parchment and butter it. The parchment is a must!

Gently roll out the dough. Once it’s rolled, smear butter all over it. Some people melt their butter to do this step but I like the butter to just be soft enough to slather it. Think back to your kindergarten finger painting days! Want in on a little secret? I write words or notes in the butter. Yep. I’ve always done that. Depending on my mood, they can be pretty interesting! Have fun and put some love into these babies!

Next comes the spices. Don’t skimp and generously sprinkle them over the butter layer! Roll the dough towards you and slice. I’ve seen all kinds of methods for slicing. The one that works best for me is my good bread knife. Try to keep the rolls tight.

Place the slices in the prepared pan and let them rise again. When they’ve doubled in size, bake them and enjoy how amazing your house smells! If you bake these in the morning hours, you will not have to beg anyone to get out of bed! The first picture below is before the rise and the third picture is after. If you don’t want to bake them right away, don’t go through with the second rise yet. You can stick them in the fridge and get them out about an hour before you want to bake them to let them rise.

While the rolls bake, make the icing. It’s a simple vanilla cream cheese base. I also like to add bourbon. I didn’t on this batch but if you want to kick them up a notch, experiment with adding bourbon or maple syrup or more pumpkin pie spice. Even more pumpkin would be yummy!

Frosting these is somehow very therapeutic. I always do it when the rolls are warm. You can use as much or as little as you wish.

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This next step is very important. Get one out of the pan right away, sit down, take a deep breath, don’t think about anything else, and dig in. The first bite will get you feeling like this is what’s been missing from your life. The next bite will ensure that it will never be missing again. Ever.

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Are you doing a Pumpkin Spice Roll happy dance? Maybe it’s just me but I’ve been known to break out in dance when I eat something so good!

The day I made these, I was home alone.  I’ve been on a really clean eating plan and I haven’t had any sugar for a few weeks. Don’t even get me started on why I ever thought that was a good idea. That all flew out the window when I pulled one of these out of the pan to take photos. I was already sipping a glass of homemade cold brew (full of cream and pumpkin pie spice). I couldn’t resist and ate one of these big rolls in a matter of seconds. I love all the things about them and I enjoyed the heck out of it with my afternoon coffee. Feelings of comfort and joy came over me and I actually felt pretty darn happy in that gooey, pumpkin, spice filling, frosting, coffee moment!

I took one with me to give Carrie when I picked her up from school. She immediately lit up, thanked me, inhaled it in the car and got right to her homework as soon as she walked in the door.  See?  Life changing.

From the heart,
Shannon

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Pumpkin Spice Rolls
Dough
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut up, room temperature
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup lukewarm whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast or active dry yeast

Filling
1/3 to 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed (you can use light or dark or mix them)
3 to 4 TBSP pumpkin pie spice

Icing
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or bourbon or maple syrup
3-4 TBSP whole milk

Directions
To make the dough: Place milk and sugar in your mixing bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 4-5 minutes.  Add remaining dough ingredients to bowl and mix together and knead all of the dough ingredients to make a smooth, soft dough. You may need to add more flour if it’s too sticky.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to grease all sides, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 60 minutes, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.

To fill and shape the buns: Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough into a ~16″ x 21″ rectangle.

Spread the dough with the 1/3 to 1/2 cup butter. Write a cute word or note in the butter (do it!). Mix the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice, and sprinkle it evenly over the dough.

Roll the dough into a log and cut it into 12 slices (about 1 inch thick).
Place the buns in a parchment lined and buttered 9″ x 13″ pan. Cover the pan and let the buns rise until they’re nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. If you aren’t planning to bake now, stick in the fridge and get them out about about an hour ahead of baking time.

While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
Uncover the buns, and bake them until they’re golden brown, about 15 minutes. While the buns are baking, make the icing. You can also make the icing ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for days, just let it soften up.

To make the icing: In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, sugar, and vanilla.

Remove the buns from the oven. Spread the icing on the buns while they’re warm.
Serve buns warm, or at room temperature. Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for a day or so; freeze for longer storage.
Yield: 12 large buns.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

It’s here!  Pumpkin spice season has become such a big deal.  It’s in everything and it’s everywhere. I’ve loved it forever. There’s just something about it that’s comfy and pleasant. I feel cozy whenever I add it to a food or drink.

The challenge I encounter this time of year is that pumpkin pie spice is in everything but it’s hard to find the actual spice. It seems like it’s not available until end of October and I get on the pumpkin baking train in September. Maybe August.  It’s also kind of expensive. I make my own. I actually like it more than store bought.

You can make as much as you want. Some for you and some to share. I like to include a small jar with a pumpkin baked good as a gift. It just makes it feel more special!

Start with really good spices.  You’d be surprised at how many extra ingredients are added to spices.  No need for the preservatives or anything else that’s not the spice name. The great thing about making your own pumpkin pie spice is you can MAKE IT YOUR OWN! This is the combination I like! Bring on all the warmth with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and ginger. Combine and store in a jar or container.

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I use this mixture in all my fall pumpkin baked goods and drinks. It’s yummy in cold brew and hot coffee/tea (I add it to my coffee grounds before brewing) and much less expensive and more healthy to make your own seasonal drinks at home. All the pumpkin things need the spice: breads, crème brûlée, cinnamon rolls, pies, cookies, french toast, oatmeal, coffee, cocktails and anything else you can put a fall spin on.

I indulge in this spice throughout the fall and winter seasons. As a matter of fact, since typing this, I’ve felt the urge to put on a big sweatshirt and enjoy a little pumpkin pie spice treat (that recipe will be posted tomorrow)! Cozy up, friends!

From the heart,
Shannon

Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 TBS Ground Cinnamon
2 tsp Ground Ginger
2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
1 1/2 tsp Ground Cloves

Combine and place in an airtight jar or container. You can double or triple this to make enough to share.

Zucchini Bread

Yesterday, I went to my favorite farmers’ market, Countryside in Howe Meadow.  After being gone for most of July, I’m back in the swing of things and getting my hands on as much local, summer fruits and veggies as possible!

I’ve always liked zucchini.  Before the days of zoodles, I prepared it all sorts of ways.  I grilled it, baked it and baked WITH it.  It’s versatile and healthy.  Zucchini has a decent amount of potassium and is loaded with vitamin C.  It’s good for your heart!

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Zucchini bread is one of those seasonal indulgences that just feels right about this point in the summer.  Sliced and toasted with good butter or cream cheese. Yum!  While at the market, I picked up a jar of cashew almond butter from my friends at Nosh Butters.  If you haven’t tried their nut butters, I encourage you to partake in their samples the next time you see them at an event.  All of their flavors are delicious as well as vegan, gluten free, and palm oil free.  I’ve been known to hang out with a jar of nut butter and a spoon on occasion and theirs are some of my favorites.  Plus, their business philosophy is right on and it’s another local, small business we can support!

While hanging at their booth at the market, it dawned on me that nut butter would be delicious smeared on zucchini bread.  Yes!  The cashew almond variety is mellow and has just the right texture to slather on some beautiful bread.  I covered up all the pretty green flecks of zucchini before I took this photo.  I promise, they’re in there!

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If you’re loving all the zucchini and looking for ways to bake with it, try this recipe and get some Nosh nut butter to take it over the top! My recipe is light and not weighed down by tons of brown sugar like some of the ones I’ve seen.  You can certainly make this your own by substituting gluten free flour, adding nuts, berries and change the oil type to suit your taste.  This recipe can simply serve as a guide!  🙂

Summer harvest is upon us and I’m digging it!  What are some of your favorite ways to make zucchini?  I’d enjoy hearing new ideas!  Happy baking!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Zucchini Bread
You don’t even need a mixer for this recipe! It can be made in a regular loaf pan, mini loaf pans or a lined muffin tin.  I usually double or triple it and make tons to freeze or hand out to neighbors, friends and local businesses.

Ingredients:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup coconut oil melted (or whatever oil you like to bake with)
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups shredded zucchini (12 ounces)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
Cooking spray

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through baking soda) in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a large bowl; add sugar, stirring until combined. Add zucchini; stir until well combined. Add flour mixture; stir just until combined. Stir in walnuts (or fruit) if using.

Divide batter evenly between 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.  Adjust baking time depending on what size bread you’re making.

West we go!

Right now I’m sitting in a hotel in Reno, NV.  Today is the first day we haven’t logged some serious miles since last Wednesday when we set out for our summer adventure to the western part of the U.S.  We’ve already had some amazing experiences on this trip.  My husband, Casey, suggested I write about our trip and share it here.  I’ve always thought of this blog as a place for recipes and sharing food ideas.  We were talking in the car somewhere between Colorado and Nevada that the flour on my apron can be anything that makes me happy.  Carrie gave me a whole different perspective on what it means to have “flour on your apron.”  Therefore, this Floured Apron site can be a place to share joy, even if food isn’t involved.  I may be sleep deprived and a little bored from staring out the car window for days but I think she’s onto something and I’m going to go out on a limb here and make this post about our adventure and not about food!  I’ll mostly focus my posts on food but sprinkling in some of our life could be fun too! 🙂

This is the second consecutive year we’ve made the drive from Ohio to California.  Yes, it’s long.  Yes, it’s hard.  Yes, it’s exhausting.  It’s also fun and cool to see many things we otherwise wouldn’t from the air.  When we get to where we’re going, we kind of forget how much it sucked to be in the car for hours on end.  It’s ok when we’re in areas that are well populated and offer some healthy food options or we’re still able to enjoy our homemade snacks.  When we get out in the middle of nowhere, things get tough and we get crabby!

I’m married to a pilot which means we should be able to fly for a discount and get where we want to go.  So, why don’t we?  Two words:  Daisy Mae (our beagle).  I know we could kennel her or find a dog sitter but she really does enjoy the trips we take.  Also, we like to have a car to get around and not spend the money on flights, rental cars and other things.

Last year’s drive left me with a sense of accomplishment.  We planned to drive to Lake Tahoe to spend a couple weeks.  Casey, my husband, couldn’t be with us on the trip out, so it was Carrie, Daisy and me.  We drove from Ohio on Route 80 through IN, IL, NE, IA, WY and UT.  We met up with Casey and finished the drive to Reno and made our way to Lake Tahoe.  Long days of driving, audio books, car games, DQ Blizzards, rest stops, coffee, truck stops and hotels made for a tired mama.  Did I mention I had to unload and reload suitcases, dog stuff, snack stuff and whatever else couldn’t be left in the car about 80 million times?  After several hours of driving.  However, when we saw that beautiful blue lake, the frustration and exhaustion turned to excitement and energy!

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This year, we planned a similar vacation because we’re combining it with a summer camp experience for Carrie.  We all hit the road last Wednesday with a plan to visit Denver, CO then go to Tahoe.  Route 80 was the lucky highway!  Last year, Carrie and I found a silly go-kart place in Nebraska.  She really wanted to go back, which made me happy that some of the little fun things we did mattered and stuck with her.

After miles of corn fields, it was time for go-karts and bumper boats.

That was a nice break from the car and definitely gave us all some laughs!  From there we pressed on to Colorado.  The next day, we made a quick stop at the U.S. Air Force Academy.  The campus is huge and impressive.  This is the Cadet Chapel.

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The next morning, we met up with my brother who just happened to be driving through the area.  He’s a truck driver and was returning from California.  Bonus!  Look at that cute hat Carrie picked up at the USAFA!  🙂

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While we were in the Colorado Springs area, we went to Garden of the Gods Park, a registered National Natural Landmark.  It was incredible!  We did a short hike and climbed on rocks.  There were prickly pears blooming and the landscape was stunning.  Don’t get me started on that blue sky and all the colors in these photos.

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The next day we left for Salt Lake City.  That portion of the drive was eight hours and we decided to stop at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah.  Best. Decision. Ever.  We took my brother’s advice on a shorter route (191N) and that portion of the drive delivered magnificent scenery.

Arches was designated as a national monument in 1929 by President Herbert Hoover.  It was designated as a national park 42 years later.  The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks.

It was extremely hot and dogs aren’t permitted on the trails so Casey and I tag teamed with Carrie to get as close as we could to those amazing works of art.  Seriously, some of the most breathtaking landscapes that Mother Nature has to offer.

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Skyline Arch

The drive through the park was about 14 miles.  Going in and up was great but the drive down gave us a more incredible show.  I’d highly recommend driving to the end and take it all in on the way back down!  We stopped in the visitor center to grab t-shirts and post cards not realizing they would be closing in 5 minutes.  It was a quick selection and sprint to the car for a wallet.  We were all moved by this National Park excursion and the enormity of it all.  Thank you, Moab and Arches for showing us your beauty!  If you haven’t been, add this one to your list!

We made it to the hotel in SLC for a night of sleep then we pressed on for the final eight hour stretch to Reno, NV for a couple days.  By this point, we’re still smiling but feeling the fatigue and sense of not being settled.  Lots of time in the car, in and out of hotels and gas stations isn’t for the weak!  We got this and we all know what’s waiting for us!  That’ll be the next post.

Have you taken a big road trip?  I’d love to hear about it along with any travel tips!  I have a long way to go with my packing skills (sorry, Casey!) and hotel finesse.  I don’t like hotels but I’m grateful for them when we all need a break.  I absolutely love Colorado and I’m thrilled we were able to see more of it.  The mountains and trees are gorgeous.  I’m excited to get into our rental at Tahoe because it’s one of my happy places!

The journey over the past week has filled my soul and put some new flour on my apron!  Enjoy wherever this 4th of July takes you and, if you get a chance to see the wonders of this country in person, I hope you do it.  America is BIG and BEAUTIFUL!

From the heart,
Shannon

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