We’re back from our two-week road trip. I can say that now without talking about rabid dogs or worrying about burglars…
Coming back from vacation is rough. You almost need a transitional vacation to ease back into the real world where people actually expect things of you and your only task of the day isn’t to climb to the top of a mountain. (And then go have a well-deserved beer.) I know, I know…poor me. There probably won’t be a whole lot of sympathy coming my way for this one, huh?
Settle in...it's picture time!
To recap: 3200 miles, five national parks, four states, and a partridge in a pear tree. A lot of driving, a lot of hiking, and somehow we managed to squeeze in a lot of relaxation. If the spot that you keep thinking about is your favorite, I can say without a doubt that Zion National Park takes that honor. What I’d give to be back here:
Or to hike to the top of this again:
Okay, maybe I don’t want to hike up there again. That’s Angel’s Landing and something to the tune of 5 miles and almost 1500 feet in elevation gain. It involved hiking on a ridge so narrow that chains are installed along the way to keep hold of. I’m not going to lie…that one hurt a little.
The funny thing is that Zion is one of those places that you can’t exactly put your finger on as to why it’s so magical. It just is. Sitting on a huge expanse of grass, relaxing at the base of these enormous formations is inspiring and breathtaking. In fact, I just described my most favorite moment in the park. Not hiking to the top of one of these beastly rocks, but sitting in its shadow. It was truly amazing.
Onto Bryce Canyon, a whole different kind of incredible. This is one of those places you really have to see to believe, but this is what we spent a lot of time looking at:
The hoodoos are aplenty in this canyon, but the real fun starts when you actually make your way out ONTO them. We were perched out on our own little (actually massive) hoodoo. Completely alone, completely quiet and spectacular. Sigh.
Next stop: Capitol Reef. From what we had read, we weren’t expecting a lot from this park. Lesson of the day: don’t believe everything you read. Capitol Reef did not disappoint. It is full of incredible washes and changing scenery at every turn.
It’s also home to Cassidy Arch, as in Butch Cassidy. Apparently the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang hung out down in the Grand Wash. That little blue speck on top of the arch is me.
Natural Bridges involved more climbing than I care to remember right now. The fairly cranky ranger that warned us of the hikes being “not good” wasn’t too far from the truth. Don’t get me wrong; the bridges are amazing, but the getting back up isn’t.
Two very quiet days were spent in Monument Valley, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Basically, we just sat on our balcony are stared at these sacred sandstone buttes in the middle of Navajo Nation. Sunrises fit for a postcard:
Not a bad way to spend our birthdays…
Okay, okay…enough of the trip photos. Onto the good stuff…food! This dessert should help ease us back into reality. (Or maybe a little nip off the ol’ Amaretto bottle would do the trick.)
Strawberry-Amaretto Cheesecake Tart with Almond Crust
1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tablespoon Amaretto
2 small eggs (or 1 extra large)
4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces chopped strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon Amaretto
1 tablespoon heavy cream
3 ounces chocolate (I used 60% bittersweet cacao)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon Amaretto
For the crust:
Finely chop almonds and walnuts in a food processor. Add sugar and pulse to combine.
Cream butter in an electric mixer. Add nut mixture and Amaretto. Mix until well combined.
Press into a 9” tart pan with removable bottom. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Press down on crust with back of a wooden spoon, then bake 13-15 minutes more, until set. Let cool completely.
For the tart:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.
Pour into cooled tart shell.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until set. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then transfer to refrigerator to cool completely.
Do not glaze until completely cooled.
For the glaze:
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over low heat. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.
Pour immediately over cooled tart and spread with an offset spatula. Let set for a few minutes before cutting.
(Depending on how much space you have between the tart and the top of the crust, you may have some glaze leftover.)
This tart is as much about the crust as it is the filling. It’s thick, chewy and nutty, but cuts the richness of a typical cheesecake. The strawberry and Amaretto flavors are subtle but come through just enough for a hint of sweetness. If you’re expecting a standard graham cracker crust, this one probably isn’t for you.
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