White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

With holiday preparations in full swing, I'm guessing you are focused on last minute shopping, holiday menu planning, and trying to enjoy this wonderful time of year.  In our house, that also means our dinners are makeshift and as simple as possible.  Tonight was beans and franks, a throwback to my childhood that I secretly love but am a bit embarrassed to admit I'd feed to my family.  Earlier this week, we had white chicken chili from the freezer, which reminded me that I've been meaning to share this recipe for months.  

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Peach-Almond Buckle

The peach tree on the side of our house was one of the first things I noticed when we first toured our house.  It was late spring and the tree was filled with tiny green fruit and I was ecstatic that we might get to live in a home where I could have my own peach tree.  There were a few other things about the house that were appealing as well, but the tree was a selling point for me.

These are my peaches. Hands off.

These are my peaches. Hands off.

Fast forward four years of home ownership.  The first year we owned the house, we had a ton of peaches but someone picked almost all of them while I was at work one day (still a very sore subject) and the following two years we had late snows and thus no peaches.  This year we had late snow, freezing rain, and a massive hail storm in July that ruined our garden, but the peaches hung on!  They have some hail-caused pock marks, but we had a banner year for a somewhat pathetic tree in an oftentimes unforgiving climate.

I've been a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of peaches our little tree produced.  For the past two weeks, Blythe and I spend time under the tree after work each day.  We each pick and eat a peach, we shake our fists at the "darn squirrels" (seriously, Blythe has learned this phrase from this book) who take one bite of a peach and drop it, and gather the peaches on the ground.  We had at least 100 peaches and even after delivering bags to friends around the neighborhood, slicing and freezing quite a few, and taking some to work, I still had a heaping bowl waiting for me this weekend.  What does one do with an abundance of peaches?  Make dessert.

This Strawberry-Rhubarb Buckle is one of my all-time favorite desserts for its simplicity and universal appeal and it is easily adaptable for other fruit.  I worked in a fair bit of almond flour for texture and flavor and doubled the fruit because I prefer more fruit to crust.  If you are allergic to nuts, you can use the dough from the Strawberry-Rhubarb Buckle and it will be just as delicious, but if you have almond flour, I'd give this version a try with peaches (or any stone fruit).  

Enjoying her evening peach snack

Enjoying her evening peach snack

Peach-Almond Buckle
Adapted from this Strawberry-Rhubarb Buckle via Alexandra Cooks
Yield = 16 squares

Notes: I doubled the fruit for this buckle and am glad I did.  My weighed the peaches when they were pitted and I can't estimate a number of peaches because the fruit from our tree is so inconsistent in size.  

Filling:
2.5 pounds sliced and pitted peaches (anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 pounds will work, I just prefer more fruit)
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
 
Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick cold, unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy cream (I used 2% milk)

Crumb Topping:
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Preparation
1. Make the crust: Whisk together white and almond flours and sugar in a large bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-sized butter lumps. Beat together yolks and cream with a fork and stir into flour mixture until combined. Gently knead mixture in bowl with floured hands just until a dough forms.  These steps can also be completed using a stand mixer and I find you get much more consistent results and the butter is worked in much more when you use one.  Flatten dough into a 6-inch disk and chill, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in center position. Line a 9-inch square cake pan with parchment paper.

3. Stir together peaches, 1/8 cup sugar and almond extract if you are using it; set aside to macerate.  If you don't do this well in advance and all the sugar isn't soaked up, don't worry about it - just scrape it over the fruit and it will soak in during baking.

4. Crumb topping: Stir together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add the butter and mix up with your fingers until clumps form. Set aside.

5. Unwrap dough.  The recipe yields enough for a 9x13 pan so you may have some leftover.  Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper (or wax paper) into a square, or as close to this shape as possible. Peel off top layer of parchment and invert dough into prepared baking pan.  This transfer won't be perfect and there will be some wonkiness/folds in the corners.  Trim the dough at the edges and patch the corner holes with trimmed dough.  If you have trouble peeling the dough from the parchment, put the dough back in the refrigerator until it is chilled enough that the dough separates easily - it shouldn't just fall off, but this shouldn't be hard to do and warm dough will make it hard.

6. Top this crust layer with the peaches and sprinkle with as much crumb topping as you would like.  Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for about 35 minutes more or until golden on top and cooked through. Let cool completely in pan on wire rack and cut buckle into 2-inch squares.  Note that the longer this sets before eating, the less runny it will be and the better your slices will hold together in squares.  I found that with the increased quantity of peaches, this did not hold together in slices well.

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Monday Pizza Night

Blythe with a bowl of shredded cheese (none of which made it on the pizza).

Blythe with a bowl of shredded cheese (none of which made it on the pizza).

There is the cutest bakery in Highlands Square (less than a mile from our house) called The Denver Bread Company.  It smells of flour and freshly baked bread as you walk past, and if you walk in, you'll be treated to samples of whatever they have freshly baked that today.  This afternoon I stopped by and sampled a whole wheat sourdough bread and they also offered a morning bun, jalapeño cheddar, and a potato bread.  If you live in the neighborhood (or in Denver), you should absolutely stop by.

Sauce spreader.  Don't worry - I won't let B "help" when we are having guests and she did wash her hands.

Sauce spreader.  Don't worry - I won't let B "help" when we are having guests and she did wash her hands.

On Sunday and Monday, they also sell fresh pizza dough for $5.  I know how easy it is to make pizza dough at home, but without advance planning I cannot pull that off on a Monday night.  Blythe gets hungry around 5:30 PM (which is when I walk in the door from work), so if the dough isn't made we resort to feeding her whatever is in the fridge.  Not to mention, she really enjoys "helping" to make pizza.  Blythe prefers her dough uncooked, her sauce on her finger, and her tomato unsliced.  While the pizza baked, we read Secret Pizza Party, a hilarious book starring a pizza-obsessed raccoon by the authors of Dragons Loves Tacos (I have Ali to thank for introducing me and B to Dragons Love Tacos, her favorite book). 

Tomato straight from the garden.  Blythe approves.

Tomato straight from the garden.  Blythe approves.

We topped our pizza with sauce, spinach, mozzarella cheese, fresh corn, slices of tomato from the garden, and homemade ricotta.  If you've never made ricotta, please give it a try.  It is so delicious.  You can make it entirely with whole milk and skip the cream (I sub the cream for milk). Then use it to top your pizza, grilled fruit, or a slice of bread with olives or sundried tomatoes.  You won't regret it.

   

Fruit Popsicles

I'm already hearing chatter about the end of summer, but I refuse to accept the idea that the days of popsicles and trips to the pool are over.  At the beginning of the summer, I purchased a Zoku Popsicle Mold and we've been having homemade popsicles all summer long.  I sound like a broken record at this point, but you know I like my desserts less sweet and when you make popsicles at home, you can reduce the sugar or omit it entirely.  The other "vessels" for popsicles that are perfect for Blythe are Kiddzo Reusable Ice Pop (essentially you can make Otter Pops at home).  The Kiddzo molds are less messy for Blythe, but harder to clean and fill.

Blythe is a big fan of popsicles

Blythe is a big fan of popsicles

I feel a little lame, but I don't have a recipe for popsicles to give you because my approach is to take whatever fruit I have on hand, blend it with coconut water, almond coconut milk, or juice and freeze it! I got the idea to make a layered popsicle from these Tie Dye Popsicles, but I could only manage two layers (which you achieve by making one layer, freezing it until partially frozen (15-20 minutes)).  I'm going to try these Coconut Milk Fudgesicles this weekend, but the popsicles pictured are one layer of strawberries and blueberries blended with coconut water and one layer of watermelon.  Nothing fancy, but they do the trick on a hot summer afternoon. It's not too late for summer 2016 and you know it will be hot well into September anyway!

Thai Steak & Noodle Salad

Before you take one look at the list of ingredients below and ignore the rest of this post, please hear me out.  This Thai Steak & Noodle Salad is unusual, tangy, filling, and oh-so-good.  Yes, there are quite a few ingredients, but there is overlap between the ingredients for the marinade and the salad dressing.  You can prep almost everything the day prior (the marinade, the dressing, and the vast majority of the salad ingredients - I'd cut the avocado and mango just prior to serving).  Plus, you are likely to have a handful of the ingredients already.  This would be the perfect one-course dish for a summer dinner party - you can throw the meat on the grill, toss the salad, and voilà!  

If nothing else, please give the marinade and the dressing a try.  Often I find that I'll marinade meat or chicken and once it is cooked, the flavor seems to have disappeared, which was not the case here.  And I think you could use greens and whatever other ingredients you happened to have on-hand, toss them with the dressing, and top with a protein to create a simpler version of this salad.

One tip - dress the salad right before serving.  I used kale instead of arugula, which held up in the leftovers the next day, but I'd advise waiting until you are ready to eat the salad (so if you plan to have leftovers, only dress what you'll eat immediately).

Thai Steak & Noodle Salad
Recipe from Bon Appétit 
Serves 4-6

Steak

   1 ½-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped

   ¼ cup soy sauce

   3 tablespoons raw sugar or light brown sugar

   2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

   1 tablespoon fish sauce

   ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

   ½ teaspoon garlic powder

   ¼ cup olive oil

   1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

   ¾ pound filet mignon steaks, 1 inch thick

   Kosher salt

Dressing

   ¼ cup fresh lime juice

   ¼ cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)

   ¼ cup peanut oil or vegetable oil

   2 tablespoons fish sauce

   2 tablespoons sugar

   1 tablespoon honey

   1 garlic clove, finely chopped

   Kosher salt (optional)

Salad and Assembly

   2 ounces dried ramen or lo mein noodles

   Kosher salt

   ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

   1 large mango, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

   ½ bunch arugula, stems removed, leaves torn

   ½ bunch watercress, tough stems removed (I omitted this)

   2 medium carrots, finely shredded on a mandoline or a box grater

   2 scallions, chopped

   2 cups finely shredded savoy cabbage (I used regular cabbage)

   1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

   1 avocado, cut into 1-inch pieces

   ½ cup chopped cilantro

   ½ cup torn basil leaves

   ¼ cup torn mint leaves

   ¼ cup crumbled toasted unsweetened coconut flakes

   ¼ cup finely chopped salted, roasted peanuts, plus more for serving

   Lime wedges (for serving)

Preparation

Steak

   Whisk ginger, soy sauce, raw sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Whisking constantly, gradually add olive oil, then sesame oil. Transfer to a small resealable plastic bag and add steaks. Close bag, pressing out air, and turn steak to coat. Chill at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours (I marinated mine overnight, for approximately 20 hours, and it was delicious).

   Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. (Alternatively, heat a grill pan over medium-high.) Remove steaks from marinade and pat dry. Season very lightly with salt. Grill, turning every 2 minutes, until lightly charred all over and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each steak registers 120° for medium-rare, 8–10 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before cutting into 1" pieces.

   Do Ahead: Steak can be grilled 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Cut just before serving.

Dressing

   Whisk lime juice, chili paste, peanut oil, fish sauce, sugar, honey, and garlic in a small bowl to combine. Taste and season with salt if desired.

   Do Ahead: Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Salad and Assembly

   Cook noodles in a small pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and run under cold water to stop cooking. Toss with oil in a large bowl. Add mango, arugula, watercress, carrots, scallions, cabbage, tomatoes, and dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt if desired. Add steak, avocado, cilantro, basil, mint, coconut flakes, and ¼ cup peanuts. Gently toss just to combine.

Divide salad among plates, piling as high as possible. Top with additional peanuts and serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

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