Easy White Chicken Chili with Pumpkin

Pumpkin White Chicken Chili

This crockpot easy white chicken chili is what I need right now.

Things have been pretty crazy on the domestic front lately.  The husband has been in a crazy period of working until 2 or 3 in the morning every night. I am also still working my normal, mostly 9-5 job, and I’m doing 100% of the  evening fetching, lunch packing, permission slip signing, homework checking, laundry folding, bedtime reading, nightmare soothing, out-of-bed dragging, and meal planning (though Mr. TDF would want me to acknowledge that he is still taking Thing 1 to school because I cannot do that and still make it to work by 9.)

The end result of all this is that everyone in our household seems to be exhausted.  I can usually get going in the morning (with the help of copious amounts of caffeine) but by the time I get home at night, kids in tow, having done two childcare pickups (and driven for an hour and a half, each way), I’m practically catatonic.  If dinner isn’t simple – not only easy, but stupid easy – it’s not going to happen, and I will be reduced to the sad, sad state of eating pretzels dipped in cream cheese for dinner (it’s happened.  Fortunately, my kids often get fed by the kindness of others, including Thing 1’s after school program, my mom, and Trader Joe).

Slow cookers are a lifesaver in this kind of situation. Nothing is more soothing when you’re frazzled and exhausted than sitting at your desk, contemplating the hot meal, cooked from scratch, that will be waiting for you when you finally crawl home.  (Of course, nothing kills that buzz more than sitting at your desk at about 2 pm and realizing that you forgot to turn on said crockpot, and that a pot full of partially cooked chicken and beans is sitting and festering on your kitchen counter.  Don’t do that!  Learn from my mistakes and turn ON your crockpot. This has been a public service announcement.)

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Cold Zucchini Soup with Buttermilk – Too Much Zucchini, part III

 

Chilled Zucchini Soup

We have a zucchini plant in our garden this year.  Just one, as we have learned from years past that zucchini quickly becomes overwhelming.  Fried zucchini blossoms are one of our favorite summer treats, and one of the most cost-effective ways to get our hands on them is to plant our own zucchini plant.

Apparently, though, there is something mysterious in our soil because that one zucchini plant has grown to monstrous proportions.  It’s the tomacco of zucchini plants – each leaf is the size of a cocktail table.
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We are diligent about seeking out the zucchini and picking them when they’re either still flowers or at a reasonable size, and we’ve been eating a lot of zucchini fritters and zucchini bread this summer.   However, occasionally one will escape our notice, hiding under a massive leaf, until one day we discover this Godzilla-zucchini, and have to figure out what to do with it.  They’re more watery and less flavorful than the little ones, and the seeds are enormous, too.

Giant Zucchini

 

Staring at these enormous zucchini this weekend, I was struck with inspiration.  What do you do with any excess vegetables?  Make soup.  But since it is July, and it is going to be 101 degrees at my house tomorrow, chilled soup is the game.

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Baked Scotch Eggs

Baked Scotch Eggs TXT

When you are a working parent, each weekday can feel like a battle, and each working day, a war.  Mornings are especially chaotic – the opening shots are fired at 5:45 am, when the alarm goes off (better – at least I can drink a cup of coffee in peace) or the toddler goes off (No chance of snoozing with that one.)  From then on, it’s a full charge ahead – getting two children and two adults awake, dressed in some semblance of reasonable clothing, fed some semblance of breakfast, out the door with all the appropriate gear (lunches, snacks, permission slips, changes of clothes, diapers, two matching shoes, laptop computers and wallets) requires, skill, strategy, manpower, and a great deal of cunning. By the time I actually (drive to daycare, drop off toddler, get to work, park and then) settle into my desk, I feel like my quiet cup of tea is a truce before the workday really begins (and then the whole process must be rendered in reverse).

Weekends, therefore, must be dedicated, not to rest, relaxation, or socializing, but to TACTICAL PLANNING.  Meal planning and grocery shopping are crucial, but so is the Sunday cook up, whereby I stock the kitchen for the week ahead.  I roast a tray of veggies and another of chicken legs (great kid foods), boil a dozen eggs, chop up and wash salad.  If something happens on Sunday to derail the preparation, I know that the weekday war can quickly spin out of control.

Breakfast is a keystone to my strategy. I know my kids and I all do better if we eat a good, solid breakfast – something with protein, that will last us reasonably well until lunch. There’s no time for pancake flipping and omelet making on weekday mornings, but I will stash pancakes and french toast from the weekend in the freezer, for a quick run in the toaster oven.  My favorite weekday breakfasts are portable – there’s no guarantee that I will get a chance to actually eat something before that cup of tea at the desk, and the kids can eat SO SLOWLY that taking breakfast in the car is essential to avoiding the tardy bell.

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Slice and Bake Buckwheat Chocolate Shortbread

BUckwheat cookies

I love the holiday season – I really do.   I keep a nested to do list on my phone to keep track of Christmas presents.  I drive out of my way to find houses with the best light displays.  And I bake a lot of cookies.   But there’s a point in the season (and this year, it’s right about … now) when the merrymaking starts to feel a little forced.   I consult my calendar, and it reads something like “Holiday Performance (school):  10 am.  Holiday Performance (after school program): 2 pm.  Coworker’s Party:  4 pm.  Family Movie Night:  7 pm. ”  It should be followed by “Mom falls asleep on the couch: 7:30 pm.  Kids get into Christmas candy dish and smear chocolate on said couch:  7:34 pm.”  I’m a little burnt out, and when every single event on that calendar asks that you bring “a homemade dessert to share!” I start to consider putting my head under a pillow until January.

Fortunately, there are Christmas cookies that come to the rescue.  These are not the decorated, iced, hand painted, seven layered sugar swirled confections that usually constitute Christmas cookies.  These are a little more … austere, when austerity provides a welcome counterpoint to the mad festivity.  (And don’t  suggest just forgoing cookies altogether, BLASPHEMER.  It is Christmas and there will be cookies.)  These are easy to make – the dough comes together seamlessly, the ingredients aren’t too difficult to track down, and the log sits happily in your refrigerator (or freezer), ready to be sliced and baked whenever the calendar demands it.
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