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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Sunday Night Apple Cake with Brown Butter and Bourbon

Easy Apple Cake

 

We went apple picking this weekend, which means I have about 20 pounds of apples in my kitchen, which means this easy apple cake recipe is going to be made again soon.

Apple picking is one of those things I used to miss most about living in the northeast.  From the first autumn Ken and I were dating (16 years ago now!)  we used to climb into a car (first a tiny blue Ford Festiva, later a zipcar), drive out into the country, and see some beautiful color and pick apples.  When we moved to Southern California, we thought our New England apple-picking days were done.  But, as I described three years ago, we were mistaken.

It took us three years to go back (a delay I attribute squarely to a curly-headed imp we call Typhoon Bootsy) but we’re glad we did.  As we were driving through the Inland Empire (such a glamorous name for a less than glamorous place), listening to the incessant chatter and music of our delightful children (Bootsy is perfecting his Ozzy Osborne version of Kumbaya), we realized that the apple orchards are just as close to us in Los Angeles as they once were in New York.  We pulled up to Stone Pantry Orchards (trees laden with apples!  Close enough to the ground that even the littlest one could pick!)  and proceeded to fill a bag.

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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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Fresh Cranberry Pie with Marzipan and How to Make Pie Crust

Fresh Cranberry Pie

You guys!  I made this pie because I was looking for a double crust pie so I could revisit my pie crust tutorial (a few things have changed in my go-to technique since the last one I posted), and most of my fruit pie fruits are not in season, but now I’m kind of obsessed.  Fresh cranberries!  In pie!  Why is this not a thing?  Cranberries might be the perfect pie fruit — they’re tart and juicy, but have a pretty high pectin content, so your pie filling doesn’t run all over the place.   The flavor is a lot like fresh sour cherry pie, but fresh sour cherries are only available one week of the year, in very small parts of the US, and cranberries can be gotten EVERYWHERE for at least two months when most pie fruits are out of commission.    And just LOOK at the color:

Cranberry Pie Slice

It’s great, is all I’m saying.

Now on to pie crust. I like to walk my readers through making pie crust, because I feel like so many people are like “Pie crust?  Who has the time for that!  It’s too hard!” and I want to pat your head and say, “No, it’s OK – you can do it.”  You don’t have to own a walk in freezer or live in the arctic to make your pie dough (though it is a bit tougher on a warm day.)  You don’t have to source special kinds of lard or NOT TOUCH IT OR IT WILL BE OVERWORKED.  Pie crust is pretty forgiving.  If it cracks? Patch it.  If you can’t roll it out in a perfect circle?  Nobody cares.  At the end of the day you will have pie, and people will love you.  This is the way I’ve been making my pie crusts, and it works pretty darn well.

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