Crock Pot Chipotle Peach Chicken

IMG_2013While summers in North Carolina are known for peaches and watermelon, the sweetest peaches actually come to market in the early fall, around Labor Day. We’ve enjoyed our peaches in smoothies, in both sweet and savory jam and cooked with chicken and pork. This spicy chicken dish is made easy in the crock pot, which keeps my kitchen from getting hot during these late summer, humid days. It brings together some of late summer’s stars–sweet peaches and bell peppers–along with fresh onions and garlic. Fresh corn off the cob would be terrific in this dish as well! We have eaten this chicken in homemade tostadas (above pics and recipe below), over rice and just plain. You could also make tacos with it. It is very flavorful and a nice, spicy dish before chili weather kicks in.

I did use some canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, but you could also roast your own chili peppers and use them and that would be delicious as well!

Crock Pot Chipotle Peach Chicken (makes about 6 cups)

  • 2 Tsp. organic coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 sweet, bell peppers, trimmed and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 quart fresh, ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (vary to your taste)
  1. Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat until melted.
  2. Add onion and bell peppers, stir, and saute for about 10 minutes. Vegetables should be soft.
  3. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  4. Put the vegetable mixture into the bowl of a crock pot.
  5. Layer the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top the chicken thighs with the chopped peaches and chilis/adobo sauce.
  7. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. Chicken should be cooked through and tender enough to shred with two forks.
  8. Drain extra liquid from the chicken mixture (discard liquid), shred the chicken with two forks and use in recipes as needed.

Chipotle Peach Chicken Tostadas (serves 4)

  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 tsp. organic coconut oil
  • 2 cups organic black beans, cooked (or canned)
  • 4 cups Crock Pot Chipotle Peach Chicken (above), warmed
  • 2 cups Queso Fresco or farmer’s cheese
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 green onions, trimmed and chopped (white and light green parts only)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium high heat. One at a time, add the tortillas to the skillet and cook about 1 minute on each side. Set the tortillas on the parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Top each tortilla with 1/2 cup black beans, 1 cup of the chicken mixture, 1/4 cup of the cheese.
  4. Bake tostadas for about 10-12 minutes. Cheese should be melted and the tostadas should be hot.
  5. Serve immediately topped with avocado and chopped green onion.

 

 

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Peach Berry Bars

IMG_2009While part of me is gravitating toward all things pumpkin these days, the more rational part (the part that actually goes outside in the 89% humidity) realizes that summer is still going strong, and the pumpkin extravaganza can wait. No worries, friends, pumpkin recipes are coming. But for now, I still have peaches to eat. Here in North Carolina, we will have peaches and blueberries for just a precious few weeks more and then apples and pumpkins will rein again. So, I’m loading up on peaches–freezing them, making peach jam, baking peach cobbler and trying new recipes like these delicious peach and berry bars.

These bars have an almond crust and topping, with thick, sweet peaches and blueberries in between. Summer deliciousness! You could substitute apricots, raspberries or whatever is fresh at your farmers markets. I may try this again with a thin layer of lemon curd over the crust to give some zing to the sweetness. They are great for picnics and late summer tailgating, so try them before the Polar Vortex returns and peaches are just a lovely memory of summer.

This recipe is based on one from Eating Well. I’ve changed up a few things to cut down on the sugar, but if you want the original recipe, you can find it HERE.

Peach Berry Bars (makes 18 bars)

Crust (also topping)

  • 1 cup almond chopped raw almonds
  • 1.5 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp. cold, organic unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 large farm egg
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 Tbsp. organic coconut oil

Filling

  • 4 cups, chopped fresh peaches
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and stems removed
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup quick cook tapioca
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prepare the crust by combining 3/4 cups of the chopped almonds, flour, coconut sugar, salt and cinnamon in a food processor. Combine well.
  3. Add butter and pulse just until butter is incorporated (about 5-10 seconds).
  4. Combine oil, vanilla and almond extract in a bowl. With the food processor running on low, add the oil mixture and the egg. Blend until moist and crumbly. Reserve 1/2 cup of the crust to serve as the topping. Combine the reserved topping with the remaining chopped almonds and set aside.
  5. Coat a 9 x 13 pan lightly with coconut oil. Press the crust mixture evenly onto the bottom of the greased pan and set aside.
  6. In a saucepan, combine the fruit and orange juice and cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Fruit should start to thicken. Add the tapioca and vanilla, stir well, and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Fruit should be very thick at this point.
  7. Pour the fruit mixture over the crust in the pan and spread evenly.
  8. Top the fruit with dollops of the reserved topping, pressing the topping into the fruit a bit.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and cook for 20 minutes more.
  10. Let bars cool for about 15 minutes. Put cooled bars in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes more to cool.
  11. Cut cooled bars and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

Enjoy!

 

 

Week 36 Budget and Menu

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We have apples!!!

Are you noticing differences in what you find at the farmers markets this week? We actually have pumpkins AND watermelons out at the same time. Talk about seasonal confusion! I’m not quite ready for pumpkins yet–I’m still holding on to the last vestiges of summer! Our fall tomatoes are even better than the summer crop, now that our torrential rains have stopped, and we still have corn, squash, zucchini and lots of peppers. I’ve been freezing and canning food for winter–still not where I would like to be on that, but it’ll do.

What about you??? Do you put up some of your summer bounty for the off season? What is your favorite summer food to enjoy in the winter? For me, it is definitely tomatoes and our homemade roasted tomato sauce. Winter tomatoes are so sad and tasteless.

Did you know you can freeze tomatoes and cherry tomatoes whole??? Just pop them into freezer bags. When you thaw them, the skins will slip right off like magic! You can’t use them in salads, but they are wonderful roasted or chopped and added to chili, soup, and pasta.

Our budget this week is good–we have some carryover food from last week. Due to a family emergency, we never had our Labor Day cookout, so we are carrying our local, organic steaks to this week. We also had some chicken thighs left over from last week and froze those, so that is helping as well!

I became the owner of 30 lbs. of peaches this week. Not just any kind of peaches–canning peaches. You know what that means. It means “process immediately”. So…Wednesday night became peach processing night! On the plus side, I have 10 jars of peach jam and 8 quarts of chopped peaches in the freezer. And, I’ve learned to work on my timing 🙂

Budget [$97.07]

  • The Produce Box (smoked cheddar, garlic, chipotle-lime goat cheese, grapes, zucchini, squash, peaches, apples, corn, watermelon, potatoes, onions): $41.25
  • Trader Joes (organic rice, organic black beans, whole organic chicken, yogurt, cinnamon, cherry juice, almond milk, organic sugar, frozen fruit): $40.82
  • Hilltop Organics (okra): $3.00
  • Kimbap (kimchi): $6.00
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (jam, barbecue sauce): $6.00

This Weeks Menu

  • Wednesday–Grilled steaks, field peas, stewed okra and tomatoes
  • Thursday–Kimchi fried rice with egg
  • Friday–Zucchini tart, leftover vegetables
  • Saturday–BBQ chicken pizza with corn, black beans and smoked cheddar
  • Sunday–Roast chicken, new potatoes, sautĂ©ed squash and zucchini
  • Monday–Chicken and chipotle-lime goat cheese quesadillas
  • Tuesday–Stuffed sweet potatoes with apple and smoked cheddar

Have a healthy and delicious week!

Week 30 Budget and Menu

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Some weeks are full of culinary inspiration and others are just pure survival. We are in the throes of back-to-school, so this week’s menu is nothing extraordinary, but it is mostly healthy and local food. Ellie starts school on Monday, so we are busy this week celebrating her birthday and getting ready for 8th grade! We are also on a major household purging mission–getting rid of old toys, appliances we don’t use and anything that is not of use to us, but may be of use to someone else. It’s a good feeling to pare down to essentials, but it is also exhausting going through everything. And it is hot. Very hot. So our menu is more survival than exciting, but it still focuses on the local and organic foods that are fresh here. We may not be making anything adventurous, but we are still eating healthy! Our budget is helped along a bit by some carryover items purchased for previous week dinners that we never made. The pimento cheese ravioli from Melina’s Pasta and the chorizo from Mae Farm have been in the freezer, so we’re going to use them up this week.

Speaking of using things up, I have, like 7 pints of pickles left from last summer. This is after eating pickles during the winter. Why on earth did I make so many pickles??? I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’m making a note this year to chill out on the pickle business. I mean, they’re good and all, but we do not consume that level of pickle. Guess I’ll have an office giveaway this week!

Budget [$110.93]

The Produce Box (cantaloupe, watermelon, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, herbs, organic garlic, sweet onions, eggplant, new potatoes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, and bell peppers): $54.00

Trader Joes (organic roasting chicken, tortillas, avocado, frozen fruit, yogurt, almond milk, Ezekiel bread, organic frozen pizza, crescent rolls):$47.63

Mitchell Family Pantry (pickles, jam, salsa): $9.00

Menu

Wednesday–Pimento cheese ravioli w/corn and cherry tomatoes

Thursday–Chorizo, corn and black bean ring, fruit salad

Friday–Sandwiches, pickles, fruit

Saturday–Sandwiches for lunch, Out for Ellie’s birthday dinner

Sunday–Roast chicken, potatoes, eggplant and cherry tomatoes

Monday–Chicken quesadillas

Tuesday–pizza

Preserving Strawberries

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I love strawberries. Love, love, love them. Strawberries and asparagus are my two harbingers of spring. When you see them at the farmer’s markets, winter is over fo’ sho’. Like many of the most precious things in life, strawberries are fragile and temporary. Fresh strawberries are so far superior to their hard, dry grocery cousins that I will usually forego buying strawberries at the grocery and instead, wait until I can eat them to my heart’s content, fresh from the fields. But if you are eating (mostly) local as we are, how do you continue the strawberry love all year? There are lots of ways to preserve your berries so you have some wonderful flavor all winter long. Canning preserves, of course, is a great option, but don’t forget freezing and drying as well!

Your freezer is probably your most overlooked ally in reducing food waste and stalling the effects of time on your precious berries. Last year, we purchased a second freezer and we used it all summer to pack away berries, peaches, tomatoes, figs, corn, beans, okra–pretty much anything that was plentiful and at the peak of the season. Our freezer is running low now, but we’ve had a winter’s worth of wonderful meals and we’re getting ready to stock it up once again! With strawberries, you can make freezer jam or just freeze the whole berries for use later.

One of our favorite restaurants, Lucky 32, has a great Farm-to-Fork blog about preserving strawberries HERE. Check it out! I’m definitely trying the vinegar idea this year–not only does it sound delicious, it uses up those bruised berries that sometimes get put in the compost (well, not in our house–they usually end up in my mouth).

Here are some other ideas and resources:

Put ‘Em Up and Put ‘Em Up Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Put ‘Em Up was my canning and preserving bible last summer. My copy is so dog-eared, stained and sticky that it’s a surprise I can still turn the pages. One aspect I really like is that her jam recipes use Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which is a bit more expensive, but allows you to decrease the amount of sugar you use without compromising the texture of the jam. I just ordered her new fruit book and can’t wait to try the recipes. Strawberries are so fresh and sweet, why mess them up with more sugar than needed? I love this book so much more than the Ball canning books because the recipes are creative and absolutely spot on with measurements. Also, she includes other preserving methods, such as drying and freezing, so if you don’t can, you can still find lots of useful ideas.

Consider buying a dehydrator. This is my summer project. Have you ever had dried strawberries??? Holy moly! They are amazing and last a good long while. Wonderful on cereal, in granola or just as a snack–nature’s candy, indeed! You can dry strawberries in your oven as well–just takes a little more attention on your part, but completely do-able!

Make fruit leather. Once you make homemade fruit leather, you will never touch that pre-packaged stuff from the grocery again. And you kids probably won’t want to either. We made homemade strawberry fruit leather last spring (read about it HERE)and we all agreed it was so strawberry-delicious that we needed to make more. Immediately. Except then, we ate all our strawberries. Oh, well, we will try again this year!

I’ll be sharing more of our berry recipes as we head into high season! I just need to remember to sock some away for November and December, when we are feeling deprived of fresh berries!

New Favorite Place in the World–Le Parc Aux Cerfs

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Oh, duck confit, I love you.

Seriously. Eating on vacation, especially in a new country, can influence you and bring you new surprises. Like oxtail and escargo, and really high dining bills. Thanks to Trip Advisor, we found a wonderful, family-owned restaurant on rue Vavin in Paris (2 blocks from our apartment) that is both amazing for the quality of its food and for the fairness of its prices. Le Parc Aux Cerfs is one of those cozy bistros you hope to find in Paris–great food, comfortable environment, staff not afraid of poor French language skills–you know, all the things that make great memories! We were hungry after a day of museums and walking, so we each ordered the three course dinner–entree, feature and dessert for $37.00 per person. That might seem like a lot, but in Paris land, that is extremely good. Fifteen minutes into our dinner, Ellie declared, “Well, looks like we’ve found a new favorite place!”

I started with an artichoke heart and tomato couloirs salad that had Gorgonzola cheese sprinkles over top. It was delicious–light and refreshing. The tomato coulis was spread on a home made cracker-like wafer and served on top of the salad. Soooo good. Not sure I’ll be able to replicate this at home!

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My plan was to be more adventuresome with my feature, but the daily plate du jour was my favorite–duck confit with duck fat potatoes. Sold!!! The crispy duck and potatoes were decadent and flavorful. This is not fancy pants food–it is bistro cooking at it’s best.

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While my tummy was urging me to skip dessert, of course I did not. I had a crumble of seasonal fruits with a struesal topping and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum!!!

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I have a lot more walking to do to walk all that off! I was glad to be eating seasonal foods that are also traditional. And wine. We had a lovely cotes de rhone wine that was far superior (and less expensive) than what I’ve had in the states. I have some serious penance to do, but I’ll save that for next week 🙂

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