Peach Almond Galette

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At the beginning of June, my husband and I sat down and made a '“summer bucket list.” We checked in with our modest list for the first time last night. With August right around the corner, we have crossed off only one of the items.

Time has been getting away from me lately, entire days seemingly disappearing into the void. The daily routine is both a blessing and a curse. It’s wonderful for keeping a 7 month old (and her exclusively pumping mama) on a happy schedule, but it leaves little room for spontaneity.

In many ways, it feels like I’m hitting autopilot and cruising through life without engaging meaningfully.

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I’ve been thinking recently about how to feel more present in my own life. Breaking the cycle and changing habits may be difficult, but it is starting to feel increasingly more essential. While I cannot change the large building blocks of my day, I can change my behavior in the small moments.

In general, I want to move myself away from the culture of detached consumption and into a space of creation. I need to set down my phone, so I don’t have the option of mentally checking out whenever the day begins to feel tedious. The endless scrolling does not bring me happiness, but it is so difficult to avoid.

Instead, I want to go for more walks with Baby N, cook recipes with seasonal vegetables, and bake a great loaf of sourdough bread with my new starter. I want to read more books and watch less television, spend mornings in the garden, and find ways to get out of the house and go on adventures with N (even if it is just to run a few errands). I want to build time into the day for myself and myself alone.

Wish me luck—change may be hard, but it is easier knowing it will make me a happier, more engaged mother in the end.

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To me, it is simply not summer without a galette (as noted here, here, and here). These rustic cousins to pie are by far easier to pull together and feature the best of the ripe, seasonal fruit that summer has to offer.

I made this Peach Almond Galette three times in the last couple weeks for various events. I simply cannot get enough of this dessert. This galette stands out because of the addition of a thin layer of almond paste beneath the fresh peaches. The rich nutty flavor elevates the galette into a true pastry.

This is truly summer on a plate.

This Peach Almond Galette pairs fresh, ripe peaches with the rich, nutty flavor of almond. The galette comes together by layering almond paste between peaches and pie crust in a freeform dessert. With a sprinkling of sliced almonds and raw sugar before baking, the crust takes on the flavor of sweet, toasted almonds. While serving with a topping of whipped cream or side of vanilla ice cream would not be amiss, I prefer my slices unadorned and straight from the refrigerator. Enjoy whichever way your taste buds guide you.

Peach Almond Galette

Yields 6-8 servings, depending on size

6-7 medium sized peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar*
4 ounces (113 grams) almond paste
Recipe for single crust pie dough, chilled 
Egg wash (1 large egg + 1 tablespoon water, whisked)
1/4 cup (22 grams) sliced almonds
2 tablespoons demerara or raw sugar, for sprinkling

In a medium bowl, fold together the sliced peaches, flour, and granulated sugar. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough into a circle roughly 1/8-inch thick and approximately 14 inches in diameter. Next, roll or flatten out the almond paste into a layer approximately 1/8-inch thick. Place the thin layer of almond paste in the center of the pie dough, leaving a 3-inch border around the outside.

Layer the peaches over the almond paste in a decorative fashion. Fold up the pie dough over the filling, pleating the dough every few inches. Brush the visible pie dough with egg wash and sprinkle the sliced almonds and demerara sugar evenly over the dough. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to firm up the pie dough.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the peaches have released their juices. Cool slightly before serving. Serve with a topping of whipped cream or side of vanilla ice cream.

*Add more or less to taste, depending on the sweetness of the peaches.

Rhubarb Almond Bars

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Last summer, I built a trio of large, self-watering cedar planters to start a deck garden. Our home is blessed with a large deck and, since the main living space overlooks the deck, I wanted to give it a little more life. Although we have plenty of yard space for a garden, we also have many critters (and deer) visiting frequently so it made more sense to elevate the garden to keep the plants safe from late night nibblers.

Each planter is 2 ft. by 6 ft., which leaves plenty of room for experimentation.

My interest in gardening is relatively new, but this hobby has quickly turned me into an enthusiastic plant lady. After killing every houseplant I attempted to grow up for many years, I was astonished when my black thumb seemingly turned green after moving into our house.

Apparently the trick for a green thumb is simply having large southeast facing windows—who knew?

Unfortunately, the first attempt at gardening in the outdoor planters was not very successful. In my eagerness to grow my own vegetables, I overplanted the space and didn’t do enough research on how to individually care for each plant. In addition, because the planters are self-watering (through a process of diffusion and soil osmosis), the plants with deep root systems ended up with root rot by midsummer.

By summer’s end, the only “successful” plants were the bell peppers (which grew only one picture perfect pepper each), the green beans, and the herb garden. Everything else—the tomatoes, cabbages, cucumbers, etc.—ended up producing very little or finally completing their slow death.

While the self-watering feature was definitely a curse, I only needed to water the plants once the entire season, so my laziness is more than willing to find a way to work within these constraints.

This year I am taking the failures of the previous summer and using them to (hopefully) do better this time around. To start, I did a little more planning and left more space for the plants to expand. Only plants with shallow root systems are allowed (peppers, onions, shallots, lettuce, carrots, herbs, green beans, flowers); the plants with larger root systems have been relegated to individual, well-draining containers (tomatoes).

I have my fingers crossed for now, but it will be another month or two before I’ll be able to label it a success or failure. Stay tuned.

I have plans to do a little landscaping and put in a rhubarb plant later this summer, but it will still be a couple years before we can harvest. Until then, the farmer’s market has everything I need.

I originally planned to make a strawberry rhubarb dessert, but I didn’t get around to baking until after the strawberries were past their prime. This recipe is all the better for it, because it allows the rhubarb flavor to truly shine. Paired with an almond oatmeal crust, these rhubarb-filled bars are a new way to enjoy this spring vegetable.

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This recipe for Rhubarb Almond Bars is an easy way to use and enjoy rhubarb. Almonds and oatmeal come together to form the base of the bars. Sliced raw rhubarb is added to the center (no cooking required!) before the bars are topped with the remaining crust and placed in the oven to bake. The nutty almond flavor compliments the tart rhubarb well. Cut into squares and serve warm, cold, or room temperature.

Rhubarb Almond Bars

Yields 16 servings (or 8 x 8-inch pan)

Almond Bars
6 tablespoons (100 grams) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups (150 grams) old-fashioned oats
1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (45 grams) sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Rhubarb Filling
3 cups (~14 ounces or 400 grams) fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8 x 8-inch pan.

For the almond base, beat together the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until uniform. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and almond extract, mixing until blended. Stir in the oats, flour, sliced almonds, baking soda, and salt. The batter will be slightly sticky. Using greased hands, press 2/3 of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside remaining batter.

For the rhubarb filling, stir together the sliced rhubarb, sugar, and cornstarch.

Spread the rhubarb filling over the top of the almond base. Crumble the remaining batter evenly on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly in pan before serving.

Lemon Almond Cake

The fog of early parenthood has finally lifted. I have emerged stronger—with a bigger heart, immeasurable patience, and the ability to function on limited sleep. I am starting to feel like myself again and it feels good.

I lost myself in those first few months, as I imagine happens often with new parents. With the newborn routine of eat-change-sleep on repeat every three hours, I felt like a shell of my former self. There wasn’t time to explore interests or hobbies—there was hardly time to sneak in a shower.

To survive, I followed the mantra “one task a day.” Some days the only thing I accomplished was making dinner; other days it was making it to mama/baby yoga class so I could start the process of making my body feel like my own again. These small daily goals fueled me without overwhelming me.

It was the only balance I could seem to manage.

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Even though I enjoyed my time at home with sweet Baby N, I credit the act of going back to work with helping me reclaim my individuality. It’s true that I am a parent now, but that is not the only attribute that defines me. I welcome the daily challenges of being a high school teacher because my students remind me of the other aspects of myself that I appreciate (plus, the knowledge that summer break is around the corner eases the transition of being away from N during the day).

Although I’ve started to realize how important it is for me to have time for myself, I still very much struggle with allowing that dedicated time. Although the days feel long, the hours are short and time seems to evaporate into the ether. The great irony of parenthood is the knowledge that I could be more present for my daughter if I spend time away to recharge myself.

This balance between a parent and an individual with my own needs and desires will be a work in progress, but the journey is helping me understand myself on a new level, which I recognize is a gift in itself.

Lemon and almond is one of my favorite flavor combinations in spring. The sharpness of lemon and the nutty warmth of almond add both warmth and a wake up call to a palate that has been saturated in the comfort of winter. Taking advantage of a day off from school and Baby N’s napping schedule, I spent some much needed time in the kitchen. It wasn’t until I had finished the photographs that I realized this cake felt—and looked—remarkably familiar.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, after an exploration into the recipe archive, I noticed this lemon almond cake was quite similar to a lemon cake I had made the year prior (down to the exact date!). Mom brain, anyone?

I like to believe these resemblances work in my favor—this cake is so good, I unknowingly created a recipe for it twice. Perhaps that is all the encouragement you’ll need to turn on the oven, zest a couple lemons, and start baking.

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This Lemon Almond Cake brings together the warmth of almond with the spiritedness of lemon. The cake batter is infused with both lemon zest and lemon oil to give it a bright lemon flavor, and almond extract and almond flour to round out a nutty undertone. Once baked, the cake is brushed with a lemon glaze on the outer edges to give the cake additional flavor and to seal in the cake's moisture. This cake is perfect to serve plain and unadorned—the flavors are so vivid, it needs nothing else to feel complete.

Lemon Almond Cake

Yields 12 servings

Lemon Almond Cake
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup (180 mL) vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon oil (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 cups (270 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (75 grams) almond flour
1 cup (250 mL) milk

Lemon Glaze
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Heavily grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan. Set aside.

For the lemon cake, place the granulated sugar and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Rub the sugar and zest together until fragrant. Whisk in the vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, lemon oil, salt, and baking powder. Alternate adding the flours and milk, stirring after each addition, until the batter is smooth and uniform in appearance. 

Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes before unmolding.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze by heating the granulated sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Set aside. 

Place the cake on a cooling rack and brush the glaze over the cake, giving time for the glaze to absorb between layers. Allow the cake to cool completely and the glaze to set before cutting and serving.