Peach Salad with Champagne Mint Dressing

Last weekend I got to experience my newish favorite summer activity: picking peaches in Michigan! A lot of peaches. And by a lot, I mean A FREAKING LOT -  something like 90 peaches! And those were just mine! My friend, Anna (known here as the Culinary School Dropout), also picked a bushel and half. It’s safe to conclude we may have gotten a little carried away, but we were having such a good time!

Two days later and I’m still up to my eyeballs in peaches despite handing them out left and right, and also trying to think of new ways to use them. I’d planned on canning most of the peaches, but it’s just so hot out that I’m still talking myself into it. However, this Peach Salad with Champagne Mint Dressing is perfect for these hot days – I even brought it to an outdoor concert last night where it was enjoyed in by all. The salad is cool and refreshing, especially with the mint and Champagne vinegar dressing and sweet-savory sauteed peaches.

Sadly, I also made the rookie mistake of not getting a good photo, so the sad shot of the salad in it’s plastic container will have to suffice. So 2008, oops.

Here’s the recipe for Peach Salad with Champagne Mint Dressing:

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Blogiversary Celebration with Vanilla Peach Cake!

Blogiversary Collage

Today is Foodie Reflections’ blogiversary! I can’t believe it’s been two years since I first started this blog because I missed writing. My first post on April 6, 2008, was a restaurant review with no photos. At that time I didn’t have a clear direction of the blog’s focus and, to be honest, still don’t. Turns out I don’t like rules, even ones that are self-imposed (shocking, I know).

I generally post recipes because cooking truly is my passion. But I also enjoy sharing stories about my family, holiday traditions, foodie events, or anything relevant in the food world. I’ve taken you with me to Paris, Costa Rica, New Orleans, San Francisco and Florida. There was even a guest post from my sister about her experience hosting her first family holiday. What has remained constant is that it all revolves food.

I need to thank Dan Nielsen (AKA Anna-the-Culinary-School-Dropout’s husband) for being the most unbelievable tech guy! Dan got me started after I told Anna of my plans to start a blog despite having absolutely no clue where to begin. He put up with me through redesigns, specific color criteria (how was I supposed to know he’s color blind?), and my “breaking” the blog on more than one occasion. Dan even created a nifty tool to add printable recipes to the site and it will be up and running as soon as I complete the stuff that needs to be done on my end. Seriously, if anyone out there needs a tech person, Dan’s your man!

Now, on to the food, what I know you really come here for. I was lucky last week to be contacted by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas (not related to tech guy Dan Nielsen, I don’t think…). They’re a local vanilla company that makes the most unbelievable products and I was thrilled when they offered to send me samples of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Sugar, Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, and Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste (retail value approximately $37).

Of course, I didn’t tell them that I had half a bottle of the vanilla bean paste in my cabinet – I seriously LOVE that stuff!

I’ve already made a few dishes using their products and will post one of their savory recipes later this week, but in honor of my blogiversary celebration I just had to share this amazing Vanilla Peach Cake with you! What type of celebration would it be without cake???

The recipe was adapted from Epicuious and provided the perfect opportunity to use one of the jars of peaches I painfully canned last summer then promptly forgot about, along with the vanilla extract and vanilla sugar.

Here’s the recipe for Vanilla Peach Cake:

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White Peach & Blueberry Buckle

White Peach & Blueberry Buckle

White Peach & Blueberry Buckle

It amazes me how something neither myself nor most of my friends had heard of could so quickly become a most requested recipe. Until a few weeks ago a buckle was known as something belonging on a belt or a cool pair of boots, certainly not something to eat, which was why the first time I announced I was going to make it the common response was “what’s a buckle?”

Buckle0001 Buckle0005 Buckle0006

It turns out a buckle is essentially a fruity coffee cake that gets its name because the top “buckles” as it bakes. But seriously, this buckle is so much better than any coffee cake I’d ever eaten. First of all, it’s extremely light and fluffy, not to mention moist. The crispy crumb topping adds a perfect touch of sugary goodness, and the peaches and blueberries throughout make you think you’re eating something healthy.

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In fact, as far as baked desserts go, this one is relatively healthy. The total amount of butter is just a bit more than one stick and I like to tell myself that the fruit cancels out all the sugar.

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As for feedback, this buckle was such a huge hit at the first dinner I brought it to that it was demanded for an overnight hiking trip just two weeks later where it was eaten as both dessert and breakfast. Sadly, I used up the last of my peaches on the second buckle so there won’t be another one this year, but the results were so worth it.

Here’s the recipe:

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A Peachy Can-Do Attitude: The Trials of a First-Time Canner

Peachtopia

Peachtopia

By now you’ve read a bit about the peach invasion of my kitchen and know that I used some of them to make peach almond milk faux ice cream. Others went into a crisp, a buckle (recipe coming soon), or were enjoyed whole by myself and the lucky people I shared them with.

But after all that I was still left with half of the half-bushel of peaches. So I did what any normal foodie with too much time and a desire to learn something new would do: I canned.

Peaches Blanch peaches to remove skins

It turns out there’s a “canvolution” happening across the country right now. Sadly, I didn’t hear about this movement until my own confusing efforts were already well under way and by then it was too late to use all the wonderful resources they had assembled.

Regardless, in the end I gave my canning an A- for effort, but a B for results. I guess a B+ average is acceptable for something this new and unusual.

Diced peaches for jam Peach jam cooked down and mashed

Funnel Peach Preserves

There’s so much to cover here I’m not sure where to begin. I guess the easiest way to approach this adventure is to break it into categories: equipment, panic and paranoia, results, final judgement, and resources.

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Peach Almond Milk Faux Ice Cream

Peach Almond Milk Ice Cream sm

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: relax, there’s no soy in this faux ice cream!

I will never be able to figure out why whenever I mention “soy ice cream” people automatically make a disgusted face and say “ew.” Granted, some soy ice creams are pretty awful but many are really good, so good in fact that it’s near impossible to tell that they’re dairy-free. I also like coconut milk ice creams, although I do pass on anything made from rice milk, those really are gross.

Peach Almond Milk Ice Cream0001 Peach Almond Milk Ice Cream0002

Peach Almond Milk Ice Cream0003 Peach Almond Milk Ice Cream0004

But what about a non-dairy ice cream made from almond milk? I’d never heard of it before but figured almond milk should work just like any other fake milk, essentially adding a creamy base to a fruity sorbet.

Well, it turns out I was a little off. The biggest problem in working with almond milk was that its lack of fat made it watery, causing it ti freeze like ice. It would be like using fat-free milk to make ice cream. Through a bit of trial and error I finally came up with a winning solution using both cornstarch and gelatin to thicken and add body to the batter, making for a smooth and creamy, albeit a bit cold, version of non-dairy ice cream.

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Despite the trials I was determined to make this work. Not only was I intrigued by the challenge itself, but I was smitten with the idea of almond milk and peaches, given that peaches and almonds are a classic flavor combination. Plus it was a good way to use up some of the peaches that were overflowing from my kitchen after my road trip to Michigan orchard country.

Here’s the recipe:

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