Saturday, August 1, 2015

Traditional Maine Summer Outing

Here in Maine, there's this thing called "camp." Basically, if you live here long enough (or if you're from out of state but close enough) you have a cottage somewhere. They are not typically not 4-season homes, but sometimes they are. The best ones are on a lake somewhere -- there is no shortage of lakes here in Maine -- and traditional camps are not McMansions (or even McCabins). They are small homes, furnished with hand-me-down furniture. They are rustic, but there's electricity and running water, and besides: the point is to be outside.

One of the partners at my law firm has a camp not too far from where we live. It has been in his family since the mid-1980s, and sits right on a lake. They host a mostly-annual* company outing every-ish summer, and this year's outing was yesterday.

Mick couldn't attend, but the kids and I went. Here are some of the cell phone snapshots I captured.

We don't have a camp (yet), but Mick has wanted one since forever. If this is what summer is like, and the memories our kids will make, I am all in. Where do I sign?


My brave girl didn't take long to get comfortable enough to jump from the back of the pontoon boat!

...again and again!

The kids had never been in a kayak before in their lives. They mastered it. WHM kayaked on his own for well over an hour.

The water was clear and warm and shallow for a good bit. The lake's topology is basically shallow around the perimeter for about 100 feet (well, give-or-take) into the center, and then drops off in the middle like a canyon. It's a giant lake, and the shallow perimeter makes for ample safe swimming areas that don't ever get old.

Clear across from "our" camp is a private beach owned by an elderly lady. For years, it has been marked on a giant boulder "Keep off Beach," but historically she hasn't policed it except for rowdy groups. We let the kids play for a few minutes and then headed to the middle for jumping.

* in three summers of the firm's existence, there have been two summer outings. Last summer we didn't have one because schedules got too crazy. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Beef with Broccoli: A Pinterest Recipe Success Story

My parents came to town last week. In anticipation -- and because I promised them we wouldn't go out to eat every night -- I did some major grocery shopping.

I bought enough to actually cook lunches and dinners for two weeks. I haven't done that since, well, ever.

My parents are long gone and I've still been cooking. They don't like broccoli and CAM doesn't like Chinese food, so last night I made this Beef with Broccoli recipe I found on Pinterest. The kids ate whatever they wanted -- CAM picked a Lunchable and WHM asked for jambalaya -- and Mick and I enjoyed this.

Here's how it came together.

Slow Cooker Beef with Broccoli from Le Creme de la Crumb

Verdict: Delicious! Easy and the sauce was wonderful.
Cook it again: Absolutely!
Cost factor: Beef and broccoli are the only two components we'd need to confirm that we have on hand. $10-$15 if you shop sales

I didn't take any prep photos, sorry. Also, the photos I did take were snapped with my cell phone. I'll do better next time, I promise.

Last week at the grocery store they had coupons on some packages of "stew" beef. I love finding deals like that -- $2 off because it's been in the cooler and they need to move it? Deal! I just take it home and vacuum seal it and throw it in the freezer, and then when I want it, it's on hand. I just need to remember to defrost it. I try really hard to do this.

This is in contrast to my other approach, where I am overly ambitious, spend $100 on meats and leave them all in the fridge because I plan to cook them all week. But I don't end up cooking them quickly enough, the house soon smells like a rancid dumpster, and I have to throw away $80 of meats. The freezing option is so much better.

Usually I use this kind of meat to make goulash or hearty soups, but I decided I could cube it up and make the beef with broccoli recipe. Not quite the thin slices you typically get in a Chinese restaurant, but the same concept.

So, take whatever meat you have and either slice it or cube it. The recipe calls for 1.5 pounds; I used 1.8 pounds. Same thing!

(If I was really planning ahead and thinking that I would blog about this, there would be a pretty photo here of either the meats or the sauce. Use your imaginations, kids!)

Then mix up your sauce: beef broth/stock (low/no sodium if you have it), soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, minced garlic (I just used the jarred kind here, since it's going in a slow cooker all day) and brown sugar. Here is the important part: the recipe calls for low-sodium soy sauce. USE IT.

A few months ago in a pinch, Mick ran to the store for the soy sauce for some other marinade we were making. We had to settle for the regular Kikkoman, not the low-sodium version, based on what the store had on hand. If you've ever used Kikkoman, you know that it's just brown salt water, so we typically use the low-sodium version. But we were in hurry and got what we could get. I used it yesterday, and the dinner was delicious but Mick and I both agreed that it was just on the too-salty side. Make sure you follow that part of the directions. It's worth a trip to the grocery store -- or two or three, if you have to search -- to buy the low-sodium version.

Anyway, put your slow cooker on low and let this go for four or five hours. I prepped this around noon and let it go until 5:30.

About half an hour before you're ready to eat, you're supposed to mix 1 tablespoon of corn starch with 4 tablespoons of cold water, add the mixture to the crock pot, and then let it cook and thicken. I did that, but it wasn't quite as thick as I wanted it to be, so I actually did that twice.

If you're wondering, I also forgot to turn on the rice cooker at this point, so 45 minutes later when it was all supposed to come together, I had the opportunity to realize I wanted a thicker sauce.

Right before you're ready to eat, steam the broccoli and then toss it in the pot, stir it up, and serve over rice.

Our broccoli was a little on the mushy side because of my rice cooker impairment.

I'd make this again. The sauce was thick, garlicky, peppery (yes, a touch salty), and oh my goodness, did the house smell amazing! The beef was tender. If you like this meal at a Chinese restaurant, this homemade version will not disappoint you.

This is the kind of meal Mick or I could throw together at lunchtime, let cook until we get home, and then when we get home from work just turn on the rice cooker and eat 45 minutes later. It's an easy, filling, relatively healthy weeknight dinner.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Cell Phone Snow Pics

From Wednesday:

See that flag? Entire buried today.

She's sitting, but the snow really is up to her waist, the way it drifted in this part of the yard. 

The really fun part is getting through the donations from the plow! Ah, life at the end of a cul-de-sac!

This is one of the best ways to appreciate how deep the snow was when we got up Wednesday morning. No, we didn't get 3 feet at once, but it was not exactly a dusting! And that's a long (and wide -- you don't see most of it in either direction) driveway!
From today:

Another Snow Day!

Apparently only one kid can have any sustained playtime. This time, WHM fell on his face into a snowbank and was done after about ten minutes.

Here are some snapshots.

I love her hair flying!

Missing Mick. :(


Christmas 2014

Yikes! In downloading the snow photos this morning, I realized I'd never done anything with our Christmas photos!

We celebrated Christmas three times this year. First, my parents came up from New York the weekend before Christmas. The kids had a half day of school the Friday before break started, and Mick and I had work and juggling, and my parents came to help us out and celebrate an early Christmas. They came up on Thursday afternoon. It worked out that I was able to duck out of work and pick up the kids and run them home during my prep period on Friday. We celebrated Christmas with my parents on Saturday. They left Sunday morning, which was altogether too short of a visit, but we did at least get to have "Christmas" together.

Then we had Christmas morning with the kids:

Later Christmas morning, my in-laws came up and we did it all again.

Even later, we traveled a few towns over to celebrate with extended family for Mick's side's annual Christmas afternoon.

Pretty awesome.