Margaret Button | Kitchen Comfort: Floating along memory lane

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I was on vacation last week. I went nowhere and did nothing. Well, almost nowhere. Due to poor planning on my part, I had to drive to Pittsfield for an allergy shot one day.

I wish I could say I managed to sleep in, but my Lab, Sassy, is used to getting up at 6 a.m. — and getting breakfast shortly after that — and has no regard for vacation days or even weekends. So, most mornings I was out on the deck by 6:15 a.m., freshly brewed coffee in hand, enjoying the peace and serenity of the neighborhood.

It was a fantastic week weather-wise and I spent the afternoons at Button Beach (our pool), floating on, or soaking in, the cool water. Thanks to SPF 50 sunscreen I avoided looking like a lobster until Friday, when I neglected to apply it to my thighs, thinking they would be safe under the water. Wrong again.

Our pool is over 20 years old, and I'm sure it is on borrowed time. As I floated in it, I could almost hear my son, David, and his friends when they were young, squealing as they did cannonballs off the pool deck and the endless cries of "Marco," "Polo," "Marco," "Polo." I remember one of his friends being terrified the first few times he went in, to the point of sitting on my knee the entire time, and then swimming and cannonballing with the others by summer's end. The boys tormented the girls and the girls retreated to another pool in the neighborhood, where the boys eventually went also, and the cycle continued.

If I close my eyes, I can see my late aunt in her black-and-white bathing suit floating on a noodle next to me and my husband sitting on the pool stairs in his Red Sox cap so his scalp wouldn't burn. And, of course, the radio station is playing "the best of the '60s, '70s and '80s." Other music just doesn't seem right.

In addition to becoming water-logged, I took advantage of the days off to do some cooking and baking, including two batches of rhubarb scones, homemade mac and cheese, and a slow cooker beef and broccoli that was really good. I used tri-tip steak I had on hand and added about ¾ inches of peeled ginger root, grated, to the recipe. The directions say to cook the beef for 4 hours on low, then add the broccoli and cornstarch mixture. My slow cooker has a tendency to run hotter than others, so the beef was done in about 3 hours. I plan to try it again, substituting peppers, onions, pea pods and carrots for the broccoli.

Slow cooker beef and broccoli

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 lbs sirloin steak or boneless beef chuck roast, sliced thin

1 cup beef broth

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 Tbsp. cornstarch

4 Tbsp. water

1 head of broccoli, cut into florets

Directions:

In the insert of the slow cooker, whisk together beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and garlic.

Place slices of beef in the liquid and toss to coat. Cover with lid and cook on low heat for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, whisk together cornstarch and water in small bowl. Pour into slow cooker and stir to mix well. Add the broccoli and gently stir to combine. Cover with lid and cook 30 minutes to cook broccoli and thicken sauce.

Serve over warm white rice.


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