the merry-go-round and a recipe for peach crisp

It’s been just a few weeks since we traveled to the beaches of Seaside. My memories of those moments spent lounging on the beach or playing with the kids in the sand seem distant, as if they happened years ago and not just earlier this month. I had hoped the restorative properties of that vacation would still be lingering into the end of August and beyond. Instead, the vacation’s effects dissipated quickly, like wisps of steam rising from the hot pavement after one of our sudden, late-afternoon storms.


In between activities with the kids last weekend, I found myself researching potential trips we could take over spring break next year. I scoured travel magazines, hoping for inspiration and bookmarking pages to return to. I spent too much time on various airlines’ websites, searching for exciting destinations that we can reach with only a flight or two. I crowd-sourced ideas from my Facebook friends, looking for potential places to take the kids to see snow for the first time, to go skiing or snow-shoeing or sleigh-riding. I daydreamed of sipping hot cocoa by a fireplace while the kids make snow angels outside our cabin. I imagined how refreshing the turquoise waters of the Caribbean would feel on my ankles.

I polled the children, even, trusting their opinion enough to let them weigh in. The eight-year old said, “Why am I thinking Hawaii?”

And while I like how she thinks, I’m not mentally and physically ready for that trip – and those time zones – with these kids.

It was at the park Sunday afternoon that I understood what all of this vacation planning was really about.

The day was overcast and breezy, as rain bands from Isaac inched closer. I sat on a bench and watched Maddie and Oliver spin on the merry-go-round, going faster and faster, gaining momentum with each rotation.   I realized that I, too, was spinning. My mind was unsettled, and I was feeling a sense of pressure, the weight of numerous unknown stressors bearing down on my shoulders, making my heart feel heavy.

My method for coping with the stress? Planning an escape. Spending all of those hours on the computer, scouring travel sites and flight schedules. The vacation would not happen for many months, but the process of planning of it was soothing, now.

When I imagined the four of us trekking through the El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico or taking a sleigh-ride through the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, some of the tension and discord I was feeling lifted. The lightening of spirit was temporary, but it was predictable and reliable. It felt good.

Sunday night came and went, and the routine of the schoolweek and workweek began. I stopped daydreaming about spring break. I stopped trip planning, instead making a  conscious effort to live in the moment, in each day as it happens.

I’ll eventually get back to trip planning. But not now, not today. That sense of urgency and pressure and need to get away now has passed. And today? I may not be off the merry-go-round, but I’m pretty sure it’s slowed down a bit.

*    *    *    *

What does this have to do with peach crisp? Not much, truthfully, other than the fact that this dessert is pure comfort food, and sometimes we just need that.  This peach crisp is a reassuring hug that just happens to be served up in bowl.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Peach Crisp

I've made this with regular, all-purpose flour, and I've also made it for gluten-free friends. If you want to make it gluten-free, it's simple: just substitute the 1/2 cup flour in the topping with a gluten-free flour mix (such as this one from King Arthur Flour). Regardless of how you make it, serve it with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream on top.

Ingredients:

Peaches:
3 ½ pounds fresh peaches (6 to 7 medium), peeled and pitted and chopped
½ cup granulated sugar

Topping:
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup all-purpose (or gluten-free) flour
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch coarse salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Filling:
1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 pinch coarse salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Macerate the peaches: Toss peaches and granulated sugar together in a large bowl and let sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. While the peaches are macerating, make the topping: Combine oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a small bowl. Add butter and combine using a pastry blender or your fingers (fingers work best). The topping should be in bits and chunks. [Note: The topping can be made in advance. Just refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.]

4. Make the filling: Drain peaches in a colander set over a bowl to catch the peach juice. Whisk ¼ cup of the drained peach juice with the cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, light brown sugar, and salt. In a large bowl, combine the drained peaches with the peach juice mixture, stirring well.

5. Pour filling into an 8-inch square glass baking dish or a deep pie dish. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling. Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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11 Responses to “spring break and a recipe: slow-cooker sweet-and-sour pork”

  1. Macaroni Mama — April 7, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

    I love your photos in this blog, plus a perfect meal.

  2. Paula — April 8, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    It’s funny isn’t it, how when we are in our own environment we actually think that we have some kind of control over what will occur and when we are away from it we have those irrational fears about *what if this or that happens* while we’re gone. I’m glad that you enjoyed your cruise and that all went well (both at home and away). The photographs are great and the kids certainly looked like they were enjoying themselves.
    Best wishes for a wonderful Easter for you and your family. The slow cooker pork looks great.

  3. Brian @ A Thought For Food — April 8, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    What a fabulous spring break you had! And this sweet and sour pork looks to-die-for! Yum!

  4. Noble Pig - Cathy — April 11, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

    What a wonderful trip…we are headed to the keys in a few weeks and I can not wait!

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  8. Aristophanes — July 31, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

    I just got back from San Diego, so I know what you mean about needing a break. My whole problem was I did NOT want to come back – and I live in Florida! This sweet and sour pork looks and sounds yummy. Will be trying it soon.

  9. JudyD — July 1, 2014 @ 8:36 pm

    Just made for supper and it was delicious!! Will definitely save this recipe and make again.. It was the perfect blend of sweet and sour. I didn’t have low sodium soy sauce, so only used 1/2 tsp salt and it was perfect. Thank you for the recipe!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — July 2nd, 2014 @ 6:06 pm

      I’m so glad you liked it! And thank you so much for sharing your modifications. I’m certain that will help someone else who’s in the same position.

  10. MoKyFellow — October 3, 2014 @ 12:34 pm

    Merry-Jennifer, is it a requirement tha I take a Disney Cruise before I am allowed to try this yummy sounding dish? LOL

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