Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Camarones al Ajillo (Shrimp in Garlic Sauce)

My friend Camie sent me this recipe earlier this week, and said I would live to regret it if I didn't immediately work it into my meal plan. Not being one to live questioning "what if?" I gave it a shot tonight. I think she was right! This was scrumptious!

CAMARONES AL AJILLO (American Lifestyle Magazine)
4 T. butter
2 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 1 lb. shrimp; 1 lb. chicken)
1/4 c. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
15 cloves garlic, minced (that's not a typo - it's 15 - no kissing after dinner!)
1 c. chicken stock, plus more as needed
juice of one large lime (approx. 1 T.)
2 t. salt
1/2 t. white pepper
1 t. flour
1/4 cup diced parsley

In skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Once the butter begins to turn golden brown, add the shrimp and sear them. Transfer the shrimp to a plate. In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5-7 min, until both are soft. Add the stock, juice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and cook 15-20 min. You may need to add extra stock if the sauce evaporated too quickly, but not more than 1/4 cup.

Measure out 1/2 cup of the hot liquid and place it in a bowl. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the pot and stir until the sauce thickens to the consistency of light syryp. Add the shrimp and the parsley and stir, incorporating all the ingredients completely. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Do not overcook the shrimp or they will be tough.

Serve with white or saffron-seasoned yellow rice.


10 years ago or so, I had the privelege of serving as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometime I may elaborate on that experience in more detail. But for now I'll stick to one aspect. I remember the first time Sunday rolled around in Madrid. It had been a LONG week. Afterall, I'd been adjusting to the language, the culture, the food, and a totally different lifestyle as a missionary. I was looking forward to my well-earned day of rest. Anyone laughing yet?

Sunday was spent in branch leadership meetings, calling to remind investigators that church started at 10:30, running from metro to metro stop to "pick up" investigators and help them find the church, teaching the Gospel Essentials Sunday School class, giving impromptu talks, pretending to accompany the hymns on the piano (for both Sacrament and Relief Society meetings), visiting those people who missed church, etc. Thatwas all before 4:00! Sunday was a very long day. Was I missing something? The Lord thought it significant enough to make keeping the Sabbath Day holy one of the 10 commandments - and yet, here I was, apparently ignoring this all-important commandment - and as a missionary, no less! Everyone knows that Sunday is NOT celebrated properly without a long and restorative nap. Not only was I deprived, but the day was far more work than any other day of the week. I was cheated.

Luckily, a bit more than a year later, I was home, and able to take advantage of all the Sabbath had to offer - at least until my kids were born. I guess there's more to it than the actual rest part.

Which brings me to the present. Recently I told John that I needed a break. I needed to get out of the urban jungle in which we live. I wanted to commune with nature, and spend quality time with my family. The answer, I thought, was a family vacation.

We haven't had a lot of family vacations since we've been married - I mean, a few here or there, mostly to visit our parents - but not a lot of just "us" time, doing "our" thing. Growing up, I always visited Lake Tahoe with my family. Or, we'd go camping. We even went to Hawaii once. It was great. I loved family vacations. And so, with enthusiasm, I announced it was high time to have one of our own. There was only one thing missing: my parents.

Vacations were great, I've since learned, because my parents planned them. My dad made lists of every item we might need, plus 93 that we probably wouldn't, but would take anyway. He packed the car. My mom planned meals and made grocery lists targeted to be inexpensive and involve minimal preparation and cleanup. As soon as we arrived, she hit the grocery store. Together, they unpacked the car. Each day they presented us with our itineray. They got up early to make sure we were ready, sat awake with us when we were unhappy in unfamiliar beds, and discovered perfect activities for the age-span in our family. When we got home, Mom did the laundry, Dad aired out the tent...I think we were in charge of unpacking our own suitcases?

Oh where, or where, were my parents on my vacation?

Sometimes, being the parents is not fun. And vacations are a lot harder and tiring than I ever remember them being. They aren't very relaxing at all.

I don't entirely loathe family vacations. We did a lot of great stuff, and the kids had a blast. We slept in a small cabin; I felt like Laura Ingalls, except with air conditioning and a furnace (we used both). Luckily for me, I remembered my Ambien. There's something about sleeping in a small room, and a smaller bed (with broken springs) and a toddler in a pack-and-play six inches away, that is not sleep inducing. We watched the sun rise as we read book after book to aforementioned toddler in hopes of keeping her from waking up her sisters. By daylight we visited Ohio State Parks Lake Hope and Hocking Hills.

We went canoeing and searched for beavers (didn't see any; might have had something to do with the screaming toddler who did not like wearing a life jacket OR sitting still),

hiked Old Man's Cave and Cedar Falls,

visited nature centers, roasted hot dogs and s'mores (NOT fingers, though some made a valiant effort), fed deer, ate at an Amish Kitchen buffet (feel free to skip this if you're in the area),
swam among the turtles and fish in the lake,

attempted vainly to handfeed hummingbirds, picnicked,

and even "toured" a small town where John has been offered a position in the future (I am not - repeat NOT - moving there).

Our "vacation" was nearly two weeks ago, and I'm still trying to decide if it was a success. I'm not yet caught up on the sleep lost (even on Ambien, it was rough) and I wonder if it was worth it. While we did get away, and spent a lot of time in nature - it wasn't exactly the relaxing, rejuvenating, Kumbaya type of experience I'd fantasized about. But it was good. We laughed. We cried. We exposed the kids to parts of our world that they hadn't experienced, and encouraged them to do things they weren't sure they could manage. We were proud of our little family, even the littlest member. She was (mostly) a trooper.

So I've been thinking - the problem, like the Sabbath on my mission, wasn't the experience; it's the syntax. In Madrid, I did not participate in the Sabbath Day of Rest; I participated in an extra-special day to serve the Lord. A week ago, we did not go on a vacation. (I NEED a vacation.) We went on a family adventure. That is much more accurate, and takes away the feeling of coming up short. I liked it. I had fun.

And, I've turned into my mother.