Monday, June 20, 2011

Much Ado or Making Do

Dear humored observers, 

"Does this look redneck?" I asked Mrs P, as I beat at a banana pudding with a whisk.  She laughingly reassured me that yes, it did look redneck ... 

We brought very few dishes with us, so every reusable container from food becomes a coveted and treasured item!  This large can, leftover from a Costco run for chopped tomatoes, is our new mixing bowl.

We have to be very creative at times, shuffling food from one dish to another, to make it all work out; but we've been able to come up with many delicious dinners!  One night we had a variation of Everyday Potato Soup (rermember the beauty of soup ... no two pots turn out the same!).  It was delicious; the only downside was trying to peel potatoes with a large clumsy knife - I'll have to get a peeler or a paring knife soon!

We made a big batch of tortillas to use in various dinners - quesadillas, burritos, and any other various filling from rice to chopped cabbage that we have on hand. I am guessing this is probably not your average hotel room! 

Keep reading to learn how we make Navy Base Quesadillas!

Endless adventures await ... 

Mrs H
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Mrs P is a little skeptical of my methods.
I can't imagine why.
Navy Base Quesadillas
Of course I am biased; I always prefer homemade tortillas!  I rolled so many out my wrists hurt ... but it's worth it in the end!  Click here to learn how to make them.  Since we're on a tight budget, buying ingredients - which we can, of course, use in countless recipes - for making tortillas, is cheaper than buying inferior and less nutritious store-bought tortillas.  

To fill the quesadillas, use your imagination ... Empty your refrigerator ... but here is the basic recipe!  

Lay a tortilla in a hot skillet.  Cover one half with minced vegetables (jalapenos, onions, peppers), shredded or slivered cheese, and finely chopped, cooked chicken or cooked, seasoned ground beef.  Fold the other half of the tortilla over and let it heat through, melting the cheese. Serve hot, with salsa and sour cream

I had boiled a chicken carcass to make broth; afterwards, I drained the bones
from the broth and shredded off any remaining pieces of meat, and salvaged
the cooked giblets from the broth.
I added this to some additional chicken meat, which I had cooked with freshly
ground black pepper.  
I laid the Navy Base Quesadillas in a cake pan, and used my cleaver to slice
down the middle.  A few of these were just chicken & cheese for the meat-
Serve with additional chopped jalapenos to top ... just a serving suggestion!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Kitchenette

To the gentle reader and the beloved audience,

Now that life is settling into a comfortable rhythm again, how am I going to cook in a hotel room?  I've hardly cooked or baked since Mr H left for boot camp in mid-March - yes, I had the opportunity to make a few dinners and some fun desserts here and there, but between the frenetic chaos of packing and moving, and not making a regular three meals a day like I had done before, my cooking dwindled down sadly.  But now that I am in Illinois, so let me go back and set the stage for you...

During boot camp, Mr H met a shipmate around the same age, also Christian, who was married as well.  They thought their wives should get in touch to figure out travel plans for the upcoming graduation, so Mr H sent me her contact information, and his shipmate sent my contact information to his wife.  Immediately up receiving this information, we were texting each other a hundred times a day and calling constantly, comparing notes and things our husbands told us about boot camp and supporting each other, discussing fears and hopes and babies.  We hit it off perfectly.  The night before the graduation in Illinois, she and I stayed in the same hotel and talked all night (not a wink of sleep for us!).  She helped me fix my hair in the morning and we drove to graduation (my mom, Mr H's parents, and Little Chester came to the graduation as well!), and sat through the entire graduation cheering for our husbands and crying and clutching each other for strength.

Mrs P and I couldn't stand the thought of leaving our husbands again, now that we knew we could spend some time with them.  She drove back home (she lived only eight hours away) to tie up loose ends at home, turn in her two-week's notice at work, and pack a few things into her car.  Likewise, I flew home to Washington and packed my car, arriving back in Illinois on a Friday evening in mid-May; she arrived the following Saturday evening.

We are staying together in the hotel on base - we can leave at a moment's notice if need be, or stay longer as the training may require.  We both brought a few dishes, some clothes (I have one suitcase with me!), and a few personal items.  I brought a few beloved cookbooks - it was hard to choose which ones to bring!  I managed to narrow the list down to my top ten...

Planning menus with a limited kitchen and a restricted budget gives me a chance
to flex my creative arm ... it was a comforting taste of home to sit down with my
homey cookbooks and perform the familiar ritual of selecting new recipes for the
menus, and making my grocery-shopping list!   
The first hotel room we were staying in temporarily did not have a kitchenette, so she and I were mixing potato salad sitting on the floor, making sandwiches on top of the cooler, and washing utensils in the bathroom sink.  We booked a room with a kitchenette, however, and moved all of our belongings across the grassy courtyard to the new hotel room.  It was a wild adventure; the Good Lord sent us a maintenance man who was willing to help - he carried everything down the two flights of stairs and loaded it onto a garden cart. We would have spent half the day moving things (as it was, we were dripping with sweat!) but, with his assistance, we finished in under an hour.  The only damage done was a basket of muffins that toppled from the cart and hit the deck, and a bag of onions that escaped and rolled chuckling in ten separate directions.  And I shall never forget Mrs P staggering under the weight of a closet full of clothes and leaving hangers scattered across the parking lot like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs!

Moving our belongings from the first hotel room we stayed
in to the new one ... It was a hot day!

Our hotel room has a little kitchenette - a mini-fridge with a micro-freezer inside, a small sink, two low-output stove burners, and a few cupboards.  I've gone from buying flour in 50-pound bags to five-pound bags!  Grocery shopping is a whole new adventure as we plan menus for a limited kitchen, and I don't have my wonderful contacts with local farmers and co-ops any more.  But every new challenge is a delight for me to try and conquer; just give me permission to cook is all I ask, and I don't care about the facilities ... I'll make them work!

The first dinner we made in the hotel was Simple Onion Soup (except I had no boullion or broth, so I sauteed lots of seasonings Mrs P and I had brought from home - garlic salt, basil, oregano, Ozark Seasoning from Penzeys - in hot oil, before adding the sliced onions).  We topped it with farfalle pasta (farfalle is Italian for butterfly!) and served it with some Trader Joe's crackers.  Yes, there is a Trader Joe's within half-an-hour of the hotel - needless to say, I was more than thrilled to find it!

I am excited to test new recipes and explore my options in our tiny kitchen.  It is an honor to cook for my husband and I look forward to making him delicious dinners again - it's such a good feeling, it's been so long since I've been able to cook for him!

Whisk in hand, apron at the ready,

Mrs H
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Next: Life in a hotel room - making do ... 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

In The Navy: An Historical Recap and a Trip Report

Dear patriotic people around the world and across the great US of A,

Have you been swept into the metaphorical ocean of the Navy by an overwhelming wave of military life, you poetically ask?  The answer is quite possibly a temporary yes, and I've also been living in a world mostly devoid of internet!  Well, the WiFi is here - I just don't have a computer with me.  That limits my online capabilities a bit!

But here I am on a borrowed laptop (I promise I'll return it!), and it's time to let you all in on what has been the absolutely exhilarating, topsy-turvy, wild adventure of my life for the last month!

In early May, I left the rainy Pacific Northwest (yes, it poured the day I left, a familiar farewell for me I suppose!) with my Mom and my dear friend Little Chester, heading off the Mr H's Navy boot camp graduation in Illinois. 

You may recognize her - she's been on the blog before as a member of the wedding party!

After the graduation weekend, I had booked some more time at the base hotel (it's very inexpensive).  Mr H's new training schedule would allow us a lot of time together - most evenings, and the weekends, barring the occasional duty.  He would still have to live in the barracks, but with me close by on base - just a ten minute walk away - we might be able to see each other almost every day.

About to go to his graduation ceremony ... I was a little psyched
My marriage is my priority - not my school, my job, my comfortable home, a big kitchen, or even being close to beloved family and friends.  Mr H is my priority.  This was a standard I set over two years ago when he put a ring on my finger, and I swore an oath of allegiance to him!

Tuesday morning, 3:30 AM ... A week after Mr H's graduation, I took an early flight and headed back home to Washington and in under 24 hours I prepared for relocation.  I packed everything I owned into one room (I had already boxed virtually all of our belongings when he left for boot camp, in anticipation of this possibility, and moved to an upstairs apartment at my cousin's home), negotiated a reasonable storage-utilities fee with my gracious host-cousins, and packed everything I thought I might need for the tentative foreseeable future (having no idea how long his training would last or where I would be living - hotel? apartment?) into my car.

This whirlwind of activity - from worming my way through stacks of boxes in my mom's shed to dig out dinner plates and mixing bowls - to sorting, boxing, and relocating all of my belongings at my cousin's house to fit into one bedroom - to organizing, packing, and stuffing everything I would need into my little Kia - could not have been accomplished without the sacrificial help of my willing sisters, brothers, and ever-supportive Mom!  None of us got very much sleep! 

Wednesday morning, 6:00 AM ... My Mom and sisters had stayed up virtually all night Tuesday into Wednesday morning with me helping me cram, sort, box, re-box, arrange, and re-arrange all of my belongings from my two rented rooms into just the bedroom - leaving the second room open for my cousins to use, and lightening the rent a bit. We burned through almost two boxes of mini donuts and laughed until we cried, doughnut-dust flying everywhere (it didn't help that I found myself throwing doughnuts at my sister Jelly Bean around two in the morning, which was, according to my jet-lagged brain, actually four in the morning for me). Somehow, we survived and awoke more early than bright at six in the morning on Wednesday to begin the catastrophic storm of errands and appointments I needed to accomplish, and the final duty of packing my car.

The car was packed pretty tight ... My Mom is a Master Packer!! I might
need to fly her out to Illinois to get everything back in the car ... 

And so it was that we arrived at Wednesday evening, with everything sliding onto home plate veritably seconds before my scheduled completion time of 8:30 PM, when I would drive to church and pick up my friend Little Chester, who would drive with me all the way back to Chicago, IL!  From Monday morning until Wednesday evening, I had had little more than seven hours of sleep, but I was fueled by the energizing passion of love and the arguably powerful drive of adrenaline!  On the road from my home to church, I kept finding myself speeding inordinately - I was ready to be on the road and heading back to my husband. 

Wednesday night, 8:30 PM ... I found Little Chester at church amongst a swarm of beloved friends, including the pastor who had performed our marriage ceremony, and his wife.  They prayed over me and wished us well on the trip.  We threw Chester's bag in the car and I dumped a bag of maps on her lap.   I had no clue where I was going. "Which direction?" I shouted.  "Point me the way!"

"Drive this way!" she proclaimed, and so I did. 

I drove and drove and drove until two in the morning, my blood vessels surging with energy and excitement.  Sure, I was getting sleepy.  I figured I must be, since I'd had naught but two naps over the last three days and nights.  But when Chester took over driving and I rolled up in the blanket for my turn to sleep, I couldn't rest.  My eyes wouldn't stay closed!  It wasn't until Idaho, and then into Montana, that I found myself dozing intermittently, awaking occasionally to ask Chester how she was doing ("Great! I am eatin' wasabi peas!" was her perky reply), to hand her snacks, to peer out into the darkness at the mountains and the snow and the ever so black blackness that surrounded us. 

Thursday morning, we stopped at a tiny town in the sunshiny Montana mountains - and by tiny, I mean a few hotels and a selection of 1 gas stations.  We fueled up and I got a twenty ounce black coffee to start the day off right.  I settled into the Captain's seat and for the next 17 hours I was unstoppable, until by midnight we hit the Gateway to the Black Hills - Rapid City, South Dakota.

Hold it, you say!  It took all of seventeen hours to get from Northern Montana to Rapid City, SD?  Yes - we had to take a painful, laborious, circuitous detour through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming due to flooding closures on the main highways in Montana.  It took us five hours out of our way, and we almost got hit by a roaming buffalo and a determined old lady behind the wheel of a Cadillac... we survived the experience shaken but unharmed!

In our rush to get to Illinois (well - MY rush - I really wanted to see Mr H!),
we were incredibly frustrated by the super-low speed limit of 45 MPH in the
park ... and everybody kept stopping to take pictures of buffalo!!

By the time we left the park, we both declared, "The only buffalo
I want to see now is on my plate in a burger!" I was very sick of
buffalo! No stoppin to smell the roses on this trip ... pedal to the
metal, all the way!  We did see a few bears, too ... 

In Rapid City, Chester took over driving and I collapsed in the passenger seat.  I think I was exhausted by this time because the next few hours are a blur of drifting in an out of sleep, and listening to pounding rain.  Despite downing a Starbucks doubleshot only moments before while hurtling across the long, flat highways through the desolate Midwestern America night, I fell asleep immediately.  It was around midnight; Chester drove heroically through sleeting rain for the next several hours, and I awoke to a fresh sunny morning in Minnesota.

A Minnesota farmboy filled up our slightly deflated left rear tire, we gassed up and threw back a few more wasabi peas, and hit the road again!  We charged forward across amber waves of grain and the muddy Missouri River, skated through Wisconsin and then dropped down into Illinois. Friday evening, 4:30 PM Central ... And so it was that forty-two hours after leaving home and over 2,400 miles later, we wheeled triumphantly into the Naval base at 1630 (4:30 PM).  Chester racked up over twelve hours driving, and I - driven as I was by my desire to see my darling sooner rather than later - had a fat twenty-eight hours under my belt. 

And so, here I am back on base - Chester has flown home to Washington, and I am living with a dear friend.  Her husband is also in the same program as my husband.

But that is a story for another day ...

With red (eyes) white (knuckles) and blue (Navy!), 

Mrs H
tweet us @_mrs_h for chewy nuggets
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P.S.  I bet you can't wait to hear about cooking in a hotel.  Hint: it requires more creativity than counterspace.

Next: Life in a hotel - the kitchenette makes an appearance! 



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