Saturday, April 09, 2011

Weeknight cooking: Barramundi!

Yes, it's on a paper plate. Sue me. I don't want to wash dishes!

I have a confession to make. I haven't really cooked all week. With my and the hubby's schedules, it's been tough to get into the kitchen. Wednesday, I threw some burgers on the grill, but I hate to even claim that much, since in my haste, I accidentally seasoned them with a rosemary garlic blend instead of pepper (not a bad mix, but not great either). 

So tonight, after buying cart full of meat and fish yesterday in preparation for a possible government shutdown, I (and my pocketbook) decided I'd better cook tonight. But I also knew that I had a limited amount of time to get a meal on the table before the hubbs had to head off yet again for a church lock-in. 

So I figured that my motto for the evening would be KISS -- keep it simple stupid. I decided to cook Barramundi, a fish I just heard about last week and for which a commissary coupon was offered, and the fresh green beans I'd bought last week before they went bad.

When I say I went simple, I mean simple! I chopped some fresh garlic and threw it in a hot pan with some melted butter. In went the fish, which I'd only seasoned with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Once cooked (took about 5 -7 minutes), I took it off, squeezed a lemon over it, then wiped down the pan and put in a little olive oil. More garlic, then I added the green beans, which I'd blanched (boiled for a short while, then immersed in an ice water bath). I'd boiled the beans in salted water, so I only added a bit of pepper and a splash of soy sauce.

I had two problems with this dish. 1) s I used a too-small pan, which meant that all my fish didn't get cooked evenly and I ended up with an undercooked piece that had to be fixed later.  2) I was also Facebooking, so I let the green beans boil longer than I would have liked, so I didn't get that bright green color and slight crunch I wanted. But DH said they were good. In the future, I'd also toast some pine nuts to toss the green beans with.

All in all, I think it was  a pretty good meal, and it took about 20-30 minutes, including chopping the garlic and thawing the fish. If I'd cooked sauteed the beans in a different pan while I cooked the fish, it could have been done even quicker. But I didn't want to dirty another dish. 

So if you have some fish and veggies you need to get rid of, this is a quick and easy recipe that took fewer than 10 ingredients (fish, green beans, garlic, salt, pepper, butter, olive oil, lemon), most of which are probably already in the pantry.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Mocha Manual to Military Life mini-review (Virtual Book Tour)

The Mocha Manaul to Military Life, cowritten by Pamela M. McBride, seasoned military life/writer/career coach, is kind of like giving your  newly married/dating military girlfriend a bunch of advice and stories all wrapped up into 11 chapters and 300-something pages. And although it's called the "Mocha Manual," rest assured that it's for girlfriends of all hues.

Though there are loads of good stuff in there, I've decided to focus on two chapters that are near and dear to me.

Chapter 2 -- Surviving the first year: Your induction into the MS world and Chapter 3 -- When honey is away dealing with separation and deployment.

Chapter 2 -- Surviving the first year: Your induction into the MS world
My first year of military wifehood wasn't necessarily a disaster, but I definitely had a few speed bumps. #1: Not really understanding my husband's job and having the battalion commander's wife explain it to me during her welcome reception (though at the time, I didn't really understand what a battalion was exactly, so I didn't really know what a battalion commander was either). And #2: Being my usual goofy self, I jokingly said something that got taken out of context and which garnered me the side eye from other spouses until they all eventually PCSd. Add that stress on top of the already super-stressful first year of marriage and, well, it can be a bit of a problem. Especially if you find yourself across the country, or even in another country, than your family, friends, job, et.

Chapter 2 can't fix everything (the chapters on protocol and relationships would have also been useful in all my faux pas), it's a start in the right direction. Pamela and Kimberly Seals-Allers get spouses pointed in the right direction from the get go, discussing how to get an ID card, make sure you're properly enrolled in DEERS (if you don't know what that is, you need the book) and getting set up in military housing. I actually found it hilarious to read the part about standing up for the national anthem before a movie in an on-post theater in one of the many extras found in the book. It was funny because I remember looking in confusion as everyone stood up before a movie at the Fort Sill theater.

She also touches on something I think we can all relate to; finding hair products no matter where you're stationed! I got many a package from an online retailer I'd never before heard of to do my hair, buy ball dresses, get contact lenses, etc. etc.

Chapter 3 -- When honey is away: Dealing with Separation and Deployment.
This chapter is near and dear to me right now because my own honey will be going TDY for a couple of months soon, and friends and others are saying goodbye to their honeys who are deploying. Although separations, whether it be a trip to the field, temporary duty (TDY), overseas deployment, are a part of military life, that doesn't make it any better. You just have to find your own coping mechanisms to deal with it. That's what chapter 3 is all about. I remember at one point during my husband's deployment (when I was not working), I checked out to back-to-back seasons of the Pretender and stayed up late watching the episodes. Fyi, I also repeated this with episodes of Prison Break. Obviously, staying up watching TV and sleeping wasn't the best way to cope with  deployment? But what is? That, my dears, is a question left up to each person, but this chapter gives lots of helpful pointers to get you started. The predeployment checklist has some of the same info you might get from the unit FRG, plus a few more. I especially like the "Military Spouse Survival Kit." This list is invaluable; not because women aren't in the know about household tools, but it provides a list to help make sure you have everything. My only problem with it is that I think the most important tool should have been at the top of the list instead of the middle; a good corkscrew :)

A couple of other notes about the book: There are a few little vignettes in each chapter that I really like. One is "The Mocha Mix" in which you can read stories from actual spouses and/or female service members about whatever topic fits the chapter. This gives a few different perspectives. Also included are "His turn," in which you hear from the husband/boyfriend service member; "Senior spouse spotlight," a brief story on a spouse; and a "Service member spotlight," about a female service member. The end of the book contains a handy glossary for those easy-to-forget, yet often used military acronyms and terms that contains everything from "RSVP" to "RFO."

All in all, if you are, or if you know someone, who is new to the military lifestyle, this is a great book to send as a "Welcome to the military" gift.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The brief adventures of New Dog and the Browns

New Dog came into our lives -- and left it nearly as quickly -- in the most unusual of ways.

DS was holding our dog, Taz, on a leash, while my arms were completely full of everything I'd neglected to previously pack for our weekend trip to Atlanta.

"Hop in," I said to Taz, and when a blur flew beside me, I was surprised to see a brown Pomeranian instead of our usually grumpy and gray-haired Min Pin. New Dog jumped all over the car; from the front to the back, into the back window, and briefly landing in the car seat, which prompted DS to cry out: "That's MY seat."

For 5 minutes, I looked from Taz, now walking around aimlessly as DS and I looked at New Dog do sprints inside the Hyundai, and pleaded with New Dog to calm down. Finally, she did.

I tucked under my arm and held her out to a neighbor who turned out to simply be saying hi. "Is this your dog," I asked? Nope. And as I walked down the street, knocking on doors; and later, drove slowly with my windows down looking for the owner, I was greeted with the same answer.

One neighbor would point to one house, and someone else to another, until finally I'd lost both my patience and an hour and a half. So DS, Taz, New Dog and I set about doing the errands I'd plan to do anyway. First, the Library, during which trip I called my mom for advice (call Animal Control, she said). Then I dropped Taz off at the vet, and had the dog scanned to see if she had a microchip. She didn't. So the receptionist, Vet tech, me, DS and New Dog all shared a brief awkward moment during which I whined, "I don't know what to do I'm supposed to be going out of town and now two hours and passed and I don't know what to doo-oo." So the receptionist handed me a couple of phone numbers to Animal Control and the SCPA and sent us on our way.

I did another quick trip around the neighborhood, neck craning to hear an owner screaming New Dog's name. Nada. So I called Animal Control and they dispatched someone out to pick her up. Not knowing how long the wait would be, I put a collar on her, hooked up the leash and put it around the post in front of my house. She didn't even touch the water or the dog biscuit I put out for her.

Right as I guiltily began to pull out of the driveway, Animal control drives up. We discuss New Dog's condition (clean, white teeth, clipped nails) and he assures me that they will post a pic of her on the website and will wait for the owner to pick her up. What if that doesn't happen, I ask. Then she will go up for  adoption, he answered. A Pomerian, a cute and well-mannered one at that, would go quickly, he assured me.

Of course, I couldn't stop thinking about New Dog the entire trip. I'd call the shelter Tuesday, I decided, and put my name on a list I'd convinced myself existed to claim New Dog as a new member of the Brown family (wasn't sure how Jamil felt about this plan, but I figured once he saw the cuteness, he wouldn't be able to resist)!

Just 15 minutes ago, we pulled into our neighborhood and were greeted by colorful "lost dog" posters, bearing New Dog's photo. I called the number and the woman who answered was so relieved and was crying to hard and so loudly, that I didn't even hear her when she told me New Dog's real name.

She offered me a reward, but I declined. All I wanted, I told her, was for her to get New Dog microchipped so this couldn't happen again. She said she would, and I believed her; she'd had the dog for only two months, and got her from an abusive home.

Whatever her real name is, New Dog signaled the end of a super-hard week for me, and was the beginning of something unusual, and fun. And I'm glad that I could play a part in helping her get back home.