I’ve been writing recipes like mad lately, and I had my whole freezer stocked with the goodies for my “Light Summer Series”, of which I was going to start photographing this week. One recipe per day, I figured. It was a perfect plan! Until my two-year-old turned off the freezer night-before-last and I woke up to six pounds of defrosting shrimp.
Six pounds of defrosting shrimp, five pounds of defrosting chicken tenderloins, four pounds of defrosting ground turkey and eight pounds of defrosting berries.
Needless to say, my summer recipe photography got a fairly aggressive kick-start yesterday.
Oh, I was frustrated alright. I really didn’t plan on spending nine hours on my feet saving about $200 worth of food, but what else was I going to do? Throw it away?
The entire scenario pretty well sums up my past 20 years as a Marine Corps Spouse.
The Marine Corps: “So, you have a plan?”
Me: “Yep. I totally have a plan”.
The Marine Corps: “Well that’s nice honey, but you don’t get a plan”.
Me: “What are you talking about?”.
The Marine Corps: “Your plan: The thing you think you can count on. It does not exist. You’re a speck. You’re a tiny speck”.
Me: “No I’m not, I’m important”.
The Marine Corps: “No you’re not”.
The conversation did not really go quite like this. It was more like a 20 year conversation in bits and pieces (in my own head of course), which led me finally to accept that the only thing I can count on is my own ability to adapt.
So what’s the plan now?
To continually adapt.
About ten years into my life as a Marine Corps Spouse I had insight to accept the one truth I could see:
“Embrace your insignificance”.
No matter who we are, and no matter how important our service members may be at the moment, we are all ultimately replaceable. We’re just people, holding a place until we get old and move on, and ultimately exit military life as older versions of ourselves. Hopefully with our marriages and our families intact.
As military families, we can never get too comfortable. We can never really settle. But the reality is that NO ONE can really get comfortable and “settle”. We military people just come to understand the inevitability of change and the futility of “a plan” much earlier in life.
Just like my freezer crisis, there will always be SOMEONE turning off your freezer without you seeing, and even IF it was really no one’s fault (except the toddler, and she didn’t know any better), you’ll find yourself in the position of having to make the best out of a messy situation.
Just like my 20 year conversation (in my own head) with the all-mighty Marine Corps, you’ll find yourself coming to the conclusion that you are just a speck in the world and you really never had much control of things in the first place.
Our job is to adapt.
It’s either that, or throw it all away. And even in throwing it all away, there’s a level of adaptation that’s going to be required of us.
So we adapt nonetheless.
The good news here is that we all get a say in HOW we adapt. Not many people really want to take ownership in HOW they adapt. It’s much easier to blame the toddler, or the Marine Corps, or any number of external forces.
Blame is so easy. It can even be fun.
Yay blame!! Fun! Easy! But completely unproductive.
I have to say, even though I grumbled my way through mine nine hours of forced recipe development and photography yesterday, I’m really happy with the results! This shrimp salad honestly was born of desperation, but it is really delicious.
“Delicious Desperation Salad”: That’s what I should name it.
You will need:
Rice noodles (the very thin kind), About 2 cups boiled shrimp (peeled and deveined), dark sesame oil, soy sauce, a little kale, grated carrot, fresh cilantro, toasted sesame seeds and sweet chili sauce.
Have you ever used “rice sticks”? They are Asian rice noodles. You’ve probably had them in Thai restaurants, or in little rice paper wraps.
Rule #1 in using rice noodles: DO NOT BOIL THEM. You’ll end up with a pot of glue.
Instead of cooking them, you will instead “reconstitute” them. You know those little dinosaur sponges in the little capsules? The ones you get in gift packs and party bags that your kids (or you) have so much fun putting in water and seeing which kind of dinosaur emerges? Yes, that’s “reconstituting”.
Only to reconstitute these rice noodles, you’ll need to put them in a big heat-proof bowl, and boil a big pot of water.
Then you’ll need to pour all that boiling water over the rice noodles. It’s important that your bowl can take the heat of the boiling water. This is a Pyrex bowl. It’s made to handle large thermal changes without exploding. By the way, “thermal shock” is a real thing and it’s terrifying. I’ll tell my “thermal shock” story of the exploding pear cobbler one day. Let’s just say it was one of my less-than-stellar days in entertaining, back when I was a Lieutenant’s wife and thought that entertaining guests was important (it’s not). It all ended well. I mean, no one was hurt.
Grab yourself a pair of tongs and lift the noodles up and around until they all soften. It won’t take long. They will all fold into the hot water. Now, put the bowl in the sink and run the cold water over it. The water will gradually cool all the way and your rice noodles will be tender.
While your noodles are cooling, throw about 1/2 cup chopped kale and 1/2 cup grated carrot into a bowl. Toss with 1-2 teaspoons of dark sesame oil.
Use your tongs to lift the rice noodles out of the (now) cool water. Put them in a big bowl or a big platter and toss them with 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce.
Also, you might want to get a pair of kitchen scissors and cut these rice noodles into smaller bits. These are insanely long. If you’re going to take these to a pot-luck or bbq, you’ll really want to make sure the noodles are short. If not, one person will grab one little portion with tongs and the whole salad will fall onto his plate like some kind of amoeba. And you know the plate will be some kind of flimsy paper plate, so the whole salad will fall off the plate and right onto the ground. Then everyone will *gasp* and be like, “Who brought that noodle dish?”, and you’ll raise your hand and be like “Meeeee”. I also know that from experience. Another not-so-stellar moment.
So cut the noodles.
Next, throw in your kale/carrot mixture, and about 2 cups of cooked, peeled shrimp, and a few shakes of sweet chili sauce.
You can find sweet chili sauce in the Asian section of the grocery store.
Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and a some toasted sesame seeds. A little extra sweet chili sauce if you like.
It’s even fancy! And beautiful!
Perfect to take to a bbq (don’t forget the shorten the noodles), perfect for a light, cool, summer dinner. Even perfect for lunch the next day.
We may be moving all over the place and be dealing with a metric ton of BS most of the time, but we can still eat like civilized people! Right?
All it takes is a little skill.
I’ll be back later this week with NEW recipes for the summer, like Ginger-Wasabi Grilled Chicken Tenderloins (with a bonus lesson on how to take out that weird tendon), Turkey-Lentil Tostadas (low calorie), and Turkey Burgers (also low calorie). Oh, and Triple Berry Sorbet.
We can alllllll thank the toddler!