Monday, July 20, 2009

Drama & Domesticity

That would be the title of my life, were it the subject of a Jane Austen novel. This week I certainly could have been another Marianne Dashwood!

The big news of the week--it has been One Month! I celebrated by having not one, but TWO (count 'em!) major emotional crises today. Living with me may not be easy, but at least my dear husband will never be bored! I am so grateful for his patience and kindness, and his encouragement to bring my issues and insecurities to Christ. Living every day by grace is a challenge made so much more difficult by my perpetual desire to be OK on my own. God is so good--I look at the mess that is my life, that is my need to not need Him, and can only weep at His incredible love for me. Romans 8! I am so grateful that my salvation does not depend on my weak and childish faith.

Grateful, too, to have found a place in Des Moines where I can hear the gospel every week. The Sunday before last, Pastor L--- took a break from his journey through the Sermon on the Mount to preach in honour of John Calvin's 500th birthday. Pastor L pointed out that while Calvin's name today is synonymous with the doctrine of predestination, what really sets him apart from previous theologians is his concentration on the role of the Holy Spirit--something that earlier commentors on the Bible had not emphasised. The Spirit is intimately and essentially involved in every aspect of our salvation; it is the Spirit who makes our hearts and minds receptive to the truth of the gospel, so that we both assent intellectually to and believe actually in the promises of God. And it is the actual belief which motivates our changed actions--so that sanctification is just as dependent upon God's working in our lives! Pastor L read a beautiful quote from the Institutes where Calvin spoke of the Spirit's "binding our hearts up in the truth" of the Gospel. I have a hard proud little heart, receiving grace only by the hardest necessity. I can't change this; my constant prayer has become that I not only believe, but trust and love and rejoice in His salvation.

That has been the drama! Practically our days have been pretty simple--I have been plugging away at the job search, and Dennis is reviewing material before he starts school (less than a month!). I am so proud of all that Dennis has accomplished. I know once school starts he will be under a lot of stress, but I am excited for him. I have been having fun playing house ... I wonder how long dishes, dusting, and scrubbing the toilet will retain this domestic charm? We've also been getting to know some of the people from Redeemer PCA. Several families have already invited us over, and have offered such hospitality and good fellowship--really an answer to prayer. I love to be with God's people!

After enough emotional drama to supply screenwriters with a week of soap opera plot, our one month anniversary really had a lovely conclusion. A simple dinner together (with a six-dollar bottle of wine from Aldi!) ... the bread did not rise in time (should be great tomorrow!), but the dessert turned out beautifully. And the company, of course, was the best part of the evening. I am so glad that God keeps breaking down walls, and so grateful to be Mrs. Dennis Pritzel. God has given me a better companion than I could have ever asked for or imagined. Our life together feels so right that it's hard to believe we've only been married a month.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Recipes for Martha

As promised, two easy and economical recipes . . . both a big hit with Dennis.

Serves: 4 (4 VERY LARGE HUNGRY people, more like 6 servings!)
Prep Time: 30 minutes

6 slices bacon, chopped (not too small)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy; I do!)
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 lb. pasta: linguine, spaghetti, etc.
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. While you are waiting, cook the bacon and oil in a big skillet over medium heat, about 8 minutes or till crisp. Set bacon on a paper towel to drain. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the skillet, add the onion and red pepper, and cook 5 minutes to soften. Stir in tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes or till slightly thickened.
When the water boils, stir in the pasta. Cook as directed on the package, till al dente. Drain pasta, keeping 1/2 cup of the water aside.
Dump the drained pasta back into the pasta pot. Stir in the tomatoes, bacon, and Parmesan and toss to coat. If needed, add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce. Serve with extra Parmesan and pepper.
Good with a green salad and crusty bread.

Serves: 4-6
Prep time: 30 minutes, including time to make sauce
Cook time: 30 minutes

For the Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic powder equal to 3 cloves)
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup canned tomato sauce (I used 2 8-oz, no salt added cans)
Heat oil in a skillet or saucepan over medium; add onion and salt and cook 5 minutes to soften. Stir in chili powder, garlic, cumin, and sugar and cook till fragrant (maybe 20 seconds). Stir in tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
If you prefer a smooth sauce, you can puree or sift the recipe. I like mine a little chunky! I also added a dash of hot sauce.

For the Enchiladas:
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
3 cups shredded cheese (12 oz) -- I used a mixture of Cheddar and "Fiesta Blend"
Enchilada sauce (1 recipe, about 2 1/2 cups)
1 or 2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies, drained (1 can would be very mild, 2 is not that spicy)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro (I left this out, since it's expensive, and the enchiladas were very good)
12 6-inch soft corn tortillas
Spray your baking pan(s) lightly with cooking spray.
Combine the chicken, 2 cups cheese, 1/2 cup of Enchilada Sauce, chilies, and (if using) cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cover tortillas with paper towels and microwave them for 30 seconds to 1 minute to soften. (This keeps the tortillas from breaking as you handle them. If increasing the recipe, soften the tortillas 1 batch at a time as you use them). Roll tortillas around 1/4 to 1/3 cup chicken mixtures, roll up, and set seam-down in the greased pan. When you have filled the pan, spray lightly once more.
Pour 1 cup of remaining Enchilada Sauce over filled tortillas; spread to coat well. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the tortillas and cover with foil.
Bake 20 - 25 minutes at 400 degrees; uncover and bake 5 minutes or so to melt the cheese.
Serve with extra Sauce, sour cream, and lime wedges.

I froze two pans of Enchiladas before baking them--I plan to defrost one pan this week, then bake as directed. I'll report back on how that works!
I may also experiment with adding beans, corn, and/or rice to the filling, to cut down on cost.
1 1/2 recipes made 3 small pans. Each is enough for me and Dennis for dinner, plus lunch for Dennis one more day.

21 Days Later ... The Highlights

It's hard to believe that Dennis and I have only been married for three weeks . . . so much has happened in the last 21 days.

It's been fun and a half -- as you might expect, knowing me, a pretty crazy half.

One week after our honeymoon, we packed a truly incredible volume of STUFF into Dennis's compact Saturn, and drove 11 hours to Des Moines, Iowa. We scribbled vague signatures on what seemed like two hundred different forms, agreements, contracts, and disclosures, and finally shambled up two flights of stairs to our first home together. That first night we noticed, dimly, the lack of promised refrigerator included with apartment. Dimly.

And more-or-less exactly two seconds after the rental office closed for the evening.

Dinner at Applebee's and a brief infestation of Wal-Mart in search of canned goods.

The next day I discovered two things:
I had not included a can opener in the "essential things" list (Fortunately, my Eagle Scout husband was prepared with his all-purpose pocketknife. Seriously, Boy Scouts, I can understand the screwdriver, knife, and can opener applications . . . but a corkscrew?), and
Said promised refrigerator was swiftly delivered to our door :)

We had a lovely, cozy first few days together, before my parents arrived with a trailer, furniture, kitchen supplies (including my can opener!) and best of all, fresh eggs and vegetables from the garden. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

In the week and a half since then, I have managed to:
- Use more Clorox in two days than in the rest of my life previously
- Get lost WHILE navigating by GPS . . . TWICE
- Miss one job interview due to said lost-ness, break down into honest-to-goodness hysterics, and communicate--explosively--with my patient and gracious new husband :)
- Procure a library card and check out seven books
- Marveled at the fact that there are 2 Wal-Marts, 2 Targets, 3 Hy-Vees (kind of like an Uber-Walgreens), and 1 Aldi within a 15-minute drive
- Get four meals out of one chicken
- Reschedule and successfully complete missed interview (perhaps leading to temporary placement?)
- Discovered husband's fondness for homemade cornbread!
- Attend women's fellowship hosted by local PCA
- Contemplated (briefly) spending $7.99 a stem on faux cherry blossoms at World Market. Settled on $2.49 something-else from Wal-Mart.
- Confronted my own desperate need of grace at least four times daily
- Complete the last batch of wedding thank-you notes (check your mailboxes, my friends!)
- With help from the dear husband, cleaned a pigeon nest out of the apartment AC unit. (Contemplated bathing in the last of the Clorox, but settled for an hour-long shower. Am itching in anticipation of avian parasites.)
- Also with DH, finished I Samuel and began II Samuel
- Did NOT buy Starbucks every--or even any--day
- Enjoyed waffles home-made by my DH from a German recipe
- Washed approximately fourteen thousand loads of dishes
- Read the first one-and-a-half of the shelf full (two deep) of Dennis's Star Wars novels

I only hope the next three weeks are as full of fun and forgiveness.

Should this cake happen?