When I married a pilot (almost 3 years ago) I anticipated a fair bit of absence. Most pilots travel nationally or internationally so naturally they won’t be home every night for dinner.
In New Zealand Jesse was rarely absent as he worked as a flight instructor (he called it his office in the sky) which was nice for us as newly-weds but it wasn’t the flying he dreamed of. We moved across to the far north of Canada for a myriad of reasons, a key one being Jesse’s dream to explore the other side of his career as a pilot – to fly in extreme conditions, perhaps get experience on floats or skis, and to expand his skill base as a bush pilot before ‘settling’ into an airline job.
Which is exactly what he is doing. Jesse is learning a huge amount about extreme weather conditions, maintaining integrity regarding safety and keeping up his energy and motivation during long days – 14 hours some days – with little chance for rest – today is his first day off in two weeks. The amazing part, is that he never complains. Even though he hasn’t had a chance to work on the car, nor had his daily morning espresso for over a week, and his muscles ache after days of lifting, loading and deicing outside in -20˚C, he is pumped on the skills and experience he is quickly gaining.
We are also hugely aware that everyone up here is in the same boat, so complaints are going to get you nowhere.
A big downside that comes with the territory however, is the last minute absence. We are fine with having time apart – it has been a great lesson in independence meanwhile ensuring we never take one another for granted – but it’s ideal when there’s forewarning. More likely though, it’s “honey, I’ve been called into work and I’m not sure how many days I’ll be away” and that really sucks. Especially when tonight’s dinner is already cooking, we are expecting a massive order of fresh food in the mail (definitely more than one person can get through!) and this week’s plans with friends have to be cancelled.
But we are learning how to cope with it – having an overnight bag at the ready, scheduling in an evening cup-of-tea date every night regardless of whether that’s in person or via Skype, and having healthy meals ready for the taking. When Jesse has to spend a week in the nearby community, it’s not as simple as buying some groceries on arrival. Groceries are expensive here, but they’re even more expensive and less available in Deline. Eating out, clearly, isn’t an option either.
So to ensure Jesse doesn’t find himself facing an overpriced box of KD (shudder… New Zealanders, you might have to google that one) we stock up. Our freezer has a stash of whole loaves of bread, of homemade muffins and granola bars, portioned out curries, cubes of homemade basil pesto and handfuls of cooked chickpeas. Jesse has a stash of peanut/raisin mixes for snacks, rolled oats and milk powder for breakfasts, and, very importantly, laundry washing powder, always available and ready to grab.
One of our favorites freezer meals, quick to grab and easy to prepare, are Refried Bean Freezer Burritos.
Grab a stash of tortillas (homemade or store bought).
Spread 1/4 cup cooked brown rice down the center of each tortilla.
Top with Rapid Refried Beans (recipe below), a sprinkling of cheese and dab of hot sauce.
Fold bottom up, top down, and roll tightly.
Wrap in baking paper.
This is good if you want to be able to throw it straight in the microwave, into the oven or onto a toaster machine.
I must express how important it is to label items in a full freezer! So often unidentified objects get cast to the bottom of the freezer only to be wasted. Defying the point of freezer meals.
Pack into sealed freezer bags.
Helps prevent freezer burn if planning to stow in there for any more than a week or so. And to stop it being cast to the bottom of the freezer never to be found again.
Grab from the freezer before leaving for work.
It will defrost in time for lunch and can be eaten as is, or thrown into panini maker (toasting machine, whatever you like to call it) for 5 minutes until heated through, shell is crispy and cheese is melted.
Rapid Refried Beans
Recipe from Easy Inexpensive Family Meals by Simon Holst
Serves 2 – 3 as a main on rice, double recipe to make 6 freezer burritos
1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green capsicum (pepper)
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano (or fresh)
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 400g can kidney beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
Heat oil in a pot. Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until softened, then add the seasonings and capsicum. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Drain and rinse kidney beans before adding to the pot along with the tomato paste and heat over a moderate heat. Mash the mixture with a potato masher or a fork. (For a smoother mixture, or if using for a dip, this can be processed in a food processer). Thin down with water if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit.