Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve at The Firehouse

As all firefighter families know, even though your partner's schedule can at times seem like a dream, they don't always get major holidays off. Sigh. It comes with the territory.

We get used to it though.

When my husband was first hired, he shipped off to special training on my birthday. I remember him feeling so horrible and awful to leave me on "my day," but I couldn't understand why. "It's just another day honey," I said to him, "Your career is more important than a day on the calendar."

And it is.

A firefighters family learns to adjust their way of thinking when it comes to those boxes on the calendar. We stop looking at Saturdays and Sundays in terms of a weekend and instead, replace our previous thought process with a new one that is made up of shift cards and multi-colored squares labelled A, B, C and D shift. These become our new normal. Our new way to see things. Our new compass when it comes to the monthly calendar - and as soon as that happens, everything changes.

Sure, weekends don't exist anymore in the traditional sense, but they are replaced with large chunks of time mid-week and the opportunity to trade shifts with a fellow firefighter to take time off that would be impossible in another profession. It's a give and a take and like most things in life, you learn to compromise and make the best out of the time you are able to have together.

This year, my husband works on Christmas Eve - which may not seem like a big deal, but when you have family from this way and that wanting to spend time with you during the holidays, the loss of even one day can put a hitch in your get along. It can make scheduling the holiday festivities a bit more challenging.


That's just the way it is.

Although we're surrounded by loving and supportive people who understand that it's just the nature of the job, it's still hard to please everyone. So instead of going to them this year on Christmas Eve, they are coming to us. We're baking a ham at the firestation and my husband is making his delicious potato au gratin dish to go with it. My mom is bringing dessert (the most important part of the night) and another wife is bringing her homemade potato rolls (ok, it might be a competition between these and the dessert). We are going to open a few gifts and hopefully not get interrupted by calls - but if we do, we're prepared, we're also bringing The Polar Express to watch on the ginormous TV at the firestation (is it just me, or do all firestations have ginormous TVs).

It might not be home, but it's the closest we're going to get on Christmas Eve and we'll be together...which is the most important thing of all.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

PS - Keep your tree watered.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kick Ass Chicken En-a-la-das

One of our favorite things to send to the firehouse!

The holidays are all about the food. Well, when isn't it all about the food when it comes to a hungry firefighter? What is your favorite meal to make for your firefighter or prepare at the fire station?

Because it's too cold to type without wearing fingerless gloves, here's a recipe sure to warm you.

This hails from my sister-in-law's mother's kitchen (who is NOT my uncle's brother's best friend's neighbors cousin) and the first time I had these I was in love. I know it may sound weird to say that you're in love with an enchilada but after you taste these, you'll understand. I could feel the delicious cheesy goodness right down to my toes (and I'm not one for cliches)!

My recipe card bears all traits of a great recipe as it is smudged, smeared and splattered with oil. The edges are tattered and I can barely read it, but the basic recipe never changes. I've tried other versions of the classic white chicken enchilada and found none that compare to the original. And on occasion, I have modified it using whatever shredded chicken I have on hand. Sometimes it's leftover crockpot salsa chicken, sometimes it's rotisserie chicken because I'm feeling lazy - as if crockpot chicken isn't lazy enough already. But whatever chicken it is, it's always good. My kids devour it with the zealousness of a pack of hungry wild dogs and there are never leftovers.

Simply, it rocks.

We call it chicken EN-A-LA-DAS (emphasis on the "la") because that is just how we roll around here, and it is best prepared while listening to your favorite tunes...whatever those may be. I think the last time I made these (which was just last week), I had a little World Party on my equally kick ass kitchen radio.

Kick Ass Chicken En-a-la-das
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 small yellow onion, diced
8 - 10 flour tortillas (or corn if you like those better)
1 can mild diced green chilis (use 2 if you're bold)
1/4 cup butter (use cooking spray if you're so inclined but believe me, you'll taste the difference)
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth (apprx)
2 cups shredded cheese*
1 cup sour cream

Cook the onion over medium heat in a little butter or canola oil until translucent. Transfer to a bowl and mix with the shredded chicken. Set aside.

In same pan, and no you don't have to wash it in between, melt the butter over med-high heat. Add the diced green chilis when the butter is melted and just begins to crackle. Cook for about 2 min, stirring constantly. Now, reduce the heat to medium and sprinkle the flour over the green chilis. This will make a paste. Cook and stir only until combined and there are no large visible lumps of flour. Then, add the chicken broth, stirring (I like to use a large plastic whisk) slowly until it is all blended, over medium heat. Continue stirring until all the chicken broth is absorbed and the mixture is smooth. It should be fairly thick but if it isn't, toss in a little more flour, crank up the heat and adjust it until you think it's thick enough.

I know, this recipe is soooooo Martha Stewart.

Finally, turn the heat off, but keep the pan on the burner, and gently fold in the sour cream. The sauce will be delicious, thick and creamy colored.

Now, you should have a 9 x 13 pan sprayed with cooking spray and ready to go. I forgot to mention that earlier but it's okay if you wait until the last minute - nothing is going to go wrong if you do this out of order!

Take a tortilla, hold it in your hand, and spread about 1/4 cup of the chicken/onion mixture in the tortilla. Sprinkle just a pinch (or a tablespoon in this case) of cheese on top of the chicken/onion mixture and roll the whole thing up. Place seam side down in the pan and repeat at least 7 more times, loading the pan up with en-a-la-das.

When the pan is full, find that wonderful sauce you just made - it should be sitting on the stove. Slowly pour the sauce over the en-a-la-das, spreading it out with a spatula if necessary to get all the edges coated in sauce. Place the entire pan in a preheated 350 degree oven and set a timer for 25 minutes.

Pour yourself a tall frosty glass full of your favorite Mexican beer (I like Pacifico with a lemon slice) and dance around your kitchen until the buzzer goes off. When that happens, get the rest of the cheese (should be about 1 cup unless you snuck some while you were dancing) and sprinkle it on top of the bubbling en-a-la-das. Put that whole cheesy goodness back in the oven and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

You can do some cool down stretches at this point.

Viola! The en-a-la-das are done. We like ours topped with some fresh chopped cilantro and tomato but you can do whatever you like. Avocado, green onions and even a nice corn salsa would also be yummy.


*A note about the cheese, my favorite type to use is a blend of cheddar and monterey jack. But - you can use pepper jack, only cheddar or only monterey jack. Heck, you can probably use mozzarella if that's all you have on hand. Just make sure it's cheese, and that there is a lot of it.

*Cross posted at Stop Screaming I'm Driving.