I am pretty sure that glass tray had never seen daylight before. I would guess it had still been carefully put away with all of the other “too fancy for everyday use” wedding gifts. On it, she carried enough sandwiches and coffee to feed the whole department. Now, my Mom’s a fast cook, but I’m not exactly sure how she managed to prepare coffee and sandwiches that quickly. It was fairly equal to the speediness of their hurried arrival to our house. As startling and surprising as the blast and fire had been to all of us, she looked as cool as a cucumber passing out a late evening snack to the volunteer fireman and local police. I know it was her way of saying thank you for their quick response. And an even bigger “praise the good Lord above” for only giving my Dad a warning to be more careful with his burn pit in the future. I learned a valuable lesson that evening. Well- actually- a few lessons:
1-Make sure you know if there are fuel cans hiding in the burn pit.
2-Keep the fancy wedding gifts close.
3-Food can make a statement. It can say “thank you.” It can restore. It can resolve an argument. It can also be as casual as an out of control burn pit on Saturday evening in the summer.
My parents operate a catering business in the small town I grew up in and in earlier years ran a storefront, with a deli and meat market. Seeing first responders show up for lunch specials, fireman purchasing ingredients for their evening meal, or police officers, still in uniform, run in to grab a gallon of milk for their families really developed my understanding of their cravings. They crave routine. Food that really hits the spot. The meals that stick to your ribs and re-center a busy mind and restore a weary body.
As a police wife, we try to keep these routines in our homes. You know, keeping those home fires burnin’? (←--Like my fire joke?) Balancing odd work hours, kids, pets, family events and the unpredictability of the calling our partners have answered means that meals are often the last thing we want to think about. But like my Mom taught me-when you have nothing else to give but sandwiches and coffee on a fancy glass tray-you give. You give thanks for a job well done and you do what you can to restore the balance and the normalcy.
So here are a few recipes from the women of BTBL and their LEOs. A collection of the meals and treats that keep us connected and present to our loved ones in blue, brown and maroon. Dig in! :)
For the Day Shift
Erin’s Breakfast Hash
1/4 Cup milk
1 lb. Diced meat of choice (i.e. sausage, ham, bacon)
1/2 medium onion diced
1/4 Cup shredded cheese (more for cheesier)
1 tsp salt and pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Optional add ins:
Diced sweet or regular potatoes or hash browns
Cook meat and vegetables with some oil in a pan. Set aside.
Whisk together eggs and milk and seasoning. Scramble in a pan. When the eggs start forming about 50%, add the cheese.
Mix all together at the end.
For the Middle Shift (aka Second Shift, Mids)
Meghann's Taco Chili
1 pound ground turkey/beef/venison
2 large cans diced tomatoes, undrained 1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed 1 packet taco seasoning*
1 packet dry ranch seasoning*
Brown meat, drain if needed. Add taco seasoning (no water needed.) Add ranch seasoning, tomatoes, corn, black beans, stir.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer approximately 1 hour.
Top with shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Serve with corn bread or chips.
Optional: cube one brick of Velveeta, stir to melt/combine.
Additional notes: No time? Can also be done in crock pot - throw in pot in AM, cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 (if ground beef is pre-cooked) stirring as you can. Add Velveeta just before serving if you choose to add it. Opt for plain tomatoes vs spiced/seasoned.
Single batch feeds 4-6, depending on appetite. Reheats well. Freezes well (without Velveeta).
Big crowd? Two pounds ground beef, three large cans of tomatoes, two cans of corn and two cans of black beans will fit in a large crock pot with Velveeta.
*Allergens: read labels of spice mixes closely. McCormick's taco seasoning and Hidden Valley ranch mix are both gluten free.
1 box of mostaccioli noodles
1 pint of half and half
2 cups of colby jack shredded cheese
1 thing of tomato sauce (we like Ragu Garlic and Herbs but your favorite will work)
1 lb of meat (can be left out for a meatless meal, or hamburger or Italian sausage works well)
Preheat oven to 375. Make the noodles and brown the meat and then just mix everything together in a 9x13. Stick in oven for about a half hour or until top noodles are starting to get crispy and golden.
For the Night Shift (aka Third Shift, Dog Watch)
Kelly’s One-Pot Creamy Garlic Pasta
2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced (or more if you love garlic!) 2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 lb spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional)
- In a pot, bring the olive oil to medium-low heat.
- Add the garlic and stir until fragrant (1-2 min)
- Mix in butter until melted.
- Add salt, pepper and chicken stock, then raise the heat until boiling.
- Once boiling, add the pasta and cook according to the box’s direction.
- Reduce heat to medium, then stir in Parmesan cheese until melted.
- Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream and parsley. Serve immediately.
Grandma's Cheesy Chicken Hotdish
1 cup chopped celery
1 6-oz. Box of Uncle Bens Wild Rice – cooked (can also sub white/brown rice or mix half and half with brown rice.)
1 small onion – chopped
1 can Cream of Chicken Mushroom condensed soup
1 can sliced water chestnuts – drained
1 cup sour cream
2 cups cooked chicken – diced
1 cup cheddar cheese
Mix all together, top with a sprinkle of cheese. Bake one hour uncovered at 325
Grandma's notes: use more cheese! And, use a large Pyrex bowl. It just tastes better, though you can bake in a regular baking dish too.
Rose's Banana Bread
1 cup sugar
1/2c. canola oil
1 tsp. baking soda
3 smashed bananas
Pre-heat oven to 350*
Cream sugar and oil together.
Beat in eggs.
Stir in flour and soda.
Pour in to 1 extra large bread pan, 2 md bread pans, or greased/lined muffin tins.
1 large loaf - bake 40-45m or until toothpick comes out clean or 15 muffins, bake 18m
Kristy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp hot water
1⁄2 tsp salt
2 cups chocolate chips
Mix butter, sugar, and eggs. Mix flour and salt.
Mix water and baking soda.
Mix ingredients. Add chocolate chips.
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
**And just in case the Chief comes to dinner...**
2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion - chopped
5 cloves of garlic - pressed
1Tb olive oil
2 - 15oz cans tomato sauce
1 can water (use tomato sauce can) 1 - 12 oz can tomato paste
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
24oz shredded mozzarella
24oz cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese Lasagna noodles - uncooked
Preheat oven to 350*
*Sautė garlic & onions in olive oil in a dutch oven or similar pot for 5 minutes
*Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain fat and return to pot
*Add tomato sauce, water, tomato paste, and spices - bring to a soft boil- reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes (I let mine go for up to 6 hours - the longer the better)
*Lightly spray 9x13 pan
*Add thin layer of meat sauce to bottom of pan
*Add lasagna noodles (yes, uncooked - trust me) overlapping slightly
*Spread 1/3 of the cottage cheese on noodles
*Cover with meat sauce- making sure to completely cover and get in corners
*Sprinkle with parmesan cheese
*Add 1/3 of the mozzarella
*Repeat with another layer of noodles, cottage cheese, meat sauce, parmesan cheese and mozzarella
*Third and final layer of noodles, cottage cheese, lots of meat sauce (making sure to get down all edges and corners), the rest of the parmesan cheese & mozzarella cheese
*Cover with foil and bake for 50-60 minutes- remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
*Broil on high for 2-3 minutes - watching closely
* Serve with cheesy garlic bread & salad
Caitlin’s Pineapple Pig Sammies with Pineapple Coleslaw
3-4lb pork shoulder roast. Cut into chunks. 5-6 slices of bacon, chopped.
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp liquid smoke
1 cup pineapple juice
1⁄2 cup water
1 cup chunked or crushed pineapple 2 tbsp sea salt/cracked pepper
1 head cabbage or bag coleslaw mix Jimmy’s Pineapple Coleslaw Dressing
Set Instapot to saute. In Instapot or pan, cook bacon. Add garlic. Season roast with salt and pepper. Add roast to pan or instapot. Sear roast on all sides (2-3 min. Each side). Add liquid smoke, pineapple juice, and water to InstaPot or Crockpot. Set Instapot to manual for 90 minutes. Setting valve to sealing. Manually release the pressure for 20 minutes. If using a crockpot cook on low 6-8 hours. When finished, shred and serve.
While roast is cooking, mix cabbage or coleslaw mix and pineapple dressing. Chill until ready to serve. Serve on buns and top with coleslaw.
About the writer: Caitlin is still in her rookie year as a Backing the Blue Line member. She is a member of the marketing committee, a SWAT attendee, and a professional "heart emoji clicker" in BTBL's Facebook group. She is a middle school special education teacher and chief chaos coordinator of twin boys. Her dream job would be a talk radio DJ. But only if she could talk about the fluffy stuff. Her husband, a Minnesota State Trooper, has been in law enforcement for 10 years. He is literally and figuratively the brakes to her lead foot. More of Caitlin can be found on her blog, Minnesota Gingham.