A Broccoli Casserole to Warm Your Heart

I am honored to have a guest post today from way across the pond in the UK!  Lisa Gair is not only a fellow blogger but also a celebrated cook/baker for her business The Yummy Yank. The Yummy Yank is dedicated to the baking of homemade American desserts and other yummies.

Lisa and I (re)connected through the MyJudytheFoodie blog. I visited her site and was quite moved to learn about the impact my mother had on Lisa’s early life through the celebration of family and food.  In a Yummy Yank blog post Lisa states:

Judy was like another older sister to me.  Judy cooked differently to my family.  She was a more modern cook.  There was nothing she couldn’t do.  She made appetizers, mains, desserts and each and every one of them were delicious.  Judy took a lot of shortcuts, something my family didn’t do a lot of until she came around.  She doctored up cake mixes and made these outstanding recipes without all of the hassle.  She made the most incredible broccoli dish using frozen broccoli, canned stewed tomatoes and canned cheddar cheese soup.  She made a wonderful noodle pudding or kugel which wasn’t as sweet as my mom’s and my mother ended up making it all of the time.  She entertained frequently and nothing was ever a problem.  She used her time wisely in the kitchen and could still take part in her dinner parties without staying at the stove.  She was the first cook I know that simplified cooking, something every chef tries to do now.  Judy in my eyes was the start to this fashion of cooking!

In between the baking and prep work for all those farmer’s markets every weekend, Lisa happily agreed to cook one of Mom’s celebrated dishes for MyJudythefoodie.  A few months prior, I cooked Mom’s broccoli casserole dish. Lisa wanted to showcase Mom’s other version she still uses today.  Here’s Lisa’s story:

 

When I was 11 years old, my parents moved from a one horse town called Arnold, back to the suburbs of Baltimore, MD.  Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about this, being uprooted from my friends, but at the age of 11, one doesn’t have much voice in these matters.

My mother found the house of her dreams.  She never wanted a rancher or bungalow, as it is called in the UK, but the real estate agent talked her into looking at it.  It was perfect.  Big, spacious, nice layout and a huge, basically unused kitchen.  The previous owners moved into the house new, only 2 years prior, took off their shoes every time they walked into the house and not once cooked in the kitchen!  It was a dream!  Stainless steel appliances, big double oven and a fridge freezer that opened by pushing a button.  Amazing stuff, considering this was 1968!  The family who was selling the house had a daughter my age and she introduced me to quite a few of her friends before she moved.  It was perfect, I had friends before our family even moved into the new house.  This new adventure was going to be just fine!

As soon as we moved into the house, of course we met our neighbors. The best neighbors of all was the family on the other side of my new home!  They were Judy and Mickey, a young married couple with 2 small children at the time.  I became a babysitter pretty quickly and I loved every minute of it!  Not too long down the road, Shari (that’s me everyone!) was born.  All three of the kids were at our house constantly.  If they weren’t at our house, I was over their house.

Judy was beyond cool!  She was like my big big sister.  My real big sister was away at university and Judy stepped in as a surrogate.  Judy was beautiful, very entertaining, incredibly gracious, selfless, talented and an all around wonderful person.  She became my confidante.  We both stopped biting our nails together.  She tried to teach me to sew, but to no avail.  She helped influence me in many ways.  She inspired me when it came to cooking as she was a fabulous cook.  She was a true mentor.

As I grew older, we became good friends. Even though Judy changed neighborhoods we never lost touch. Our relationship evolved as I  married and had children of my own.  Judy still remained a mentor to me and a confidante. Most of all, Judy was my inspiration!

Judy became very ill and suffered for many years from complications due to breast cancer.  A few years before she died, she and Mickey visited the UK.  She was in such pain, but she still went sightseeing, kept a smile on her face and soldiered on.  She was so uncomfortable sitting, ate nothing, but just went along happily.  Judy never cried.  She never showed that vulnerable side to herself.  However, when she said goodbye to me, she hugged me and sobbed.  We both did.  It was a moment that will stay with me forever.  We both thought we would never see each other again.

But, a couple years later, we saw each other again!  She made my husband and me lunch at her beautiful home.  Again, she was in such pain, but she continued to do it all.  She laid a beautiful table and made a scrumptious lunch, always with her shortcut recipes.  I cleared the table and washed the dishes much to Judy’s dismay.  She always wanted to do it all.   While I was cleaning we openly talked.  Judy confided in me that she was nervous about her next doctor’s appointment.  She said she always feared what they would find.  Again, we welled up.

Lisa aka Yummy Yank and Mom

Before I left her home, Judy gave me a handful of her old recipes that had been my favorites.  One of the recipes she had completely forgotten about, but I didn’t. It was her Italian Broccoli Casserole.  I vividly remember her making this dish and I remember the first time eating it at their house.  I remember her lining up the broccoli spears in two neat rows in the baking pan! I remember I made it all the time as teenager and my mother made it frequently.  It was scrummy and it forced me to love broccoli!  I will cherish these recipes forever.

That was the last time I ever saw Judy.  She passed away not very long after.

Having seen Judy that one last time made an impact on me that will last my lifetime.  She was the first grown up I really got to know who oozed coolness and greatness.  While I miss her so much I am so honored that she shared such a huge part of my life!  This recipe is made for Judy with lots of love.

Thank you Shari for inspiring me to share this recipe and for sharing so many of Judy’s recipes on your own blog.

I had to tweak the recipe in several different ways because some of the ingredients are not available in the UK.  It still tastes as delicious, but it isn’t quite as simple as her version.  It’s still very easy though!

First I will give you my version, after I will share the original!

 

Prepping the cheese mixture

 

Finished casserole

**FYI, I am making this with a corned beef/salt beef brisket and mashed potatoes for tonight’s dinner!  YUM!!**

 


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