Friday, 7 December 2012

Tis The Season of Thankschrismakah

I love this time of the year. I enjoy crisp, fresh wintery days. I love the lights and the crowds shopping for holidays gifts, mostly with smiling faces. I can't wait for the family to be all together, eating, drinking, opening masses of presents and playing lots of games. I especially love winning those games. As I tell my kids, I am a good loser, but I am an even better winner.

This is my second marriage, so I have what some may call a blended family.  Mr Yummy celebrates Christmas and I celebrate Chanukah.  I also celebrate Thanksgiving, we all do now! Thanksgiving is a holiday having nothing to do with religion, just a celebration with family, good friends and lots of food. A feast in every sense of the word.  Every year on the last Saturday of November, I make a Thanksgiving to remember. Even though Thanksgiving is really on the last Thursday of November, we do it on Saturday, allowing everyone to enjoy themselves to the max and not having to work the next day. This year we had 21 adults and 3 little ones and after an intervention from my girls, I was organised enough to sit down and eat when everyone else did!  It was perfect! I love Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2012 Yummy Yank Style

Before Mr. Yummy, I never had a Christmas tree except for one at my father's pharmacy.  I loved decorating that tree. When my girls were young, we never had a tree either, but every Christmas Eve, we went Christmas viewing to see the incredible decorations in various areas around Baltimore. We also went carolling with good friends every year around their neighbourhood, ending up at their house having eggnog and cookies. Such magical times.

Mr Yummy and his girls aren't religious but they love the magic of Christmas, so we now have a tree and stockings and the sparkle that goes along with it. I admit I go overboard, but we have so much fun. I love a big, full tree and enjoy going to the nursery to pick out a tall and perfect one. The smell of a live tree brings with it the vision of warm fires and happy faces.  I can't wait to pick out this year's tree, if I ever have a day off  to do it.  It signifies the continuation to the mayhem that is Thankschrismakah in our home.

And so it begins!

But before Christmas this year, it's Chanukah. This year, we light the first candle on the menorah (a candlelabra) tomorrow evening. Chanukah isn't a religious holiday, it is a festival to celebrate the miracle of light. A celebration back in the days of the Maccabees where the oil burned in the temple for eight days when there was only supposed to be enough to burn for one. We light a candle for each of those 8 days and give a gift on each of those days as well. However, since the family are spread out, we do it over the Christmas break when everyone is off of work. It takes a full day to go through the ritual of stockings and gifts.

It's customary to eat something fried in oil over Chanukah. Some make donuts, some make potato latkes, also known as potato pancakes. I do the latter.  In fact, I made my latkes today because my youngest daughter wanted my recipe. Actually, it's my father's recipe. Nobody made latkes like him! He is one of the namesakes of The Yummy Yank. My dad's nickname was Yummy! And his latkes are just that!  I made the latkes today because I don't measure my ingredients and in order to give my daughter a proper recipe, I had to make them, measuring everything out. I then had to eat them because they are delicious and they bring back such happy memories with my wonderful father!

Here is the recipe. You don't need to be Jewish to enjoy these.  They can be eaten on their own or even with a roast dinner. Enjoy!

Potato Latkes

Makes 6 large latkes.

Pour a large amount of vegetable oil into a deep sided pan, these need to be deep fried. Preheat the oil over medium heat.

3 large baking potatoes
2 eggs (in photo, it looks like 3, one had double yolk)
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 Tablespoon ground pepper
1 Tablespoon salt

Grate the potatoes by hand on the smallest holes of the grater. A food processor just doesn't work as well.

Add eggs and mix well. Add flour, pepper and salt. It may seem like a lot of salt, but potatoes soak up salt and they need it.

Test the oil by dropping a small drop of water in the oil. If it bubbles, it is ready.

Drop by very large spoonfuls, adding another spoonful of mixture on top of the first, into the hot oil.  Fry until they puff and turn golden brown. Flip the latke and do the same on the other side. They will become golden and crispy. Don't rush this step, it they are browning too quickly, reduce the heat.

When completed, drain the latkes on paper towels, plate up and serve with soured cream and/or applesauce.  So delicious!  Enjoy!

Happy Everything Everybody! You all have made my 2012 an absolute blast and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

As always, thanks for reading and y'all have a nice day!

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

He's Da Man!

People come and go in one's life on a regular basis! They enter your lives for a reason and then for another reason they go! That's part of life.

Then you have people in your life who remain a constant.  People who are there by your side through thick and thin, though your ups and downs, highs and lows.  These people can be family, friends, colleagues.  Again, they are there for a reason.

Sometimes the people who are always by your side tend to get overlooked in your every day routines.  They are a given. We may forget to thank them or tell them how much we appreciate them, but we hope they always know.

I have several people in my life who I am lucky enough to have by my side all of the time.  They don't have to be physically there, but emotionally they are there 24/7. My children, who are now all adults are my prize possesions.  I hope they know I am always there for them no matter what! My love for them is unconditional! Each and every one of my 5 girls make me so proud! They have all accomplished so much both in their professional and personal lives. As much as I am there for them, they are also there for me and I thank them and cherish them!

But this blog is about one person in particular.  He entered my life 16 years ago at a time when he was clearly needed to enter. He has showed me constant support, laughter, companionship, friendship and love. This person is Mr. Yummy!

The fact of the matter is that there would be no Yummy Yank if it wasn't for Mr. Yummy! No, he doesn't bake, he is not the face of The Yummy Yank and no he is not American! He is a Brit through and through and very proud of it. So why couldn't this business go on without him?  Quite simple really! He encourages me, he drives me, both figuratively and literally, he comes to every market and where needed erects my stalls.  He loads and unloads, he packs and unpacks, he cleans, he slices & cuts, he sells, he labels, he creates, but most of all he encourages!  In Mr. Yummy's eyes, I can do anything I put my mind to and I can do it well, even if I question myself.  He is the driving force behind The Yummy Yank! The behind the scenes visionary perhaps.

I do thank him, I thank him constantly because I know how lucky I am! I thank him because he works so hard. He has a job besides The Yummy Yank, one where he has a two and a half hour drive, 5 days a week, but yet nothing is ever a problem. If I run out of an ingredient, he stops on his way home from work to grab it for me.  If I have a market on a weekday, he comes to set me up and then heads on to work. If I need new logos or something done marketing wise, he is right there researching and problem solving.  He is my accountant, my logic, my person who keeps me grounded. And the best part, he does it all with a smile on his face and a gentle manner that is second to none.

What does he get for all of this? He certainly doesn't get a weekend anymore, but he does get to eat the leftover samples after a market, which quite honestly makes him very happy!  He gets to see what started as a hobby for his wife turn into a real and profitable venture. He gets the title of Mr. Yummy which makes him beam with pride. Most of all, he gets my utmost love and appreciation! So Mr. Yummy, this blog is just for you! You are da man!!!

As always, thanks for reading and y'all have a nice day!
Lisa aka The Yummy Yank

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A Day in the Life of Me, The Yummy Yank - A Photo Shoot for Sainsbury's Magazine

Yesterday could have been a very typical Tuesday with me prepping for my upcoming market at The Source in Leeds City Markets, catching up with paperwork, doing the necessary things I do on a day to day basis.  But yesterday wasn't a typical day at all!  It was as untypical as it could possibly get.  I had a photo shoot for Sainsbury's Magazine.  They are going to do a case study of me in an upcoming issue.  Exciting?  I'd say so!  I was jumping out of my skin!

This all came about several months back when my daughter,( ) introduced me to a journalist who had an idea for an article about successful home baking businesses, took 3 case studies to the editors of Sainsbury's Magazine for approval and voila, the article was accepted and so was I!  I had the interview back in March or April and the photo shoot was to be arranged.  I finally got the call saying that Lisa Linder, the fabulous photographer would be making her way to me on the 14th of August.  I was so excited and so nervous!

I was very organised.  I baked my little heart out on Monday prepping for the photo shoot.  I made all of my different variety of bars, cake layers and cheesecake layers.  They wanted to start the photos with me baking, as well as shooting my normal daily Yummy Yank routine. 

Lisa, the photographer arrived at 9.30am.  We sat down and wrote a list of how we were going to proceed.  First I would bake.  I made my peanut butter brownies. As part of my prepping and organising, I had all of my ingredients measured out and ready to prepare.  Nothing was in packages, everything was in bowls, making my life easier and less chaotic.  I am somewhat of a chaotic baker, in fact, chaos could be my middle name, so this really helped everything move ahead smoothly.  I'm beating my eggs with the rest of the ingredients by hand, pouring my rich dark chocolate into the bowl, being told to pour in slow motion to get good shots, mixing, dabbing, mixing, blending, getting the pan into the oven.  Every move was documented on camera.  So far so good!

Next I took the layers of my Legendary Chocolate cake, along with the layers of my Peanut Butter Cheesecake, made my chocolate frosting and proceeded to assemble my cake.  I was praying it would all go to plan.  My cake/cheesecake combination cakes can be somewhat tricky and it would be my luck it would all go horribly wrong.  Again, every step was photographed,  First I made the frosting, step by step was shot, then one layer, frosting, next layer (hoping cheesecake cooperates and comes out of the pan easily) frosting, next layer, frosting and then the final layer of cheesecake.  All to plan so far.  Then I trimmed around the whole diameter of the cake, evening it all out so it stands nice and straight.  All the scraps went onto a piece of foil and photographer Lisa ate them.  After all, they were just going to get tossed!  That job is all done and now I frost.  Since the cake was just right, frosting it is a piece of cake - literally!  After I frost with my Legendary Chocolate Frosting, I drizzled my chocolate ganache and peanut butter in a chaotic, but artsy fashion over the top with the two cascading nicely down the sides.  On top of that, all kinds of delicious goodies just to finish it off nicely.  Gorgeous!  The cake looked impressive and turned out just as I had hoped. Phew!  Reading back this last paragraph, oh my, I am possessive of MY ingredients! Have you ever noticed Yummy ends in MY?  Just saying!!

Next was to photograph me in business mode.  This article isn't just about baking, it is about how I turned my baking into a successful business.  I labelled bags, made gift bags, which I have to admit, Mr Yummy Yank does so much better than me.  He is meticulous and guess what, I am not!  However, they were fine.  I took my wicker hearts, raffia, labels and created the gift bags.  No problem!  Invoices were on the table along with business cards, boxes with my logo on top, price lists, schedules - everything to do with The Yummy Yank!  Again all to plan!  Except when I ran upstairs to get my iPad for the next bit of this journey, I noticed I had a huge streak of chocolate going down my right cheek! Typical!  Let's hope they can Photoshop that out!

After the photos at home were complete, we took a ride to The Happy Camper in Bishopthorpe, where I supply brownies, peanut butter brownies and pecan pie bars.  This is a lovely site.  It consists of a campsite and is also home to York Marine services, where one can rent a canal boat and travel along the River Ouse.  Sitting on this site is a wonderful American style silver Airstream camper, where lovely Tyler and co serve up food, drinks, ice cream and my desserts.  On this part of the photographic journey, we were shooting me making a delivery, handing over the invoice, getting paid, everything to do with a wholesale delivery.  However, I didn't really have a delivery to make there, as we delivered there late last week.  We pretended and smiled and chatted and hammed it up for the camera.  With a setting like this in the sunshine, you can't help but have a good time. 

After we finished with the delivery photos, Lisa the photographer had me go to the decking down by the river and work on my iPad.  I don't really have to sit at my desk anymore and work on my computer, have iPad will travel and I did.  I took my shoes off, dangled my feet in the beautiful Ouse River, had a drink by my side and "worked" on my iPad.  What did I do?  I tweeted!  I tweeted about my photo shoot.  I have to admit, I don't usually work with my bare feet dangling in the river, with ducks at my feet in the glorious sunshine.  I wish I did this on a daily basis, but sadly I do not.

Next stop was Kirkstall Abbey where I do two markets a month. Of course there wasn't a farmers market on a Tuesday, as Kirkstall Deli Market happens on the last Saturday of the month and is also happening on the last Sunday of the month as well.  However, wonderful Mark Kilvington, who organises the markets, set up a stall for me in the middle of the cloisters of the Abbey and I set up, just as I would do on a farmers market day.  Again, I was photographed every step of the way.  Photographer Lisa took shots of us unloading, setting up my stall, putting up my banner, had my cakes and bars sitting against the gorgeous old stone of the Abbey walls, capturing all that goes into a market.  The setting is magnificent and I have to say, my cakes looked gorgeous with the cloisters as their backdrop.  As I was setting up, people who were visiting the Abbey came up to my stall and bought, which made for nice photos, but also was a nice little bonus for me as well.  I wouldn't mind setting up shop there on a daily basis.  The setting is just so beautiful and the people are so lovely.  After we finished with the stall, Lisa took photos of the banners advertising the markets and pictures of me and Mark chatting with the beautiful River Wharfe in the background. By this time it was after 4pm and we still had another stop to make!

Our final stop was to Leeds City Markets in Leeds City Centre at a stall called The Source.  The Source showcases local producers and their products and I have a regular twice a month slot.   I'm there on the first and third Saturdays of the month.  Again, this was not a Saturday, so we had to act.  Since we were running so late and had such a full and productive day, we didn't open up The Source, but just shot me carrying in a tray of my pecan pie bars.  The market in general was the backdrop and since The Source is across from Brian's Flowers, Lisa took photos of me talking to lovely Lydia who is a florist there.  Again, the building is magnificent and it was photographed in all of its Victorian splendour.

We finished up the day at nearly 4.45pm with Lisa having only moments to catch her train back to Kings Cross Station in London.  She made it, leaving me to beam with pride and generally feeling very pleased with myself!  It was a fantastically fun day!  It wasn't over yet.  While going home, I had my handy little iPad with me, so I checked my email.  In and amongst all the junk that I receive was a mail informing me that my Pecan Pie Bars have qualified to the next round of The Yorkshire Taste Awards.  How exciting is that?!!!  My day was going from great to "CRAZY GOOD."  It just doesn't get any better than this.

I don't have an issue date yet for Sainsbury's Magazine and I don't know if my Pecan Pie Bars will go any further in the Taste Of Yorkshire Awards, but I can promise you one thing, I will keep you updated about both!  The article in Sainsbury's Magazine is a given, I will be featured!! YAY!  Let's hope my bars go on to the next step as well.  I felt like a real celebrity yesterday and it sure felt good!  All of my hard work is paying off and I love it! I have the best job in the world!

As always folks, thanks for reading and Y'all have a nice day!

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank

Monday, 13 February 2012

What's Next? I Know - A Competition

The year 2012 holds a lot of questions for me.  Mostly on my mind is which direction do I want to take The Yummy Yank?  Do I want to stay as I am and continue along happily doing farmers markets across Yorkshire?  Do I want to expand into the wholesale market?  Do I want to maybe one day open up a Yummy Yank restaurant?  It's even been suggested to me to get an Airstream and turn the brand into a proper American diner type of place.  Another suggestion, believe it or not was the possibility of franchising.  I really don't know where I want this all to go.  I do know that I enjoy every minute and I love meeting everyone who supports The Yummy Yank.  Lovely people love lovely desserts!

I'm now meeting up with a wonderful networking group consisting of business people and other incredible local food producers.  It's so refreshing to bounce ideas off of each other.  Lots of brains working together opens up a whole new world of ideas and opportunities.  In addition to being so helpful, I have met a wonderful group of new friends as well.  We'll meet every month and who knows, maybe in time,  I will figure out where The Yummy Yank is going to change, if it changes at all!

I decided one way to spread the word about The Yummy Yank is by having a simple competition.  The winner gets a sampler box of mixed goodies of my choice.  I'm pretty confident everyone will be happy with the prize.  It's open to all UK residents, will be posted anywhere in the UK and ends on the 14th of February, 2012 at 11.59pm.  The prize will be posted by the 12th March, 2012.

All everyone has to do is to tell me why they think they deserve to win the prize.  Simple really!  It can be heartfelt, funny, touching, whatever you choose to write.

I've posted the competition on Facebook and on Twitter as well and it is getting lots of recognition and wonderful entries.  It will be a hard decision to make, as there are so many people who deserve to win.  But there will only be one winner. 

Time is running out, so please enter quickly.  You can tell me in the comments section of the blog why you or someone you care about deserves the box of Yummy Yank desserts. 

I think a competition of this nature has taken The Yummy Yank in yet another direction and is expanding its horizons that little bit further afield.  Who knows where I may pop up next?  I sure don't, but it is so exciting to think about it!!

Looking forward to reading your entries and good luck!

As always, thanks for reading and y'all have a nice day!

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Great American Coffee Cake

Back in November, I attended my first Clandestine Cake Club (CCC) event.  What a wonderful concept!  Lynn Hill, is the founder of this club, which has taken the UK and now parts of the world by storm.  The philosophy is a simple one - it's a place where we bake, eat and talk about cake.  Now that is a great concept!  There are no brownies, cupcakes, muffins, tarts or pies allowed, only cake!  You need to register to go to an event, you can bring a guest and the best part - you get to take home cake! Lots and lots of it!  It is a wonderful time, with lovely people who love to bake, not necessarily for a living, just because it is a passion!

The event I attended, which will be the first of many, was to raise money for breast cancer, always a good cause.  The theme was memories from your childhood.  There was such an amazing array of cakes, one better than the next.  I didn't know where to begin tasting!  I would say there were 30 or so cakes, each with a memory behind it.  Lovely! 

I made two cakes!  Why?  Simple really, I didn't think the first one turned out very well, so just to be sure I made another.  Very typical Yummy Yank!

My first cake was a cake I grew up with and is a traditional Honey Cake, usually served around the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, holidays which start the Jewish New Year.  This cake is to symbolise a good and sweet year!  My family made this cake for all occasions, not only on the holidays, but year round just because it is delicious.

I was worried the honey cake wasn't baked enough, as it has so much honey, it bakes a long time and is very moist.  It did bake enough and it was delicious, but just in case, I decided to make another cake.  I baked it so last minute, it was still hot when I arrived at the Clandestine Cake Club evening.

This cake was an American Sour Cream Coffee Cake and my goodness was it a big success!  It's one of my favourites, simple, flavourful and truly a cake from my childhood.

The American Coffee Cake does not contain coffee.  It's traditionally a cake which is to be served alongside coffee.  It is agreed that the concept of coffee cake originated in Northern and Central Europe sometime in the 17th century.  The countries in these areas baked traditional sweet yeast breads, so when coffee was introduced to Europe, these cakes were the perfect accompaniment.  When the German, Dutch and Scandinavian immigrated to America, they brought with them their wonderful recipes.

Originally more bread like, coffee cakes have evolved and changed.  They are still a relatively plain cake, perfect with that cup of coffee, but now fruits, cheese, nuts, sour cream or other creams are used in this wonderfully moreish cake.  It is a true taste of American baking! 

I was asked so many times for my coffee cake recipe at the CCC evening and I promised I would get it to you.  This is for everyone to enjoy!  It is always a hit and will become an absolute favourite in your house! I guarantee it!

Sour Cream Coffeecake

16 tablespoons (250 grams) (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 3/4 cups of granulated sugar
2 very large eggs, beaten
2 cups plain flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup soured cream
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups pecans, chopped
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, 180 degrees C.  Grease and flour a 10" bundt pan.

Cream together the butter and 2 cups of the sugar.  Add eggs, mixing well, then add the soured cream and vanilla.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Gently fold in the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture and beat until just blended.  Do not overbeat.

In a separate bowl, mix remaining 3/4 cup sugar with pecans and cinnamon.  (I put the pecans in the food processor to chop, not ground but chopped somewhat finely).

Pour half of the batter into the prepared bundt pan.  Sprinkle with half of the pecan/sugar mixture.  Add the remaining batter and then top with the rest of the pecan mixture.

Set on the middle rack of the pre-heated oven and bake for about an hour, or until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Serve warm!

It's great at room temperature as well, but warm is just heavenly!  Perfect for breakfast, midday snack or an elegant evening dessert!

Enjoy everyone!

As always, thanks for reading!

Have a nice day y'all.

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bloggers Night at La Rocas in Wakefield

Six bloggers, including myself, were very kindly invited to a night of dining at La Rocas Restaurant & Tapas Bar in Wakefield last Friday evening.  I had only met one of the other bloggers previously, but we follow each other on Twitter, so I am familiar with who they are and what they do. 

My husband and I were the first to arrive and we were shown to our table.  We were promptly asked if we would like to order a drink, so we ordered a jug of traditional Sangria, figuring we would share it with the other bloggers.  The Sangria arrived and it was very nice.  Light and refreshing as it should be, with fruit in it, albeit banana slices, which I have never seen before in a Sangria.

The others all arrived and after exchanging pleasantries and properly introducing ourselves, we awaited what was to be offered next.  Of course they were asked what drinks they wanted and shortly after, food began arriving.  We all commented on the same thing immediately.  Nobody introduced themselves to us and we really weren't told how the evening was to progress.  Putting that aside, as it is no big deal, we awaited to see what was on offer.

Craig, the manager/bartender/waiter, (we found out his name at the end of the evening) brought us out an array of various tapas dishes.  My biggest problem with the menu is it offers too much from too many regions.  It's Spanish, Greek, American, Mexican.  Think of a country and there is most likely something on offer from that region.  In addition to tapas, there are burgers and steaks on the menu as well.

We began with a Mezze Platter.  This was by far my favourite dish of the night.  It was a wonderful sampling of Olives, Parma ham, Hummus, Anchovies, Mozzarella, Goat's cheese with sundried tomatoes, Tapenade and very nice bread.  There was ample of everything on the platter.  I would have been content with that for my meal.

Following the Mezze, Craig brought us Ribs, Albondigas (meatballs), Jambalaya, Patatas Ailoli (potatoes with garlic mayo), Gambas al Pil Pil (garlic prawns) Aubergine, Chorizo sausage, Garlic bread and Nachos. Don't get me wrong the food was fine, and there were elements that were good.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Gambas and the Chorizo was nice too!  The Jambalaya was overcooked and mushy and I couldn't find anything in it other than rice.  Being an American, I am used to a good Jambalaya filled with chicken, sausage and shrimp and having a real bite of spice to it!  It's one of my favourites normally!  This lacked all of the above.  The potatoes were nice, but I never like to fill up on potatoes and the ribs were tasty.  I don't like Albondigas at the best of times, so I really am not one to judge.

Desserts were not worth noting.  I ordered Banoffee Pie and it was dense and glutenous without flavour, other than the slices of fresh banana.  The majority of the pie was a very thick crumb crust and an overabundance of whipped squirty cream from a can.  I would definitely give desserts a miss. 

After the meal, we were taken to the bar where Craig whipped up his magic as a bartender and presented us with six different cocktails. He was good fun to watch and knew his stuff.  I am not a big drinker and when I do drink, I tend not to drink overly sugary drinks.  This was my problem with the cocktails, but certainly no fault of Craig's or La Rocas, just individual taste.  Craig brought a breath of fresh air to the evening and because of him, it made the night much more memorable.  He is an asset to La Rocas.

I think my biggest problem with this restaurant is that it doesn't know what it is trying to be.  Craig told us the owner has a Chinese take away ( I think I am getting this right) as well as a Go Kart business.  I think they are trying to be all things to all people and this simply is very difficult to do.  If we were given the choice of choosing from the menu, it may have been a more successful night.  I personally would have stuck to a theme or perhaps gone for something as simple as a burger. 

Living in Leeds, it is a bit far for me to go, but if I were in the Wakefield area again, I would certainly give it another chance, deciding on the menu for myself.  It wasn't objectionable, it just wasn't great.  Saying that, it is still fairly new, so hopefully the owners will iron out the hiccups and turn this restaurant into a little gem.  I wish them all the very best of luck and I thank them very much for having me and my husband.

La Rocas
18 Wood Street
West Yorkshire

Monday, 31 October 2011

How Judy Touched My Heart With Broccoli

When I was 11 years old, my parents moved from a one horse town called Arnold, back to the suburbs of Baltimore.  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 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 neighbours.  On one side was a couple with a grown son, two doors down was a family that had a son who was my age, on the corner was another couple who had grown children, but the best neighbour 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.  Myles was 3 and Stacy was only a baby.  I became a babysitter pretty quickly and I loved every minute of it!  Not too long down the road, Shari was born!  All three of the kids were at our house constantly.  They loved my mother's cookie jar and they called my parents Aunt Faye & Uncle Yummy!  If they weren't at our house, I was over their house. 

Shari at my house with my little cousins, Shari at the duck pond, Mickey & Judy 1976

Judy was very cool!  She was like my big big sister.  My real big sister was away at university and Judy who was older than my sister Debbie, stepped in as a surrogate sister when Debbie was away.  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 one of my mentors. 

As I became older, we became good friends.  They moved away from our old neighbourhood, but we never lost touch. Our relationship changed.  I was  now married with children of my own.  She still was a mentor to me, a confidante, but most of all, Judy was an 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, but yet, 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.  We did though, a couple of years later.  She made my husband and I lunch at her beautiful home.  She again was in such pain, but she did 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!  I insisted despite her protestations and I won.  While I was cleaning we talked and we talked and we talked.  She told me she was nervous about her next doctor's appointment.  She said she always feared what they would find.  Again, we welled up. 

Judy, Mickey & me 2007

Before I left, Judy found and gave me some of her old recipes that I had asked for, some favourites of mine.  One she had completely forgotten about, but I didn't. It was her Italian Broccoli Casserole.  I could still see her making it 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 me making it as a teenager and my mother made it frequently.  It was scrummy and it made me love broccoli!  She found the recipe along with others and gave them to me. Some she posted to me!  I have these and cherish them!  This was the last time I ever saw Judy!  She passed away not very long after.  I was so pleased I got to see her one last time.  She will live on with me forever because she had such an influence on me.  She was the first grown up that I really got to know that oozed coolness and greatness!  I miss her so much but I am so honoured that she shared a huge part of my life!  This recipe is made for you Judy with lots of love!  Thank you for everything and 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!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4


1 Kilo Bag Frozen Broccoli
2 Extra Large Eggs beaten
2 x 35g packages Colman's Four Cheese Sauce Mix
1 Pint/600ml skimmed/semi skimmed milk
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning ( I used a blend including oregano, garlic, basil, sea salt & pepper)
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
2 x 400g Napolina Chopped Tomatoes with Herbs - drain very well.
Homemade bread crumbs made from 2 day old sourdough bread mixed with seasoning to taste
1/3 c grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste


Cook frozen broccoli in microwave according to the directions on the bag or until broccoli is tender.  Drain well.

Make the cheese sauce according to packet instructions.  Empty the sachets into a saucepan.  Pour a little of the milk into the pan and mix.  Stir in remaining milk and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.  Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from stovetop and set aside to cool slightly.

Put cut up bread into a food processor, add desired seasoning ( I added the Italian mix and a little more sea salt) and process.  Keeps well for other recipes in freezer.

Meanwhile, combine eggs, the Italian seasoning mixture and Tabasco.  Add a little of the cooled cheese sauce and mix so you don't get scrambled eggs.  Add the rest of the cheese sauce and stir until combined.  Next stir in the tomatoes and broccoli.  Pour the entire mixture into a 9"x12"x2" baking dish, sprinkle the desired amount of bread crumbs over the top, add the Parmesan cheese, top with some more bread crumbs and season with a little more salt and pepper. 

Bake the casserole, uncovered, in a 350 degree F/ 180 degree C/ Gas Mark 4 oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through completely.  Makes about 6 to 8 servings.

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

Recipe for the original Italian Broccoli Casserole:

2 x 10 oz packages frozen broccoli
2 beaten eggs
1 can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 x 9 ounce can stewed tomatoes, cut up
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook frozen broccoli in unsalted boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes or until broccoli is tender.  Drain well.

Combine eggs, Cheddar cheese soup, crushed Italian seasoning and Tabasco.  Stir in stewed tomatoes and broccoli.  Turn the broccoli/cheese mixture into a baking dish, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake the casserole, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through completely.

**FYI, initially I bought an Asda brand jar of cheese sauce, thinking I could substitute this for the soup which is not available here in the UK.  I tasted it first and it was not good, so opted for the Colman's mixture.**

I hope you enjoy this very easy delicious recipe from my childhood, first made for me by my very dear friend.  I also hope that this recipe creates some of your own memories and makes you smile like it does me!

As always, have a nice day y'all and thanks for reading!

Lisa (aka The Yummy Yank)