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)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Not A Restaurant Review, Just A Rant

There will be no photos to this blog because I had no intentions of reviewing a restaurant.  I just needed a good rant!

My daughters very generously gave me a gift voucher to any of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants last Christmas.  I was very excited to receive such a lovely gift and only last week was down in London to use it.  After looking at the menus online and not wanting to get all dressed up,  I decided my husband and I should go to York and Albany, situated between Camden and Regents Park.  There is no dress code, but we were told you could not wear shorts, even though shorts for a woman are quite fashionable these days.  I was surprised at this request, but of course it wasn't a big deal.

We went last Friday evening when the weather was hot and sunny!  We arrived about 30 minutes before our reservation and were lucky enough to grab a table out front, have a couple of drinks and watch the people of London go by.  Drinks were a lot of money, even for London.  My husband had a white wine spritzer and I had a classic Mojito, not one of the fancy ones and they charged £9.50, just for the Mojito.  Correct me if I am wrong, but that seems expensive.  More than being disgruntled at the price, I was appalled to see that there was a misspelling on the drinks menu.  Coffee only had one 'e'.  Mr. Ramsay is so quick to criticize others, he should look at his own properties before slamming someone else.

When we were ready to be seated, we were asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside in the courtyard.  Again, because it was such a lovely night, we decided outside.  The restaurant is lovely and so was the courtyard.  The ambiance was wonderful.

We couldn't decide what to get for starters, so we opted for three.  I overheard at the next table that the new Autumn menu was only introduced the day before and the host hadn't tried any of it yet.  That was a bit shocking!

First we got one of their "small plates" of salt and pepper squid.  That was very delicious and quite a big portion.  We also got the confit of rabbit leg, roasted loin, ham hock and kale terrine with caper and raisin puree.  There was liver on the plate.  I suppose it was rabbit liver, but it was liver nonetheless.   There wasn't a mention of liver on the menu and something like liver should not be left off of a description.  It was ok, but at £12.50 for a starter and not described properly, I wasn't impressed.  The third and final starter was the Warm Autumn Salad.  It was supposed to have artichokes, but I couldn't find any.  Saying that, I could barely find the salad.  At £8.50, it was about 3 mouthfuls!  It was delicious, but it sadly just didn't satisfy because of the minuscule amount.

For our mains we had Tagliatelle of crab, chilli and lemongrass!  The large portion was £16.50.  I can't even imagine what the small portion would have been because you could not get much smaller.  It was nice, but there was only a hint of crab.  I had plaice with mussels and artichokes.  There were artichokes this time and the mussels were very sweet and tender.  The fish was overdone and under seasoned.  When asked for salt and pepper, the waitress brought out two salt mills. 

For dessert we had a chocolate and peanut butter parfait which was delicious and a warm chestnut fondant.  Both were priced at £12.50.  I see the desserts on the menu online currently are £6.95.  I am baffled to say the least.  When the desserts were brought to the table, our waiter or host, not sure which, as we had so many people serving, announced the dessert as chocolate fondant.  That is exactly what it was with perhaps a few chopped chestnuts inside.  It was dry and chocolate.  NOT at all what I ordered.  The description on the menu did not say chocolate. 

So Mr. Ramsay, before you throw stones, look no further than your own restaurants.  You did not have continuity in service, you had mistakes on your menu multiple times,  your staff don't even know the difference between the letters 'S' and 'P' on condiment mills, your prices on menus online are inconsistent with actual prices on hard menus at the restaurant and your prices for what you receive are just too expensive!  I think Gordon Ramsay should maybe go back to his roots, start being a chef again, not worry so much about celebrity and get a handle on his own properties.  Instead of using foul language to the little Joe Schmoe in America, fix your own venues!

The voucher our daughters gave me should have been a substantial contribution for what we had, but sadly it wasn't.  There were elements to the meal that were good, but sadly the other elements overshadowed them.  Our meal, with very little drink cost a fortune and I for one will not be going back!

Thanks for reading.  My next blog will go back to normal!  I just had to get this off my chest!

Have a nice day y'all!

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank