As any of you who know me know, or who follow my blog know, last year was a pretty rough one that brought an incredible number of…well, if you want to be more positive, you’d refer to them as challenges. If you want to be truthful, you would call them disasters, tragedies, frustrations, stressors, or, simply, stinkin’ lousy events.
In December, I got a call from my cousin Peggy (in Kentucky) telling me that her mom (my aunt Lois, my mom’s older sister and only remaining sibling) was in the hospital. She was seriously ill and the doctors were baffled as to what was wrong with her. Aunt Lois had told Peggy not to tell Aunt Ruth (my mom) because Mom has her own health problems, but Peggy had decided things were serious enough that she should at least call me and then let me decide what to do. Peggy promised to keep me updated.
Ay yi yi. So after some thought, I told Mom what was going on with Aunt Lois. Mom was very upset, as you can imagine. I did my best to keep us both distracted with happy seasonal events — decorating the Christmas tree, watching holiday films, baking cookies, and so on.
And I also planned a lovely, but low key, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for us. On Christmas Day, the kids and grandkids would be joining us later in the afternoon (I’d picked up a rib roast for that occasion), but Christmas Eve would just be hubby, Mom, and me. I wanted something easy, but also something special — I wanted us to have an Enchanted Evening. 🙂 (And heaven knows we all deserved one.) I happily wiled away time Googling and pondering recipes. Then my menu came together — something new that I’d never tried before (although when has that stopped me? LOL): Pecan Crusted Salmon and Cheesy Rice with Broccoli.
One can, of course, purchase rice and broccoli mixes at the store, and I was tempted to do that simply for convenience, but I wanted to be sure to include plenty of broccoli (as opposed to just broccoli bits or broccoli flavoring! LOL) so that it would actually be nutritious. I also wanted more control over the quality of the ingredients. And so I devised a way to make it (similar to how I make my homemade stove top macaroni and cheese) that I thought would be yummy but would be almost as easy, if not as easy, as the packaged kind — and it would certainly be more nutritious and, I hoped, yummier!
On the evening of 23-December-2014 (Christmas Eve Eve, as it were), I got the call from my cousin Peggy that I’d been sadly expecting: Aunt Lois had passed away. (For those who are curious, her final diagnosis was a very rare disease: Amyloidosis.) Peggy, exhausted from the whole ordeal, started to cry a bit and said, “I can’t bring myself to tell Aunt Ruth. Will you tell her?”
After some pondering upon it, I decided the best way to break this awful news to Mom would be the next day, when she came over for Christmas Eve — that way, she wouldn’t be alone with the news, and also, given that she often has so much trouble sleeping, I didn’t want to risk ruining any chances of her possibly getting a good night’s sleep by telling her that evening.
The next day, Mom came over, and I told her. It was hard. She was upset, although we’d been expecting it, sadly. In an effort to distract ourselves, we spent the day doing pleasant holiday things, often reminiscing about Aunt Lois.
When it came time for supper, I poured Mom and me both some wine. Mom and hubby both asked what we were having. “It’s a surprise,” I said, “Something we’ve never had before!” Hubby, eyeing the salmon fillets thawing in the sink, said, “Salmon? We’ve had that before!” To which I replied “Not the way we’re having it tonight!”
After our supper, Mom commented that were it not for the sad news we’d gotten casting a pall over things, it would have been absolutely perfect and wonderfully festive. I’m addressing the Cheesy Rice with Broccoli in this post; the next post will have the recipe for the salmon.
As you will see, this menu, although easy, will make any evening enchanted, making it perfect for a holiday, date night, or other festive or celebratory occasion. 🙂 The recipes, as written, serve four, but the recipes can be adjusted up or down.
It smells, tastes, and looks yummy!
Cheesy Rice with Broccoli (Serves 4)
- 3/4 cup brown rice (or another rice of your choice)
- 1 3/4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water (or more or less liquid, depending upon type of rice and corresponding instructions on the rice package)
- 12 ounce package of fresh broccoli florets (or equivalent from a fresh head of broccoli)
- 1 – 2 tablespoons butter
- Couple splashes of milk (I used 1%) (2 tablespoons to maybe a 1/4 or 1/3 cup — eyeball it!)
- Squirt of yellow mustard
- 3 or 4 ounces of cheese(s) of choice (or more or less, depending upon how cheesy you want it), grated, crumbled, or thinly sliced/diced (use a combo of whatever you like and have on hand — Swiss, cheddar (yellow or white), feta, bleu cheese, American, Monterrey Jack, Asiago, Parmesan — it all will come together and be yummy!)
- Bring stock or water to a boil. (If using water, add a wee bit of salt to taste, if desired.) Add rice and simmer until done (45 to 50 minutes for brown rice, less for other types of rice.)
- Meanwhile, crumble, shred, and/or thinly slice desired kinds of cheese.
- Steam fresh broccoli. (I steamed it in my microwave in its package as per the package directions, easy peasy.)
- Once rice is done, add in a tablespoon of butter (remember, you can add in a bit more if you need to), a splash or two of milk (you can add in more if you need to!), the cheeses, and a squirt of mustard. Simmer over medium to medium low heat, stirring gently to prevent scorching or clumping, until it reaches desired consistency (you may need to add in a bit more butter, cheese(s), and/or milk as you go along).
- Gently stir in steamed broccoli.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
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