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June 04, 2007
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Comforted by a Casserole

Every one of us needs to retreat occasionally into some particularly cozy comfort zone for a while to meditate on how we are doing or to react to an injury or illness. Each of us has particular ways of doing this. Some do it with chocolate, which the HR Doctor has always found to be particularly effective! Others retreat with tea, hiking, music, some intensive sport, etc. It’s our way of changing the atmosphere of our day or our lives. Sadly, others attempt to escape from personal responsibility or challenge by means of alcohol, drugs, bullying, whining or blaming others.

The beautiful HR Daughter, Elyse, has a particularly valuable approach that she describes as “the two-digit rule.” On her days of rest, the rule is that no one is allowed to call her or otherwise disturb her until at least two digits are showing on the hour hand of the clock — and neither digit is allowed to be a zero. The result is that 11 a.m. is the first moment of “emergence” for Elyse. This is true even if she is up before dawn on that day, since the time for quiet reflection is often best appreciated alone.

In the HR Doctor’s case, besides the joy and peace of morning walks with the HR Dog Kamala, which was the subject of a prior column, “The Peace of the Morning,” there are occasions when I feel the need for the special warming love of my wife Charlotte’s Broccoli Cheese Casserole. This usually happens when I am feeling sorry for myself. This weekend such a moment arrived. My brand new and bright yellow high-tech mountain bike arrived, and I was very eager to take it for a spin. Of course I had a helmet on: Don’t even ask.

However, in a wonderful moment of hyper-klutziness, which would have played very well on America’s Most Inept Athletes — a new show starring the HR Doctor — I got on the bike and immediately took a tumble as I left the driveway. Perhaps, as one colleague “kindly” pointed out, I should get a padded driveway.

Now I sit here comfortably sipping tea and dictating this article with what is probably a bruised rib. As long as no colleagues tell me jokes or otherwise require me to move, I am comfortable.

Seeing my plight, the very wonderful, prize-winning Charlotte immediately leapt into action and told me that a dinner surprise she had in mind would certainly make me feel better. I started smiling immediately, knowing that it was her amazing microwave broccoli-cheese casserole. It is a healing dish. You can’t help but feel better, and you can’t help but feel warm and loved when someone cares enough about you to make broccoli-cheese casserole. It rivals chicken noodle soup in its curative powers. So, report immediately to the nearest microwave oven when you feel the need for warmth and recovery.

As a gift to the readers of the HR Doctor, and in an effort to secure a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, Charlotte has consented to share her recipe, I am confident that if President Kim Jong-il of North Korea would only sit down with President George W. Bush over a broccoli-cheese casserole, our relations with that North Korea would be thawed immediately. Perhaps I can take the initiative and invite the prime minister of Israel and the Palestinian Authority president over to the house for a casserole as well.

I might even try it with a colleague sitting next to me in a meeting with whom I might have a disagreement. Here’s the recipe with love and respect from the HR Spouse and from me.

Charlotte’s Broccoli Cheese Casserole 

Ingredients: 2 (10 oz.) packages frozen chopped broccoli

6 tbs butter

4 oz. (about 30-40), Ritz crackers, crushed

6 oz. Velveeta cheese

Defrost the frozen chopped broccoli in microwave on high (800 watts**), uncovered, in a microwave-safe colander for 9-12 minutes, stirring and breaking up after 6 minutes. Drain water and continue defrosting till hot throughout.

Crush Ritz crackers 8-12 at a time in Cuisenaire using metal blade. I keep them on hand in a sealed jar.

Cut tablespoons of butter into halves for easier melting. Melt 1/2 of butter on medium power** (70 percent) about 1–2 minutes in covered 2-quart Pyrex or Corningware dish in which you will cook. Melt other 1/2 of butter in plastic-wrap covered custard cup.

Blend butter in custard cup with crushed Ritz cracker crumbs. Crumbs should just be lightly covered in butter.

Cut Velveeta into cubes; set aside in plastic covered bowl.

Assemble the casserole in the following order:

1. 1/2 cooked broccoli in bottom of dish and stir to cover with melted butter. I use a 2 qt. oval or round casserole dish.

2. 1/2 of Velveeta cheese sprinkled over buttered broccoli.

3. 1/2 of buttered crumbs.

Repeat 1, 2 and 3. I usually use less than 1/2 the crumbs on the first layer so the top layer will be fully covered with Velveeta cheese.

Cover with casserole lid, microeave on Medium High (70 percent**) power 6-9 minutes. If you assemble ahead and it is thoroughly chilled, figure 9-12 minutes to heat.

Serves 6-8 people. You can also cut this recipe in half to serve two. 

** NOTE: This is an old recipe when microwaves’ maximum power was 800 watts (1980s). So make note of your wattage and adjust accordingly!!

Be comforted and enjoy!


Phil Rosenberg

The HR Doctor •



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