Cooking with Ease: Simple Easter Side Dishes

(ROCKWALL, TX — April 14, 2019) Spring has recently become my favorite season. In the past, I adored fall. The pumpkins, the warm spiced drinks, the heavy foods – but as of late, I love the spring.

I noticed the shift in my fondness when I began gardening. The pleasure I find in tilling the soil, planting seeds, watering and nurturing until they bloom is unbeatable. Fortunately, I have a great friend that is knowledgeable in the planting of all things. She helps me plan my garden, prepare my soil, and curb my desire to plant too early.

As soon as the calendar flips to March, I am ready to garden. Hobby Lobby and Joann Fabrics have all their spring things out. I purchase new purple gardening gloves, pick up all the cute, albeit useless things at the dollar store and I am all set! My friend kindly reminds me, “You can plant things now but you will have to cover them, carry them in your house and so forth because as I have told you, we undoubtedly will have another hard freeze before Easter.” And because I do not want to cover, nor carry, nor any of the so forths, I will wait until after Easter.

And so Easter becomes my most loved holiday. To prepare for this article I went through some of my late mother-in-law Nancy’s Cooking with Ease articles and came across some incredibly simple and delicious side dishes perfect for an Easter lunch. The Broccoli Rice Casserole recipe is from an old Rockwall County Historical Foundation cookbook – fitting since the RCHF is how Evan and I originally learned of the opportunity to save Smirl Chapel. The recipe is a basic broccoli rice casserole with the ideal ratio of rice, broccoli and cheesiness. It was submitted to the RCHF cookbook by Gloria Williams in the mid ’90s.

Nancy also writes that a friend gifted her with a hilarious cookbook by Peg Bracken called The I Hate to Cook Book published in 1960, which is where she found the Spinach Surprise recipe. Peg said, “The surprise is there’s usually none left, even with dedicated anti-spinach people.” This recipe, too, is such an easy fix and a big crowd pleaser. I made both dishes for Sunday Supper last week and they were a big hit. My hope for you in this spring is happy planting, simple cooking and many evenings outdoors.


Melissa Tate

Broccoli Rice Casserole
3 12oz packages frozen broccoli 1 can cream of mushroom soup 1 can cream of celery soup 1 15oz jar of Cheez Whiz 1/3 stick of butter 2 1/2 cups white rice Prepare broccoli and rice as directed on their respective packages (drain broccoli if needed). While hot, combine with soups, cheese and butter. Transfer to a casserole dish and bake on 350 for 45 minutes.
Spinach Surprise
1 12oz package frozen chopped spinach 1/4 cup diced onion 4 Tbsp butter pinch of salt 1/2 cup sour cream 1 tsp vinegar Prepare spinach as directed on package and drain. Melt butter over medium heat, add onions and cook 4-5 minutes or until tender. Add spinach, salt, and sour cream and cook another 4-5 minutes. Finally, stir in vinegar and serve. *Peg’s recipe stops there. I decided to stir in 1/2 cup grated parmesan and serve from a small casserole dish. I kept the dish in my oven on the warm setting until it was time to eat. I also doubled the recipe when I made it!

Melissa TateBy Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Melissa Tate of Rockwall. Melissa is a freelance food writer and owner of Photo-Wagon mobile photo booth. She also helps her husband run their family farm, Tate Farms, and event center, Summerfield at Tate Farms. They are currently managing the Smirl Chapel Relocation & Preservation Project. Find Melissa on Facebook or Instagram at @melissatatetx to follow the adventures. Headshot by Kelly Alexander Photography.

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