Feeding the inmates (broccoli rice cheese casserole)

The Millennial and I are hosting our sheriff’s department inmate crew for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. We are beyond excited about this because they are not expecting it.

I cannot explain adequately to you how much I love our inmates and Sgt. Tim Lassiter for loaning them to us. Over the years at Community Resource Center World Headquarters the inmates have mowed our lawn, unloaded shipments, washed the warehouse floor, and unpacked boxes. One unfortunate crew spent hours taking tiny tags off of candy cane ornaments — 72,000 of them. Not a single complaint. Not one peep.


They even saved Nashville’s water supply after the Great Flood of 2010 by sandbagging the perimeter of the water plant. I don’t know if having the “best inmates” is a contest category of sorts but if it were we would win. Of course, these gentlemen would prefer to be elsewhere. They are low-level offenders but offenders nonetheless. But they are also just swell people. I’ve had more enjoyable conversations with inmates than I’ve had with what some would consider more upstanding people (that would mean boring).

Thursday will be a tough day for them, not only because they’re locked up and away from their families but because processed turkey loaf and instant mashed potatoes will be decorating their tin plates. So tomorrow we are pulling out all the stops — baked glazed ham, cornbread and sausage dressing, green bean bundles, real mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream, and gravy. We are using real silverware.

And the star of the show is my mother-in-law’s broccoli rice and cheese casserole.

Broccoli Rice Casserole

This is the dish that disappears first at her famous come-one, come-all Thanksgiving extravaganzas. At our celebration this year she made three half pans of it so everyone would have leftovers to take home. We were actually ugly and taunted Noah with it as I am fairly certain Cheez Whiz is not a thing in Russia, where he will celebrate Thanksgiving with his friends this year. I am sensing a business opportunity with an entire store in Moscow filled with Cheez Whiz, Velveeta and cheese in a can. Ugly Americans.

But I digress. The inmates will arrive at 8 a.m. tomorrow to unload a huge truck filled with donated gift items that will go to our nonprofit partners for their clients at the Christmas Giveaway. At 10:45 they will sit down to a Thanksgiving feast. And then they will return to jail.

So what is the meaning of Thanksgiving to you? It’s family for sure and great and abundant food. And being thankful. Grateful for this great country. And all of its citizens. Every one of them.

Broccoli Rice Cheese Casserole

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed

½ cup chopped onion, sauteed until translucent

½ cup butter

1 1/3  cups cooked rice

1 8-ounce jar processed cheese spread, such as Cheez Whiz

1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted

Combine broccoli and onion. Cook according to package directions. Drain and add remaining ingredients. Stir well.

Pour into a greased 2-quart shallow casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.




  1. Susan Harbin
    Susan HarbinReply
    November 23, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Hints: a) If you slice the box of frozen broccoli and put it in microwave 5 min on high, it’s ready.
    b) A bag of Success Rice works. Don’t bother to measure
    c) Dried onion also works, especially if you are generous with the butter measurement

    I am sure the inmates will be thankful for their feast, as we are all thankful for you, Jay, and CRC.

  2. Lisa Stuart
    Lisa StuartReply
    November 23, 2016 at 10:16 am

    You made that for me once and I was so surprised by the cheese whiz and how wonderful it tasted in the casserole! I’m pumped to have access to this recipe now, 2 or 3 years later! Also, what a nice thing to do for the inmates! No one should ever have to eat instant potatoes for thanksgiving.

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