This Easter is looking to be a bit crazy for us. We, the Janks, are moving across town; Mom and Dad are going to Poland the day after Easter; the Merkles’ home is being remodeled after the tree incident; and Bekah is furiously getting ready to debut her darling line of fabric at the Quilt Market in May. Although I did consider sewing dresses for my girls, I unconsidered it a moment later. I think I also considered knitting cardigans, or at least shrugs. I can now assure you that is not going to happen. We have had two birthdays this month, and another one yet to come. We have been a little distracted, a little unfocused. And then I had this idea: You all can talk about Easter! Remember the blog party of a while ago? Let’s do it again, but about Easter. Post something about the food you are making – share recipes! Decorate your table and share pictures. Debut the dresses that you made! Just put a link to your blog in the comments, and let’s get this party started. Happy Easter!
I asked a good friend to do a guest post to get us started. She is a wonderful hostess, cook, and knows how to make the food that people just want to eat! She has a houseful of children, but always finds ways to share the bounty of their table with a great many more people. She is the kind of woman that can make parish life a reality. And here she is to tell us a bit about it. Welcome Tora, and thank you!
From Tora’s Kitchen:
One of my favorite aspects of the Easter meal is that the timing of the meal itself motivates me to be more organized. Church in the morning limits the time that I expect to have available for prep and is a great motivator to have things lined up ahead of time. Here are some helpful hints to relieve the pressure on the actual day and give you some confidence to help you greet your guests with a smile.
First of all, I make lists, lots of lists. I get teased by family members for all the lists floating around. Here is a sample of some of the types of lists I’ve made in the past. I’ve even named them for easy reference.
Menu -If we are having a big crowd, I’ll plan the menu a couple of weeks in advance and list everything I want to serve, including drinks, appetizers, the main dish, sides, dessert and even coffee.
Grocery List – Using the Menu List, I’ll get out the recipes and make a grocery list. I usually make my list in the kitchen so I can check quantities while I’m at it. Do I really have that much cocoa powder on hand, and is that can of olives that I remember being in the cupboard really there or did I throw them in a salad on a whim and forget that I’ve used them? Do this when you are alert and thinking clearly and then trust your list when you get to the store. Many is the time that I’ve looked at my list in the store and thought, “Evaporated milk, what do I need that for?” and so I saved the cash, started cooking a dish, and realized that yes, it was on my list for a reason. Another biggie that I tend to forget to include is ice: make sure you have plenty of it and room for it in the freezer. If you are short on space, you may have to add it to your time line list a day before the event and throw it in a cooler for an evening.
Time line – As the event gets closer, I often make a list of the days leading up to the event and the prep that I can do early. Usually there are some general items at the top that can be done on a looser time frame, and then I get specific farther down the list. Here are some ideas to get you started on this one: Think about traffic flow and where you are going to set up extra tables if you need to. Schedule moving the furniture and setting up the tables as far in advance as you can. Think about how you are going to set the table or tables and how many place settings you need. Make sure that you have enough place settings and glasses in advance. It is also wise to get your serving dishes, utensils, and table linens out a few days ahead of time so that you are not left scrambling to find a serving fork for the meat or a bowl that is big enough for the salad. Add ironing that table cloth to the list if you need to. Often I don’t think far enough ahead of time to choose music for the event, but that could also be added to this list. Many of the things that can’t be done as far ahead of time, such as food prep, are listed under specific days leading up to the event t so that I have a check list of what can be done when. Can the sauce for the ham or the salad dressing be made a few days ahead of time? Put them on the list for Wednesday or Thursday. Do you need to get the meat out of the freezer a few days in advance to thaw? Put it on the list. Can dessert be made ahead of time? Put it on the list under a specific day. Want to buy fresh flowers? Put that job on the list for Friday or Saturday.
White Tornado – The day before the event, if I haven’t had time to tackle the house on my own, I’ll pull out our “White Tornado” list. Each of our older kids has an area of the house that they are assigned to. I keep the assignments posted inside a kitchen cabinet for quick reference. When it is time for a White Tornado we try to put on peppy music, scatter to our assigned areas, and whip the place into shape. If a child gets done with their job early, they report back to a parent for another assignment, if there is one.
The last list I make is a more detailed time line for the actual day of the event. Again, the beginning of this list is more general and includes things like making sure that there is room in the coat closet, the trash can is empty, and the dishwasher unloaded. Setting the table can also be on this one, although if you are blessed with room that allows you to set your table a day or two in advance, do it then. From this point on it gets more specific. I will look at what time I want to have everything ready and work backwards from there. I try to include everything that I am planning to serve somewhere on the time line just so I don’t forget to get it out and find it in the fridge once everyone has left. (Yes that has happened before!) If I want to have appetizers ready by 2:00, I’ll put “1:30 cheesecake” on the list to remind me to set the crab cheesecake out early enough to come to room temperature. Starting the coffee maker also makes it on this list with an assigned time, but the most important items here are the baking start times, temperatures, and baking lengths. Not only does having them on this list relieve the clutter of having to have all the recipes out, but it helps me anticipate if I am going to have trouble fitting everything in the oven at the same time. Speaking of room in the oven, let me just put in an ad here for roasters. Yes those big white things that you think of grandmothers using. My mother-in-law bought me one many years ago, and every Thanksgiving turkey has been roasted in it since, leaving my oven free for side dishes. Roasters are also are great for serving large groups. Au Gratin potatoes for 80 anyone?
Enough of lists, let’s get to the fun stuff – food! It is always a nice to have something that the guests can eat when they arrive. It gives them something to do and can buy you some time if something goes wrong. Here are some of my favorite Easter food ideas that you can have ready to go with no last minute prep.
This crab cheesecake needs to chill overnight and is great for an Easter appetizer.
A favorite of my family. It can be made ahead of time and served out of a pretty punch bowl into bowls or cups.
1 cup dry white wine
7 T sugar
2 cups strawberries fresh or frozen
1 cup orange juice
-Put the wine and sugar into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue boiling for 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and let cool.
-Hull the strawberries if using fresh.
-Puree the wine syrup and strawberries in a food processor or blender until very smooth.
-Pour the puree into a large bowl and stir in the orange juice. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours. Serves 4.
Another festive idea for an Easter appetizer is fresh fruit. There are many beautiful ways to use strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, grapes and melons.
Fruit skewers – For a buffet, take a fresh pineapple and cut a one inch thick round from it. Cut the rest of the pineapple into bite size chunks to use on the skewers along with other fruit. Using 6” skewers, string the fruit on the skewers and then stick them in the pineapple. The more skewers the better. It is fun to sit down at a table that already has an individual serving at each spot. If you like, you can have a fruit skewer on a small plate at each place setting with a dollop of fruit dip or sour cream with brown sugar. Another option is to layer fruit in a fancy glass with a topping of fruit dip and cherry and place it on the plate at each setting, or have a tray of fruit salad glasses to pass around as hors d’ oeuvres.
An Italian Soda bar is always a hit with the kids. Set out glasses, ice, club soda, flavored syrups and cream. My biggest tip here is to make sure you have the bottle top pourers so you don’t run out of syrup too quickly. The tops can even be found at the grocery store in the kitchen section.
One of our favorite side dishes in the spring is broiled asparagus. Break off the bottom ends of the asparagus and lay on a baking sheet. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place under the broiler of an oven until starting to blacken in parts. These stay green and fresh looking and can be made last minute after you have pulled the other dishes out of your oven.
Another way to make your Easter prep easier is to have all the desserts prepared ahead of time.
A beautiful Easter dessert that can be made a day ahead of time is this lemon poppy seed cake with strawberry slices between the cake layers. You can bake it in 3 cake pans instead of cutting one cake into layers, and, if you like, multiply the recipe by 1 ½, and bake the cake in 3 9×13 pans for 15-18 minutes at 350 for a larger cake. You can even successfully substitute a cream cheese based frosting for the white chocolate recipe, bake the cake two days in advance, assemble it the day before, and people will be amazed!.
This chocolate trifle can also be made a day or two before the event and is easy to prepare. I usually multiply the recipe by 1 ½ to make it a better fit in my trifle dish.
1 box brownie mix, prepared according to package directions, baked (slightly on the well done side of things) and cooled. I usually sprinkle on some chocolate chips before baking just for fun
¼ Kahlua or strong coffee
1 4-serving size box instant chocolate pudding
1 ½ cups cold milk
1 12-ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed
4 ¼-ounce Heath or Skor bars
Use a fork to prick holes in the top of the brownies. Pour the liqueur over the top, set aside.
Combine the pudding mix and milk and whisk until thickened. Fold in half the whipped topping and set aside
Cut the brownies into small pieces and place half in the bottom of a large glass serving bowl. Cover with pudding mixture, then half the candy. Place the remaining brownies on top and cover with the remaining whipped topping. Sprinkle the remaining candy over the top. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Hope gives you some new ideas to make your Easter celebration a joy to everyone involved, even you!