Spring & Easter

piccadilly.jpgSpring break senior year, two months before I graduate from NYU is not exactly a vacation even though I went to London to visit my Dad.  It’s more like preparation for my final senior project, a focused study amalgamating EVERYTHING I’ve learned up ‘til now, split up by small breaks of art, shopping, and of course, food.  Basically, stress oozed out of every pore the entire ten days.  I tried doing yoga; I tried going for runs; I tried a few breathing exercises, and sure, all of that helped, but there’s really only one thing that hit the spot: chain restaurants.

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eggsaladitalianplateWith Easter just passed, who isn't thinking about eggs? When I was a kid I loved dyeing and decorating eggs. But instead of using hard boiled eggs, I thought it was infinitely cooler to de-egg my Easter eggs.

I remember using one of my mother's sewing needles to punch holes on either end of the uncooked egg. Putting my mouth against the egg, I'd huff-and-puff and blow until the raw egg dropped into a bowl.

Admittedly that was a lot of extra work and there were risks. Making the holes and blowing into the egg could crack the shell. Worse, all that huffing-and-puffing sometimes led to hyper-ventilating, so my mother kept an eye on me, just in case I got dizzy and fell off the chair.

In my child's mind, that extra effort was worth it because the feather-weight shells, brightly dyed and covered with decals, were so much more artful than the heavy hard boiled eggs.

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maple_tree_lg.jpgCalling Vermont winters “long” is like saying I have “salt-and-pepper” hair. My hair is gray, the winters are endless, and even the craggiest New Englanders start to get a little squirrelly once Christmas is over. This situation is exacerbated by something called, “the January Thaw;” a cruel, meteorological joke which, somehow, allows the weather to warm up sufficiently for a couple of days to melt all the snow.

This sends giddy people who ought to know better, rushing onto the roads in jogging shorts and into their yards to chip golf balls. Then 48 hours later, another storm thunders in, the temperature plunges below zero and everyone slinks back inside to retrieve their long underwear from laundry baskets and fire up their wood stoves.

Around Valentine’s Day, however, we start to get indications that liberation, in the form of an actual spring, is on the way. Even though it’s still so cold the air is blue, seed catalogs being arriving in the mail. Next, we read in the paper that the Red Sox are heading to spring training. Soon we’ll actually be able to see them running around on the field down in Florida if a nor’easter doesn’t knock out the satellite dish.

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greencheesecake002Way back in March of 1990 I started making a cheesecake from a recipe that I clipped from an issue of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch. It's called Absolutely Sinful Chocolate Grasshopper Cheesecake. Its pale shade of green comes from the addition of green creme de menthe. I've always enjoyed serving it as a perfect dessert for a St. Patrick's Day celebration.

Over the years I've made little changes to the recipe. It was always sinful, but now it's mortally sinful.

Light and creamy with a hint of mint on a crunchy chocolate crust and smothered with a chocolate topping that stays soft even after chilling in the refrigerator, it's a little like Jello -- there's always room for it, even after a big meal. It's not too sweet and not nearly as rich as it sounds, making it a great go-along to a late-night cup of coffee.

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colaham2Is there such a thing as a ham of your dreams? I didn't think so until I had this one. BAKED HAM with RUM and COKE GLAZE is not your ordinary, dried out, gross, nasty, ham-holiday-dinner that you are used to. It is one of the best ham's I have ever had in my life.

It's so juicy, and puts Honeybaked Ham to shame. Trust me. Even after refrigerating and reheating the next day, it is still perfectly, PERFECT. (The ham sandwiches are to die for.)

If Easter for you means ham, this is the one for you. Let's have a little HAM 101 before we get started.

First of all, never ever buy a spiral-sliced ham. That is one of the first precursors to having a dried out piece of meat. The extra-processing ruins any chance of a juicy ham. All the pieces are exposed to air which leaves you with dried, processed meat. Yuck.

You need to pick the right cut and the BUTT half is the only way to go. A whole ham is way too hard to carve. A shank has all the connective tissue. But a BUTT is easy to slice with easy to see muscle groups, making carving a cinch.

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