Spring & Easter

deviledeggsWhat's Easter without Easter eggs? Hide them. Roll them. And, best of all, eat them. Of the many dishes associated with Easter, deviled eggs have always been high on my list. Traditional deviled eggs are delicious but with some adventuresome spices, hardboiled Easter eggs take center stage on this festive occasion.

Our fingers stained blue, red and yellow, my sister and I loved dyeing and decorating Easter eggs. Our parents would hide the eggs around the house and outside. I'd race against my sister, each of us hoping to find more than the other.

Ultimately when we had delivered the eggs back into the kitchen, our mother turned our colored eggs into deviled eggs with a simple recipe: peel off the shells, cut the eggs in half and remove the yolks. Chop up the yolks, add a bit of mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper and spoon the mixture back onto the egg white halves.

When were kids those flavors were good enough. But for my adult palate, deviled eggs need spicing up. With experimentation, I discovered that doing something as simple as adding cayenne or Mexican chili ancho powder gives mild-mannered eggs a mouth-pleasing heat. Sweeten the flavor up a notch by stirring in finely chopped currants or borrow from Indian cuisine and mix in curry powder that has first been dry roasted in a sauté pan.

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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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"It's not that Easter is really about excess, because it isn't. But we always think it's a lot of fun to have a lot of sides at Sunday dinner even if you just eat a little bit of each one...and since it's a 3-day weekend (or a 5-day weekend for some of us), we figured it was time to get cooking"

easter dinnerNora Ephron's Apricot Jello Mold

Sauteed Asparagus with Hazelnut Crumble

Brown Sugar Baked Beans

Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Hot Pepper

Jaime Oliver's Carrots

Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

Cheese Grits

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Sage and Walnut Topping

Easy Macaroni & Cheese

The Grill's Creamed Spinach

easterpound.jpg Along with the first calls of the loons, the chirping of birds, the bright sunshine and the earthy fragrance of the woods, comes my desire for pound cake. Most years, these signs of spring in northern Minnesota coincide with Easter.

This year, though, snow still covers the grass around my house and it's cold enough outside to warrant a warm jacket. But even an Easter with no sign of spring in sight does not prevent my thoughts from turning to the tantalizing aroma of a baking pound cake wafting through my kitchen.

Every year, during the week before Easter, the pound cake season begins. Using the best butter I can buy, lots of eggs, flour and sugar along with my favorite flavorings, I bake at least one cake in an old cast-iron lamb mold that has been handed down to me through generations of use in my dad’s family. I nibble my way through pound-cake season as I bake that same batter in a bundt pan and serve it with clusters of fresh grapes or topped with fresh strawberries. I cut generous chunks from the cakes and wrap them up tightly in clear plastic wrap to share with friends.

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walnutpasta.jpgThere are many different Lenten practices between Ash Wednesday and Easter that include fasting, abstaining from eating meat, or simply giving up a favorite food like chocolate or ice cream. Over the years, the tradition of fasting or eating Lenten foods has become less strict. But in my family, we almost always observed Lent by eating pasta on Fridays. Cabbage and noodles or pot cheese and noodles are some popular Lenten dishes for Hungarians. Pasta makes a good choice for a Lenten meal, because it's filling while also being humble.

When I was a kid, my favorite Lenten dish was my mom's walnut noodles, which consisted of buttered egg noodles sprinkled with ground walnuts and a little powdered sugar. The same dish can also be done with poppy seeds. I really liked the sweet and nutty taste of the dish because it's almost like having dessert and dinner all rolled into one. So for Lent this year, I decided to upgrade the dish and add a few twists to make it a bit more rich in flavor and texture. And instead of wide egg noodles, I use springy Italian pasta for some fun.

 

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