Spring & Easter

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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big3.jpg When I was little, I had absolutely no idea what Easter represented.  All I knew was it had something to do with Jesus and you got chocolate bunnies for it.  My neighbor, Rory McManus told me Jesus was always by your side.  I loved that idea. Here was a magical being who could witness all my acts of kindness and maybe I’d get a reward of some kind. I don’t know, maybe all the candy I wanted, or maybe I’d be the kind of “pretty” boys fought over.

There was so much about Easter to love. Spring for one thing. I loved that time of year because of the colors.  Spring is beautiful in Los Angeles.  Our street was endowed with bougainvillea in every imaginable variations of pink, yellow, orange, red and purple. The ritual of dying boiled eggs along with the smell of vinegar was intoxicating, and another thing that involved color.  Pleasing ones.  Pastel ones. The candy around Easter time was the best.  

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lemoncookiesMy mother was a 30-year-old new mom when she made her first batch of Italian lemon egg biscuits. She wrapped a few in cellophane and gave them to my older brother to give to his kindergarten teacher. The story goes that the teacher called up my mom begging for the recipe, claiming they were the best cookies she had ever tasted.

Since that day, my mom has baked thousands of lemon egg biscuits. Infused with lemon extract and coated with a sweet, crunchy lemon icing, these cookies are light, cakey and refreshingly citrusy. They're a perennial favorite in her Christmas cookie trays; they appear at every family birthday party; and they grace the dessert table every Easter Sunday.

The kids in our family have always adored lemon egg biscuits. I grew up making them with my mom, and now she is passing on the tradition to her granddaughters. The dough is soft, springy, and easy to roll, making it ideal for children's little hands. The best part is icing and decorating the cookies. Kids love to watch the confectioners' sugar and milk transform into a smooth, creamy white, sweet icing as they stir and stir. Of course, nothing pleases them more than dipping the cookies in the icing and decorating them with loads of colored candy sprinkles.

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blender-scalloped-potatoes.jpgIn many homes on Easter Sunday, a succulent ham shank, crusted with brown sugar and mustard, is brought to the dinner table glazed and bubbling, surrounded by creamy scalloped potatoes. This will happen again in just a few days in many homes, but not mine.

Ham has never been part of the Easter meal tradition at my house. Growing up with a German-Czechoslovakian father meant every holiday dinner involved a roasted loin of pork, crusted with flavorful caraway seeds and softball-sized dumplings to soak up the drippings from the pork and lots of creamy sauerkraut.

After I got married, though, I discovered ham and scalloped potatoes. I tried to learn to prepare a moist ham and creamy scalloped potatoes. But, I almost always wound up with dry ham and curdled potatoes. I gave up and went back to the familiar pork dinner that I was more comfortable with in the kitchen. My favorite guy missed the cheesy scalloped potatoes, but adapted well to the more German-style Easter meal.

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