Spring & Easter

easter-bunny.jpgIt’s April 1993, and I have just woken up on the living room couch. My eyes feel a bit sore from trying to stay awake in order to catch a certain creature hopping through my home.

Gosh, how I would have loved to have caught that white-haired—or brown-haired animal, red (dye) handed—with a now-naked hardboiled egg on the floor beneath him or her and a half eaten carrot in the opposite paw.

But I didn't catch what I had imagined to be a five-foot, eight-inch bunny, that night. In fact, all I caught was the back of my eye lids, and whatever I dreamt that night (probably sweet succulent dreams of chocolate eggs filled with caramel...

I couldn’t say if it was the year after that—or five years later that I discovered the truth behind the Easter Bunny, but each year I still debate sleeping on that couch, straining my eyes until they can’t take it to catch my five- foot, eight-inch tall mother in the act of hiding an egg behind a picture frame and another behind the pillow of the opposing couch. Was it a coincidence that the bunny I had imagined and my mother were the same height?

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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

Peeps-Chocolate-Donut-Nests-from-Noble-Pig-1Easter is almost here and while many of us are planning the main meal, whether that's brunch or dinner, we can't forget about treating the kids (or adults) to something sweet for breakfast while they are hunting for those eggs. 

I'm not sure if these Peeps Chocolate Dipped Marshmallow Chicks are new this year (I haven't seen them before), but they are sure cute. I imagined them sitting on a nest of chocolate and thought baked donuts would be the perfect perch.

My kids eyes lit up when they walked in and saw these. I had to fight them off while I photographing as they wanted to just dig in and try them. I don't blame them.

The brown Peeps are chocolate mousse-flavored and very yummy. The chicks have also been pre-dipped in milk or dark chocolate.

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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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ricottawholepie.jpgWhen I think of Easter, I think of pies. Not chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps, or colorful Easter eggs, but delicious Italian pies, especially ricotta.

Growing up, my mom always prepared a traditional and labor intensive Easter dinner. In truth, she could have skipped the whole thing and just served her pies. In the week before Easter Sunday, our house became a dairy. The shelves in the second refrigerator in our basement sagged from countless dozens of eggs, pints of cream, pounds of butter, and tubs of ricotta cheese needed for our pie production.

Although it can be made year-round, ricotta pie (torta di ricotta) is an Italian cheesecake that is especially associated with Easter. There are many regional recipes for ricotta pie, some savory and some sweet. Savory versions usually include meats and additional cheeses, while sweet pies are typically flavored with citrus, nuts, and chocolate.

When I called my mom for her recipe last week, I learned that it was Nan's and that it had a storied past. "Nan was the first person in the family to use pineapple instead of citron in her ricotta pie. And boy were her sisters jealous!” I had no idea Nan was a baking maverick.

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