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Pulling off Easter Dinner– A few tips to keep it simple.

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Hosting a large family dinner can be a daunting task, especially at a holiday. There are a few things you can do to ensure that the day goes smoothly and guarantee that you enjoy the day too. No one signs up to host a family meal saying, “Sure, I’d love to have you come over to a enjoy a stress-filled, resentful, exhausting nightmare together.” But, this is what these days are for some frazzled hosts.

This post was inspired by a hopeful co-worker who popped into my classroom this week to ask for help. She is hosting Easter dinner for her entire family for the first time ever. She was feeling intimidated, but hopeful that with a few suggestions, she could pull it off. I gave her some tips and a sold menu, and she left work on Friday feeling determined and optimistic. After seeing her relief, I thought it would be a good idea to share them with all of you.

1. The Menu

My co-worker had the challenge of incorporating traditional favorites, but accommodating a family member who is vegetarian and a family member who is vegan. Here is what we came up with:

Honey Glazed Spiral Ham— Don’t be afraid to go with a store-bought ham. They are very tasty and easy to make.

Oven Baked Risotto— This is a crowd favorite, and if made with vegetable stock & a butter alternative, it will please both the vegetarian and vegan. Additionally, it’s a sophisticated alternative to potatoes.

Quiche– A quiche is a nice option for vegetarians, and it works for meals throughout the day. Go plain, or add variety with different vegetables.

Clementine Balsamic Glazed Carrots— Roasted whole carrots are a beautiful symbol of the spring season. Not to mention, the flavor is the perfect complement to the sweet ham.

Garlicky Green Beans— Toss some skinny fresh green beans with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh minced garlic. Saute until bright green and slightly tender. Remove from heat, and transfer to a serving bowl quickly so they don’t over cook.

Spinach and Strawberry Quinoa Salad— Adding cooked & cooled quinoa is a great way to add texture and update this classic salad.

2. Appetizers

My advice is to limit appetizers when hosting a large sit-down dinner. The first reason is practical. Since you are spending so much time, energy, and money on this meal, you don’t want your guests to fill up on snacks before dinner. The second reason is procedural. You will be far less stressed as a cook if you are not trying to prepare appetizers when you really need to be devoting your time and energy to the main course. I would suggest a simple cheese and cracker plate and some fresh fruit. Fruit is a great option because if hungry kids ruin their appetites with fruit, is that really such a bad thing?

3. Working Ahead 

The key to sanity and effective kitchen management is to do as much as you can ahead of time.

A few days before:

  • Set the table
  • Clean the house
  • Shop for groceries
  • Make the quiche and freeze
  • Lay out serving pieces and cookware needed
  • Clean the fridge, creating space for prepped ingredients and leftovers

The day before:

  • Wash the fruits & vegetables
  • Do all dishes and run the dishwasher. Be sure to unload it too!
  • Make quinoa and store in the fridge.
  • Pre-slice the cheese.
  • Defrost the quiche in the fridge.

The day of:

** Keep up with dishes and cleaning in the kitchen as you are cooking. Staying on top of things and keeping the kitchen clean as you cook will reduce your stress later.

  • Before guests arrive–
    • Prepare the salad (do not put the dressing on until you are ready to serve it)
    • Make the ham, slice it off the bone, and arrange on a platter.
    • Warm the quiche.
    • Assemble to fruit plate.
    • Measure and prep all ingredients for the green beans, carrots, and risotto.
    • Arrange the drink table. Add ice and cold beverages just prior to guests’ arrival time.
  • About an hour before dinner–
    • Make risotto & carrots.
    • Let guests know that you will be eating in an hour.
  • Fifteen Minutes before dinner–
    • Warm ham and quiche in the oven.
    • Toast rolls or bread.
    • Dress the salad.
    • Make green beans
  • Five minutes before dinner–
    • Put the food on the table.
    • Encourage guests to get a fresh drink
    • Start the dishwasher with any random dishes left over from the prep.
  • Dinner time–
    • LET IT ALL GO!!
    • This is what you have been planning for. Be sure to sit, enjoy dinner, and take time to have good conversation with those you love!
  • After dinner–
    • Let guests help to clear the table.
    • Put away clean prep dishes from the dishwasher.
    • Load the dishwasher with dinner dishes.
    • Sit and enjoy family and your dinner success!
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Balsamic & Clementine Roasted Carrots

Looking for a new way to cook carrots? This is a simple way to update this Easter staple, giving it a complex flavor. While the finished dish looks sophisticated and gourmet, the recipe is really very easy and mess free!

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 whole carrots, cleaned and sliced in half, lengthwise
  • 4Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clementine

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°, & line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray with cooking spray.
  2. Combine oil, vinegar, and the zest of 1 clementine in a glass bowl, & whisk together. Save the clementine.
  3. Coat the carrots with the vinegar blend.
  4. Roast for 30-40 minutes until tender, but not mushy. (Insert a fork to assess the firmness)
  5. Remove from the oven and squeeze the juice of the clementine over the carrots.
  6. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm.
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Mimosa Bar

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‘Tis the season of brunches, showers, and gatherings. As we all emerge from our winter hibernation, we seek time with friends and family. We also are juggling entertaining opportunities to celebrate holidays, sacraments, showers, and time with friends and family. One way to make these get togethers feel a bit more fancy is with a mimosa bar!

This is an easy entertaining trick that is a real crowd pleaser.

What you need:

  • Glass carafe- one for each type of juice or nectar (I got mine from Wal-Mart for a few dollars)
  • Wine glasses (many places sell the stemless variety for $1)
  • Champagne, prosecco, or any other variety of sparking wine.
  • Nectar- I prefer mango & pear
  • Juice- Orange, pineapple, & pomegranate are good choices
  • Fresh fruit- I chose raspberries & star fruit, but you can add any variety.

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How it works:

  • Set up the mimosa station where guests can easily access it.
  • Pour nectar and juice into the carafe
  • Slice fruit and place in pretty bowls
  • Arrange glasses
  • Open chilled Champagne bottles
  • Encourage guests to mix and match flavors.
  • Pour a few ounces of champagne into the glass, then add nectar and/or juice, and garnish with fruit.

Enjoy!

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Some Bunny Loves You Pancakes

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This morning I was in an Easter mood, so I decided to make the girls some bunny pancakes. They were easy & cute.

1. Make your favorite pancake batter.
2. Use a small measuring cup to drizzle the batter onto the griddle in a bunny shape. I made a large oval for the body, a smaller oval for the head, and one long pointy ear.
3. Cook the pancake completely and remove from the griddle.
4. Transfer to a plate and add the mini-marshmallow tail. I used some melted chocolate chips to “glue” it in place.
5. I added a melted chocolate eye, and a slice of Annie’s Pink Lemonade Fruit Snacks as the nose.

These are not super complicated, but it made my girls giggle on this snugly Saturday morning.

Happy Easter!

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