Easter Ideas - A Story From Past Posts

Some traditional Italian Easter appetizers.   Pizza Rustica   , fresh tomatoes and burrata, crisp fennel/olive oil.

Some traditional Italian Easter appetizers. Pizza Rustica , fresh tomatoes and burrata, crisp fennel/olive oil.

Here comes that bunny hopping down the lane. Chocolate and candy and weird marshmallow treats will fill grass lined baskets, for the strangest mash up of a religious holiday and spring rituals. Forget the odd Cadbury egg which oozes some strange goo from its center, or those spongey artificial colored bunnies. Let’s talk real food. Nutritious, delicious food. If you find yourself hosting this holiday clash of traditions, I’m here to help with some ideas. As we know, Easter marks the coming of Spring and all things fresh and new. But I believe revival is just as good as new, if not better. So, instead of overwhelming you with new recipes, why not resurrect a few from past posts to parse out some suggestions to guide you through the food choice conundrum.

Let’s start at the very beginning… A very good place to start. Appetizers. Here are few.

3 Dips a Dipping

Given that there are 3 distinct dips/flavors and 3 different hearty veggies for dipping in the recipe, you can serve just this for an appetizer and be done.

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5 Appetizers That Impress

This post featured 5 different appetizer options that fill the tummy and impress your guests. Pick one or two and call it a day.

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Smoked Trout Cucumber Bites

Crisp and refreshing, these are as easy as slice, scoop and top.

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Salad Course
Moving onto the next course, salads are ideal for an Easter dinner because it marks the freshness of spring. So, why not start the meal with salad first before you even bring out the main course. Here are a few ideas, including the one where I plated the salad and encouraged, (alright, maybe ‘forced’) my guests to eat it first. It worked, they ate it up.

Citrus Bowl Salad - One by One

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Graped Up Bibb Salad

A fresh salad that offers crisp fennel and hint of sweet pop from grapes. Easy and delicious.

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Pretty in Pink Salad

For a super special salad that serves both as an appetizer and salad course, try this gorgeous salad that features figs and burrata. This one will really wow your guests.

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Main Courses

Lamb is the Easter/Springtime king of meats. It is traditionally served for this holiday. But…

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…if you feel like doing what we have done a few times, switch it up and serve other meats. Here are a few ideas.

Oh So Yummy Osso Buco

This is hearty and with a sauce that makes it feel luxurious. Serve it with polenta or pasta and your guests will feel like royalty… well fed royalty.

A Belly Full of Pork
This is another hearty alternative to lamb that offers a rich sauce that can also be served with a starch such as potatoes, pasta or polenta.

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Roasted Lemon Sole
For those who may not eat meat, serve a lemon sole, simply roasted with parsley, onions and tomatoes. It’s light but makes a satisfying fish dish.

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Of course, the blog is filled with lots of other recipes and ideas, including table settings and flowers. Please browse, search and reminisce from past posts to help you plan a wonderful holiday meal to enjoy with your guests. Hosting is about sharing. Sharing food, drink, laughter and above all LOVE.

Happy Easter

 
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5 Appetizers That Impress & Relieve Stress

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Let’s face it, it’s not only during the holidays when we need easy appetizer ideas. Handy dandy, simple offerings are in demand throughout the year. These 5 appetizers can certainly be used anytime, but will surely be useful right about now.

Now when it comes to navigating entertaining, we can be the driver of our own roadmap. It’s up to us to take control. It can be as elaborate as a sit down plated meal with several courses. Or as simple as making a salad, a vegetable and protein. Or even simpler (and better!) a huge bowl of pasta. But it is up to each host/hostess to decide whether to make it complicated or easy. Admittedly, there are times when entertaining calls for a little more pizzazz. And I would venture to say that the holidays definitely require a little more brio. Believe it or not, adding an appetizer to any meal can elevate an evening. I always want my guests to feel special, whether it’s a weeknight meal, an weekend dinner or a big party celebration, and I’ve found that serving appetizers somehow ups the ante and makes any event feel special. But please, let’s not confuse special with hard and stressful.

How I plan out what appetizers I will serve depends on my mood, and it can swing full pendulum, from easy breezy all the way to ones that require a day of prep, cook time and time in plating. For me, it all comes down to how much experimenting I want to do, and how much time I have to play. But that’s just me. I like trying new things and being adventurous. But sometimes, I need speed and simplicity. Luckily, in my experimenting I have come up with a few apps that don’t take a ton of effort, and really please my guests.

Here are Apps that impress AND relieve stress.
(Disclaimer: In no means are these appetizers magical or medicinal in their ability to relieve stress. It’s soley their ease, and delicious impact that creates a stress free zone! Well, I might consider that magic.)

Shaved Parmigiano with Roasted Peppers & Hazelnuts

This is as easy as using a flick of the wrist. That is, one that is holding a vegetable peeler. Simply shave slices of Parmigiano Reggiano. Roll roasted pepper strips up into rosettes or twirls. (A good jarred kind is the way to go. Even I admit, roasting your own peppers is more work than it’s worth. This is definitely one time when homemade doesn’t make sense!) Arrange the platter as you like. I like all the peppers in the middle with the cheese acting like a moat. Then generously sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. It seriously could not be simpler.

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Platter of Crunch - Fennel Bites & Cucumber Carrot Roll Ups

I always like having a platter with a fresh offering. Not only does it help to refresh the palate but it’s a satisfying treat for the vegetarians. Create a platter full of fresh vegetables. You can use whatever you like but I love big chunks of fennel drizzled with olive oil, course sea salt and pepper. Ribbons of English cucumber plain or rolled up with carrot shreds. The carrots were marinated in a basil balsamic vinaigrette. Check out the recipe here.

My method for platter arrangement is color blocking. I think this looks inviting. Do what pleases your eye and your palate.

Fresh fennel, cucumber and carrots are refreshing and crunchy.

Fresh fennel, cucumber and carrots are refreshing and crunchy.

Fresh Ricotta with Herbs & Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Well, if you took my advice in late summer and roasted a bunch of tomatoes and stored them away, then this one is as easy as opening that container. (Now you understand why I suggest this because the tomatoes can be used in so many ways.) But if you don’t have any roasted tomatoes in your freezer, making a fresh batch is not difficult. Click for The Great Tomato Caper post. For the rest of the dish, simply buy fresh ricotta and spoon it into a bowl creating a nice mound. Generously sprinkle course sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, chopped basil and drizzle with good olive oil. Arrange the roasted tomatoes around and serve with crusty bread.

This combo of sweet tomatoes with fresh creamy ricotta is one that will keep your guests coming back for another smattering.

This combo of sweet tomatoes with fresh creamy ricotta is one that will keep your guests coming back for another smattering.

Sauteéd mushrooms & polenta chips

This one takes a bit more time, but you can actually do some of this ahead of time. I’ve served this appetizer several different ways. Click here for the recipe. In this version I made the polenta squares thinner so they act more like a cracker. Your guests can make their own little bite with as much or as little sauteéd mushrooms as they want. Heck, if you also serve the Ricotta dish, guests can top their polenta squares with mushrooms and a bit of ricotta!

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Dry Cured Meat & Arugula Platter

This seriously could not be simpler than buying and arranging. Pick up your favorite dry cured meat and serve it up with some spicy baby arugula. Guests can roll up the meat with some zest greens for a crisp, salty bite. I love keeping it simple and rustic by serving it right on a wooden board.
Some dry cured meats that I like to serve: Bresaola, Prosciutto or Serrano ham, Capacollo, Mortadella, Coppa.

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I hope these few ideas help keep your stress levels down this holiday season. I really don’t like that I keep repeating that, but it is true that the holidays, and entertaining can be just that - intense. I’m here to help in any way I can, because for me, gathering together with the people you love, serving them food you all love is a glorious thing. And something for which we can all be grateful.

Stirred with love, these apps are just as easy as the ones we download on our phones!

 

Oh So Yummy Osso Buco

I know there are carnivores out there who have been reading my blog.  Thank you for your patience.  I can only imagine how you have been waiting, maybe a bit anxiously, wondering when some meat dishes might appear as you lovingly, shifted through and endured dozens of veggie and fish dishes.  I see you gingerly raising your hand. I hear you asking, 'Where's the Beef?'  And my answer is: Go big or go home. Which is why I am starting off with a hearty meat dish like Osso Buco.  Don't be afraid.  This is not a difficult meal to create. In fact, it's a one pot wonder, but it does take some cooking time.  This dish is perfect for this time of year, plus it's the ideal, plentiful dish to serve during the holidays.  Usually when we make this in our house it's for a special occasion or just to make my mom and dad feel as special as they truly are. Such was the case as we celebrated both their birthdays last week.  Typically, my husband JC, is in charge of making it.  Not because I won't or can't, but simply because I'm usually making a dozen other dishes. So again, thanks for your patience. And now, the MEAT.

These are pork shanks.  Traditional Osso Buco is made with veal but both are equally good. (Photo credit: asithappens.me)

These are pork shanks.  Traditional Osso Buco is made with veal but both are equally good. (Photo credit: asithappens.me)

Ingredients

8 pieces Osso Buco shanks (Veal or Pork)
4 yellow onions, quartered
4-5 small carrots (Keep 2 whole, rest diced)
2 celery stalks, thick slices
6-8 cloves garlic, smashed & minced
4 whole plum tomatoes (roasted or fresh)
Fresh thyme, 8-10 whole sprigs
1/2 bottle white wine
8 oz. water
Magic 3 (oil, salt, pepper)
 

Instructions

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees, making sure that you have removed or moved the racks to accommodate the size of the pot.  In a dutch oven or large stock pot, sauté vegetables for about 15 minutes under tender.  Add salt and pepper.  (We use a large Le Creuset which is ideal for holding in the heat for slow cooking.)

Photo credit: asithappens.me

Photo credit: asithappens.me

The preparing of any protein is important in order to achieve the best cooking results.  So it goes without saying that these shanks will need a little love.  Rinse them in cold water and completely pat dry.  All protein should always be as dry as possible prior to cooking.  

Photo credit: asithappens.me

Photo credit: asithappens.me

Then oil the shanks and place them in the dutch oven standing upright and pushing the vegetables out to the sides and also placing on top.  

Photo credit: asithappens.me

Photo credit: asithappens.me

Then lovingly but with gusto add the wine and water.  Turn the heat on the stove up and bring the pot to a boil.   Once at a boil, turn off the heat, put the lid on and place the entire pot in the oven.  

Photo credit: asithappens.me

Photo credit: asithappens.me

Cook for approximately 4 hours.  Check at the 2 hour mark to make sure there is enough liquid.  Only if it is really dry should you add a glass of water since the goal is to cook this slowly so the meat falls off the bone. This requires liquid.

And how do you know when it's done?  The sides of the pot are brown, the meat falls off, the vegetables are soft and beautifully broken down into the sauce.  I guarantee you that as this cooks it will fragrant your entire home with the sweet vegetable aromas that will have your guests running to the table. 

Photo credit: asithappens.me

Photo credit: asithappens.me

With tongs, carefully remove the shanks and place onto a serving platter, pouring all the good stuff around and on top. Serve this with polenta, or pasta, as we did.  Pour an earthy glass of Barolo and share the love.  We also offered up oven roasted carrots, asparagus and crisp green salad with Persian cucumbers and celery. 

(This cooking technique can be used with a variety of other types of meats.  Spare ribs, short ribs, rabbit. Pretty much anything you want to fall off the bone and mingle in with the sweet liquified vegetables.  Please wear a bib!)

Did I say serve it with pasta?  Heck, yeah and guess what kind of tomatoes those are?  I know you all know the answer...  Oven Roasted.    Photo credit: Tom Nadolski

Did I say serve it with pasta?  Heck, yeah and guess what kind of tomatoes those are?  I know you all know the answer... Oven Roasted.  Photo credit: Tom Nadolski

   Photo credit: Tom Nadolski

 Photo credit: Tom Nadolski

   Photo credit: Tom Nadolski

 Photo credit: Tom Nadolski