Easy Prep Easter Menu

Hello. Heather here from Real: The Kitchen and Beyond to share my favorite Easter menu. Easter is one of my favorite holidays. Christmas edges it out just a bit but I love Easter – the time when life is celebrated and all things are made new, when our family celebrates the resurrection of our Savior.

 

I also love memories of waking up and finding a new cereal bowl with Easter candy in it at each place setting. We were often up bright and early for Easter Sunrise services and always hopeful that we would get to eat a piece of candy before we left. However, church clothes and candy don’t go well together so the candy was tucked away for Easter dinner dessert.

 

Easter dinner is another favorite part of my Easter Sunday. I still love gathering around a big table with my family and that exhilarating feeling of newness of life. Cooking a big Easter Dinner can be a lot of work for the cook but I believe it should be kept delicious and simple.

 

With many people coming home from Easter services or morning festivities for a big family meal, I want men and women everywhere to enjoy quality time with their families, rather than hours working in the kitchen.

 

This doesn’t mean no cooking. No, it just means making simple but amazing dishes. It means prepping ahead.

 

Here is my favorite Easter dinner menu and tips to help you get Easter dinner on the table with less hassle.

 

Ham – I love a good baked ham served with horseradish on the side – loads of fresh zesty horseradish. Buy your ham precooked at one of those many grocery sales or cook it ahead of time so it just needs to be reheated.

 

Mashed potatoes – In my humble opinion, mashed potatoes belong on every holiday table. I have a recipe to take that everyday mashed potato to new levels of flavor with my much sought after Amish Mashed Potatoes recipe. Peel and cut your potatoes ahead of time. Stick them in a pot of water and refrigerate overnight, or, if prepping them Sunday morning, set on the back of the stove with the lid on. There you go. One less step of time consuming prep work.

 

Sautéed Lemony Dill Asparagus – Spring and fresh asparagus go hand in hand here on the East Coast. This simple side can be whipped up in no time and is light and refreshing next to salty ham and rich mashed potatoes. Make sure you check out the recipe at the end of this post.

 

Of course we can’t skip dessert. We’re raiding the candy bowl and serving up the homemade peanut butter eggs for dessert. Peanut Butter Eggs are my favorite Easter Candy. Bet you can’t eat just one.

 

Does your family have an Easter Dinner tradition? Share it with us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Lemony Dill Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus

  • ¼ cup water

  • ½ teaspoon dried dill

  • ½ lemon

  • Salt (I use ½ teaspoon) and pepper (I use 1/8 teaspoon) to taste

Directions

  • Snap tough ends off asparagus.

  • Put into a sauté pan with water.

  • Top with dill, salt, and pepper.

  • Cover and cook over medium heat, 5-10 minutes, until desired tenderness.

  • Squeeze half of lemon over cooked asparagus and toss.

Serve.

 

 Heather writes at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond where the food is (mostly) real and the making’s easy. She believes any one can cook. Just follow the steps, starting at #1. Read, follow, taste, venture out. Don’t be afraid to fail, then try again. Her other hats are homeschooling, editing fiction, ghostwriting, and culinary marketing. Oh, and she believes life is always better with dessert.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Upcycle Your Leftovers

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Most people don’t get excited about eating leftovers for dinner.  “Oh, we’re eating that again?” I’m not the type of person that likes to eat the same thing over and over, so I completely understand!  However, I hate wasting food.  So rather than thinking of leftovers as last night’s recycled dinner, let’s learn how to “Upcycle” our leftovers into something even better!

Upcycling is a term that describes the process of converting waste materials (aka leftovers, for the purposes of our discussion) into new materials or products of better quality (tasty recipes your family will love).  Several years ago, I learned that Americans throw away one-third of the food they buy.  Ever since then, I have been on a quest to waste as little food as possible.  And that means using up my leftovers in creative ways!  My favorite thing to upcycle is roasted chicken (or turkey).  For Valentine’s Day dinner, I made Cornish hens seasoned with lemon, garlic, and rosemary.  They were delicious! Nick and I each ate half of a hen, which meant we had leftover chicken.  I actually get excited about leftover chicken because I have come up with plenty of ways to upcycle it, including:

  • Chicken Noodle Soup.  If you have juice from the chicken left in the bottom of the roasting pan or crock pot, strain and freeze it.  It makes the best broth!  You can’t buy anything that flavorful in a can!  I sauté sliced carrots, celery, and onions in a little butter.  When the onions turn translucent, I add the broth with a bay leaf and some parsley, salt and pepper. Usually, my frozen broth isn’t quite enough, so I’ll add a few cups of water and a couple chicken bouillon cubes.  Bring to a boil and add your noodles.  Add the cooked chicken to the pot the final two minutes of cooking.
  • Greek Chicken Salad.  Just add your cold, cooked chicken to a bed of lettuce, with black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese, pine nuts, and Greek dressing.  I’ll serve this with warm, crusty wheat rolls and butter.
  • BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.  If you’ve got leftover dark meat chicken, BBQ sandwiches are the way to go!  Shred the dark meat and mix it with enough BBQ sauce to thorough coat the chicken.  I like Weber’s BBQ sauce because it doesn’t have any high fructose corn syrup in it.  I’ll heat it up in a skillet, pop some sweet potato fries in the oven, and make a veggie or salad to go with it.
  • Other ideas.  Chicken salad (mayo, sliced red grapes, chopped pecans); Chicken, Artichoke, and Spinach dip; tacos or taco salad; chicken spaghetti; Chicken & Rice Casserole (This casserole is a great way to upcycle leftover rice.  Make it healthier by using brown rice.)

 

One of my favorite side dishes to make with roasted chicken is Parmesan Potatoes.  They are super easy and absolutely delicious!  A few weeks ago, I had some of the Parmesan potatoes left over, which is pretty rare.  So a day or two later, I thought I would upcycle them into Twice Baked Potatoes.  I scooped out the insides of the potatoes, leaving the skins intact.  I mashed the potatoes and added plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, and bacon bits.  I didn’t need any seasoning because there was already Parmesan, garlic powder, and parsley on the leftover potatoes.  I filled the potato skins with the mashed mixture and baked them for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.  One taste and my hubby declared that ALL potatoes should be Twice Baked Potatoes from now on!  Now that is leftover upcycling success!  (I’ll be making extra Parmesan Potatoes in the future so we can have the Twice Baked Potatoes more often!)

What’s your favorite way to upcycle leftovers?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Veggies – Fresh, Frozen, or Canned?

           We all know that we should eat our veggies.  However, there’s plenty of debate over the merits of canned, frozen, and freshly picked vegetables.  Personally, I think that each of these methods has their place in every cook’s kitchen.  Let’s explore the pros and cons of each.

            Canned ~ The big plus side of canned vegetables is their long shelf-life.  You can stock up on canned corn, beans, and peas when there’s a good sale.  Chances are, you’ll use them before they expire.  It’s hard to argue with the convenience factor of canned vegetables.  No chopping carrots, peeling tomatoes, or soaking beans, which can be your saving grace on busy week nights.  On a regular basis, I use canned black beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and artichokes.  However, because of the canning process, you’re typically not getting as many nutrients as you would if you had the same vegetable fresh or frozen.  There has definitely been an increase in popularity in home canning, especially of garden-grown veggies.  I think this is great, because there are fewer preservatives when you can your own veggies.

            Frozen ~ These vegetables are typically flash frozen at the peak of ripeness.  This may mean that they have as many nutrients (maybe even more) as fresh veggies.  If you have a decent size freezer, you can stock up on frozen veggies when you find a great deal.  Frozen veggies will typically keep six month to a year.  Just keep in mind that freezing vegetables does not stop breakdown of nutrients, it just slows it WAY down.  There are some veggies that I prefer frozen.  I use frozen spinach in quite a few of my recipes.  It’s cheaper and easier than buying fresh spinach, which I reserve for my salads.  I also buy vegetable medleys and stew veggies in the freezer section.  If a certain vegetable is out of season, buying frozen is a good alternative.

            Fresh ~ Most people would agree that fresh is best!  There is nothing like a fresh tomato in July…  but you usually can’t find a tasty one in February, which makes me sad. :(  Eating fresh vegetables (especially those in-season and locally grown) will give you the best bang for your nutritional buck.  I’m loving the fresh asparagus that is on sale all over town right now!  We’re eating it once or twice a week.  I also recently purchased a large bag of English peas in the pod from my co-op.  They were very tasty in yesterday’s beef stew, but time-consuming to remove from the shell.

        Some veggies are just a pain to prepare fresh!  Nick and I found that out with artichokes.  Let me tell you, they are high-maintenance to boil, pick apart, and eat!  Next time I make my spinach and artichoke dip, I will stick to the ones in a jar or can.  The big downside to fresh veggies is their limited shelf life.  I usually try to restrain myself at the co-op, because if I buy more than we can eat in a week, it will go bad and end up in the trash – which is not a good thing!

            No matter how you like your veggies – fresh, frozen, canned, or a combination of all three – be sure to eat up!  Vegetables are full of fiber and lots of great vitamins and minerals.  Here is my Meal Plan for the week.

Monday ~ Cilantro Lime Shrimp with black bean and corn salad.  I’ll be using canned beans and corn for this recipe.

Tuesday ~ Turkey and gravy in the crockpot served with mashed potatoes and the remainder of my fresh peas from the co-op.  Kroger had Honeysuckle marinated turkey breasts on sale last week, buy-one-get-one-free.  I froze one of them for later.  I’ll toss the turkey breasts in the crock pot with a jar of gravy for an easy meal.

Wednesday ~ Roasted Salmon with sesame garlic roasted asparagus.  I make garlic roasted asparagus quite a bit, but never with sesame seeds, so I’m going to give it a try this week.

Thursday ~ BBQ chicken with parmesan potatoes and cauliflower with cheese.

Friday ~ Breakfast for dinner!  I’m making my broccoli cheddar frittata with hash browns and some fresh fruit.

Saturday ~ Sometimes I make my Spinach & Artichoke dip with two cans of chicken in it and call it a meal!  My hubby LOVES it.

Sunday ~ Foil packets on the grill with chicken, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, onions, and asparagus.

 

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

  • One 12-ounce jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • One 10-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • ½ cup of reduced-fat cream cheese
  • ¾ cup of reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Pita chips or tortilla chips for dipping

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure that spinach is thoroughly drained of excess water.  (I do this by putting it in a colander and pressing paper towels down on it to remove as much water as possible.)  Mix all ingredients (except chips) until well blended in a bowl.  Spread into a small oven-safe baking dish.  Bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until the top begins to turn golden and bubble.  Serve warm with chips.  (If you are unable to find marinated artichoke hearts, you can use a can of artichokes drained, and add a tablespoon of Italian dressing.)

Meal Planning Monday ~ Keeping It Cool

 

          First of all, I want to wish everyone a Happy Independence Day on Wednesday!  Second, I want to wish my wonderful husband, Nick, a very Happy Birthday today!

            For most of the country it has been miserably HOT the past few days and the weatherman is calling for more of the same this holiday week.  I don’t know about you, but when it gets this hot, I don’t feel much like cooking.  And I definitely don’t want to turn the oven on!  Does this mean that I throw the meal plan out the window?  Nope!  Here are some things I do to keep the kitchen cool when it’s this hot out.

  • I use the crock pot.  I’m always puzzled at people who put away their crock pots when winter’s over.  This awesome little appliance is in use at my house at least once a week.  You can make many of the same meals that are normally baked in the oven.  This past weekend, I put some bone-in chicken thighs in the crock pot with a bottle of BBQ sauce.  Easy and delicious!
  • I make use of my freezer meals.  Now is a great time to use your freezer meals!  Most of mine can be reheated in the microwave.  I’ve got some turkey chili that I’ll be having later this week.
  • Make the most of your grill!  Sometimes it’s nice for me to have a night off and let my grill-master husband cook dinner!  We’ll cook everything for our dinner on the grill, not just the meat.  Lately, I’ve been buying tiny Yukon gold potatoes and putting them raw on a skewer to cook alongside of our chicken and steak.
  • Don’t forget your toaster oven and microwave.  I really wanted garlic roasted asparagus the other night, which I usually make in the oven.  Then it dawned on me that I could use my toaster oven instead!  Same result with much less heat in the kitchen.  When it’s super-hot out, I don’t even want to cook veggies on the stove top.  So I keep a stash of Ziploc steamer bags to cook my veggies and keep the kitchen cool.
  • No-cook meals.  Sometimes, it’s just easier to make a nice big salad for dinner when it’s sweltering outside.  It’s easy to grill some extra chicken and keep it in the fridge just for this occasion.

What’s your favorite hot-weather meal?  Enjoy the holiday and stay cool!

Meal Planning Monday ~ Potato Possibilities

 

          The humble potato is a Coupon Queen and Meal Planner’s dream dinner ingredient!  Not only are potatoes versatile, but they are also inexpensive, even when they aren’t on sale.  You can have your potatoes mashed, baked, boiled, fried, and even grilled!  Don’t limit your family to just the basic Russet variety, but try some red skins, Yukon Golds, and sweet potatoes!  Now as much as I love potatoes, I don’t eat them every single day.  However, I do have a them on the menu a few times a week because they are cheap, delicious, and nutritious (especially if you eat the skins). 

            Sometimes we can fall into a rut with our side dishes and potatoes are no exception.  So this week I am going to give you some different ways to make spuds that your family will love.  A special thanks to my Facebook recipe group, “Try It Out” for your potato ideas!

 Parmesan Potatoes ~ These potatoes are AWESOME!!  This recipe is so easy and delicious it has become my new favorite way to make them.  See the recipe at the end of this post.  A special thanks to Chris Dudley for introducing me to this one!

Cheesy Roasted Garlic Potato Balls ~ Okay, these are NOT healthy in the least bit because they’re fried, but are a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.  I may try oven frying them – coating them with butter cooking spray and baking them in the oven.  (Thanks to Patty Cable for this recipe!)

Boiled Red Skin Potatoes ~ I love these (or Yukon Golds) tossed with butter and fresh parsley.  Since we had such a mild winter, my parsley plants didn’t die, but have turned into parsley bushes!  We’ll be eating these on a regular basis this summer.

Freezer Smashed Potatoes ~ When the 5-pound bags of Russet potatoes go on sale at my local Kroger for $1.99, I use Heather Tenney’s (my friend and mentor) recipe for Freezer Smashed Potatoes.

Hash Brown Casserole ~ I really love Cracker Barrel’s grilled chicken tenderloins with green beans and hash brown casserole.  The recipe below is closest I’ve found to my restaurant favorite.  (Thanks again to Patty!)

Fried Potatoes ~ If I have leftover boiled potatoes from last night’s dinner, I slice and fry them up with a little butter and onion for breakfast to go with my eggs and turkey bacon.

Twice Baked Potatoes ~ These are easy to make and you can vary the add-ins based on what your family likes.  Make this recipe lighter by omitting the bacon and using reduced fat cheese.

 

Parmesan Potatoes

  • ½ Stick of Butter
  • 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
  •  1-2 Tbs of dried parsley
  • 4 – 6 Small Russet potatoes, washed (unpeeled) 

            Melt butter in the microwave and pour into the bottom of a glass baking dish.  Blend the parmesan, garlic powder, and parsley together then sprinkle the mixture over the butter.  Take your skin-on potatoes (washed) and cut them in half length-wise.  Put them face down in the butter.  Bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes. 

 

Hash Brown Casserole

10.25 condensed can cream of chicken
8 ounce Colby cheese grated
½ cup melted butter
1 small onion minced
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 lb. bag frozen shredded hash browns

            Spray 13 X 9 X 2 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray: set aside.  In a bowl, combine soup, cheese, butter, onion, salt, and pepper.  Gently fold potatoes into mixture and spread evenly into pan.  Heat at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until heated through or top is brown.