Cooking, Holidays

An Easter banquet

“Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” ~ Auntie Mame

As we all know, there are certainly some bad things in life. There are many who really do struggle to have enough to eat for their families. Countries are at war with one another and many of you may have sons, daughters or loved ones who are serving in those war-torn places. There is cancer and other illnesses, not to mention robberies and shootings going on, sometimes in our very own backyards. Yet, despite the many difficult things we face, life overall is still pretty grand. The point Auntie Mame was trying to make with her statement about life being a banquet, I think, is that we have to wake up every morning and choose to see the good things in life. (Note: If you haven’t seen the movie Auntie Mame, the 1956 Rosalind Russell version, stop reading this and just go watch it!)

Speaking of banquets, I am still practically full from the tremendous spread we enjoyed at my home a few weeks ago on Easter Sunday. Eating great food is something I love to do, but it’s even more special when you get to share it with loved ones. I was blessed to have a houseful on Easter Sunday. My dad, fiancé and I were joined by my great-uncle, a very dear friend of mine from Durham and my beloved next door neighbors.

We got up early and started to work putting together a terrific meal which included some of the
traditional side dishes like deviled eggs, mashed potatoes and green beans and corn and we tried out a few new recipes as well. My house guest, Keitcha, and fiancé Morgan helped to prepare the meal along with me. A coconut cake was first to go in the oven, followed by the ham which Morgan glazed with a combination of brown sugar, Dijon mustard and some of my homemade peach preserves.

While Morgan worked on the cake, Keitcha and I put together a lovely green pea layered salad. It’s an old standby recipe, but it’s one of my favorites and so easy to do. Start with shredded lettuce in the bottom of your dish. A lovely glass punch bowl makes a great display. I do admit I sometimes cheat and buy the pre-shredded lettuce, but luckily Keitcha’s knife skills were much better than my own. On top of your lettuce layer, sprinkle a little salt and cracked black pepper then add a mixture of one cup of mayonnaise and one cup of sour cream. Next layer your green peas, shredded cheddar cheese, diced green onions and top with crumbled bacon. Let it chill in the fridge for a good hour or more before serving. I also sometimes like to add a layer of fresh spinach in there.

After the salad was ready, we put together an orange fluff fruit salad with orange jello, pineapple tidbits, mandarin oranges, cool whip, cottage cheese and miniature marshmallows. I am sad to report I could not find the pastel colored marshmallows the recipe called for, but the plain ones were just as good. Uncle Ken was really a fan of this dish.

My personal favorite dish of the day is a recipe that is aptly called “Homicidal Maniac (Mac) and Cheese.” This recipe comes from one of my very favorite books “The Sweet Potato Queen’s Big Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner.” If you have not read any of Jill Connor Browne’s books about the Sweet Potato Queens, just stop what you are doing right now and go get a copy. They are hysterical and she has some terrific recipes which I use frequently.

The mac and cheese recipe from the Sweet Potato Queen’s book is fantastic because with just a little prep work, the entire dish can be done in the Crock Pot. I love my Crock Pot. In addition to three different kinds of cheese, the recipe also calls for bacon and anything with bacon in it, goes right to the top of my “to eat” list.

We also tried a new asparagus dish at Easter, although I think with the myriad of other deliciousness, it nearly got overlooked. This is another simple recipe that just takes a little patience to put together. Roll out a thawed sheet of puff pastry, spread with cream cheese and cut into narrow strips. Wrap the cream cheese-coated pastry around a piece (or two if they are small) of fresh asparagus. Next, beat one egg and use a basting brush to coat each cozily wrapped asparagus in the egg wash. Sprinkle each pastry rolled asparagus with fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. I’ve also seen a variation of this which includes prosciutto, yum!

We all ate until we were stuffed. We had to wait several hours before we could even find room for coconut cake! Everything we ate was delicious, but best of all was the time shared with dear friends and family.

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