Easter Sunday Dinner… memories and treats to share

When you are 14 years old and incredibly self-conscious, even a 6am Easter Sunday Sunrise Service warrants a finished hair-do and makeup. It was practically the only day of the week I could sleep until 7am, so I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the idea. I grew up attending Sunday School and church every single Sunday, in a family church dating back to our family’s German immigrants, so it wasn’t like I was protesting attending church on one of the busiest Sundays of the year – it was all about the hour! And watching the sunrise at the same time was not exactly what I would consider necessary, or even all that special. The sun rises every day! Interestingly, this year, we actually considered attending a sunrise service, which made me chuckle just a bit thinking back to those least favorite Easter memories.

For me, Easter is about family. It is a day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. It is a season of rebirth, spring, sunshine and white shoes. I was raised on the family farm and every Easter Sunday started with an extra special gift my father would bring home from my Grandmother. After feeding the cattle, he would stop into my grandparents home to say ‘good morning’ and chat for a few minutes, and on this particular day, she would carefully cover and hand over the basket painstakingly decorated and filled with chocolate marshmallow rabbits and eggs, solid chocolate eggs, and pastel colored m&m’s. My sister and I could hardly wait for the basket to arrive on this one day each year, diving into it as soon as it landed on the kitchen counter. When my children were growing up, I took great pleasure in filling their baskets with chocolate treats, a new outfit, a toy, video or in later years, gift cards for their favorite stores.

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Happy Birthday Babe!

My husband is an identical twin born in 1969. If I’m counting right, that means he is 50 years old now. While I have no problem whatsoever with his age, the passage of time does have me thinking about the fact I’m not too far behind him and that does bother me. I know that 50 is the new 40, or is it 40 is the new 50? Well, whatever the phrase is supposed to be, I am pretty sure someone is trying to convince us it is not really a whole half a century OLD. Since I don’t ‘feel’ nearly 50, I am not even sure how we got this old. Regardless of how we feel, look and behave, it sounded like a good reason to host a party and even though he would have been content with a quick trip to the brick oven pizzeria, I had to have a little fun.

Theme is always my first step to planning a party. He’s a guy, a 50 year old guy at that and what is his greatest vice? BEER. I don’t remember beer being such a significant staple in our home until we lived in Europe for 7 years. All of a sudden, he was a self proclaimed expert on craft beer, Belgian beer, US beef, pale ales, stouts, lager, pils, you name it, there was beer involved. So, the theme was pretty darn easy.

Cheers & Beers, Here’s to Brett’s 50 Years….

Theme in hand, I could also quickly decide on decorations. Since beer cans stack pretty easily, I scoured Google and Pinterest for quick ideas for creating a beer can tower. Easy, peasy, 50 cans of three different beers (one per level), I was on a roll.

I thought about how I have cooked with beer sufficiently before, so what if I build a menu around beer as the ingredient? Now, if you know me, you know I don’t drink beer. Not a drop! I never have and I seriously doubt I ever will. So, some will think this was quite a stretch for a non-drinker, but it’s really not much different than cooking with wine. I can’t taste it, and the best part is you definitely cannot smell it, and that is usually what sends me to the hills. Keep in mind, my father has grown malt barley for Budweiser for over 30 years and my husband and son drink probably more beer than water but I don’t even like the smell of it. Just like you, the internet and my collection of cookbooks served me well as I set out to select my menu. I can’t take credit for any of the creative genius, merely the pairing and delivery.

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Apricot Glazed Chicken

A dear teacher friend in The Netherlands introduced me to goat cheese close to twenty years ago. Mary is an American, married to a Dutch man, and was a fellow teacher for the Department of Defense Schools in Germany. I believe it was at least one of their four boys with a cow’s milk allergy and therefore she served goat cheese with the local fresh baked brötchen (German bread similar to a French loaf). I had no idea what I’d been missing – the creamy texture and mild flavor, spread over the warm bread – a perfect pairing with salami, prosciutto and fresh fruit! I can still taste the wonderfulness.

Ever since that day, a salad or entree made with goat cheese will certainly get my attention. For instance, when we lived in middle Georgia, The Rookery in downtown Macon serves a Chevre Chicken entree made with grilled chicken, fresh chevre, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, and green onion. I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m not sure I tried anything else on the menu as it was my absolute favorite! Recently, I was inspired to stuff chicken with goat cheese and somehow integrate a jar of homemade apricot preserves hanging out in the pantry. After a couple hours at the local ski hill followed by a 2 mile hike on a slushy trailhead with the dogs, we were more than ready for dinner, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.

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Fried Chicken and Waffles

It’s the first night of Spring Break and I want to make something special to celebrate. I have a feeling chicken and waffles might not have been what you first thought of. While I’ve only made fried chicken and waffles a couple times, it is a specialty from our years living in the south and each experience has been ooohhh, soooo good! This particular recipe is brand new today and we were immensely pleased with the results.

1 cup heavy cream
1 tbls. Cholula hot sauce
1 tbls. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
2 cloves minced garlic
1 – 1 1/2 lb. chicken breast tenderloins
3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. pepper
vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, whisk cream, hot sauce, sugar, salt, paprika and garlic. Rinse and pat dry chicken. Add chicken to the marinade. Rest for 30 minutes.

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Chicken ‘N Gnocchi

This should have posted four or five days ago, not sure what happened, but better late than never… An evening dinner out at a local restaurant inspired me to try and replicate its recipe for butternut squash gnocchi. After a trip to the grocery store, I was armed with a package of gnocchi and a fresh butternut squash. Squash has always been one of my favorite vegetables, so I often look for creative ways to use the funky shaped gourds.

While the recipe I selected as a guide turned out absolutely nothing like the restaurant version I was striving for, it is tasty enough to share and rounded out a lovely home cooked meal.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

1 pound butternut squashbutternut squash gnocchi
2 tbls. olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
1 lb. gnocchi
4 thick slices bacon
1-2 tbls. fresh minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 400º. Peel the squash and then cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Using a gallon ziploc bag, add squash, olive oil and seasonings. Seal and toss to coat. Roast in a single layer on a sheet pan until golden and tender, about 25 minutes. Read More

Tart Cherry Apple Pie

It’s National Pi Day, so I’m making pie! I used to shy away from pie crusts citing them as just too difficult and time consuming to spend my time on them, when a simple “fruit crisp” with a crumb topping would do just fine. But within the last year, I have been inspired to practice and perfect various fruit pies, using my grandmother’s pie crust recipe. In the summer, I have a lot of rhubarb on hand, and usually combine it with blueberry, raspberry, strawberry or apple. Occasionally, I’ll make a plain rhubarb pie. When our 3 year old Honeycrisp apple tree produced more than a hundred apples this past fall, I knew I had to come up with a plan to also enjoy those sweet treats all year long. I selected an Apple Pie Filling from Allrecipes.com specifically designed for freezing and packaged pie quantities in quart freezer containers. Now I can use them in turnovers, pie, crisp, or as a breakfast topping on pancakes or waffles.

When I decided at about 3:00 to make a pie for dinner and acknowledge 3.14, I could have chosen from the diced rhubarb, peach slices or the apples, all in the freezer. But would I rather have a fruit duo? I came home from the grocery store with strawberries, blueberries and two cans of tart cherries. As I studied the vast collection of fruit in the door of the freezer, a quick decision came to mind – cherries and apples! After all, who doesn’t love cherry pie and/or apple pie? Let’s make it a bit of both.

Pie Filling
1 quart frozen apple pie filling, thawed
1 can tart cherries, canned with water, drained
2 tbls. cornstarch
1/8 cup cold water

Combine thawed frozen apple pie filling with one can drained cherries in a saucepan. Bring to a light boil. Mix cornstarch and water in a small plastic or glass container with a lid that can be shaken. Mix thoroughly and then add to the fruit. Bring to another boil, stir while thickening. Within 1-2 minutes, the fruit mixture should be thick and ready to add to your pie shell. Set aside until you are ready to build the pie.

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