Easter in our house is not a religious holiday. For us, it is a celebration of rebirth, renewal, and the imminent arrival of Spring.
We do the Easter Bunny thing – Mr. Bunny leaves a chocolate bunny for each of the kids and then lays chocolate eggs all over the house for them to find in the morning (this is our favorite part and I honestly think Justin has more fun hiding the eggs than the kids do finding them!), which we will continue to find weeks down the road. Then Justin and I implement the same philosophy we use at Christmas (something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read) and pick out a couple of small gifts for the children. But this, of course, is on a much smaller scale than we would employ when Santa comes to visit. The rest of the day is usually spent just hanging out spending time together as a family.
Growing up in a large family (2 grandparents, 6 kids plus spouses, & 15 grandchildren), we always gathered at my grandparent’s house for Easter dinner. When my grandmother was alive, we would feast on a ham with sides of mashed potatoes, boiled carrots, and fried eggs, with a variety of spring-like desserts to round out the meal. When my grandmother passed on, my grandfather continued the tradition as long as he could.
When I grew up and acquired a family of my own, we moved around a lot. That meant that we were rarely in a place with our extended family and celebrated many holidays with just the four of us. As a result, our traditions became quite toned-down from what we were used to as children. Starting with this past Christmas, we have set out to change that and get back to our roots.
Today we enjoyed a lovely Easter meal that even my long-deceased grandmother would have been proud of: slow-cooked country-style ham with a pineapple sauce, potatoes & carrots boiled in chicken stock and then mashed with a little milk & butter, carrot cake (boxed, but still delicious) with homemade cream cheese icing, and homemade drop biscuits. Yum! We enjoyed our meal so much that I wanted to share it with you. I hope you get a chance to try some or all of the following recipes out sometime.
Let’s start with the ham, shall we? Crushed pineapple, brown sugar, and whole grain Dijon mustard were brought to a slow boil in a small pot on the stove. The mixture was then poured over one of those fully-cooked country-style hams and cooked in the slow cooker on low for approximately 5-1/2 to 6 hours. The result was sweet, tangy, and salty. The leftover meat will work well in a casserole or fried up with eggs for breakfast, and the sauce could be used with Italian meatballs and served with rice.
Crockpot Ham with Dijon Pineapple Sauce
- 1 fully cooked boneless ham (4 to 5 lbs)
- 1 can crushed pineapple
- 3/4 to 1 cup brown sugar (dependent upon how sweet you would like your sauce to be)
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsps lemon juice
- 1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard (you could use regular yellow mustard instead)
In a small pan, mix pineapple, brown sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice, and mustard. Bring to a slow boil, stirring continually, for 5 minutes. Place ham in a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker and pour the sauce mixture over top. Cook, on low, 5-1/2 to 6 hours. Slice ham and serve with sauce.
Next on our menu was the mashed potatoes and carrots. I had already planned on having carrots along with the potatoes as a side, but when I realized I only had a few, I figured that we might as well mash them up, too. Potatoes and carrots boiled in low-sodium chicken stock are full of flavor and mash up smoothly.
Mashed Potatoes & Carrots
- 8 to 12 red potatoes (dependent on potato size), peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 small bag of baby carrots
- 1 box of low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Milk, to taste
Place potatoes and carrots in a large pot on the stove. Cover with chicken stock and add water as needed to be about 1/2 an inch to an inch above the vegetables. Add 2 bay leaves and season generously with sea salt. Bring to a boil. Boil about 20 minutes, or until soft when poked with a fork. Scoop out 1 cup of the broth and set aside. Drain vegetables in a large colander and place back in pot. Remove the bay leaves. Pour the broth into the vegetables and season with salt & pepper. Mash with a potato masher, adding milk, as needed, until you reach your desired consistency. Place in a covered serving dish and serve warm.
I’ve always wanted to try making homemade drop biscuits. But, to be honest. they scared me. I had an image in my mind of turning out a gelatinous, goopy mess that I would just have to throw out. Today I set my fears aside and attempted the intimidating. To my delight, my drop biscuits were buttery, crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.
Muffin Pan Drop Biscuits
- 2 c flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 c butter or margarine, chilled and cut into small pieces
- 1 c milk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. To a food processor, add flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and butter. Pulse until mixture is crumbly. Pour mixture into a large bowl and add milk. Stir just to combine and moisten; don’t over mix. Drop by spoonfuls into prepared muffin tin. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pan immediately and serve warm with butter, margarine, jam/jelly, or peanut butter.
Finally, we come to dessert. I have to admit that I cheated and used a box cake mix to prepare my carrot cake. I had perused the internet for a recipe (as I had never made a carrot cake before) and all of the ones I found called for walnuts. Justin HATES walnuts. I knew the boxed ones omitted the nuts and, to be honest, I knew it would be quick and fail-safe. Shameful, I know. The icing for the cake, however, is homemade and delicious! Not too sweet and silky with just the right depth of cream cheese flavor. With only four ingredients, this one’s a keeper! Don’t forget to the let the wee ones lick the bowl clean, either.
Cream Cheese Icing
- 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 butter or margarine, room temperature
- 2 c icing sugar
- 1-1/2 tsps vanilla extract
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Spread evenly on cake, cupcakes, or cookies.