Easter has a special meaning in our home. It is the time for us to gather with friends and family while celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have had many friends come to our table throughout the years and enjoy the scrumptious dishes we prepare. While a beautifully traditional baked ham is always a staple on Easter, it is the side dishes that truly shine and are given the rave reviews.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are often overlooked but I find them much more interesting than your basic mashed potatoes. This recipe was actually a bit of an accident that turned out to be a favorite among my guests. Last Easter I did not purchase enough sweet potatoes to serve the number of guests that were coming. After frantically digging through the pantry for anything to help stretch them, I came across canned pumpkin. Desperation led to a very tasty dish!
5 pound bag sweet potatoes (cooked and peeled)
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
1 16 ounce can pumpkin
- After sweet potatoes are cooked and peeled, mash until lumps are gone.
- Blend in cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
- Mix into the sweet potatoes the canned pumpkin
- Put into baking dish and bake for 30 minutes on 300 degrees Fahrenheit
* Canned sweet potatoes or yams can be substituted for fresh, drain well before mashing. Also note that fresh pumpkin can be used instead of canned.
* Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger can be altered to taste.
Grilled Vegetable Salad
My daughter is a picky eater and it can be a challenge to get her to try new things. I came across a recipe for a grilled vegetable salad and thought it was something she would try. I was pleasantly surprised that she liked it and asked for seconds. I have since put my own spin on the recipe and it is a fan favorite at Easter.
For the Dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
For the Vegetable Salad:
1/4 pound carrots peeled and cut diagonally in ½ inch pieces (baby carrots work just as well, generally cut in half)
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed
1/4 pound asparagus, trimmed
1/4 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 cup red onion, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
6 cups torn Romaine lettuce
- Dressing: combine all the ingredients, stir together with a whisk until well blended. Cover and chill for about 1 hour
- Prepare the grill to about medium heat
- Salad: cook the green beans, sugar snap peas, carrots, radishes and asparagus in boiling water until they are crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and then put them into an ice water bath, drain again. Place the vegetables into a large bowl. Add in the red onion. Spray the vegetables lightly with cooking spray to coat. Sprinkle with black pepper, salt and garlic powder. Toss gently to coat the vegetables.
- Coat a wire grilling basket with cooking spray and place the vegetables in it. Put the grilling basket on the grill rack for 7 minutes on each side or until the vegetables become lightly browned.
- Put the lettuce in a large serving bowl and top with grilled vegetables. Lightly drizzle the dressing over the top. Gently toss the salad.
* I have also grilled corn on the cob and then sliced the corn from the cob to add to the salad. This gives it a little more flavor and an extra punch of color
Home-Made Carrot Cake
It goes without saying that Easter simply is not Easter if there is no carrot cake offered for dessert. My mom loves carrot cake. I remember when I was little, about 5 or 6 years old, I was disgusted with the thought that carrots were allowed to be put into a cake. I refused to eat carrot cake until well into my teens. My mom and I laugh about it to this day! This is a super easy recipe that is absolutely delicious, I found it a few years ago online and have since added my own touch to it. So put the boxed mixes and store bought icing away.
For the Icing:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (in a pinch I have ever used salted butter)
2 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt (if you use salted butter, you will not need to add salt)
For the Carrot Cake:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil (you can use vegetable oil; the cake is a little more dense)
1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt (you can use plain Greek, vanilla just adds more flavor)
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose four
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon all-spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups carrots, finely grated
2/3 cup pecans, chopped (plus 1/3 cup for garnish)
1/3 cup raisins
To Make the Cake:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spray a 10 inch spring-form pan with cooking spray (you can use a 9 inch in a pinch), set aside for later use.
- Mix in a large bowl using a hand mixer or use a stand mixer: combine brown sugar and canola oil, then beat in the Greek yogurt until fully combined. The mixture will be gritty and very thick. Add the eggs in one at a time beating well between. Add in the vanilla. Once fully mixed set aside.
- In another bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice and salt. Stir the ingredients manually until they are just combined then add in the wet ingredients manually stirring until the ingredients are just combined and no flour pockets are visible.
- Fold the shredded carrots, chopped pecans and raisins into the batter.
- Pour the prepared batter into the spring-form pan.
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Keep a close watch on the cake to ensure it does not over-bake. Let cake cool completely before frosting or frosting will melt.
To Make the Icing
- On medium speed, beat the cream cheese and butter together for about 2-3 minutes or until creamy and thoroughly combined. Add in 2 cups confectioner’s sugar and beat until thick and fully combined.
- Add in 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for another 2 minutes. Keep adding confectioner’s sugar in small amounts until the desired thickness is reached.
- Add salt to taste but no more than 1/8 teaspoon.
- Once cake is cooled, frost the cake, sprinkle remaining chopped pecans on top then store in the refrigerator covered.
Although there are so many more recipes that I have discovered and made my own through the years, these three have been staples on the dinner table for years. Each one reminds me of past celebrations and the people who have graced my table. There was the time my crazy neighbor took the entire bowl of mashed sweet potatoes and dumped onto her plate because she liked it so much. Or there was the time my retired pastor tried to feed his grilled vegetable salad to our dachshund! As another Easter celebration approaches, I will reflect on years past but also look forward to many more memories made around the dinner table.