Making Easter Dinner in Advance

Easter 06 I [Ham]

source: boodoo via Flickr Creative Commons

I really love to cook. In my fantasy lands, I am a chef, or at least I get to go to culinary school and learn more about the art of fine meals. In reality, I’m a mom of three little kids and my bad back makes it hard to stand in the kitchen for more than an hour. But who knows? Maybe someday …

What I don’t love is just attempting to get the cooking done. With kids and time restraints, it can require a small miracle to get everything cooked at the same time and on the table. Multiply that times 60 when we’re having guests over.

I love having people for dinner, truly I do. I love entertaining. But – without fail – every time we do I make myself insane in the hours leading up to the event, trying to bake and cook and decorate and get our home into a passable state. (No one wants to show her guests to the bathroom to find out her kids have colored on the toilet and left used Kleenex on the floor.)

We’ve had standing Easter plans with friends of ours since 2006; we’ve been together every Easter except last year (when I had a 2-week-old) during that time, even when we moved 2 hours away. So I’m preparing to host them for Easter dinner in a few weeks. And today it struck me that JUST MAYBE I should go ahead and get some things ready so I won’t be so stressed on Resurrection Day.

Here are some great, special-dinner foods that you can make ahead and freeze!

  • Some of my friends swear by potato salad for Easter dinner, but I have to have Special Potatoes. Cheesy, creamy, potatoey goodness.
  • What can I say, I’m a traditionalist. I love Green Bean Casserole. I love this one even more because it uses homemade cream sauce and real mushrooms!
  • I love making bread, but it can be tedious and near impossible when you have a lot of other things going on. These rolls can be made ahead, but baked on Easter for fresh taste.
  • For dessert, this Rice Krispies White Chocolate Trifle sounds amazing! Or you can bake cake layers ahead of time, wrap them well in plastic wrap and then foil, and freeze until you’re ready to use them.

With just a ham to make the day-of, I might find myself actually enjoying the preparations for the holiday this year. Happy Easter!

Snack Food Substitutes to the Rescue! by Beth Aldrich

Feeling uninspired this winter when it comes to servings your kids healthful snacks? Here’s an article from Beth Aldrich we originally ran in August 2011 to give you some pointers! Share your favorite snack to serve in the comments!

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You might be needing an old-fashioned after-school snack to satisfy your kids until dinnertime. Here are some healthy snacks that you’ll feel good about putting on the table.

 

Blueberry-Lemon Ricotta Muffins

 

Old-Fashioned Rice Krispies Treats redux: Prepare this old time favorite recipe, but substitute high-fiber cereal or MultiGrain Cheerios and add some dried fruit to the mix, such as dried cranberries or raisins.

Anything on a stick. Kids love to eat finger food — and if they get to “create” it, even better. Set out bamboo skewers and several bowls of fruit, diced lean turkey breast, cheese, veggies, etc. and let the kids “make” their own snacks. You can control what foods they’ll use for their creations, and they love the decision-making and activity part of the project!

Anything in a Tortilla! Kids will eat almost anything wrapped in a tortilla, so get creative. Smear some low-fat cream cheese and sliced strawberries or pears and cheddar cheese or even just peanut butter and bananas. The kids can also take over and make their own creation.

Make Your Own “Mix”: When you take your child to the grocery store bulk bins, they love the idea of scooping and weighing the items. Let them select a few of their favorites for a homemade energy trail mix with seeds, nuts, popcorn, dried fruit and coconut, and yes, maybe even a small portion of chocolate nibs or drops! Have your child portion the completed mix into snack-sized plastic bags or mini containers and take them on the go for a quick pick-you-up snack!

Bagels, Baby! Nothing says satisfaction more than a bagel. Make it a nourishing snack by purchasing whole grain bagels and top them with organic jam and low fat cream cheese. To make them even more kid friendly, but them in thin slices and arrange like spokes of a wheel around the plate. What looks different and interesting yet familiar usually attracts kids to the plate!

What are your favorite after-school snacks to serve (or eat!)?

Beth Aldrich is a Certified Health Counselor and author of the book, Real Moms Love to Eat: How to Conduct a Love Affair with Food and Still Look Fabulous (New American Library, January, 2012).Twitter: @RealMomsLuv2Eat

Slow Cooker Stew

 

While this stew may not be the most beautiful dish on the planet (you can blame the photographer), it makes a perfect supper for a chilly night served with biscuits hot from the oven. And since I know you are all very enthusiastic about slow cooking, I hope you’ll try it out!

 

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. stew beef, cut into small pieces
  • 4 potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (11 oz.) condensed cream of celery soup
  • 1/2 c. red wine or tomato juice or sauce
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

Peel potatoes (if desired) and dice potatoes, carrots, and onions. {You can sear the beef if you wish to add some good flavor.} Mix all ingredients together. Either cook in a slow cooker on low for 8-10 hours or in a 300 degree oven for 4 hours.