April 20, 2011

EASY Easter Dinner

Sometimes less-experienced cooks get in a panic over pulling off a big holiday dinner.  Those of us who have done it more than a time or two know that the cooking isn't the problem.  It's the cleaning!  I can't help you with that, but I thought I'd share a quick synopsis of what we're cooking for Easter this year.  It's easy, but still very festive.  We do pretty much the same menu every year, and that helps to simplify the planning. 

Having a simple menu is essential when you work on Easter Sunday. Don't get me wrong- Easter is a joyous, uplifting celebration. And it Wipes. Me. Out!  I definitely don't want to spend all day in the kitchen on Easter after I've spent the morning playing church services and directing several choirs.

 We'll be making our usual potato casserole (you might remember it from Christmas dinner 2010).  It has to be prepped the night before, which helps in meal preparation on the holiday. After the ham has baked about 45 minutes, we'll start assembling the pineapple side dish.

It takes about ten minutes tops to mix up the pineapple custard. 

Pineapple Custard *
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
So here's the plan.  First of all, we opt for a spiral-sliced ham.  The one I bought weighs 8 1/2 pounds, and it will need to cook around 15 minutes per pound.  So- about two hours and fifteen minutes of time, but very little effort.  We got one with a brown sugar glaze this year.
4 beaten eggs
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 20-ounce cans crushed pineapple, undrained
3 tablespoons of butter
dusting of ground cinnamon

In a glass 8 x 8 baking dish, mix together the cornstarch and sugar.  Add the eggs, water, and vanilla.  Add the crushed pineapple, juice and all, and stir well.  Slice the 3 tablespoons of butter into about 5 pats and dot the pineapple mixture with them- don't mix in.  Dust lightly with a ground cinnamon.


Bake uncovered for one hour and fifteen minutes at 350 degrees.

Next, we'll get our potato casserole into the oven (it has to be prepped the night before the holiday).  It cooks for 45 minutes to an hour.  The oven will be crowded but everything should fit.

Overnight Cheesy Potato Casserole-start the night before!
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 teaspoon  minced garlic
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 pound package Mr. Dell's frozen shredded hash browns
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, melted
1 cup crushed cornflakes
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine sour cream, garlic, cream of mushroom soup, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.

2.  Melt 1 stick of butter, set aside.

3.  Arrange half the package of hash  browns in a large rectangular baking dish.  Pour half the melted butter over them.  Pour half the sour cream mixture over them.  Top with half the sharp cheddar cheese.  Repeat with the remaining potatoes, butter, sour cream mixture, and cheddar cheese.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

4.  Just before baking, sprinkle the crushed cornflakes over the top of the casserole and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

An easy way to get crushed cornflakes:  Measure out about four times the crushed volume desired into a large sealable plastic storage bag.  Crush the cornflakes with a rolling pin- make sure the bag has been sealed tight first!

When the hot dishes are about 20 minutes from being done, you can prepare a fresh vegetable of your choice on the stove top.  We like asparagus or broccoli to add some color to our plates, or a mix of broccoli and carrots is great, too.  When the ham has finished cooking, remove it from the oven and let it "rest".  Same with the other two hot dishes, as everything should be done at about the same time.  If you're worried that they'll get overly cold sitting on the counter top for 10 minutes, cover with aluminum foil.  Now you can crank the heat up on the oven and cook either brown and serve rolls or a good frozen roll (we like Sister Schubert's dinner rolls from the freezer section of the grocery).

If you want dessert, I'd recommend making one of your choice the day before the holiday.  We don't usually have one, because the pineapple custard is sweet enough to double as a dessert of sorts.

There you go.  Easter dinner is served!

*Pineapple Custard was published previously, but I've doubled it and clarified the directions from the first time I posted the recipe.

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