I was so focused on celebrating yesterday that I forgot to take a picture of my loaded table! So instead, you can enjoy a picture of my terra cotta bunny candle holder on my new deep coral placemat 😉
I love holiday feasts, and I’m becoming increasingly ambitious about creating my own. But the downside is, if I spend too much time cooking, I end up too stressed and tired to enjoy the meal and company, which defeats the purpose.
But this Easter was the most successful “feast” meal I’ve ever created, and I owe it to three strategies: 1) I made everything I possibly could (and set the table) the day before. 2) I stuck to simple recipes and took shortcuts where possible. 3) I let go of perfectionism.
So, in case anyone else also finds themselves wanting to produce a feast without driving themselves crazy/turning into a holiday monster, I thought I’d share my menu and strategies.
Easter Dinner Menu
This recipe can be summed up as: stick your ham in the slow cooker with a bunch of brown sugar. Seriously, the hardest part is taking off the plastic packaging. I had a six(ish) pound precooked ham that I cooked on low for about six hours. DELICIOUS. Took about ten minutes to prep on Easter morning. Do remember to take the protective plastic button off the end of the bone before you cook it and allot some time at the end to carve the thing (or rather, pile the tender, steaming chunks on your serving platter). 10 minutes to prep. EASY PEASY.
These carrots from Southern Living were delicious and healthy. I used bagged baby carrots so there was no peeling or chopping. I prepped them with the oil/spices on Saturday, refrigerated overnight, dumped them in a pan on Sunday and let them roast in the oven while I did other things. 5 minutes to prep. EASY PEASY.
I started with this recipe from Taste of Home, but modified it to make it easier/faster. I used canned beans and powdered garlic. Since I was using canned, I left out the salt. I threw all the ingredients together on Saturday, then tossed them in a sautee pan a few minutes before lunch on Sunday. 5 minutes to prep. 5-8 minutes to cook. EASY PEASY.
I bought pre-baked, brown-in-the-oven rolls from the grocery store. Just brush with melted butter and bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes. Not as good as homemade, but way less stressful. 5 minutes to prep. EASY PEASY.
NOT easy peasy and something of a disappointment. I’m a huge fan of the Pioneer Woman, so I was excited when I discovered she had a mashed potato recipe that could be made the day before. I made this on Saturday–probably took me over an hour between peeling, boiling, and mashing. When I tasted them immediately after cooking, they were DELICIOUS. However, they did not reheat on Sunday as well as promised. They were fine, but not amazing. I’m including this recipe because I would make this again, but I’d organize my schedule so as to do it the same day (and only on a high holiday. The amount of fat in these things is … well, better kept secret from health conscious dinner guests).
Tomato and Avocado Salad
This is a house favorite and perennial crowd pleaser that we have all the time. Chop tomatoes and avocados in equal proportions. Douse with lime or lemon juice (lime is our favorite) and mix. Add a little garlic salt if you like. Tomatoes can be chopped day before. Avocados should be chopped close to meal time as they tend to brown even with the citrus. Prep time: depends how fast you chop. EASY PEASY.
My original plan was to buy individual-size angel food cakes at the store so that all I had to do was prep strawberries and whipped cream. Alas, things went awry, and I ended up throwing some shortcakes together Saturday night. Due to an ingredient substitution and overbaking, they were decidedly subpar. But this is where my letting go of perfectionism came in. I COULD have made a late night run to the store for proper ingredients and made a second batch. I could have crammed in a quick trip for the premades to the store Easter afternoon and made lunch late. But instead, I decided it was ok. IT WAS OK! And topped with plenty of strawberries and homemade whipped cream (EASY PEASY: whip with 1 tbsp of powdered sugar per cup of heavy cream), my flat, dry shortcakes really were just fine.
OTHER USEFUL STUFF
I did a general clean up and put up a few Easter decorations, but I kept the table centerpiece minimal–just the bunny candle pictured above. This left plenty of room for food. I also didn’t stress over the fact that our Easter basket stuff from the morning was still all over the living room when our guest arrived (again: letting go of perfectionism). I figured he wouldn’t care–and he didn’t.
Earlier in the week, I wrote out an action plan, both of prep stuff that needed to be done Saturday and a detailed schedule of how Sunday would go down. This helped me be in control of everything that was going on, make sure things went in the oven in the proper order, etc. No need to trust my often faulty memory.
And most essentially, I remembered that I was doing all this because I love celebrating and I love my family. Easter is a joyous time, and by refusing to let stress and overwork take over, I had a truly wonderful day.