Easter Brunch Special

If dinner is more your style, check out my trio of Greek, Italian and French inspired Easter Dinner menus.

Are you one of those people who would rather brunch than lunch or dinner for Easter? Brunch is a good idea if you want to free up the afternoon for a hike, a long bike ride or a nap. Regardless of how you spend the afternoon, I’ve got a great brunch menu for you to enjoy with family and friends.

When it comes to brunch, you can’t go wrong with a cheesy pie. Try my Quiche Lorraine, Spinach Ricotta Pie or Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart.

Of course you’ll want a big bowl of berries … strawberries, blueberries and blueberries are delicious with a dollop of my Lavender Infused White Chocolate Cream or Creamy Lime Custard.

Next, add a scone or a pound cake or both. I love lemon anytime, especially in the spring. Give my Lemon Scones or Lemon Pound Cake a try.

Top it all off with a delicious cup of espresso or a cappuccino and your favorite cookie. How about Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti or Almond Macarons with Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache or both!

Have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

What are your plans for Easter? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2017

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Three Ways to Celebrate Easter Dinner Special

Brunch more your Easter game. Stay tuned … and come back tomorrow for a great brunch menu and lots more great recipes.

I’m not a fan of ham, so, if you come to my house for Easter, get ready for a delicious lamb dinner. If you are of like mind, I have a few ideas for a festive Easter feast. If you are dreaming of a sunny warm beach, try my Go Greek menu. Are you missing the rolling hills of Tuscany? Well then, Think Italian. However, if cozy sounds more like it, then warm up with my Cheery Bistro Dinner. Feel free to mix and match. Here you go!

Go Greek!
A Greek themed dinner is the perfect excuse to serve one of my all-time favorites – Spanakopita Triangles. Unless you prefer my Zucchini Pancakes with Tapenade … or both.

When you are ready to move to the table, enjoy my Green-less Greek Salad.
Lamb is a favorite at Easter in Greece.
My Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce will not disappoint. Serve the chops with Israeli Couscous and Grilled Asparagus.

End your feast on a sweet and light note with my Strawberries with Yogurt Cream.

Think Italian!
For starters, pass a platter or my Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp and/or
Mushroom Crostini.

Next, gather around the table and give my Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette a try.

For the main course, enjoy my Grilled Butterflied Lamb with Asparagus Risotto.

And for dessert … a bright and delicious Lemon Pound Cake with fresh strawberries!

Cozy Bistro Dinner
Forget the same-ol’ same-ol’ shrimp cocktail, you’ll love my Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli. If you like, add some fresh veggies, they will be delicious with the aioli. Don’t forget the Roasted Almonds and the hors d’oeuvres are done.

Cozy on over to the table and start dinner with my Asparagus & Radish Salad

Keep it cozy with warm and wonderful Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions and Decadent Cheesy Potatoes .

And top it all off with one of my favorite bistro desserts – a sweet and tart Lemon Tart.

Have a Happy Easter and great weekend! Bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Easter? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2017

Easter at Nana’s & Lemon Pound Cake

My grandmother was happy for any excuse to see her family. Thanksgiving, Independence Day, you name it. At her house or ours, in the dining room or backyard, she loved seeing her clan all together. So, after Mom and Dad built the little brown house in the New Hampshire woods, an early Easter became the bane of Nana’s existence. A March Easter increased the likelihood that we would be skiing instead of headed to Nana’s for baked ham, scalloped potatoes and green beans.

As much as we loved her and we truly did, Nana and her Easter ham could not entice us off the slopes. We’d be more than delighted to indulge in her scalloped potatoes and green beans once the snow was gone. For her part, although she liked to have her family around her table, Nana wasn’t fussy. She’d have come up to our house in the suburbs without hesitation. Why, she would have been more than pleased to bring the scalloped potatoes or a lemon cake or both. (New Hampshire was another matter. She preferred to visit the little house in the woods during the summer.)

When it came to cooking, Nana was old school and a true New Englander. She baked at least once a week or at least she did when her grandchildren were around. I can’t remember ever being at her house when there were not homemade cookies in the jar. My grandfather’s favorites were Hermit Bars and Molasses Cookies. She baked lots of pies, especially blueberry, as well as the occasional cake and pan of brownies.

Her kitchen was tiny, just large enough to hold the stove, refrigerator and the sink with flanking counters. Cheery, calico curtains hid the treasures inside the lower cabinets. The uppers were open and held mysteries not found in my mother’s kitchen. No, these shelves were not filled with exotic spices. After all, Nana was a classic New England cook. However, she had a glass jar of cream of tartar. It was not creamy and was nothing like the tartar sauce that came with our fried clams at the local fish shack. There was also a canister of cornmeal and jars of nuts and raisins, ground ginger, baking powder and a bottle of molasses. Not a single one of these obscurities could be found in my mother’s kitchen.

Apart from the countertops on either side of the sink, her only work space was a small table. My sister Brenda and I would sit at that table and ask her countless questions while she bustled about. My grandmother was a bustle-er. We were more than curious as to why she didn’t bake her cakes from a mix or buy her cookies ready-to-eat and lined up in a plastic tray. After all, that’s what our mother did.

Now, this was not the kitchen my dad grew up with, that one might have been larger but maybe not. The kitchen I connect with my grandmother was in their cozy retirement house on Buzzards Bay. Infrequent or not, it continues to amaze me that Nana prepared family dinners for eight, twelve or more in that tiny kitchen.

Although it might have happened at least once, maybe twice, I never saw even a hint of chaos when Nana cooked. When we arrived for dinner, Easter or otherwise, everything was under control and close to ready. The ham was roasting and the potatoes were bubbling in the oven. The beans were trimmed, snapped and ready for steaming. A lemony cake was sitting on the kitchen table and strawberries were ready in the refrigerator.

… and if Easter was early, well, there was always Mother’s Day. Bon appétit!

Lemon Pound Cake
Lemony cake with fresh berries is a bright and sunny dessert for Easter or any spring feast. Enjoy!
Serves 12

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for the pans
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Grated zest of 2 lemons
2 1/4 cups sugar
Juice of 3 lemons
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
Whipped Mascarpone & Cream (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8×4 1/2-inch (6-cup) loaf pans.

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the lemon zest and whisk again.

Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until fluffy. With the mixer running on medium-low, add the eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add the lemon juice and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat again.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Increase the mixer speed and beat until just smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the top and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Cool to room temperature and serve with a spoonful of fresh strawberries and a dollop of Whipped Mascarpone & Cream

Whipped Mascarpone & Cream
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
Grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Put the mascarpone, zest, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat until fluffy. With the mixer running, slowly add the cream and beat until well combined. Increase the mixer speed and continue beating until soft peaks form.

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One Year Ago – Lavender Scones
Two Years Ago – Calzones with Marinara Sauce
Three Years Ago – Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake
Four Years Ago – Runners’ Chicken with Pasta
Five Years Ago – Steamed Artichokes with Bagna Cauda or Warm Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Six Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Cake
Seven Years Ago – Filet de Perche Meunière
Eight Years Ago – Chicken Provençal

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How will you celebrate Easter this year? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

Easter Brunch Special

rabbitts_easterWould you rather brunch than lunch or dinner for Easter? After today’s icy rain, it’s not a bad idea to free up the afternoon for some outdoor fun. Hike, bike or work in the garden – however you choose to spend the day – I’ve got a great brunch menu for you to enjoy with family and friends.

What to serve? Traditional or not, hmmm! Well, it is Easter. You and your guests will love my Quiche Lorraine. If you prefer to play it a little fancy, you’ll want to serve my Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart. (Asparagus is on special at my local supermarket.) If there are children coming, you might want to add a pan of my Baked French Toast.

Don’t forget to add some fresh fruit. My supermarket is also having a sale on strawberries. Pick up a quart and enjoy my Strawberries with Yogurt Cream. Or go crazy and enjoy your berries with my Creamy Lime Custard. Next add a scone, maybe two. You’ll love my Lemon Scones or Ginger Scones.

If your sweet tooth is not quite satisfied with the fruit and scones, feel free to pass a plate of absolutely wonderful, homemade Chocolate Truffles or tiny cups of Pot de Crème or both!

Have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

What are your plans for Easter? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

Easter Dinner Special

Easter_Bunnies_Think_SpringIs it your turn to host Easter dinner this year? I’m sure it will be delicious. Just in case you’re feeling a bit frazzled and overwhelmed, I thought I’d offer a few suggestions for a decidedly casual dinner. Here you go!

How to start? Hang out in the kitchen with your guests and and flip Zucchini Pancakes and serve them with a dab of tapenade. Or nibble Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli. Either or both will be lovely with a glass of Prosecco or dry white wine.

Next, it’s time for one of my favorite spring salads. Perhaps you’ll try my Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado. Unless you want to be very healthy, with a super Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad. Both are delightful.

Next , you’ve got to try my latest and greatest lamb shanks. Braised to tender deliciousness, you’ll love my Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions. Just add a dollop of Creamy Polenta or Smashed or Mashed Potatoes.

If it’s already warm where you live and you’d rather grill than braise, try my Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa. Serve the lamb and salsa with a spoonful of Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts.

End your feast with an extra special dessert. My Lemon Cheesecake is to die for. On the other hand, a bowl of berries with my Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème or Creamy Lime Custard would be wonderful. Hmmm … how to choose? I’ll let you decide.

Have a Happy Easter and great weekend! Bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Easter? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

How to Celebrate Easter & Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions

Easter_BunniesUp until I was ten, maybe eleven, my family celebrated Easter like everyone else in the neighborhood. We shopped for Easter outfits and bonnets, decorated eggs, went to church and had dinner at one or the other grandparent’s house. Then skiing and a spring vacation or two got in the way. Around that time, Mom’s parents began spending the winter and spring in Florida. So, unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas and Independence Day, Easter became a bit hit or miss celebration in our family; mostly miss.

If you share my haphazard history of Easter celebrations and need help planning your weekend, here are a few suggestions.

Fly a kite. What could be better than a sky full of kites on a breezy early spring day? This tradition began in Bermuda. Legend has it that Easter kite flying began when a teacher was trying to explain Christ’s ascension to heaven. Today, a colorful kite flying festival is held every year on Good Friday. Easter kite flying is also practiced in Guyana but on Easter Monday. I’ll let you, the weather and the wind pick your best day to fly.

Light a fire. Like many rites, this tradition harks back to pagan days. Easter bonfires are an old custom in parts of northern Europe. Usually lit at sundown on Good Friday or Saturday, it is a good way to get the neighborhood together (and burn some of the dead tree limbs that fell over the winter). The fire is meant to chase away the dark and cold of winter. Don’t forget to get a permit!

Start a parade. Early Christian processions where solemn affairs and took place both before and after Easter services. This tradition took on a decidedly festive note on New York’s Fifth Avenue in the late 1880’s. In the spirit of see and be seen, wealthy New Yorkers strolled up and down the avenue in their Easter finest. Whether you dress to the nines with a gorgeous bonnet or don bunny ears, enjoy the fresh air as you parade through the neighborhood.

Decorate eggs. An ancient symbol of new life, the egg played an important role in pagan festivals. Early Christians adopted the practice with a different spin. Eggs were forbidden during Lent so people began to decorate and color them to enjoy at their Easter feasts.

Before skiing got in the way, Mom always hardboiled a dozen or so eggs for my sister and I to decorate. I can still smell the vinegar that we used to activate the special dyes. We loved the fun of decorating but neither Brenda nor I liked hardboiled eggs. We brought them with us to Easter dinner and palmed as many as possible off on our grandparents.

Watch the sun rise. Several local churches are holding special sunrise services. These services commemorate the empty tomb that greeted Mary at dawn on Easter morning. Enjoy the hymns and celebration of the resurrection. Alternatively, a quiet, solitary meditation in a favorite place may suit you better. Sunrise is at 6:37 on Easter morning.

Gather friends and family. In spite of my spotty history, I like to invite friends around for an Easter dinner. More often than not, the weather is far from springy so I rummage through my files for festive but cozy recipes. Chocolate bunnies and eggs decorate the table and we at least pretend that spring is here.

However you celebrate, have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
I love lamb at Easter and these shanks are a homey favorite. Add a spoonful of creamy polenta for a delicious Easter feast. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 ounces slab or thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large or 8 small lamb shanks
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with a piece of string
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes or to taste
2-3 cups dry red wine
4-6 cups chicken stock
Olive oil
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
1 pound pearl onions, peeled and trimmed or use frozen

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat until crisp and brown. Remove the bacon and reserve.

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper, raise the heat to medium high and, working in batches, brown the lamb in the bacon fat. Remove the shanks and place them in a casserole or roasting pan large enough to hold the lamb in a single layer, sprinkle with the bacon and add the herbs.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with dried chili flakes, salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more.

Evenly spread the sautéed vegetables over the lamb, add 2 cups wine and enough chicken broth to cover about 3/4 of the shanks. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Turning the lamb shanks once, cook at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

While the lamb is cooking, add a little olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high. Add the mushrooms and sauté until golden. Turn the lamb shanks again, add the mushrooms and pearl onions and more wine and/or stock if needed. Continue cooking uncovered for 1 hour.

If using large shanks, remove the lamb from the bones. If using smaller shanks, let each of your guests have their own. Transfer the lamb, mushrooms, pearl onions and a few spoonfuls of sauce to a deep serving platter or individual plates and serve. Pass the remaining sauce.

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One Year Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Two Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Three Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Four Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Five Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Six Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Easter? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

La Dolce Vita & Tiramisu

spanish_steps_romeEaster is this coming weekend. Anyone who lives in northern New England knows that spring comes in two parts: Mud Season and Black Fly Season. Easter falls firmly in the former. Which means that, more often than not, Easter is windy, wet and wild. When we were little girls, my dad’s cousin Ginny or my grandmother bought fancy dresses for my sister and me for Easter. Regardless of the weather, we wore those light and frothy dresses to church and Easter dinner. While we were truly adorable, our outfits were hardly appropriate for the icy rain and whipping winds of a typical early spring day in New England.

That’s not the case in Italy. Fast forward a few decades … to the long Easter weekend I spent in and around Rome. It was a pilgrimage of sorts. I was living in Geneva at the time and dating an Italian. We had four days off and he decided it was time to take me home to meet the family.

Unlike New England or even Geneva, spring had arrived in central Italy. Daffodils bobbed in the warm breezes and the sun gave everything a soft, golden glow. Now, I don’t want to disappoint you but if you are conjuring up visions of a sporty little convertible zipping through the Italian countryside and streets of Rome … well, stop. In spite of his roots, my beau drove a very practical sedan of some sort. I think it was German.

Anyway, we traveled light with no heavy coats or muddy boots to weigh us down. With sweaters casually draped over our shoulders, we wandered through the ancient streets of Rome. We sipped espresso in Piazza Navono, visited the Spanish Steps and Saint Peter’s square. It had been rainy and cool when we left Geneva and we reveled in the sweet life of the Italian spring. Ahhhh, la dolce vita.

Early Sunday morning we headed up into the nearby Apennine Mountains to meet the family. We spent a delightful day in a picturesque medieval village. It was the kind of village you see in the travel books or on picture post cards. Thick stonewalls protected the entire village. Narrow three- and four- story houses were jammed together. We meandered through the winding, cobblestone streets, past my friend’s boyhood home, his grandparents’ old house and the houses of numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and school chums. Along the way, he entertained me with stories of his family, a young boy’s mischief-making and, of course, soccer games played here there and everywhere. It was a wonderful glimpse of what it was like to grow up in a tiny village in central Italy.

Around noon, we found ourselves in the village square with its ancient church. The ringing bells announced the end of mass. Within minutes, people, shouts and laughter filled the square. It was like a scene out of a movie. Widows were dressed in black from head to toe. Men played Bocce. Extended families and friends came together to celebrate. Hugs and kisses were exchanged. New babies were admired. Foreign girlfriends were eyed and not so surreptitiously.

Next, our walk took us out of the protective walls and into the surrounding hills. It was time to stop strolling and work up an appetite for the feast to come. Several hours later, showered and changed, we settled down to an enormous family dinner. The food was perfect and, in a word, abbondanza. We were treated to delicious springtime delicacies – beautiful artichokes, delicious lamb and bright spring greens. Everything was fresh from farms in the nearby valley. Everyone was full of good cheer, the conversation was animated and laughter flowed like good wine.

Have a wonderful Easter with your friends and family. Buon appetito!

Tiramisu
London to New York to Tokyo and everywhere in between, Tiramisu gained worldwide popularity during the 1990’s. For many, it is still the quintessential Italian dessert. Enjoy!
Serves 12

12 egg large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Marsala
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1 cup very cold heavy cream
About 30 crispy ladyfingers
About 1 1/2 cups freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee
4-6 ounces dark or milk chocolate, grated

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice. Set a medium bowl in the ice water and have a fine mesh sieve handy.

Put the yolks, 1 1/4 cups sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a heavy saucepan and whisk until smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly add 1 1/4 cups Marsala and whisk until smooth. Set over medium-low heat, and stirring constantly, cook until the mixture is thick and reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Immediately remove the pan from heat and pass the custard through the fine mesh sieve into the bowl sitting in the ice water. Add the vanilla and, stirring frequently, let the custard stand until cool.

While the custard cools, put the espresso and remaining sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the Marsala and stir to combine.

When the custard has cooled, put the mascarpone and cream in a bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the custard into the whipped mascarpone and cream.

Cover the bottom of a deep 9×13-inch glass or ceramic dish with a single layer of ladyfingers and drizzle the cookies with half the espresso mixture. Let the ladyfingers sit for a minute to absorb the espresso. Top the ladyfingers with half of the custard-mascarpone mixture and smooth the top. Add another layer of cookies and drizzle with the remaining espresso. Top with the remaining custard-mascarpone, cover and refrigerate for several hours.

To serve: generously sprinkle the tiramisu with grated chocolate, spoon into individual bowls and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce
Two Years Ago – Confetti Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago – Magret de Canard Provencal
Four Years Ago – Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool Parfaits
Five Years Ago – Grilled Lamb & Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Six Years Ago – Spicy Olives
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Easter? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015