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Friday, April 5, 2013

Easter deliciousness.

So I don't have a ton of photos but this past Easter, I must say that I pretty much outdid myself. It took literally weeks of me writing to do lists and schedules in order to execute the day perfectly, and a handful of edits to the menu, the schedule, the time of day, the decor, the placement of my dinner table, and so on and so forth.

I also have to thank Pinterest for not only being a place that provided menu and decoration ideas for me, but also a place to organize them. If I was scouring the internet for easy but interesting side dishes and found one, I pinned it. If I found a delightful drink (um, lavender lemonade anyone?) then I pinned it, to keep it safe and sound in the otherwise wild, woolly and dark wilderness that is the internet. I didn't have to print out recipes only to lose them the day before the event. It all worked out.

I wanted to share the aspects of my little party that were most interesting in case it could help to inspire anyone else wanting to do something special one sunny afternoon. God, I sound like a snob. Move over Gwyneth Paltrow! AJCTA is the new Goop!

But seriously folks, the recipes I am sharing were all easy peasy (except for squeezing 19 large lemons) and since some could be made/assembled the day before, there was only about 30 minutes of OH FUCK GET THE CARROTS IN THE PAN DAMMIT STIR THE POTATOES DAD GET IN HERE AND CARVE MY FUCKING HAM JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL. For an affair that started at 3pm and lasted past 11pm, only 30 minutes of clusterfuck in my miniscule kitchen is pretty good.  Now if only I had filled those three water pitchers before dinner was ready for the table!

We had eleven of our close friends and family over and thanks to the Honey Baked Ham I got, I could focus my attention more on the sides, the drinks, the conversation.

Here are the flowers I arranged the morning of.

Originally these two little guys were going to go in birdcages like my centerpiece below, but by this time I was really getting into it and they no longer fit inside with the cage closed, so I said screw it and kept them out. I'm glad I did too, because they framed my punch bowl perfectly.

I'm secretly insanely proud of myself for pulling this off. Not because it's OMG 100% perfect but because it is exactly what I had in mind in my head.

Ah, here is my table. I was so, so happy with how it turned out, from using thrift store knives to hide the fact that I lost two of my own sometime in the past five years, to using mason jars for wine and water glasses to avoid a boatload of hand washing later on. People were to select a crane they liked and then sit wherever it was, but that was essentially abandoned when I shooed my father in law out of Todd's chair and basically everyone just said screw it and sat where they wanted. But I got my wish, and Todd and I sat on the ends and I felt like a medieval lady cheersing my husband and yes, I did indeed shout "Huzzah!" when we all sat down.

That was my seat and that was my crane and I have no idea where she is anymore. Oh, well. I have 2275849767 sheets of origami paper left over. I will make more.

One course that deserves a photo is the one of Caesar salad served in parmesan cups. The parmesan cups took me three hours to perfect. I had to cancel my plans to attend a Saturday Easter party to work on my menu and my God I'm so glad I did. I would have been up til midnight doing these.

One reason I'm so delighted with them, aside from how kick ass cool they are, is that I took the recipe and after two failed batches, I figured out the problem, corrected it, and vastly improved the end result because of it. More on that when I get to the recipes.

Here is my darling girl plucking an Easter egg from the calm hand of Buddha in our yard. She loved putting rocks in his hands every day. My little Buddhist, offering the world to Buddha.

Buddha Buddha Buddha.

So! Here is what the darling internet offered me by way of drinks and side dishes.

Lavender Lemonade

4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
6 tbsp dried lavender (I found mine at Cost Plus)
4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used 19 large)
8 cups water
3 slices lemon

Over medium heat, combine 4 cups water and the sugar, boiling until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in honey and lavendar and cover to steep, about 15 minutes. Strain the lavender.

In a large punch bowl, combine lemon juice, lavender mixture and the 8 cups water. If you'd like, per the recipe I used, you can add a single drop of blue food dye and a single drop of red food dye to make it come out a violet color, but honestly the natural color of the punch was a gorgeous lemony, dusky pink hue and I didn't have the heart to ruin it with dye.

Now, using either a muffin tin or, as in my case, 3 plastic Solo cups, make three extra large ice cubes. I filled my cups about a third or so of the way up, then I placed a lemon slice on top of the water and froze them overnight. The effect is charming and the function is necessary. God, there I go sounding like a snob again.

Herbed Shrimp Dip

Oh, thank you Martha Stewart. This stuff was.... Well, it was AMAZING. I think someone may have licked the bowl clean, it was so good.

1lb small peeled and deveined frozen shrimp
1 cup low fat sour cream
1 cup light mayo
4 scallions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup FINELY chopped parsley - and I mean fine
2 tsp lemon zest plus 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Crostini slices

Using a steamer basket, steam shrimp until opaque and firm, tossing once or twice to ensure even cooking. Immediately transfer to a collander and run under cold water. If you live in the desert like I do and cold tap water is a laughable fantasy, then put some ice cubes in there and continue to run under the "cold" tap. Pat the shrimp dry and finely chop. This takes some time.

In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients (save for the crostini) and refrigerate dip until chilled or up to two days (I chilled mine overnight). Serve garnished withs callions if you want, and alongside some freshly baked crostini. Holy crap, was that stuff good.

Parmesan Caesar Cups

Listen up, honey. I was going to link you to the recipe I used but as I said before, it took me three hours of labor to figure out that that chick's ideas were bogus. So here is what you do.

Preheat your oven to 300 and to help pass the time, and if it's past 5pm, get a cocktail. Get a block of parmesan and finely grate it. Grate a huge pile of it. What? Like you won't use the leftovers, if there are any?

Now, get out a cookie sheet and a muffin tin. Place parchment paper on your cookie sheet and make large, thin circles with your cheese, about 5" in diameter. I only did two at a time. Bake about 3-4 minutes, checking frequently, until cheese is bubbly and melty but not browned at all. Remove immediately.

Flip your muffin pan over. Eureka! It took me two hours' worth of shoddy attempts putting the Parmesan rounds IN the muffin pan, before realizing I needed to flip that shit over. Aren't I smart? A college degree ain't much, folks.

Now, gently, gently, use a spatula to remove a cheese round and drape carefully over a muffin cup, lightly (I SAID LIGHTLY) pressing it around it. Do this with the second round and now you will see why I did just two at a time: you don't want these bad boys touching each other IN THE SLIGHTEST because they will melt and harden together and then you will risk breaking them once they're out of the oven.

Put the muffin tin in the oven and bake about 5 minutes. Even if they aren't a golden color, don't let that deceive you. They will most certainly harden once they're on your countertop.

Now, remove the cups from the pan and place gently (I SAID GENTLY), overturned onto a papertowl.

Repeat all that six times.

You can do this the night before and honestly, why wouldn't you? This shit is time consuming. You can do it  a few days in advance too, and refrigerate them, but honestly that just ups the chances of bumping them and breaking them. I put mine on top of my fridge and prayed to Jesus.

When you're ready to serve these, finely chop washed romaine leaves and toss with Caesar dressing. Add cracked black pepper and carefully (I SAID CAREFULLY) spoon into the cups.

Look, I know this seems time consuming, but just remember! I saved you two hours of frustration while Everybody Loves Raymond plays in the background the entire time! Frustration on TV, frustration in your kitchen, all gone. Plus, the effect is mind blowing and it really ups the specialness of your dinner.

Now, these next two recipes I found on I just want to give credit where it's due.

Honey Glazed Carrots
serves 12 - 13

3lbs baby carrots
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey (at least - at the end of the OH GOD WHY half hour I wasn't satisfied with the coating's texture and I added an additional squeeze or two more)
2 tbsp butter
salt to taste
3 tbsp lemon juice
freshly ground pepper to taste
6 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Combine carrots, water, honey, butter and salt in a large skillet. Bring to simmer over medium high heat. Cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring often, until the liquid is a syrupy glaze, about 5 minutes.* Stir in lemon juice and pepper, sprinkle with parlsey and serve.

*At this point, and solely due to time constraints, I added a slurry of about a tbsp cornstarch and about as much water.

Roasted Baby Potatoes and Green Beans
serves 12 -- 13

4.5lb baby red potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half, lengthwise. Yes, lengthwise. Nearly all potatoes have a longer, thinner side.
2lb green beans, trimmed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
6 tbsp blue cheese crumbles
6 tbsp finely chopped scallions or, in my case, dried chives

Position rack in lower third of oven, if it's not already there due to your giant ass ham that you just reheated. Preheat to 450.

Toss potatoes and green beans in a large bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Since I essentially had to more than triple this recipe (and should have quadrupled it to be frank, not a lick of this stuff was left over), I first tossed the potatoes and then the green beans.

Spread evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring once or twice until the potatoes are tender and the green beans are tender and browned in spots, about 30 minutes.

Whisk the remaining 3 tbsp oil, vinegar and mustard in a large bowl. Stir in cheese and scallions or chives.

Remove and plate the veggies, and then pour the dressing on top, tossing gently to coat. SO GOOD.

I hope one, or all, of these recipes can be of use to any of you. Trust me when I say they are all 100% delicious and, save for perhaps the Parmesan cups, extremely easy and laid back. Ok, squeezing 19 lemons was intense too, but DELICIOUS.

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