Easter Cooking Frenzy

The end of Lent is marked by an Easter feast at our house.  This was our first holiday in our new house, so I wanted to do it up right.  The food gathering and preparation took the better part of Holy Week.  It started with the gift of a flat of Louisiana strawberries.   The berries came from Liuzza Farms in nearby Hammond, Louisiana.  All during the year one can purchase Californian and Mexican berries, but the Louisiana ones are only found in the spring. Having 12 pints at my disposal at one time launched the cooking frenzy that followed. We ate the ruby colored gems in salads, shortcakes and pies. The berries were ripe and sweet and made me feel that spring was here at last.

Gretchen and I spent the better part of another day preparing 8 dozen meat pies.  Last year we took a  class from Kay Ewing's Everyday Gourmet Cooking School, and developed the skills we needed to prepare the pies with a flaky homemade pastry. The food processor makes the pastry preparation a snap. Kay has a collection of cookbooks and this recipe can be found in one of them.  http://www.kayewing.com/ is her website and information on her classes and books are located there.  We prepared a double batch and froze them before cooking.  We then placed them in ziploc bags and can now take out as many (or few) as we need for appetizers or main dish.  Kay also has a recipe for a salsa to accompany the meat pies, but we used jarred salsa that we had in the pantry.  We served some for our Easter Feast on Sunday. I must confess that I have been heating up a couple each morning this week for breakfast.  The beef and sausage filling is irrestible and the pastry has a teaspoon of sugar in the dough, so it has a tantalizing and addictive flavor.  The salty/sweet combination keeps you going back for more.  I can't post the recipe here so you have to take a class from Kay or purchase her cookbook for the secret.  I recommend both.

The highlight of our Sunday meal was a Honeybaked Ham.  This is a special delicacy for us and even these can be purchased all year round, I normally wait for holidays to fetch one from the store.  On past visits to get my holiday ham, I have noticed that many people had coupons of some sort when checking out.  This time I did my homework and printed a coupon from an internet download, so that I could get that discount, too!  Nothing better than enjoying Honeybaked Ham at a discount! 

Aunt Donna contributed "Aunt Dot's Coleslaw" to our feast.  I wish I were the Aunt Dot in the recipe, but it's not me.  Aunt Dot was not really Uncle David's aunt, but a neighbor of his real aunt.  It's a complicated story, but boy could she make a great coleslaw!  Donna has shared this recipe and it is posted here. 

An Easter meal would not be complete without Ambrosia Salad and Green Beans and New Potatoes.  The salad is a mixture of coconut, toasted pecans, maraschino cherries, mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks, bananas, fresh sliced Bosch pear, apple, strawberries and a cup of sour cream.  Once my mother in law made a similar salad for a holiday meal, but it spilled on the floor of her car when she was transporting it to our house.  We called it "Floorboard Salad" and didn't mind picking out the strands of carpet as we ate it! My version for this meal didn't contain any carpet and had not been spilled, but we still call it "Floorboard Salad" in honor of the jovial, yet careless cook that Granny was.  The green beans and potatoes were so fresh and beautiful that I took a picture of them before cooking.  I couldn't help thinking springtime as I prepared them for the pot.  I prepared them with a little chopped onion, bacon pieces, tablespoon of butter and chicken broth.  They were all eaten, so they must have been tasty to everyone at the table. 

The strawberries made another appearance at dessert.  I made a pie with fresh berries in a gelatin coating in a baked pie shell.  The topping was whipped cream from a can.  By the time I got to the dessert, I was too tired and too full to whip cream, so I cheated with the canned stuff.  No one seemed to mind. 

After lunch we went for a walk around the neighborhood.  This made us feel that we were walking off some of the calories, but our pace was slow and we had to keep up with three dogs who accompanied us on our ramble.  The Children's Miracle Mansion is located on the next street, so we wanted to take a look at the progress of the project.  There will be open houses for the Mansion during the month of May and you can buy a ticket for a chance to win it.  Tickets are $100 each and they proceeds benefit Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital in Baton Rouge.  We are proud that this is happening in our subdivision.  Pictures of the mansion and ticket information is found at http://www.ololfoundation.org/.  If you get to Zachary to tour the mansion, be sure to stop by.  We live around the block and would love to see you. 

Aunt Dot's Cole Slaw

1. Shred 1 large firm head of cabbage or use three bags of prepared slaw mix. In a large flat bowl, make two layers of shredded cabbage, thinly sliced red and green bell peppers and onions.
2. Sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over top of the layered vegetables.
3. Mix and bring to boil 1 tsp. mustard seed, 1 tsp. celery seed 1 cup regular wesson vegetable oil and 1 cup white vinegar.
4. Cool a little but while still hot, pour over top of layered slaw and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Fresh Strawberry Pie
Two baked pie crusts.  (I use Pillsbury Refrigerated pie crusts)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 four serving size package strawberry gelatin
1 quart strawberries, sliced or whole with stems removed
1. Prepare the pie crusts. Make them appear homemade by crimping the edges before baking. (no one will suspect that these are not homemade!)
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cornstarch and sugar.  Add the water and cook, stirring constantly,  over medium heat until the mixture becomes thick and almost transparent.  This takes less than 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the gelatin and cool slightly.
3. Arrange berries in the prepared crusts and pour gelatin mixture over them. 
4. Refrigerate the pies.  The gelatin will become firm.  Serve with whipped cream. 
The lunch had a nostalgic note since I used the ceramic eggs made by Granny many years ago.  I also pulled out the ceramic bunnies she had made for each grandchild.   I arranged them for a low profile centerpiece. I also want to share with you the beautiful bouquet of roses which graced our dining room.  I found the roses at Sam's and felt they were a real bargain.  Arranging them in my container was easy. They were lovely and smelled so good.  I hope that you and yours had a blessed Easter. 

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