Easter Brunch 2016!

I’m writing this while comatose. From a food coma, of course.ย  First of all, Happy Easter everybody! He has risen indeed, Hallelujah! There are so many reasons to love Easter. The spring vibes, the family time, the great church music, dying eggs, chocolate everything, and the food. Oh god, the food. I decided to celebrate Easter this year by going all out and making an Easter feast…for Mark and myself. It was the first entire holiday meal I’ve ever done while flying solo, it was the first ham I ever cooked, and it wasย so much fun. Here are some details about the meal.

But first, a little shout out. Mark was really sweet and funny leading up to this holiday. He knows about my obsession for mini Cadbury eggs (mentioned here) and for a couple days leading up to today would hide the eggs around the house like little chocolate Easter eggs. He also put a couple of eggs in the grassy center piece, which looked adorable. I of course gobbled them all up before I could take pictures, but it was really sweet to see how I’m rubbing off on him a little. Mark likes holidays but isn’t as big of a die-hard about celebrating them as I am. It was sweet to see him do something he might not normally do, because he knew how much it would mean to me and how much happiness it brings me. I just thought I’d shamelessly plug how great my guy is.

So. Onto the actual meal. For the menu I decided on having a glazed ham, traditional anise bread that my mom always made, cheesy scalloped potatoes, a couple of colorful veggies, and a carrot cake for dessert. Go big or go home, right?

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As I mentioned, I had never made a whole special meal on my own before! And I was so surprised and pleased with how well the whole process unfolded. It’s such a daunting task, making a holiday meal. For one, I was making mostly dishes I had never done on my own before. I was also trying to have them all ready at the same time, a feat seemingly impossible with just one small apartment oven! Looking back, I think the key to success lies in time management and having a general plan for the kitchen. I didn’t make a hardcore plan ahead of time, but I knew what order I was going to tackle the dishes based on how long they took to prep and cook, and how long they could sit out of the oven.

My general plan was get the ham in first, since it would take 5 hours to cook and we wanted to eat at 1 pm. Then I would make the bread, which had a lot of “sit and rise” time, and while that was happening I would bake the cake. When the cake was finished and out to cool I would put in the bread. While the bread was baking I would prep the cheesy potatoes and assemble the cake. When the bread was done I would switch in the potatoes, set the table, glaze the ham, and get dressed.ย  table2.jpg

I actually managed to get everything done in the five hours it took for the ham to finish (I also managed to shower and dry my hair and put real clothes on). And it was all perfect. The bread was exactly how I remembered it, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The cheesy potatoes were creamy. The ham was moist and flavorful. The cake made me want to cry, it was so good.

Mark and I just sat at the table freaking out about how delicious it all was. He told me the meal made him fall in love with me all over again. I said if there was a meal to end wars, it was this one. He had about 3 servings of everything, and then we got to the cake. We’ve both decided it needs to become a yearly tradition, except the cheesy potatoes have to be more regular. And since everything ended up so perfect, we can’t wait to actually host people to share it with next year!

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As far as recipes go: I would love to just do an entire post about the anise bread recipe alone. Maybe I will. This is a dish I inherited from my mom. She makes it every Easter, and it’s maddeningly good. It also made me feel close to home knowing I would be eating what my family was eating. Do some internet research on Anise Bread and I feel like you’ll get the gist of it.

The scalloped potatoes recipe generally adapted from one in this cookbook, which is perfect for a gal living with two very hungry boys. Consider it bookmarked, it’s a fan favorite in our home now.

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For the ham, let me explain. I asked Mark to pick up a ham for Easter, and he bought me a 10 pound cured but completely uncooked piece, straight from the pig from an awesome butcher shop called A Cut Above in Santa Monica. Having never cooked a ham before, even one of the ones from the grocery store that are pre-smoked, I felt a little in over my head. I don’t have a smoker! But I took a deep breath and scoured the world wide web for answers.

I eventually ended up following this advice. I placed the ham in a roasting pan, filled the pan with 1 inch of water, rubbed the ham with a little brown sugar, and let it cook at 350 F for 5 hours. When the kitchen timer had only 30 minutes left, I made a glaze using 3/4th cup brown sugar, 1/4th cup dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar. I coated the ham with the glaze and let it finish on the timer. Before I pulled it out of the oven I checked the internal temperature, and it read 170 or so. I then made the boy cut into it to see if it looked done. It looked good, so we tried some bites. And then we picked our jaws off the ground, proclaimed it ready, and rushed to eat the rest of it.

The carrot cake is my favorite cake in the whole world. It’s another one my mom would make, an adapted version from a recipe called The Commissary Carrot Cake. Everything is from scratch, including the cream cheese frosting. Usually we decorate it with piped carrots, but this year I decided to dye some coconut to look like grass and made a bunny butt out melted chocolate.

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Mark is now asleep on the couch, snoring. I never got around to decorating eggs with him or making him a basket, but that’s okay. I’ll dye eggs tonight so I can eat colorful breakfasts all week long. Silver linings. All things considered, it was the best type of Easter Sunday.

And now, let me attempt to rise from this couch and get something productive done. If Jesus can do it from the grave, so can I. Right?