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Time to start thinking about Easter dinner


Easter Dinner: What’s on Your Menu?

Harriet Hodgson

Ham is traditional Easter fare. I like ham, but the salt content doesn’t like me, and makes my knees ankles swell. Tempted as I am to serve ham, I’m not going to do it. When I’m planning a holiday dinner, I include a casserole I can make ahead. I also serve a dessert I can make ahead of time. Easter dinner will include bread I make from scratch or Parmesan toast made with store-bought bread.

Before you decide on your Easter menu, you have to decide what kind of meal it will be. Do you want a formal dinner with good china and silver utensils, or do you want a casual buffet? Depending on where you live, Easter dinner may be a picnic on the patio or deck. I live in Minnesota and it will probably be too cold to grill outside. Cost is also a factor.

The Food Network has posted menus on its website and divided them into categories: Springtime Celebration, Simply Southern, Country-Style, Elegant Affair, and Vegetarian. Some menus call for pricey ingredients, such as a leg of lamb. But some people don’t like lamb and you need to keep this in mind. Fortunately, many stores have ham and asparagus specials at Easter time.

I like fixing Easter dinner because it gives me a chance to make a sweet dessert. I’ve served coconut cake, custard pie, and make-your-own sundaes. Think about your favorite recipes and determine if any of them are an ideal match for your holiday dinner. You may want to make things easy for yourself and serve fresh fruit.

The Good Housekeeping Cookbook (I have an older version), has some good menu-planning tips. Select your main dish first, it advises, and choose vegetables second. Most menus have one starchy side dish, according to the cookbook, and you need to think about color when planning a menu. “Plan vegetables that are varied in color,” the cookbook advises. Dessert should balance your main dish and, after a hearty meal, you should serve a light dessert.

You also need to consider the ages of your guests. My twin grandchildren are 20 and eat more food than my husband and me. When I’m making out a menu, I always keep their appetites in mind. Older adults may be put off by a heaping plate of food. Serving buffet-style gives your guests the chance to take as much food as they want and return for seconds, like my grandkids.

Though I haven’t finalized my Easter menu, I’ve decided to serve pork tenderloin because it is versatile, lean, and cooks quickly. I buy pork tenderloin in packages of two at a local discount store. Asparagus with lemon will be the vegetable. I will also make a salad of mixed greens, sliced pears, toasted walnuts, and Roquefort cheese.

To go with these dishes I will serve a rice casserole, probably wild and white rice with caramelized onions, dried cherries, and orange zest. Dessert is my final decision and right now I’m leaning towards lemon angel food cake roll with raspberry sauce. I’ll round out the meal with nibblies and relishes.

Moira Hodgson (not a relative), author of Keeping Company, says you don’t have to get upset at the idea of a dinner party. A former food writer for The New York Times, she thinks entertaining should be enjoyable for guests and host alike. “My first priority is to make sure that I choose menus that I’ll like cooking,” she explains, “and that will allow me to have fun, too, because if I enjoy my own party, then I know at least one person had a good time.”

Easter is coming soon. Plan your dinner now and enjoy every moment of the day.

Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 35+ years and is the author of 30 books. Six of these books are grief resources: “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” Lois Krahn, MD, co-author, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life,” “Writing to Recover Journal,” “101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey,” “The Spiritual Woman: Quotes to Refresh and Sustain Your Soul,” and her latest, “Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss.” Please visit her website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.

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