Retro Recipes - Easter Dinner

Easter-y Good!!
Happy Easter!  I hope that you have been enjoying the long weekend, the great food, and hopefully, somewhat Spring-like weather.  And of course, quality time with family and friends.

Growing up, Easter was a holiday filled with religious meaning.  Starting on Palm Sunday, we would have lots to do at our church.  As children, we would be involved in distributing the palm crosses; often, the organist would play joyful music as the children paraded throughout the aisles holding palm leaves aloft and handing out the crosses.  This exercise was to emulate Christ's joyful entry into into Jerusalem, and is a contrast to the somber ceremonies held on Good Friday commemorating when he was crucified.  My participation in Good Friday services started as a young adult, when I was old enough to participate in the Senior Choir at our church.  The Inner City Churches of the Sydney area would hold a four hour service and local clergy would preach on the last words of Christ.  The participating choirs would, of course, contribute suitable musical accompaniment and lead the hymn singing.

Saturday was a break from the religious festival, and the day when we would enjoy some of the more secular traditions associated with Easter.  Dying eggs, making crafts, and cooking often took place on Saturday.

Sunday morning started early for there was a lot to do!  But we always had time for our annual family Easter Egg Hunt!  Since it is not unusual in Cape Breton to awake Easter morning to a snowstorm, the Easter Bunny had to hide our eggs inside the house.  One memorable year when we were quite young, the Bunny left a few baskets hidden in the woods behind my grandfather's house, and we had to don our snowsuits and venture out into the snow to locate them.  Important work, this!  Curiously, Santa once crashed his sleigh not far from where the Bunny left his baskets behind and we were also called out on an important retrieval mission.  I wonder....

Once the eggs were all located and counted it was time to hurry hurry hurry, as we had to be out the door to get to church for the early Easter morning service. Since we would be singing with the Junior Choir, we couldn't eat any chocolate before church.  This, and the early morning communion service, never really bothered us since after the early service came the best thing of all...Easter breakfast!  The people of our church always brought forth a wonderful array of muffins, cheese, coffeecakes, fruit, jello, lots and lots of fabulous things that we'd NEVER have for breakfast any other day.  I swear this is where my love of cornbread stems from.  After breakfast there was a quick choir practice and then the main service.

After this long morning, we were always hungry and ready for our Easter lunch (despite having eaten our weight in quickbreads just a few short hours before!)  Often we had a turkey dinner; this was our family's celebration dinner of choice.  Occasionally we had ham or roast beef.  I seem to recall a few years when the weather was really lovely Dad barbecued.  Regardless of what was served, we had a wonderful time and were so happy to still have a day and a half left before we had to go back to school.

Last Easter I was in Regina for my husband's graduation.  We went to the graduation service at the RCMP chapel and then had breakfast in the mess.  Later in the afternoon we nibbled on munchies at his graduation wine and cheese.  I'm sure at one point we ate supper but it's such a blur now I honestly don't remember what I had.

This year, of course, we are far away from home, but we have each other and lots of new friends.  And so, I've decided to go all out and prepare a retro fabulous traditional Easter lunch for four. I may be a bit mad to attempt this since we are also moving into a new house this week, but my theory is if I give myself a deadline, I will be motivated to get everything done!  We'll see how that goes!

As you know, I am writing this post in advance.  While I have great faith in my internet provider, on the off chance that I am still offline today, I am preparing this post in advance and scheduling it to post.  If this happens, I promise pictures of my feast just as soon as I'm online again.  In the meantime, I will share with you my menu and the recipes I'm planning to use. 

In the interest of time and sanity, I have decided to make the cake the night before (many sites I visited suggested it's actually better this way.)  As well, I'm doing the potatoes in the slow cooker so that only the ham needs to go in the oven.  The potatoes have a cheese-free option, so if I want scalloped potatoes on the day instead that's what I'll do.  I decided on peas for my other vegetable because they are simple and easy to make; given that the rest of the meal is pretty heavy, I think it will be fine to go with simple peas.

Obviously, this menu has a distinct 1950's vibe, and I'm totally embracing it.  While I normally try to cook and eat "clean," every so often you need to get out the sugar and white flour and have yourself a time!  I looked for recipes that used styles, methods, and ingredients that would've been en vogue in the fifties. As soon as I read that the ham used a can of Sprite, it was in!  I also knew when I started searching that I wanted my ham to be studded with pineapple rings and cherries, and that I wanted cherries on my pineapple upside down cake too!  And since I'm serving this meal at lunch, I'm playing around with the idea of serving a vintage-y good mocktail, like Shirley Temples or Ginger Ale and White Grape Juice (my Aunt Irene used to make this for us and it's soooo good.  And my dad always ordered us Shirley Temples with lots of swords and stuff at restaurants.)  I recently read about someone serving Shirley Temples for a "grown up" event but I can't remember who it was.

In the most recent issue of Everday with Rachel Ray there is an article about Donatella Arpaia, a Manhattan chef, restaurateur, and author.  In the article Donatella talks about how she like to serve meals "family style," that is, by placing food in large bowls and platters and letting guests serve themselves. I like this approach because guests can pick and and choose what they like and how much they want, thus preventing that awkward moment at the end of the meal when someone has left all their peas on their plate. Also, people can help themselves to seconds (and thirds and fourths!) without having to ask or be asked.  And again, it's very retro! So I'm going to be serving my Easter Dinner family style.

Here's hoping the "family" doesn't have to gather around a packing box!  Happy Easter!  And remember, it's another short week!

Update - Great news - I'm back online!  

My final menu included the scalloped potato version of the au gratin recipe, and the vegweb cake, as well as ginger ale & white grape juice mocktails, and sauvignon blanc.

Yummy Pineapple Upsidedown Cake
  Everything was delicious, although I would like to play with the potato recipe a bit; it tasted good but not really like scalloped potatoes.  I cooked it over 10 hours, next time I think I will use a shorter setting.  In addition, I would be interested to try the au gratin version.  In the meantime, if you have a slow cooker scalloped potato recipe I'd love to hear it; it certainly made getting the meal on the table a piece of cake.  And speaking of cake, I'm seriously in love with vegweb's Pineapple Upsidedown Cake. The recipe uses no eggs, milk, or butter; it does use the juice from the can of pineapple and the result is a sweet, moist cake that is soooo yummy.  I used pineapple rings and cherries to get the full  effect, but you could use chunks and it would still be mighty tasty!

My beautiful ham
 The ham recipe was amazing!  I was so impressed with this!  I used yellow sugar and pineapple in juice (couldn't find it in syrup) so my glaze was probably thinner than the one in the recipe, but it was still great! I will definitely be adding this to my special occasion menu list!

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