easter-Optimized-Optimized.jpgFor many of us, spring break is just around the corner, and this year it blends right into Easter weekend as well. I always look forward to the kids having time off of school and I think my main reason for this is I get a break from making school lunches. I know I’m not the only mom who loves having this break.

There’s a downfall to not having to make school lunches though, and that is that I have to feed my kids lunches at home, which means more time in the kitchen. One of the other things I like about breaks from school is that the home atmosphere is just so much more relaxed, if only the sun will decide to grace us with it’s presence too.

Blended right into spring break this year for many people is the Easter long weekend, which means maybe you’re hosting a large family dinner and possibly guests from out of town. Hosting large meals can be super stressful, especially if you’re not prepared or organized to do so. I love cooking a big meal for family and friends. For me it’s a way for me to show them how much I appreciate and care for them. Having family stay at your house is another ball game though, because it’s not just a lunch or dinner you have to cook, but possibly three meals a day.

Breakfast

I love cooking breakfast foods. It’s so easy to make, people always love a good breakfast and the house smells so inviting after cooking a big feast. Some of our household favourites are buttermilk pancakes and waffles, baked french toast, homemade hashbrowns and my kids of course have to have bacon. I also recently found at my local butcher some delicious turkey sausages which I loved. To do all my favourite breakfast cooking, it’s always nice to have the right kitchen accessories. A waffle maker and a big griddle for pancakes is a must have for me.

If you’ve never tried baked french toast then I suggest you make it right away. It’s definitely not the healthiest of breakfasts, but for a treat on a Sunday morning, or when you have guests visiting, it’s a must have.

This recipe from alaskamom.com is the one to try, and the pecans give it a little something extra.

Overnight French Toast
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Ingredients:
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
10 slices of thick-cut french bread
8 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pecans, measured then chopped
maple syrup and/or powdered sugar for topping (optional)

Directions:
In a small bowl, combine melted butter and brown sugar. Pour on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.
Arrange slices of bread in the baking dish, overlapping if necessary.
Combine eggs, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a bowl and pour evenly over bread slices.
Sprinkle chopped pecans over bread slices.
Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4-12 hours.
In the morning, take the baking dish out of the refrigerator and let sit on the counter for at least 10 minutes – while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. If the top starts browning too quickly, place a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top of the pan for the last 10 minutes or so.

You want it to cook long enough to make sure the bottom part is cooked, but don’t dry it out completely.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving. Serve with maple syrup and/or powdered sugar, if desired.

Lunch

Lunch has always been my toughest meal of the day to fit in. I find if I have a late breakfast then I’m not hungry at lunch, but will get hungry for dinner earlier. Or sometimes I just feel like something on the lighter side, and if it’s an ugly rainy day out then soup is usually my go to lunch. I always have to have some butter toast or even a grilled cheese for dunking too.

In my house, soups are always homemade and in a stock pot so there’s plenty of leftovers, and my boys love the always classic chicken noodle. I always cook it from scratch using organic chicken stock and season to taste with salt and pepper, here’s my recipe:

Chicken Noodle Soup

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Ingredients:
8 Cups of water
Chicken bouillon to match water measurement or to taste
3 stalks of diced celery
3 carrots diced
1 small onion peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic
5-6 chicken thighs
1/2 lb uncooked pasta
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large pot and saute the onion, garlic, carrots and celery about 3 minutes or until tender
Pan fry the chicken thighs until cooked through, remove from pan, dice into small chunks
Add the chicken, chicken bouillon and water and bring to a boil
Add the dry pasta to the soup and simmer until pasta is cooked through
Salt and pepper to taste and if you’re feeling adventurous a pinch of chili powder too. My sons love it this way.

Dinner

We don’t usually have anything specific or traditional for Easter dinner, but when I have guests over I try to make meals that are easy to make and preferrably in one pan. One of my go to’s is chicken pot pie, and I have yet to meet someone that doesn’t love it. It’s warm, creamy and the pastry finishes it off nicely. It’s always good to have a few nice pie dishes in case you need to make more than one, or if you need one for dinner and one for dessert.

I got this recipe from a friend of mine years ago and it’s the best I’ve tried.

Chicken Pot Pie

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Ingredients:
1 carrot diced
1/2 C frozen corn
1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 3/4 C chicken broth
1/3 C milk
2 1/2 – 3 C cooked diced chicken
2 pie crusts – homemade or store brought

Directions

Melt butter and add flour, salt and pepper
Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk stirring constantly until misture is thickened and bubbly
Remove from heat and stir in chicken and carrots
Cook at 425 for 35 min

Dessert

Last but not least you can’t have a delicious dinner without an amazing dessert to finish it off. There are so many one pan desserts you can make. Our favourites are fruit crisps and pies. If you’re doing a chicken pot pie dinner you may want to stick with the pie theme. My favourite pie has to be blueberry, and they will be in season in a few short months. Until then I’ll stick with warm fruit crisps that are so easy to make with frozen berries. I usually bake them in one of my many Pyrex dishes. They look really pretty in the clear glass as well.

This summer berry crisp by epicurious.com will finish off your meal nicely, especially serrved with vanilla whipped cream or ice cream.

Summer Berry Crisp

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Ingredients:
2 cups blueberries
2 cups blackberries
2 cups raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flou
1/4 teaspoon cinnamonCrisp topping
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch Pyrex pie plate.
Gently combine the berries with the sugar, flour and cinnamon; place in the prepared pie plate.
Prepare the topping: Combine the oats, flour, both sugars and salt in a bowl. Use a pastry blender or 2 knives to work in the butter until topping resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle evenly over the berries. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet.

Bake in the center of the oven until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 1 hour. Remove the crisp to a rack to cool slightly.

Hopefully some of these recipes will make your March or Easter break a little less stressful. I know my main goal when I entertain is to fill everyone’s tummy with good food, but to also be able to enjoy spending time with my guests too. With my Sunday breakfasts, it’s an easy way to get the family to sit down together and have a meal.

Chicken soup image @ www.wikipedia.org

Chicken pot pie image @ www.dishmaps.com

Title image @ www.lilmonkeys.ca