getting ready for easter

As my children have constantly reminded me over the last couple of weeks, another holiday is right around the corner. It seems like they are always counting down to the next holiday that either brings with it sweet treats, presents, or days off from school.

But who am I kidding? I look forward to those special days, too.

Easter is on April 24th this year, and I am very ready to spend the day with my family. We have a relatively new Easter tradition of heading out to my folks’ house for an Easter egg hunt. We’ll wake up early that day and watch the kids run to see what the Easter Bunny has brought. Without fail, he brings a new cuddly stuffed rabbit for each child. And, without fail, he brings candy. The Easter Bunny has tried sneaking actual hard-boiled eggs into the baskets, but the eggs get ignored, and I get an egg salad sandwich the next day. Thank goodness I like egg salad. Later that morning, we’ll head out to my parents’ place, the kids with their emptied-out baskets in hand, all ready to fill them with colorful plastic, jelly bean-filled eggs.

And my favorite part — Easter dinner. Our menu isn’t set yet, but in keeping with tradition, the menu will definitely feature a ham as the main dish.

Recently, some very nice people at Pepperidge Farm contacted me with a challenge. Which I accepted. The challenge? My task is to help families enjoy an elevated experience when gathering for special occasion meals – like the Easter dinner.

Which, by the way, is April 24.

So, I’m asking you to help me with this challenge. What tips do you have for making holiday dinners special? Do you break out the fine china? Serve drinks in crystal goblets? Make a special dish? Please share with me all of your special occasion dinner secrets in the comments.


{Disclaimer: Pepperidge Farm provided me with compensation for this project and this post. My opinions, however, are completely my own.}
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15 Responses to “getting ready for easter”

  1. 1
    Flavia — April 15, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

    Hi Merry, My family is Italian (on both sides) so big family dinners were the norm when I was growing up. Holidays and special occasions (baptisms, first holy communion, confirmation, birthdays, showers) were of course, the biggest of the family gatherings. The best tip I have to offer for any family gathering is to have multiple members of the family participate in preparing the meal so that it all doesn’t land on one person. If my parents were hosting at our family home, they would prepare the main course and maybe one or two side dishes. One of my aunts is a fabulous bread baker, so she would always bring several loves of her “feather bread”, another one of my aunts is an excellent cook all-around and she would bring side dishes and/or appetizers. My late maternal grandmother “Nonna” Liliana would bring her famous “crostata di confettura” (Jam Tart). Cooking for a gathering was truly a family affair! Alternately, if all the cooking was done at our house, the adults who knew how to cook were always helping, and that included doing the dishes before, during and after the food preparation. We’d have music playing or a sports game on the TV (watched mainly by the men!) and lots of talking and laughing going on. Having everyone contribute to a family holiday meal isn’t only a great way to get help, but it’s also a wonderful way to create lovely memories. And I believe it’s especially important for young children to see their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents all involved in the making of a family meal, because it’s also memories in the making and sets lifelong family traditions that they will someday continue in their homes.

    • 1.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — April 16, 2011 @ 8:12 am

      Those are wonderful tips, Flavia. We do a similar thing – enlisting various family guests to bring some of the side dishes or desserts. It’s wonderful because everyone gets to feel that they contributed. And you’re right – great memories can be built from these experiences. Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2
    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — April 15, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

    My dining room has seen far more use as a photography studio than it has seen for an eating space in the past 19 years but I still do use it for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. And yes, I go all out typically. Tablecloth, a centerpiece in keeping with the season and and usually my good Lenox china and serving pieces. Why have it if I don’t bother. My kids hate it because cleanup is a bit harder but it’s so seldom, I don’t mind washing my good crystal by hand to be able to celebrate the effort of the prepared meal with some style.

    One thing that became a family tradition my grown children look forward to even today…is this breakfast using hard boiled eggs. It began as a dish to use up eggs but we love it and it’s now a tradition even when I don’t have to boil and color eggs for their baskets:

    • 2.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — April 16, 2011 @ 8:14 am

      Barbara – I think you’re right about going all out with the china and tablecloths. It really makes the meal a truly special occasion. And I love your tradition of using hard boiled eggs for your breakfast!

  3. 3
    Aunt Darlene — April 15, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

    Always have ham. Since my cousin Terry give me at Christmas a $100 gift certificate to Honey Baked Ham, I use it at Easter. You can’t go wrong with the spiral cut ham. Amy, Karen & I decide what we will make. We always have potato salad, deviled (dressed) eggs, green bean casserole, mac & cheese. Sometimes we have marinated veggie salad, broccoli casserole, sweet potato souffle. Jason & Karen graciously host the holiday meals in their large home and the good china and crystal is used. Oh, we can’t forget about the desserts. Of course, the tradition has always been to fill MANY plastic eggs filled with candy or money. The men hid the eggs outside while we make sure there’s no peaking from the five children. Family being together is always a blessing. Of course, Easter means a lot to Christians.

    • 3.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — April 16, 2011 @ 8:15 am

      Darlene – Family is SO important, and it’s wonderful that you can all get together that day. Hope you all have a great Easter!

  4. 4
    Lana — April 15, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

    We are not believers, but we celebrate Easter in in the eastern Orthodox (Serbian) tradition, which is my heritage:)
    I color the eggs (usually in onion skins, for different shades of brown) on Good Friday, and we have an “egg war” for Sunday breakfast: the winning egg is saved, the ones that lost are eaten along with spring onions, radishes, freshly baked bread, and farmers’ cheese.
    Families exchange the eggs between each other (usually at church).
    Easter dinner is usually roasted young lamb or a piglet, with bibb lettuce dressed with a vinaigrette, spring onions and radishes, new roasted potatoes and fresh bread.
    As a finish, there is a dessert, open to choices:)
    We celebrate this holiday as the arrival of spring and the new beginning. No presents, no egg hunts (at least not traditionally – as I live in the U.S., we have hidden eggs every single year:), no jelly beans:) But a lot of beautiful eggs:)

    • 4.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — April 16, 2011 @ 8:16 am

      I love hearing about other traditions! Thanks so much for sharing, Lana. I’d love to see some of the eggs you all decorate and color with onion skins. I bet they’re gorgeous.

  5. 5
    Steph — April 15, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

    Growing up I spent most holidays at my Italian grandparents’ home, where the whole family would gather to eat, drink, talk, and eventually play cards or board games.
    Since grandma passed away 9 years ago much has changed. I met my husband and had a baby, and most holidays now are spent with his family. They are smaller affairs, but no less filled with food!
    While Thanksgiving is all about turkey and sides, Christmas about the roast, pasta and shrimp cocktail, Easter is all about ham and desserts. My Italian grandma went all out each Easter to the extent that I felt the actual dinner suffered. There was Easter bread, egg biscuits, boiled biscuits, rice pies, ricotta pies, rice and ricotta pies, and of course the Italian Easter pie.
    It is quiche-like, though grandma’s was heavier on the dried sausage and cheese, lighter on the egg. She baked it in a square Pyrex baking dish, pie crust on the bottom, lattice on top.
    My husband’s Irish mother makes a similar concoction, taught to her by her Italian MIL. The biggest difference is in the name; theirs is ‘pizzagaina’.
    Online these days I find references to ‘pizzagaina’ and ‘shadone’. Obviously something was lost in translation. With my new family, I’m hoping to resurrect these recipes with the hand-written cards in grandma’s scrawl as a guiding light.

    • 5.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — April 16, 2011 @ 8:18 am

      Steph, those traditional Italian Easter dishes sound incredible. I’m intrigued by the Easter pie. If you make it, please post about it! And you are so lucky to have your grandmother’s hand-written recipe cards. Such a treasure!

  6. 6
    Aggie — April 16, 2011 @ 10:35 am

    Easter is one of my most treasured holidays. It just brings me such happy memories. We usually spend it with my parents, grandparents and siblings…and it’s so much fun now with the kids to have an egg hunt around the house and yard. Of course we love to color our eggs, that might be one of my favorite things to do with the kids. The Easter bunny always brings us a new Disney movie each year (he knows we are trying to grow our collection). We usually have a wonderful Italian meal with my family. Over the last couple of years I’ve made the Italian Easter bread that my grandmother always made when I was young but no longer makes. I love that Easter bread. 🙂

  7. 7
    Aggie — April 16, 2011 @ 10:38 am

    PS…that is the sweetest picture ever. 🙂

  8. 8
    Gail — April 16, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

    There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to make and eat lemon desserts.
    I’ll pipe some meringue baskets or cups and bake them slowly, then fill with lemon curd. Or maybe a lemony baked pudding cake….I just know lemon looks beautiful on my good dishes.

  9. 9
    Martha — April 16, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

    We always eat holiday dinners at the dining room table, set with sterling silver flatware and flow blue china. We have a mid-afternoon dinner, as did my Eastern/Southern family growing up. All these elements set the meal apart from regular dinners and add to the memories.

  10. Pingback: tips for dressing up holiday dinners | the merry gourmet

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