Getting Ready for the Holiday!

Things are hopping in the Hoppin Meal Plans kitchen.  It’s finally starting to warm here!  Buds in the tree are appearing, the daffodils are starting to bloom, and the players are out on the baseball diamond.  Spring is here!  And in the HMP kitchen, that means two things are coming: farmer’s markets and Easter!

Produce Market

We host Easter at our home, which is no small task when it means cooking for 20+ people.  Fortunately, the family is big into doing pot-luck style holidays, so that means I’m only doing about half the food.  But one oven can’t handle a main dish and sides and all the sides that need to be warmed when they arrive!  So it’s time to call in reinforcements.  Here’s a few tips I’ve learned over the years.

 1. Call in reinforcements.

Growing up, certain dishes always aligned with certain holidays.  On Thanksgiving you had turkey, St. Patrick’s Day was corned beef, and Easter was ham.  The ham still remains the centerpiece of my Easter feast, but it doesn’t have to monopolize my oven anymore!  Bring in the crock pot!

Yes, my favorite small appliance comes to my rescue again as I now use it to cook my ham.  It’s so easy!  Here's how:

Sprinkle about 1 cup of brown sugar on the bottom of the crock pot.

Place a spiral ham cut side down in crock pot.  You'll want to pull the slices apart slightly.

Pour 1/2 cup of honey or maple syrup, a 20 oz can of pineapple chunks (with juice) and an additional cup of brown sugar over the top.

Cover and cook!  It takes about 4 hours on high, 6 -7 on low.

It’s really that easy!  Not only does it free up my oven for other foods, the ham cooks in a warm bath of liquid from the pineapples, honey, and it’s own juices which means – no glazing!  (Plus, the pineapple chunks make an interesting side.)

If you plan to cook a ham in this way, there is one very vital tip to remember – make sure your ham will fit in your crock pot!

2. Use cookware that can be placed on a stove top.

I remember growing up my mother had a hot plate to keep things warm when cooking big meals.  Do they still even make those?  I can’t remember the last time I saw one!

This is one I accidentally realized a few years ago.  Not having a casserole dish large enough for the amount of a side I was making, I used an aluminum pan to cook some vegetables.  When people started to arrive, some dishes needed to be heated, so the vegetables, which were being kept warm in the oven, needed to come out to make room.  I placed it on the top of my oven and realize, I can just use the burner as a pseudo-hot plate! 

I turned the burner on low and placed the pan on top.  Since the pan was longer than the burner, I just turned it every few minutes so the whole dish would stay warm.  When everything was ready, my veggies were still nice and warm, and not over cooked!

I also highly recommend the aluminum pans for cooking. When you’re done, just toss it in the recycling bin – no clean up

3.  Look for things that can be done ahead of time.

I’m so glad Easter is late this year.  Now we’re getting into the time of year that makes me think of picnics and barbecues, so I have no problem adding some cold sides to our celebration.  Cold dishes like salads can be done up early in the day.  Some dishes taste better the second day, like a potato salad after the potatoes and other ingredients have had time to soak up the dressing.  This year, I’m even thinking of adding a nice gazpacho to the mix. 

Gaxpacho

Having complete dishes done early is great, but there are other shortcuts too.  I almost never buy precut vegetables at the grocery, but for a big party like this, if I need something that’s already prepped, I’m grabbing it.  Think about what your grocery store offers and if it will help make your Easter a little easier!

Want to make your holidays even easier?  Who wants to plan a big family feast, and then have to think about what to cook the family for dinner that week?  Check out our store to select a meal plan for the week – recipes and grocery list included!

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