The most special Sunday meal of the year can be simple with my make-ahead secrets.
Of all the holiday meals throughout the year, Easter typically brings families together for the shortest amount of time—usually a lovely afternoon after a church service. I’ve always thought of this day as the most special Sunday of the year—and the most special lunch I get to serve my family. But because the time is short, it’s even more important to do as much as I can ahead of time.
It’s such a joy for me to prepare food and serve the people I love most. I hope these simple tips I’ve picked up over the years will simplify your own Easter weekend entertaining and make it more joyful for you too.
Prep Easter gifts ahead. Though my adult children no longer have Easter baskets, they still receive Easter presents from my husband, George, and me every year when they arrive for Easter lunch. I also choose personalized little gifts for my grandchildren, which is even more fun for me. The gifts are never big—maybe a colorful pair of socks, a bubble wand, or a little bracelet—but I always buy them well ahead of time, tie them up with pretty spring ribbon, and tuck them away in a closet. Then they’re ready to distribute after church when everyone comes over for lunch.
Marinate the ham on Saturday. There’s a simple family glaze recipe I learned growing up for the most delectable Easter ham. Over the years, I’ve tried just about every sort of glaze out there—from the packets that come with a store-bought, spiral-sliced ham to gourmet recipes that have spices galore—but nothing tastes as good to me as this family version with two simple ingredients: cloves and a can of Coca-Cola. That’s right—Coke! Not Diet Coke and not Cherry Coke. Just good, old-fashioned Coca-Cola. Can you believe it?
Here’s what to do: The day before Easter, just press whole cloves into the ham and pour the Coca-Cola over the whole ham. Seal the ham in foil, and refrigerate it overnight. Now, before you serve the ham, heat it at 325º for an hour and half—the perfect amount of time to attend an Easter service. When you return home, you’ll find the most delicious ham encrusted with the savory cloves and sweet Coke, which caramelizes in the heat. You won’t believe how tasty it is!
Use Sister Schubert’s® rolls. Of course, you know my favorite make-ahead tip is to use my freezer-to-oven rolls to complete your Easter menu. Once you remove the ham, your oven will be free for heating Sister Schubert’s Parker House Rolls or Sister Schubert’s Dinner Yeast Rolls, which come in a whole-wheat version too.
The genesis of all my bread products are my Grandmother Gommey’s yeast rolls, which she taught me to make when I was a little girl. I have the happiest memories of making them with her on Easter weekends. I can still remember how happy she looked having her loved ones seated around the dinner table, all laughing and sharing stories. Good memories. Today, serving the rolls that Gommey inspired makes every Easter menu I prepare more meaningful for me, and I’m so happy you can share the same homemade-tasting goodness when you use Sister Schubert’s products at your family gatherings.
Make Easter eggs do double duty. I love to boil eggs ahead of time and then color them for my grandchildren. I write their names on the eggs with a crayon, color them with food coloring (which I find results in richer hues than the dye-kit versions), and set them at their plates as place cards. They just love to come to the Easter table and find their eggs. There’s something special about a child seeing their name at a seat reserved just for them. It shows they truly matter and our family table will always have a place for them. And if they want to add their personalized egg to the plate of deviled eggs I’ve prepared, we just crack the shells, cut them in half, remove the yolks, and fill with the deviled egg filling I’ve prepared ahead of time.
There must be a million recipes for deviled eggs, and most of them are easy to make ahead and keep in the fridge for the big day. However, I have a tip that may just give your eggs the zip they’ve been missing. Lots of fabulous cooks I know add yellow mustard or Dijon mustard to their deviled egg filling, but my family’s secret ingredient is Durkee® Famous Sauce. This tangy sandwich spread adds just the right flavor to my deviled eggs. Whichever recipe you use, simply substitute half of the mayonnaise it calls for with the Durkee sauce.
Make-ahead meals with leftovers. Once family and friends have gone, you’re likely to have ham left over. One of my favorite ways to use it up is to dice it and make an easy ham salad spread. Use it on Sister Schubert’s rolls for an easy lunch, dinner, or even breakfast. See the recipe below!
Of course, having everyone for any meal requires a little planning and prep, but with these tips, I hope you’ll have more than enough time to focus on what’s truly most important—the message of Easter and your family. On this most special Sunday, every minute with those you love counts!
Ham Delights—from Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters (Idea Boutique, 2009)
½ cup butter, softened 2 tablespoons prepared mustard ½ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce 1 tablespoon poppy seeds 3 green onions, chopped 1 pound honey ham, shaved and chopped 6 ounces Swiss cheese, grated 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated 6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated 2 pans Sister Schubert’s® Parker House Yeast Rolls, thawed
Preheat oven to 375º.
Combine butter, mustard, Worcestershire, poppy seeds, and green onions; stir until well mixed. Add ham and cheeses, and mix well.
Remove rolls from pans, and place one teaspoon of filling inside each roll. Return filled rolls to pans, and cover with foil. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until warm. Rolls may be filled ahead of time, covered, and refrigerated until time to heat and serve.
Yield: 32 rolls