One thing about the weather: We haven't figured out how to control it, so you never know what's going to be emanating from the heavens on any given holiday. Easter's no exception. We've turned blue (nearly) in Massachusetts in our new bonnets, light jackets and patent leather shoes. We've stripped down to shorts and tank tops to gather melted, ant-infested chocolate eggs in Florida. Thankfully, Easter in Maryland tends to offer weather most of us can handle. Cool enough to get the kids into Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes (even if they're not totally frou-frou dresses or cute little suits) and warm enough to at least have our holiday meal appetizers on the deck.
An almost certain way to make the most of the spring weather this Sunday is to make a late-ish brunch the focal point of the day. Which menu suggestion we offer here. This one's designed for kids and their parental units and allows time for an Easter egg hunt between the appetizers/main course and dessert. (Easter egg hunts are like trick or treat; the sweeties have to have something "decent" in their stomachs before they start with the candy. Right? )
Since you'll be focusing a lot of attention on the egg hunt preparations, we try for simplicity here. Go ahead and use pretty paper and plastic products instead of the good china. Of course, fresh flowers arranged here and there are always a welcome sight to all generations.
We begin with berry smoothies accompanied by corny blueberry muffins. The "big" folks can have mimosas, of course.
Our main course is upscale grilled sandwiches, aka croque monsieurs (pronounced in French as "croak mere-sures). This version features ham, which you can get from a spiral-sliced specimen. We also recommend serving bacon and sausage links, plus broiled grapefruit, a great way to get some vitamin C into them.
After the egg hunt, we provide a chocolate bundt cake, which can be made the day before, perhaps after you've decorated the hard-cooked eggs for the hunt.
If the weather's good, crank up the grill and fix another sweet treat: Peeps s'mores, made from graham crackers, chocolate squares and gushy-soft Peeps chickens or bunnies. Messy, but fun. We like them with dark chocolate because it isn't as sweet as milk chocolate. Don't forget to buy extra napkins.
4 cups 1 percent milk
2 cups frozen raspberries
2 cups raspberry sorbet
2 (8-ounce) containers fat-free vanilla yogurt
Fresh raspberries and/or mint sprigs, garnish
In your blender, in batches, puree all ingredients. Pour into a large pitcher and chill until serving time. Serve in chilled glasses/plastic cups Garnish with fresh berries and/or mint. Makes 8 or more servings.
Corny blueberry muffins
If you feel you must, make these ahead, cool completely, wrap securely and refrigerate. Warm gently in microwave oven before serving, with soft unsalted butter if you wish.
P.S. If you have mini muffin tins, try those. Little muffins for little fingers.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons (5 teaspoons) finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted, cooled
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
1 whole egg
2 cups blueberries, picked over
2 to 3 tablespoons coarse sugar, for sprinkling over muffins
You're making about 16 muffins, so use two tins. Arrange paper or foil liner cups in muffin tins. To help muffins cook more evenly, separate liners as much as possible. Add a little water to one of the empty cups in each tin; helps keep muffins moist while baking.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. In another bowl, whisk together melted, cooled butter, milk, egg yolks and the whole egg. Stir into flour mixture until just combined (may be a little lumpy). Gently stir in blueberries.
Divide batter among muffin cups, so they are a generous two-thirds full. Bake on upper and lower racks for 10 minutes. Switch muffin pans on racks and just before closing oven door again, sprinkle tops evenly with the coarse sugar. Bake about 7 minutes longer, until tops are golden and a tester (bamboo skewer works well) comes out clean. Remove to a cooling rack. Wait 3 minutes. Remove muffins from tins. Serve warm, or cool completely, wrap and store until just before serving time (see above). Makes about 16.
Think savory stuffed French toast. Don't forget the sausage links and crisp bacon on the side.
P.S. For a croque madame, substitute thinly sliced chicken for the ham. Or do some of each.
For the broiled grapefruit, heat broiler. Use 4 or 8 (most guest will only want a half of a grapefruit) pink grapefruits. Cut each in half and use a serrated grapefruit knife to loosen sections in skin, but leave sections where they are. Place on baking sheet(s). Sprinkle each half with 1/2 teaspoon granulated light brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon orange liqueur, e.g. Grand Marnier. Broil for about 6 minutes, until grapefruit is thoroughly heated.
For the croque monsieurs
2 loaves regular size French (or Italian) bread (not baguettes)
8 teaspoons honey mustard (or use coarse Dijon)
16 very thin slices ham
16 very thin slices Swiss cheese
About 1 cup 2 percent milk
6 large egg whites
About 4 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
Confectioners sugar, for dusting, optional
Heat oven to 250 degrees.
Cut bread into 2-inch wide slices, using the larger areas of bread for the slices. With a sharp knife, cut a pocket in each 2-inch slice almost down to the bottom crust. Gently open each pocket and spread a teaspoon of mustard on each open side of the bread. Tuck 2 ham slices and 2 Swiss cheese slices into each pocket, pressing gently to close pockets.
In a shallow bowl, whisk together milk and egg whites. In a large non-stick skillet, over medium-high, heat butter. Dunk two sandwiches lightly in milk/egg mixture (don't get them too soppy) and place in skillet. Brown quickly, turning once, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a cookie sheet and place in heated oven.
Repeat with remaining 6 sandwiches. If desired, sift a bit of confectioners sugar over each sandwich, before cutting in half (on the diagonal) and serving. Makes 8 croque monsieurs.
Chocolate bundt cake
This recipe is designed for a 6-cup bundt cake pan, which is smaller than normal. If you don't have one, use a 9-inch round cake pan. To serve either, cut into slices (when cool) and arrange on dessert plates. Spoon on some vanilla ice cream (or gelato), add a couple of fresh strawberries, partially sliced at bottom to create fans. Yum.
Softened butter (or shortening) and flour for preparing pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso granules
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Butter and flour pan, shaking off excess flour. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and whisk well. Add softened butter, egg whites and egg and with a mixer at low speed, beat 1 minute. Increase mixer speed to high and beat 1 minute longer. Add milk, espresso and vanilla. Beat 1 minute. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester (toothpick, bamboo skewer) inserted near center comes out clean. Remove to cooling rack and cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Wrap well to keep moist. Slice just before serving, as suggested above. Makes about 10 small-ish servings.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun