published Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Easy Easter: Dishes that will impress without the stress

Cheesy bacon and egg brunch casserole
Cheesy bacon and egg brunch casserole
photo: McCormick Kitchen

Company coming Sunday for an Easter meal?

No cook wants to be confined to the kitchen when all the action is happening outside at the kids’ egg hunt or the family is laughing and talking out of earshot in another room of the house. The solution is a make-ahead menu that will impress with less stress on the cook.

When Times Free Press readers were asked on Facebook about their favorite Easter dishes, over half named choices that can be made ahead of Sunday’s meal. And, of course, eggs were the star of the day.

“Deviled eggs!” was Junior Achievement employee Stephanie Blaine’s quick reply.

“Baked ham, deviled eggs, potato salad and green beans” are on Hamilton County teacher Ouida Bianco’s holiday menu.

“Deviled eggs and carrot cake,” says retired Hamilton County teacher Sandy Norris.

Others named family favorites — dishes that have become tradition so it just wouldn’t be Easter without them.

“We almost always have baked ham,” says East Brainerd resident Barbara Howard. “The sides may vary depending on family requests.”

Signal Mountain resident Tina Hullender makes “new potato salad (leave the red skins on) with sour cream, a little mayo, chopped fresh parsley, slivered onions, salt and pepper. Yum. And it looks pretty, too.”

“Eggs au gratin and homemade cinnamon buns” were favorites of Maura Lambert, an employee of marketing company Click Click Boom.

“I always make homemade orange rolls, carrying on a tradition started by my grandmother in Idaho when I was a child. They are similar to cinnamon rolls, but with a filling that includes orange zest, a little cream cheese, powdered sugar and orange juice,” says Chattanoogan Rae Bond.

McCormick Kitchens suggests the following brunch recipes that incorporate Easter’s eggs or ham in a new way. They can be made ahead, allowing the hostess time with others instead of her oven on Easter morning.

Cheesy Bacon and Egg Brunch Casserole

8 slices bacon

1 cup chopped onion

1 loaf Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 5 cups)

2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup cottage cheese

5 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

2 teaspoons ground mustard

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmegHeat oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon in large skillet until crisp; drain on paper towels, crumble and set aside.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons drippings from skillet. Add onion to skillet, cook and stir 3 minutes or until softened.

Spread half of bread cubes in 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Layer with 1/2 each onion, bacon, cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese Spread evenly with cottage cheese. Top with remaining bread cubes, onion, bacon, cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese.

Beat eggs in medium bowl with wire whisk. Add milk, mustard, pepper and nutmeg; mix well. Gradually pour into baking dish. Press bread cubes lightly into egg mixture until completely covered. Let stand 10 minutes.

Bake 40-50 minutes or until center is set and top is golden brown,.

Note: To make day ahead, prepare casserole as directed, increasing milk to 2 cups. Cover and store in refrigerator. Remove cover and bake as directed.

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    Mini ham and egg quiche
    Photo by photo: McCormick Kitchen

Mini Ham And Egg Quiches

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

2 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves

4 ounces goat cheese

8 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon tarragon leaves

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon Sicilian sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground

12 thin slices Black Forest ham

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in large, nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add shallot; cook and stir 2 minutes or until softened. Add spinach, cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or just until wilted. Remove from heat. Add goat cheese to spinach mixture; stir until well-blended and melted.

Mix eggs, tarragon, thyme, sea salt and pepper in medium bowl until well-blended. Add spinach mixture and mix well.

Generously spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Press a slice of ham into each cup, pleating as needed to fit cup. Pour egg mixture evenly into each cup.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until eggs are set. Run small knife or spatula around each cup to loosen mini quiches. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Egg and spinach mixtures may be prepped the night before so they can be quickly assembled and baked Easter morning.

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    Overnight french toast
    Photo by Photo: McCormick Kitchen

Overnight French Toast

5 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 loaf Italian bread, cut into 8 slices, each 1-inch thick

1 16-ounce package frozen whole strawberries, thawed

4 ripe bananas, sliced

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar

Mix eggs, milk, vanilla and baking powder. Pour over bread to soak; turn to coat well. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Mix strawberries, bananas and granulated sugar in 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Top with soaked bread slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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    Honey-ginger fruit salad
    Photo by Photo: McCormick Kitchen

Honey-Ginger Fruit Salad

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

2 cups cubed melon (honeydew and/or watermelon)

2 cups seedless red grapes, halved

1 pint strawberries, halved

Mix honey, lemon juice and ginger in small bowl until well blended to make dressing.

Place fruit in large serving bowl, preferably clear to display colorful fruit mixture. Add dressing and toss gently to coat.

Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, or overnight, until ready to serve.

  • photo
    Easter egg cake bites
    Photo by photo: McCormick Kitchen

Easter Egg Cake Bites

Cake bites:

1 package (2-layer size) white cake mix

2 teaspoons pure lemon extract

Food colors and egg dye

1 cup marshmallow creme

1 14-ounce bag white confectionary coating wafers

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons water

Prepare cake mix as directed on package, adding lemon extract and desired food color. Bake as directed on package for 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Crumble cake into large bowl. Add marshmallow creme, mix until well blended. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls then roll to form an egg shape. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Melt coating wafers as directed on package. Using a fork, dip one cake bite at a time into the confectionary coating. Tap back of fork 2 or 3 times against edge of dish to allow excess to drip off. Place cake bites on wax paper-lined tray.

For the glaze, mix confectioners’ sugar and water in small bowl until well blended. Tint with desired food color. Using a fork, drizzle glaze over cake bites. Let stand until glaze is set.

Note: This is a fun project for children, assisted by an adult, that can easily be done the day before Easter.

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    Easy mini cheesecakes
    Photo by photo: McCormick Kitchen

Easy Mini Cheesecakes

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

12 vanilla wafers

1 cup fresh berries

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and extracts, beat well,

Line 12 muffin cups with paper baking cups. Place a wafer in bottom of each muffin cup. Spoon batter into each cup, filling each two-thirds full.

Bake 22-24 minutes or until centers are almost set. Cool in pan on wire rack. Mini cheesecakes will deflate in center upon cooling.

Refrigerate overnight. Garnish tops with fresh berries before serving.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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