This Egg-citing Easter Appetizer is a fun treat and a special surprise for kids and adults alike

This Egg-citing Easter Appetizer is a fun treat and a special surprise for kids and adults alike

A feast to celebrate Easter

From slow-cooker maple-glazed ham to pan-braised Brussels sprouts, Cathi Litzenberger offers up a tasty Easter feast

Happy Easter, happy spring! This morning I can almost hear the squeals from happy children finding Easter eggs in whatever kind of hunt their families have planned for them.

My mind goes back to my own childhood where Easter always brought us each a little nest of candied eggs and a piece of chocolate (a real treat in those days). Mostly though, it was a day for celebrating in the Christian tradition. Church was an absolute and we all dressed in our best clothes, often even with a new Easter hat. It was a happy day following the sad and seriousness that marked the preparation days leading up to Easter Sunday.

Today much of the fuss for Easter will be based on family gatherings, fun and food; and that’s OK. There will be the wonderful smells of freshly baked breads, turkeys, hams or maybe lamb, wafting from countless homes today and there will be family and friends gathering to celebrate life. If you’re still looking for an Easter dessert, a trifle is a perfect light dessert for any special dinner. I like it best with frozen huckleberries (or blueberries) and frozen raspberries sprinkled in layers of angel food cake pieces with the pudding and whipped cream in between. Give it a try; it’s quick and easy to throw together.

Slow Cooker Maple Glazed Ham

1 bone-in ham, fully cooked, about 7 to 8 lbs.

1 cup (250 mL) ready-to-use chicken broth

1/2 cup (125 mL) brown sugar

1/2 cup (125 mL) maple syrup, divided

1/4 cup (60 mL) Dijon mustard

2 cinnamon sticks

12 black peppercorns

8 whole cloves

4 bay leaves

Place the ham in a large slow cooker.

Whisk the broth with the brown sugar, half of the maple syrup and mustard. Slowly pour over the ham. Add cinnamon stick, cloves, black peppercorns and bay leaves to slow cooker. Cook, covered, on low for 6-8 hours, or until ham is tender and internal temperature reaches 140 F.

Pass the cooking liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a saucepan; bring to a boil. Boil for 7 to 10 minutes or until slightly reduced and syrupy. Brush the glaze over the ham. Slice and serve with remaining glaze. Serve warm or room temperature.

Pan-braised Brussels Sprouts

5 slices bacon, cut into small pieces

1 can (284 mL/10 oz.) condensed low-fat cream of chicken soup

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. mustard powder

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and finely sliced (about 4 cups/1 L)

1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage leaves

Cook bacon until crisp, in large non-stick skillet at medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Drain excess fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in skillet.

Stir in soup, lemon juice, mustard powder and pepper. Heat mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 minute. Add Brussels sprouts and sage and stir well. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Recipe tip: Brussels sprouts can be either sliced very finely by hand with a sharp knife or by using the fine slicing blade in a food processor. Two teaspoons of chopped fresh rosemary leaves give another great flavour accent when used in place of the fresh sage.

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

2 tbsp. butter

1 onion, finely diced

2 tbsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 can (284 mL) condensed low-fat cream of celery soup

1 1/2 cups ready-to-use chicken broth

1 tbsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. salt

4 lbs. (1.8 kg) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 8 medium)

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt butter in a saucepan set over medium. Add onion, thyme and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in soup, broth, black pepper, nutmeg and salt. Bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, layer one-third of the potatoes, overlapping slightly, in a greased 9×13-inch (3 L) baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup (75 mL) Gruyere cheese and top with one-third of the broth mixture. Repeat the layers twice. Press down on the potatoes to make sure they are immersed in liquid. Sprinkle the remaining Gruyere cheese and parmesan cheese on top. Cover the surface directly with parchment paper then cover the pan with aluminum foil and place on baking sheet. Bake for 60 minutes; remove aluminum foil and parchment paper. Bake for an additional 60 minutes or until potatoes are tender and cheese has browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe tip: substitute Cheddar cheese or Gouda for the Gruyere, if desired.

Egg-citing Easter Appetizer

6 boiled eggs

2 Tbsp. mayonnaise

2 tsp. yellow mustard

Pinch kosher salt

1 carrot, julienned

12 black peppercorns

Lay an egg on its side and cut a small slice off of the bottom (flatter) end. This is the base of the chick. Then cut about 1/2-3/4 inch off of the top (pointy) end. This end piece is going to be the top of your chick.

Scoop all the yolks out of the eggs (don’t forget the tops, too) and mix them with the mayonnaise, mustard and salt. Put this filling in a plastic bag with the end snipped off, and pipe it into your eggs. Make sure the filling is about an inch taller than the top of the egg white so you will have plenty of room to make a face.

Place the top slice of egg white on each chick.

Use a knife to slice your julienned carrot into pieces 1/2-inch long. Place 2 peppercorns and a piece of carrot into the yolk of each egg to make the face. You may find it easier to use tweezers for these tiny pieces.

Arrange the eggs on your serving tray, then add feet by slipping the remaining slices of carrot under their bodies. Again, tweezers can help with this step. Place 3 pieces together on each side to make the feet.

Serve cold. Best served within 2 hours.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.