Inspiring Easter Side Dishes

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“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Charles M. Schulz

 

As we finish the season of Lent, the phone numbers of chocolatiers may be on speed dial for some of us.

For our home, we had “40 Days of Health,” where we focused on not only nutrition, but also on our physical health and good food choices. Should we only have toast in the morning, or can we add fruit to our breakfast as well? For lunch, maybe a sandwich is more sustainable than a corn dog? Dinners were seen in a better proportion of meat and vegetables, rather than being carb-heavy for convenience.

Also, believe it or not, we have all been exercising more regularly. Even to the point that we are enjoying it!

These times of discipline teach us many things in life, particularly where we can improve on. It is so easy to get into a slump in our day to day agendas. During times, such as Lent, we can look forward to periods of pruning the lazy, distracted parts of our lives and refocus on being deliberate and enthusiastic about what we are doing!

And it is so nice to feast together at the end of it!!

1) Easter Appetizers

Appetizers are the ice breakers for a meal.  They set the mood for the table, and invite your guests to relax before sitting down. And when it comes to breaking the ice…if you have never served your guests smoked salmon bites with horseradish, then now is your time to shine. I might enjoy the looks on my guests’ faces when they bite into the horseradish…a little too much. But I love, love, when they reach for another!

2) Southern Easter Side Dishes

I don’t mean to be too pedantic about this, but the while the roast is the main character of the meal, the side dishes are definitely the stars that stand out. This year, why not shake things up a little bit and try something from the south? From cheese grits soufflé with mushroom gravy, to hot potato salad…the south will never let you down with down home cooking!

3) Easter Side Dishes To Compliment Lamb

Although ham has become the popular main course for Easter dinner, lamb has been a traditional dish for hundreds of years. However, you can’t just serve side dishes that go with ham, such as baked beans or creamed peas. Try your hand at side dishes that compliment the rich, savory flavors of lamb!

4) Easter Salad Ideas

The problem I have with holiday meals is making things a little too heavy. Sure, au gratin potatoes are fantastic, but a delightful salad on the side will help you from falling asleep after dinner. I have to admit that Martha Stewart kinda knocks it out of the park with these salad ideas. Surprise, surprise.

5) Easter Desserts To Lift The Hearts

Celebrating the end of Lent with desserts?? I don’t mind if I do! Honestly, the speckled malted coconut cake with the same colorings as a robin’s egg sold me immediately. Or the blackberry lime creampuffs, which may tempt me a bit too much. But I concede that the swirled meringues with blueberry sauce must be my favorite. With 75 choices, I am not entirely sure how I am going to pick!

Harvard Bound. For Serious.

There really is just no way to make this real to me, so I am going to just keep on going like it is normal, at this point.

However, I have scheduled myself for 2 classes out of Harvard this summer. They are paid for, and I have a schedule.

One class I am beside myself excited to death over, because it is a literature course covering American poetry ranging from the Civil War to Modernism. Which are my jams. That is the period of history that resonated with me the most, and through which I saw the biggest transitions in American history.

From the art world turning from Romanticism, to Rococo, to Classicism….to Impressionist, to Cubism…the artist was able to see the world from a completely different perspective than any other time. It was revolutionary for the world of art.

Similarly, literature was coming out of a time when authors were trying to tell the stories of the events around them, such as Mark Twain or Henry James. Suddenly, you have this influx of shifting character studies from Kate Chopin. Edith Wharton wrote about what she saw in her elite life in “The Age of Innocence,” and “The House of Mirth,” but she also wrote “Ethan Frome,” and its companion novella, “Summer,” where she scalpels her own life into the contexts of small towns filled with hopelessness, abortions, whorehouses and attempted suicides.

What happened in the crux of the century which drew out the intense human spirit? What freedom did the nation receive after the end of slavery? How did women see themselves pre-1920, and post-1920, and how did this shape the female character in poetry during this time? Was the poet inspired when ee cummings broke down the structure of the stanza, and did the structure have any influence on women’s rights? Was society able to see a different perspective for their future after Modern poets threw out the rhyming line altogether, and said, “this is my word, and my word is my voice.”

Although I am excited on levels I have never experienced before about attending Harvard classes, I will be completely honest in admitting that it is the information and shared experiences that I am even more greatly anticipating. There is no other vault of literature I would rather touch than the vaults of Harvard, which have kept our literary treasures safe through times of war and times of prosperity. These literary vaults have inspired poets and writers for hundreds of years, and it is my enormous privilege to dip my toe into those waters.

There are so many things I am looking forward to this summer, and these classes are paramount to them all.

Especially the mandatory on-campus class which will be the highlight of the year.

My biggest fear is crying during class.

Veritas.

So You Want To Get A Bunny This Spring…Here Are 5 Things You Need To Know!

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There is little use building a fence around the garden to keep out the rabbits.
-Yugoslavian Proverb

 

I have avoided getting rabbits as a pet my entire life.

Not because they aren’t the most adorable, fluffy, friendly, cuddly little munchers, but because they’re so much faster than I am…and I am having trouble keeping the deer/squirrels/slugs out of my garden, as it is.

There is something about pet rabbits that speaks to the heart. Something tender and gentle.

I asked my daughter, “Why are rabbits wonderful?” and she replied, “Because they are fluffy, adorable, and you can dress them up as a fancy bunny. I like bunnies a lot.”

And yet, we are still a bunny-less home! Honestly, we just have too many wires around the house, and too many plants in our garden outside, and one bunny could eat them all.

However, we have many friends who love bunnies. Some have outdoor hutches…some have indoor homes…some let them run loose in the backyard and some let them jump throughout the house.

Spring is definitely a season when families start thinking about gardens, growing plants and getting rabbits!

Before you move on to the local pet store or farm this spring, read up on what kind of bunny is best for your home, whether or not they should be an indoor or outdoor bunny, and how to get them to work for your garden!

 

Homemade Granola

“granola”:

A tree hugging, free spirited hippie minus all the drugs.

That was a pretty good definition of me.

Which is why when in the midst of making granola today, I couldn’t help but have the best laugh…

Because my laughs are naturally gluten free.

Anyway, I really try not to be that person that reads the ingredients on the back of cat food…

and yet, here I am.

Being Celiac has weird advantages, funny enough. Since I have to read the ingredient list for every food item I buy, I get to see exactly what is put into the packaged food. Most of the time it isn’t “end of the world” stuff. But one thing I look for in particular is “Genetically Engineered” food.

It’s a little conspiratorial…but I’m just saying it’s a little too much for me. Because I’m granola.

So, there is no harm in making my own granola!

Here’s What’chu Do:

  • 8 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups of raisins or craisins
  •  1/4 cup vegetable oil
     

     

    Here Ya Go

    1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or a liner.
    2. Take the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and mix together.
    3. Then, stir the honey, oil, and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour this over the oat mixture and fold until the oats are thoroughly coated.
    4. Spread the mixture in a thin (thin) layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir…you are going to have to stay in the room and keep stirring every 15 minutes until it’s done, which should be about 30-40 minutes.
    5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let it cool until the granola is room temperature…Then add the craisins. But keep stirring it every so often, it’ll get hard as it cools.
    6. When the granola has fully cooled, and after you have had an incredible test bowl, put it into a container with a lid…it’s good for 2 weeks. I really doubt it will last that long.

    Illustrated Directions! 

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    First, stir together all the dry ingredients.
    I used my KitchenAid, because it’s not arm day today.
    This worked pretty well, but if you turn away to help the kids with a writing assignment for 2 minutes, you’re going to come back to oatmeal on your counter.
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    Next, stir in the vanilla, honey and oil.
    I would work this in batches, otherwise you are going to get sticky oatmeal on your counters.
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    Now, spread the granola thinly onto a covered cookie sheet. I sprayed PAM on the sheet, because you don’t want to mess around with baking oatmeal.

Bake at 325F for 15 minutes…then stir…then bake for another 15 minutes…then stir…then another 10 minutes….

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Then you’re done!  1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

 

Now you can add the cranberries, and eat with gusto!!

 

Aye, It’s Tartan Day!

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“One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum, in which men steal through existence, like sluggish waters through a marsh, without either honour or observation.”

Walter Scott

So sayeth the Scottsman!

Sir Walter Scott was the man who created not only the infamous trilogy, Ivanhoe, but he was also the inspiration for Tartan Day, believe it or not!

Sir Walter Scott’s passion for romantic medieval history began in his youth, when he had suffered through a bout of polio and was sent to his aunt Jenny’s house for treatment. Jenny read him tales and stories about Brittain’s  legends, figures and battles from yesteryear.

From then on, he devoted his life to the printed word, culminating in the rich pages of Ivanhoe which brought back to life the life of medieval Brittain, Richard the Lionheart, Robin of Locksley and the noble Saxon family of Ivahnoe.

However, in his later years Sir Walter Scott believed that the nation of Scotland needed something even more than an epic novel for its literary history.

Scotland needed a day to celebrate the tartans which clothed the lands.

In 1822 when King George IV visited Scotland for the first time, Sir Walter Scott managed to create a parade of tartans for HRH.

When prescription of tartan was repealed, there was an upsurge in its use, even by Lowland Scots. So when Sir Walter Scott stage-managed the visit of King George IV to Edinburgh in 1822, tartans, kilts and bagpipes burgeoned. “ 

Tartan Day has been celebrated with great flourish ever since!

1. Scotland: The Official Tartan Day Page

It says the origins of Tartan Day is 1998…and although this is officially true, according to the official records, the first parade was in 1822. Tartan day has hosted Scottish notorieties such as Sir Sean Connery and Michael Bloomberg. They also acknowledge the Tartan Day of Canada, and their expatriot Scottish brethren!

2. The History of Tartan

The history of the Tartan cloth is as intricately woven as the history of Scotland: filled with brave souls and partnered with broadswords. The tartan was originally the day to day wear for Highlanders, particularly during the period after The Dress Act of 1746, ordered by George III. The lowland Scots, being closer to England, complied with the official order, as breaking this law would have them plucked out of Scotland and shipped off to “his royal majesty’s plantations beyond the seas.” However, Highlanders, being Highlanders, refused to comply, and thus the tartan became the symbol of Scottish liberty and freedom.

3. A Brief History of Scotland

As you can see, if you want to understand the Scottish soul, you kind of have to understand the history of Scotland. From understanding the importance of Hadrian’s wall, to the Declaration of Arbroath which signed Scotland’s freedom and independence in 1320 (it didn’t last long. They’re still working on it), to seeing how indiscriminately incorrect Braveheart was…the history of Scotland is anything but boring!

4. Traditional Scottish Recipes

There is more than just haggis!! Now, I will be honest with you: I have made haggis before. It is smelly, and ugly, and it tastes like fermented liver. But somehow…in an endearing way. But don’t stop there! You must try the Caledonian Cream!!

5. How To Brew A Proper Pot of British Tea

Finally. There is a proper way to make tea. And there is an improper way to make tea. All I’m saying, is that if you ever visit Scotland and you leave your teabag in your cup while you are drinking it, they might pluck you out of Scotland and send you off to work on her royal majesty’s plantations beyond the seas. It’s kinda a big deal over there.